It’s my birthday today, and as I reflect on the last year I’ve realised I’m a lucky chap.
When all is said and done, I’ve got a great gaming group.
Over the last 30 years or so, I’ve played with (I expect) literally hundreds of people at conventions, other gaming groups and even at school (in the dim distant past). However, for the last 15 years or so my home gaming group has been rather stable. Of course, I’m not playing with everyone I was playing with 15 years ago, but when I look around the table I see a lot of familiar faces.
Take Neil, for example (no, really please take him); Neil’s been in my gaming group for over 20 years. We started gaming together at a local gaming shop, playing a mix of 2nd Edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons and Rolemaster. Andy—not to be confused with Andy “Evil Red” Hodges—has been with us almost as long—certainly 18 years or so. Pete’s another old timer—while I can’t remember exactly when he joined the group it was pre-2000. Of the three remaining members, Evil Red Hodges has been with us for the best part of a decade while Tim has been around for five years or so. Only Alec is “new” to the group having been with us for two years or so. We’re still not sure about Alec.
Even more awesomely, my eldest son has just joined the group. The Shattered Star campaign I’m running is is his first experience of a “proper” campaign and he’s having a blast. It’s something I’m loving sharing with him, and I’m very grateful my chums have happily welcomed him into the group. Having a tremendously excitable, caffeinated 11-year-old at the table, after all, can be a tad disruptive at times!
But even better than the longevity and makeup of the group we all (I suppose somewhat unsurprisingly) like to play the same type and style of game. While we obviously don’t agree on every aspect of gaming, we’ve got enough common ground that arguments—or even heated discussions—are extremely rare. (And they’d be even rarer if Tim stopped complaining about the lack of options and Hodges stopped whining about never finding enough treasure.)
GMing for people you know so well is incredibly rewarding—for example we’ve spent over 100 sessions and 400 hours exploring the Borderland of Adventure together. I get a real kick out of seeing their characters grow, develop and win and I’m genuinely sad when a beloved PC dies.
But more than that, I’ve found GMing is getting easier and easier. After logging thousands of game hours with the same group its not only easy to design adventures and situations they’ll enjoy, but also easier to predict how they’ll react in any given circumstance. I think it’s incredibly important to know your players (and here’s one of the tools I use to do just that). Knowing what they like and don’t like makes the game better for everyone and I’m grateful I know mine so well. (Of course, this can also be somewhat of a handicap; when I play in other groups I’ve discovered play styles differ wildly from group to group–sometimes it can be a bit of a culture shock!)
It should come as no surprise, therefore, the friends I have made gaming are some of the most enduring friendships I’ve ever forged. (In fact, I can only think of one non-gaming friend whose friendship has stood the test of time thus far). For example, when I moved house eight years ago, I think my entire group turned up at some point over the two days to help us move all our stuff from A to B. Given my wife was heavily pregnant at the time, this was greatly appreciated. I don’t recall any non-gaming friends turning up.
So, like I said earlier, I’m a jolly lucky gamer and hopefully I’ll never take my Wednesday gaming group for granted. At this stage in my gaming career, I’m getting pretty set in my ways, and my group—with broadly similar likes and dislikes—let me indulge my whims, and more importantly have a tremendous amount of fun. You can ask for more than that, can you?
(And as a final note–please excuse my ramblings this week; I’ll be back to normal next week. In the meantime, I hope you are similarly lucky and that you have an excellent gaming group. If you are as lucky, don’t take them for granted!)