Campaign Notes · GURPS

New Group, New Campaign: Reflections on Session One

As I’ve mentioned a few times now, I’ve just formed a new face-to-face group, and we’re starting with 3 sessions of GURPS Dungeon Fantasy, just to test the group dynamics, scheduling logistics etc.

Yesterday we had our first session.

A few preliminary observations:

  • The first session went very well, I think.

I’d be happy to call it a raging success simply on the grounds that the GM (me!) had an excellent time – as we all know, that’s the main thing 🙂    But for the benefit of those perverse people who insist on taking into account the players‘ pleasure, I’ll record here my impression that everyone involved had at least a moderately good time.  Am I right about this?  I’m not sure – as I said, I don’t know all the players well.  It will be interesting to get some feedback from them, which I hope to do over the next few days.

  • I’m rusty, rusty, rusty on the combat rules!

The last few campaigns I’ve GM’d have been very narrative-heavy, didn’t involve much combat, and didn’t use minis or maps for the (rare) combat scenes.  The last time I played in a long campaign that did use map-based combat extensively, we were using the HERO system rather than GURPS (I talk about that campaign here, if you’re interested).

This means that I’m pretty rusty on some of the finer points of the GURPS tactical combat system.  During this first session, my rustiness really made itself evident.   I’ll provide a few examples in a future post – I think they may be interesting to some readers (even if only as an opportunity to mock me for my stupid mistakes.)  But for now, suffice to say that I’m looking forward to the next session, when I can correct for my earlier mistakes and start running that aspect of the game more fluently.

  • All the old adages are true.

They say “no plan survives contact with the players,” and that has been absolutely true of pretty much every roleplaying session I’ve ever GM’d (since I learned to stop railroading things entirely, that is).  It was certainly true yesterday.

I had a clear and carefully constructed plan for how the session would proceed.  That plan lasted precisely one scene, and then had to be thrown out the window in favor of improvisation.  Luckily my prep work had been of the “prepare yourself to improvise!” rather than “prepare a novelistic plotline!” type, and I think it all went ok in the end.  But there were a few moments when I thought “Ah yes, that’s what throwing out the plan feels like.”  That can be a bit nerve-wracking for me as a GM, but if I’ve got enough tricks up my sleeve, then the pressure can be very useful, and I enjoy it.  I didn’t have much up my sleeve this time – this is just a test game, and we might throw it out after two more sessions, so I really haven’t laid much of a groundwork – but I was having a good time, and so I enjoyed the feeling of throwing out the plan anyway.   Good stuff.

So “no plan survives contact with the players” – yup, tick.  As a corollary to this, for me the first session was also a reminder of the truth of some other old roleplaying adages, including “If in doubt, roll and shout!” and (especially) “Don’t create plots, create situations.”

Hmmm…. Now that I type that last one, I find I can’t actually remember whether I got it from somewhere else, or if it’s just something I say to myself – so maybe it’s not an old adage after all.  But certainly GM advice often includes other things in the same spirit, so what the hey.

This session, my Dungeon Fantasy hex boards (both Indoor and Outdoor) finally got a workout, which was nice.  Even better, we were lucky enough to have a player with a vast collection of D&D minis, plus a bunch of Dwarf Forge tabletop scenery – so all our battle scenes were fairly tricked-out.   That really made the board-gamy part of the GURPS tactical combat system richer.

  • Roleplaying is fun.

We’re a brand-new group; some of us barely know each other; most of us don’t know the rules; one of us is entirely new to tabletop RPGs.  Those are not the ideal conditions for playing GURPS.  Yet it was still a great time (from my point of view, at least).  So to my mind the final score was Roleplaying: 1, Every Other Human Leisure Activity: 0.

No doubt I’ll have more observations in the days to come, but those are my first thoughts, right now.  It was a good day’s gaming.   Looking forward to more.

P.S. If those are not the ideal conditions for playing GURPS, what ARE the ideal conditions?  This is obviously a longer discussion, but if I had to nominate some, I think I would say something like “A group of good friends, of a range of genders, all enthusiastic gamers, all knowing the rules well, playing their well-loved characters in the 50+xth session of a well-loved long-running campaign.”  To me that seems like at least one version of roleplaying at its best.   (Not that there aren’t other great ways to roleplay, too).  I say all this in passing.





6 thoughts on “New Group, New Campaign: Reflections on Session One

  1. Sounds like a great start to the campaign, hell, who cares whether the players enjoyed it or not… 🙂

    Of course, you’re only going to remember that you don’t remember all the fiddly details for combat when you’re knee deep in it! But I think that’s half the fun, finding your way, learning and re-learning rules, sharing that experience with the group – it’s what makes face to face RPG’s such a great social activity. I definitely envy you Joe – enjoy it!


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