A Memory: A Game Master’s Blue Funk

It’s a few years ago; more than three but less than six, I think. I’ve had Primetime Adventures for a bit and am in love with the idea of its “everyone makes it up as they go” ethos. I’d managed to cajole my wife and a couple of Sydney mates (Gav? Dan?) into playing and we’d come up with an idea of travelling players aboard a spaceship-cum-theatre who went about solving crimes. It seemed fun enough and we parted ways before Vickie and the lads came up with character concepts.

And then it started. A few days later I was looking over my notes and the horror struck. Why had we come up with such a stupid idea? Actors solving crimes? Why would they need to when the police would take care of it?! How the hell was I going to produce (game master) this?!?!

I can only describe the emotional sensation as terror.

I remember writing an email telling everyone why the idea was crap and that I didn’t want to go ahead with it. We didn’t, and the next time I tried Primetime Adventures only got as far as the first half of the first session before my frustration and partway lack of interest did that in too.

(The sad thing is that, now, I can see the obvious and entertaining answer, one used so well in any amateur detective story from Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot to modern fare like The Doctor Blake Mysteries and Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries – the local law enforcement are either incompetent or simply not as good detectives as the story’s leading ladies and gentlemen, and  – so well highlighted by Doctor Blake – the amateur detectives’s professional skills are needed too much or too tightly ingrained into their psyches for them to become full-time, official police.)

(Everyone involved: I’m sorry. Again.)

It’s this fear of needing to have all the answers that has caused me to do things like spending hundreds of dollars on as much of the Heavy Gear game line as I could get (the fact that it was about big humanoid robots that you could pilot didn’t help either) and it’s something that I still grapple with today. I love the improvisational aspects of the roleplaying game hobby, but I also love the system aspects of it too, and sometimes I can’t reconcile the need to prepare tough but solvable action scenes with the free-wheelingness of reacting to what my players come up with.

It’s part of why I decided to put my players in my current game of Star Wars: Force and Destiny and my upcoming game of Deathwatch through the beginner/introductory adventures first, so that I could get the feel of how everything works and what my players enjoy before I start coming up with my own stuff, but I have to admit, I’m still a little afraid of getting stuck on coming up with antagonist characters that will both intrigue me and entertain my players.

In that respect, FreeMarket absolutely terrifies me – which is why I think I need to run it sometime…