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Tuesday, November 28, 2017

When it All Falls Apart

I’m gonna discuss something that, while it’s not specific to online gaming (such as Fantasy Grounds or Roll20), I’d wager it’s far more common in that milieu than at the table IRL.

Recently a large contingent of our gaming group fell out.  There was no argument over rules, no disagreement about the distribution of virtual wealth, or discrepancy regarding the allocation of XP.  As seems to happen at some regular interval, there was a self-culling.  It always happens the same way (or seems to).

First, one player decides to bail.  A very pleasant email is sent to the group notifying the rest of us of his/her intent.  That is usually followed by a short period of mourning, and then well-wishing email replies are sent.  That would be fine if it were the end, but it’s not.  Soon after, as other players have time to cogitate upon the change, one or two others decide that it would be a good idea to leave the game as well.  Another few emails are exchanged, well wishes sent, and farewells fare well.  No one is really pissed off over anything tangible here, but those who remain begin to huddle.  They plan.

The group email is reformatted to include only the survivors.  A new conversation begins.

Usually in these situations, there is a core.  The group has a few players who have been gaming together (in this examination that means it was over long distance) for some substantial period of time.  These folks consider themselves friends, and perhaps they are, either IRL or simply online.  Friends don’t need to have shared meatspace in order to feel a bond, or so I believe.  Others may disagree, but they would be wrong.

In any event, the first thing that happens is that the core reaffirms its solidarity.  “We’re gonna keep playing, right”, says one.
“Absolutely!”, the others confirm in unison.  
“Now we have some flexibility.  Maybe we should change rulesets, play something new?”, asks one.
“Sure,” the others agree.  
“Who wants to run this time?  I’m a bit burned out, but will keep going if no one else wants to have a go,” says the DM of the now crippled game.
“I can run,” says one.
“So can I,” chimes in the other.”  
Plans are laid.  Email threads are exchanged.  Decisions are decided upon.  Gaming continues in short order, the new campaign of 1 DM and 2 players has begun.

Characters are rolled, a few games happen, and then sometime shortly thereafter someone usually volunteers to locate a few new players, some fresh flesh and blood for the adventure mill.  For online games, it’s as simple as posting across some social media, or checking the online forums for the Virtual Tabletop you happen to use.  Most have a LFG, or Looking for Game section where you can advertise and recruit a few new players.

In my experience, this ‘turnover’ seems to occur every year or so.  It’s rare that adding any player to the core group results in a new permanent bond.  Folks come and go, some depart having left a lasting impression and others pass without a trace.  I find it both wonderful and mystifying, and mostly somewhat dissatisfying and a bit sad.  Each time I’m reminded that there are things that the internet cannot do, and building a long-term, lasting, cohesive bond of friendship is not its strong suit.  I’m not saying that it doesn’t happen, in fact it has for me, but not in the same way that time spent in the company of others IRL manages to accomplish (and on a more consistent basis).

As always, I year for those long-gone but not forgotten days of my youth, where we were friends at school, friends on the playground, at the mall, at the movies...and always at the game table.  No one quietly slipped away behind a curtain of email, and certainly no one dropped off the face of the earth without a trace.  We didn’t need to find new players.  We knew exactly how many pizzas to order, and that Mike wouldn’t eat pizza ‘cause he was some sort of freak who didn’t like pizza.  

Man I miss pizza.  And Mike.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Trying to Get the Green Guy's Mojo Back

It's been nearly a month since my last blog post...
The weather has changed, it's cold out here in the wilderness...lonely and frightening.

I miss my friends, my boon companions who through good times and bad, from the deepest and darkest dungeon to my epic rise in power and fame, have rallied to my flag and to my side to do battle with my enemies, or help me celebrate my glories!

It is with a heavy heart and troubled brow that I begin to wonder, where has the Goblin Stomper gone?  What has become of that grim soul who only wished to remind those around him that just because something has many editions does not mean that the original lacks merit?

[the curtain opens on a lone goblin, huddled in a dark cave behind a small campfire over which a scrawny rat turns on a makeshift spit, long, dark shadows cast against the rough wall behind him]

Have I been conspicuous by my absence?  Probably not.  Likely you’re too busy to notice that I haven’t been around much.  It’s my first blog post in a while, and I’ve been quiet (though not silent) on my twitter feed & facebook page.  Are there reasons?  Of course...there are always reasons. Rumors of my death are mere exaggerations by those who would prefer me gone and buried, never to be heard from again.

Mostly I haven’t been gaming much, live or online.  This certainly has a direct relationship to how often or how deeply I am thinking about the subject at hand.  I’m also not really working on any related projects right now, though one or two have been started and are shelved for the moment as I assess their usefulness as well as my interest level in continuing them.  I find that the less I game, the less I think about gaming...which has both good and bad results.

On the bad side, I often feel like I’m neglecting friends with whom gaming is my #1 level of interaction.  While gaming isn’t the basis for our entire relationship, it may be the reason we gather IRL or online.  I miss them.  Perhaps it’s this longing that is in part responsible for my post today.

Also checked off on the ‘bad’ side of this self- absorbed self-examination is that my social media presence drops off, and though we are merely acquaintances in the digital realm that does not absolve me or my conscience of feeling a bit negligent.

On the ‘good’ side of the table, not giving mental energy to my gaming ‘self’ has given me a bit more time to focus on new things that have become important.  My weight, for example, is slowly creeping steadily to lower numbers, finding me now living most days in Onederland (for those who don’t know, Onederland is a mystical world that fat folks desire to live in where one’s weight sits below the 200 pound mark).  I’ve added some gym time to my schedule 2-4 days a week in order to make use of some of my new-found energy.  I had been paying the ‘fat tax’ to Planet Fitness for almost a year now without ever stepping foot in a location, so it was time to get my money out of that purple and yellow monster who eats 10$ from my digital wallet every month.

this is my scale.  if you look closely, you can see my bare naked feet...

Another ‘tick mark’ on the good side has been the attention I’ve been giving to my photography.  While that may not hold any interest to you, dear reader of this so-called OSR RPG gaming blog, I’m finding a sense of purpose, a feeling of contentment, and a low-spark of excitement in finding a new thing to help me create.  For me, and right now, that seems to be making photos.  In all honesty, I’d like to find a way to integrate my new interest with my old love so that I can engage in both things simultaneously.  Maybe a photo shoot of gamers at the table, waiting for those magic moments of victory or defeat and capturing them in interesting ways?  

Finding photography has also led to renewed interest in podcasting for me, which I dipped into many years ago (2005) right before my son was born (I needed something to take my mind off of the pregnancy and impending birth, cause that that shit is scary AF!).  It seems like there are plenty of ‘experts’ creating podcasts and YouTube videos, but very little content is being created by noobs to the hobby (which may also be true for gaming, come to think of it).  So I decided to throw my 2 cents into the ring and started a podcast over at my other blog, Hypohoto.  I’m not sure what direction it will go, it will take me, or the longevity of such a project but I thought it might be fun to find out if anyone wants to listen to, or interact with, a relative newcomer to a very old creative pursuit.  

I think this guy is listening to my podcast right now, actually...

So, what will become of the Goblin Stomper?  That’s the question that plagues me this Black Friday.  Has the Goblin abandoned the clan?  Is he no more for the OSR?  Will there be silence where before there was banter both insightful and wise as well as horribly disappointing and full of piss and vinegar?!?

I think there’s a simple solution to finding this green-skinned bastard’s gaming mojo again, and that’s to get back to gaming.  The weather has turned cold, and that means that indoor time is going to give way to outdoor time.  There has been a recent divergence of players from the core group, and it looks like it’s time for me to jump back in and bring together a new team of ne’er-do-wells to wreak havoc on some poor, unsuspecting town that needs help battling an unseen and malignant foe.  

...and if we do it my way, it will be playing AD&D 1e, the undisputed KING of Rulesets!

You can take that 5e stuff and start a campfire with it.  

(hmmm...I’m starting to feel better already!)

Game on Friends!