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Interview with a GM - James

When did you first start playing RPGs and what were they?

I started in the late 90s, which IMHO was the worst time to get into the hobby! First game was my friend's Ravenloft campaign.

What was the most memorable part of those sessions?

I was about 15 and thought it would be a lark to play a character who was bascially Lord Flasheart from Blackadder. It was all giggles and catch-phrases until the character's girlfriend got eaten by spiders. 

After that, he grew up a lot! It was really rewarding to see how much the character changed over about 6 months of play, especially his relationship with the other character (a stern paladin). By the end of the campaign, he was unrecognisable.

We also made our own SciFi game, which could best be described as a "hot mess"!

Why did you start GMing?

To tell my own stories with friends.

How long have you been GMing?

Since the early noughties. To start with I wasn't really interested in mechanics but as I've tried more systems I've become fascinated with how you can use mechanics to make different stories work. 

So yeah, I reckon I'm a "mechanics guy" now! I sometimes even ask "what's your build".

What systems have you GMed?

D&D 3rd, Call of Cthulhu (and using CoC for Aliens), Dread Jenga, ICONS, Time Lord, Mutants & Masterminds... 

But for the last 10 years it's mainly been indie games where the GM is often more a facilitator than a director. Great games like Primetime Adventures, Microscope, Quest, Umlaut, In a Wicked Age...

Here's a secret - it's my first time running D&D 5th, so I'm a bit nervous!

What are the pleasures and pitfalls of GMing?

The pleasures are watching everyone riff off each other, have a good time, engage with the mechanics and do the unexpected!

The two biggest pitfalls are the amount of work that GMing can potentially entail and (even worse) the GM working hard to devise a story that they're really enamoured with, only to find their players just aren't into it. 

I'm trying to run my D&D game in an experimental way that avoids both those pitfalls!

Pleased to say everyone at Hobbit's Hole has been great, so I'm not worried about running into That Guy...

What was the most memorable part of the sessions you GMed?

Hmmm. I tend to find that telling people about past games is like telling people about your dreams, but...

I think I'll go with the ALIENS one-shot that I ran at Uni. It lasted about 6 hours! 

To start with, everyone was joking and goofing around with their clearly disposable marines. Then, out of nowhere, a bad roll on a bad idea got someone killed (that's classic CoC for you!). 

 The mood in the room changed instantly. Things just got tenser and more desperate. They had to make really tough choices but the finale felt triumphant.

What is your current game about?

That's for me and my players to decide together!

But I'm hoping for a story that feels fulfilling in 10 sessions.

I want it to be about flawed heroes exploring a fantasy world that feels lived-in. I want it to be exciting and funny and tragic. The word "epic" is overused, but I'm quietly rooting for it!

What do you get out of GMing?

Get all those ideas out of my head and into the room! And then work with everyone else's ideas.


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