Last night, I sat around a table with friends and we took an adventure. I played my first ever horror role playing game and loved it. I don’t like horror. I respect its contributions to film, writing and culture in general. I also have a hard time leaving the monsters at the movie theatre. So this is a genre of content I tend to stay away from.
My husband is a GM or Game Master. This is a magical person who creates a world for others to have adventures in. Over the last year and a half he has done a deep dive into table top role playing games. RPG ‘s or role playing games are fun interactive experiences. The most well-known RPG is Dungeons and Dragons or D & D.
Over the last year or so, I have seen my husband move past D & D to discover all kinds of different RPG systems. I have also seen the glimmer in his eye fade as people respond to his excitement with confusion and judgments. Last night I got to see him beaming.
He wore a red shirt, with a white tie and black vest. To top it all off he wore a black bowler hat. He was in his element. Crafting every turn, creating suspense and fear and guiding us through an hour and a half interactive adventure. It was magical to watch. Three friends and I sat around my round black table. All light save a few candles and battery powered tea lights was turned off or blocked out. Under the table my husband taped a string of lights providing a soft glow coming from underneath us all. In the center of the table, a Jenga tower. The crackle of a virtual campfire care of Youtube provided a sense of atmosphere and additional ominous music was provided from the laptop screen in front of my husband who sat near but not at the table.
For the next hour and a half, we went on a journey together. Each player contributed some part of the story and my husband guided us. Before we sat at the table, he spent hours creating a sandbox for us to move in. Thinking through possible events and monsters and deciding how our adventure would draw to a close.
As I sat watching my husband, it occurred to me that a GM is nothing short of a storyteller who has very old roots. Yes, games like D & D or the game we played, Dread, are newer, but the roots of what happened at that table are very old. As the virtual campfire crackled, I thought of my ancient ancestors telling the history of our people centuries ago.
Over time the voices of storytellers have shifted to different mediums. Technology created new opportunities for the campfire story experience. From the radio to the early days of television, we as a society have enjoyed the tradition of sitting together and taking in a story. Although the technologies have changed and continued to provide more individual experiences we still seek out the same feelings of communal fear, sadness or laughter. People live tweet events to be connected globally as they sit in their home alone. We choose to use the internet as a place of connection. I’m doing that right now. I’m sending my words in a virtual bottle so that they might reach your shore. RPG’s are another extension of the campfire story.
A GM creates an experience and like all great storytellers allows their audience to contribute to or simply change the story. The campfire has been replaced with a table and some additions such as dice or a Jenga tower have been added, but the magic of what happens is the same.
A good GM, creates a unique experience one part board game, one part live performance. This experience cannot be recreated, but it can be appreciated and so can the GM’s of the world. I am so proud of my husband. He creates magic and taps into the very old oral tradition of telling and creating story.
If anything I’ve said has sparked your curiosity, I challenge you to seek out RPG’s and gaming communities wherever you live. The game we played was Dread, but there are many more systems. Below I have included a few links to get you started on your next adventure.
To all the GM’s out there, thank you for continuing the oral tradition and creating story. Story is something I have committed my life to. I am so grateful for others who also make similar commitments and continue to deepen the well of story.
PS: Yes, the RPG world is very white and very male, but this is changing and the community as a whole is super welcoming.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TKejuEmQjMQ – A good video about where to start
https://dreadthegame.wordpress.com/about-dread-the-game/ – The game we played
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H0loSZFsyoQ – A play through of Dread – TableTop is a great channel to see fun play-throughs of both RPG’s and board games
https://roll20.net/ – A place to virtually play RPG’s if you don’t have a community where you live
If you are now inspired to become and GM (YAY!!) links for you below
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NjmkolUrrB4 – A wonderful female GM sharing her tips about being a wonderful GM
https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLuGFF6RJgaMrlxVxEB7XsBerrIFgnqZIa –A good playlist with everything you need to know about being a GM
http://www.drivethrurpg.com/top_100.php – A place where you can purchase different systems