Session Negative One: I’ve Still Got It

Scott, you know how you mentioned that you almost talked yourself out of playing a couple of times?

I know how you feel. Hell, I got up this morning not feeling excited and wondering, Should I just call the damned thing off? Maybe this whole getting back to DMing business was a bad idea.

But, just like you, I soldiered on. And aren’t we glad we did? Because one good geek-out chat and a bar room brawl with a couple of packs of Orks later, I am feeling like I got my game master mojo back – or maybe even really found it for the first time.

To the audience at large, I’m partway wishing I could just upload our Episode Negative One of our as-yet-unnamed Deathwatch actual play podcast for you right now, because it was bags of fun. Myself and my four players, Scott, Sim, Ketch and Rebel, had a great time talking through the characters they’d made and the fictional universe they will be inhabiting (and within which I will be creating challenges for them). It was a combination of a relaxed geek-out chat and an group explanation of the somewhat esoteric Warhammer 40,000 universe for our potential audience.

I call this an Episode -1 as I think the best time to record a true Episode Zero – an episode that people new to the show can listen to so that they can get their bearings and not need a from-scratch explanation at the beginning of every episode – will be once we all have some sessions under our collective belt, have worked the kinks out and have a stronger idea of what we all want out of the game and where the stories of the players’ characters, both collectively and as individuals, could be going.

The five of us got together using the gaming chat programme Discord at 7AM on Saturday, April 8th, Australian Eastern Standard time, and wound up parting ways at 11:30AM. I was glad that we got the chance to:

  • set our expectations as a group,
  • trying both the technology of Discord and Roll20 (a Web-based virtual tabletop application) and
  • get a bit of practice with the Deathwatch rules.

Those things aside, though, it’s odd. I’ve been GMing Star Wars: Force and Destiny on and off since late last year but while those sessions were good, it still didn’t quite feel like it came together like it did today. Maybe it was that most of my players were experienced gamers, and all of them had had played in a roleplaying game at least once before (the Star Wars team are all mostly new to the hobby). Maybe it was because I was playing from home and didn’t have to fight the noise at the local game store (that could be an Aspy thing, or just an experienced podcaster thing).

And maybe it was that, as much as I’d prepared combat statistics for the Ork opponents, turning it from the rather dry encounter on a battlefield that I had planned into a bar room brawl on Sim’s off-the-cuff suggestion just made it ludicrously fun. I completely winged the intro, which was always going to be a training simulation aboard the space station of the Deathwatch, but described the four Marines walking into a bar full of Orks and even threw a piano-playing squig (I think a growler squig) with a top hat in. And for the part of an RPG that I normally find rather dull, this combat in particular rocked – in good part, I reckon, because my players threw themselves into it with gusto.

One thing I know for sure: I’m looking forward to kicking the game off properly for my players at the end of April with the “Final Sanction” pre-generated adventure!

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