I have run a lot of games.
This statement is not a pat on the back. It is to communicate the level at which a game has affected me. Often, I'll run a session and it lingers for maybe half a day. I recount its story beats, write things down, reminisce the little moments, and begin planning toward the next one. There's a lot to focus on; so I listen to the recording after a few days and get to experience it again and make any necessary adjustments to my storytelling, tactics, and flow. Then it's done, and I keep moving forward.
But something about last Saturday has been sticking with me. More than any other game I have ever run. I've listened to the recording three times through already (7.5 hours each time, whew), and I'm still finding moments I love. It's clear that everyone at the table, especially me, really needed this one.
I've run games full of laughter, overflowing drinks, intense arguments, and awkward situations before. Grays had all of this, and more, held together by strands of respect and support. We had many situations of people pairing off with unexpected acquaintances, just to make sure they're alright. Characters stepping in to help what could only be considered to them, a floundering stranger in high heels. Characters acting like, well, themselves; making decisions based on their individual needs, their goals, their etiquette, deep and profound desires and feelings; all while attempting to keep a group of 'weirdos' from getting into trouble, then fighting alongside them to save a little girl. Connected by threads of real interaction between people who love this setting, this game, and their collective story.
And, with a mature setting and a full range of narrative possibilities, one might assume that at some point the story would have derailed into absurdity... Except it didn't.
John has mentioned A State Of Flow in one of his live-streams on the Facebook page as experiencing a lack of resistance. Though characters resisted in their own ways, there were no moments of drag from the players. Everyone was a part of this world, and they made each experience their own. Nothing was forced.
But it was the interplay between characters that spoke the most to me. It could be a product of the setting. The 6th Age is not a kind place, and Chapter 1 communicated its dangers in big ways. That experience, I know, stuck with people. They're not heroes; no one truly is. Many still don't know each other's names. And why would they? The world is dark and full of terrors. Some have been running all their lives from it, and may be still. There are secret agendas, challenges of faith and trust, and the assumptions that follow a life of betrayal.
Yet, in character, each player found another to stand with. To look out for. Many in small, but truly profound ways. And the players bonded...in ways I could not have predicted. In just two sessions, even with some new faces this time, an accord had been struck.
I've seen good teams before, and I've run some great games with flow, but like I said, this was different.
I could see it. There, on the edge of our collective psyche. The possibilities of our adventure; the abrupt, cruel ending to an individual story, fleeting moments of happiness that you must fight for, unexpected relationships blossoming from luck and circumstance, a beckoning journal of secret intentions, a lingering sense of unease as the rain hammers down in this beautiful city of dark alleys and dangerous jobs. And then there was the through-line. An unbreakable cord forged in friendships and imagination. A line that trusts you even if you haven't been honest; a line that has your back even when you believe you don't deserve it. A group that reminds you that you are not alone.
A family. In its greatest sense. Smashed together and barely hanging on. Powerful, screwed up, and beautiful.
Thank you for your time and attention. This is going to be one hell of a story.
See you at the table.
Game On! Director, musician, music teacher, game designer, and professional game master. In short, I'M A BIG NERD.