Monday, May 7, 2012

Tabletop Recipes: The Mis En Place GM

"The first reference of Cylon I can find is the that he is the Son-in-Law of Theagenes of Megara. The dictator, I use the Latin word as opposed to "tyrant" which the Greeks used because of the slight difference in connotations in the English language, tried to have Cylon installed as the dictator of Athens. When the man seized control of the city there was no general uprising by the city-state's population. Instead a prominent leader of town, Megacles, organized a counter-push and Cylon and his supporters ended up being dragged from holy sites to be slaughtered in the streets and left in the gutter.
Still, the bad feelings around the sacrilegious conduct of the city's "protectors" rubbed many of the Athenians the wrong way. This would lead to the up and coming Athenian Draco to instill a set of laws that many would find harsh as well as intrusive..."

The little blurb opening up this post is the start to a paper that I was writing in '94 working towards a History degree from the University of Maryland. And on a warm spring evening in '98, it was laying open on my "working desk." I probably was reading it out of nostalgia for the Glory Days of the Service and sorting through the collection of paper-provable accomplishments I had achieved.

One particular Friday night, I was sitting around with my new neighbors in Cleveland, Ohio and complaining about the disappointment I was having as a substitute teacher to them. They were stoned, I was half drunk and we all role-played. To cheer me up, Lumbering Jack suggested that I "do this T&T thing" for him, after he got the burgers and cobs of corn ready for the picnic table. So I had twenty minutes to build a world back in my efficiency, and only a 23 year-old book at that time, that I had bought at a very high price, compared to his library of AD&D books scattered throughout his house.

Jonathon liked me, and continues to do so, for reasons that I don't know. More so than today,  I was angry and bitter back then.  I think that he wanted me to feel good about something going on in my life. He and others would pull me out of chatrooms to come BBQ and party those weekends when someone nicknamed "Shippy" would be imploring me to stay on-line and discuss this or that detail of the politics of the community surrounding Our Game. He hid it behind a challenge to show him how T&T wasn't D&D, or more politely put, That Game.

When the GM presents his campaign world to his players, anybody who isn't a straight-up mindless 4th Edition Zombie (DnDHead) knows that it takes a little bit of work. But the GM doesn't really have to work hard finding his voice or his material. It's probably already lying around all over the place. I grabbed a notebook and wrote down the names "Cylon" and "Draco" and quick notes like "minotaur MR100" "Healing Feeling necklace" "Buzzsaw trap" and "undead Wizard 1-5 spells STR 100."

For the next 3 and a half hours, 30 minutes mostly wolfing down a burger and potato salad and walking through the character generation process, LumberingJack, SeaShelly (his wife) and a guy named Sal, played T&T. Adventurers newly arrived to Athens when Sal's best friend Cylon wrote a note asking for their help in establishing order in his new regime. And when Sal's PC, Horakles, said "We're here to help out your king, Cylon." to a gate-guard the hook was set. They were arrested and taken to the city's strong man Draco, who was running things. And to be allowed to leave the city the delvers had to arrest or kill a Wizard who had taken refuge in the Temple of Hades. Anybody else sent in had not come out.

LumberingJack and SeaShelly still play T&T. They'd later be some of the main players of my 7th edition playtest campaign along with Peryton and Em. 

The reason I mention all this is lead into the topic of GMing a good game in my view. This first ingredient is "Willingness to play on short notice." And though I'd like to claim that T&T enables impromptu sessions, but in reality any good GM of any system that is willing can pull together an adventure even when a little surprised with a request to. So the first ingredient is the GM is things on his mind.

1 comment:

  1. "Jonathon liked me, and continues to do so, for reasons that I don't know. More so than today, I was angry and bitter back then."

    Sorry - that one kind of turned my head...