Brokedown Conditions

from LiveJournal - June 2008

Tonight i skipped out on a game…

it's not that i've played it before. it's not that i'm burned out on gaming. it's not that i was too tired. i didn't lack the time, the friends, or the materials. i even had a location. And for the best times of my life that was the hardest thing to find: a location.

But it was all there. And i just didn't take it. i didn't want to.

There has been some question lately what i want in a game. What i look for. What i would like to run and what i'd like to play. So i'm going to try to answer that now.

First: A brief History.
Gaming started for me as Lord Drazil of the Ruby Throne, rightful heir of Elric, lord of Melniboné. My servant, a seer and musician, was played by my long-lost friend Ben. And the rest of the cast was filled out by the Dicelords what trained me. It was a game run by one of my oldest friends and first GM, DRDrake. I don't remember much about the end, but i know i was given Stormbringer. An epic, handed to me like a Christmas present. Awesome.

Next, I recall Mr. X running the show for what would be the second most influential game of all time. His run at Hunter: The Reckoning. But not just any World of Darkness. This game was about all of us, at Harding, we were playing a game about us, at Harding. Searcy, AR…World of Darkness. Awesome. Still, to this very hour, i see it as brilliant.

But if you want to know what i hold as the ultimate example, then look to DRDrake’s GURPS game. It was David’s last game for us before we went our separate ways. A tale about four friends. Again, we were playing ourselves, leaving this world behind on a grand adventure to seek out and thwart the mysterious "man in the armchair." Featuring a Nate Reynolds with a big head, Jesse Cox as a Viking, RT with summoning powers, and me, wearing a venom-symbiote suite and sporting wolverine claws. And who could forget David as a million Cats?

This was the basic training that started me on a quest to figure out what it was that begged for every moment to be a grand campaign. It was the setting of the stage to play out what would later become an obsession that stopped me from dedicating any more time to work, money, or school. A quest that takes me here, to the mysty northwest, in search of what some would call Geek Mecca.

But in retrospect it's hard to say what moments i can define as revolutionary. I can see the humble origins, and the lasting words they left on my tongue. I can see which direction my start pointed me so long ago. But what kept me headed this way?

I had what i would consider two successful runs with a homebrew knockoff system i made for a game called The Dreamlands. First was with that magical cabal in the 'Quah, including the incomparable Ben again. The second run, with a cadre i like to call the Montana Kids, was equally wondrous. It's no wonder, however, that the ones that loved it the most are the ones that played themselves?

But i can't say it's the remaking of yourself on the sheet that defines my addiction. It's certainly the strongest dose i can get, but it's not the only flavor i like. I’ve had games that i can point to in the past. Games where i was a character unlike myself. A character that grew in different ways, and by changing the way they did, changed me.
Citation? I give you…

Underworld
The movie was crap. We knew this, somehow. And we called it feeble. So what did we do? We hacked together a gang of freaks, geeks, and losers to make it right. We ran an Underworld game.
Starring me and Tom and Aaron mostly, but the supporting cast actually billed Ed the Head in the prologue, and took on a couple of cameos by Crow and a guy named Bro (who we don't talk about anymore). I was playing "Blank" the Malkavian. Unbeknownst to the other players i was actually Malkev himself. His core derangement was the effective re-creation of his identity through amnesia that wiped his mind clean every few hundred years. The game was supposed to be only 1% world of Darkness, the rest was supposed to be our re-envisioning of the Underworld movie. It worked marvelously. Who knew that the only real problems with Underworld were the lack of explosions and betrayal? It was straight forward: Have two outcasts find out the war between Lychens and Vamps was in fact perpetrated by the machinations of Human conspiracy…and all of a sudden you've got brew for my likings.
—Big Moment: Vlad’s Betrayal…straightforward and obvious…and i never saw it coming…

Afterworld
Not the sequel you might assume it is. Afterworld was a chance to finally break new ground with my old allies. We were testing my system, so it wasn't a WW hack. And we were setting the story in a completely original world, so it wasn't a patch for crummy cinema. It was the future. It was a world of heavy metal, 80's new wave, cockney accents, and dinosaurs. We blew up so many bridges in that game it's not even silly any more. It's just plain awesome. A campaign where the characters started out matching action with overdue rent and ended with daily consequences for being the first line of defense against the end of the world. At the beginning of the first year we had to deal with buying ammo. By the end of my time in the Homelands we were considering ways to thwart extra-dimensional beings. This is where NuCuB became staple in any TommyGun tale. And to this day his team-up with us has made each new story that much better.
—Big Moment: NuCuB popping a two-wheeled side-wheelie in a sports car…to dodge a missle…a missle that wasn’t there until Tom decided a two-wheeled side-wheelie deserves a missle flying underneath it.

Alterscape
I didn't run it all the time. I ran a hell of a lot of it, but i didn't run it all the time. I got a lot of memory-making, life-enriching gaming in with Crow at the helm. And a lot of really, really awesome time in with Tommy the Gun playing ring-leader. I've punched Elder Vampires. I've kicked Iteration X in the face. I've even mouthed off to Sith lords while unarmed. But i've never had as much fun as i have in the Alterscape. The premise is simple. You play yourself, going into that world called Imagination. Your destination is a slowly growing patch of light off to one corner of the realm. It's designed to be a game-world, by the players of the game, for the players of the game. Alterscape can't be published. it's not a book. It can't be traded. It can only be shown to you. You have to be invited, and then you have to invite someone else.
—Big Moments: Trouble telling me and NuCuB that he’s going to be a dad. While afloat a Delune Airship over the Mountains of Gragakor.

In all the moments that make me smile i see violence as a way of doing what is right to the opposition of good. I see impossible odds unfold in completely amazing Deus Ex Machina luck that turns the tables on despair and puts the victory in Hope's hands. I've seen friends fight each other as much as they fight for each other, and in the end they all come out …different.

And I've seen places that would take your breath away. Leave you gasping. With imagination i've seen the edge of waters that lap the shores of a void along the horizon of an Epica Island. I've seen the great worms that writhe in a cleansing act through humanities filth on the Mooncore of Petras. I've seen the bright hot sun role through the stained glass of a mighty Trekeep that wanders the waste of Rudaria. I've even led an army of Werewolves in a battle to stop the rebirth of an ancient evil awakened by an old nemesis.

I guess, if i had to guess, i thirst for that, again. I thirst for it the way it was given to me by Drake, Trouble, Crow, NuCuB, and Tommy the Gun. I want to see the vivid depths of what you would call home if you could move into the floating castle that hovers at the innermost of your daydreams. I want to find out what you'd think up if you had to paint a face on the monster that frightened you most, or the demon that never left you alone. I want to see where you would go if we could go anywhere.

But most of all, i want to go on big adventures.

I've put a lot of effort into this thing called the Alterscape. I've put a lot of effort into this thing called Gaming. It's because i see connections there that i can't see elsewhere. And i see there an affirmation of hopes that i don't see played out in the banality of real life. Not because it isn't there. But because, for some reason i don't understand, people don't believe it can happen in the waking world. But put some dice in their hand, and ask them what they want to do…


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