It's been a seriously exciting week in the world of Pathfinder gaming with the school-based Pathfinder Society.
Two major things have happened:
The Energy Of Enthusiasm
- We gained 2 new members, bringing the group size to 8... and making it necessary for one of the players to opt to become a GM.
- I've been energised towards beginning to prepare for taking my part of the group into the "Rise of the Runelords" campaign.
Enthusiasm abounds at the Pathfinder Society I run in school... and enthusiasm is infectious.
Although I risk mildly insulting the Friday Night group guys, the reality is that for a number of years we have been turning up to play with slightly less than the level of enthusiasm that I remember having when I was a teenager. This has only become apparent in comparison with, well... teenagers.
New players come to the table with one major advantage over the experienced, dare I say jaded, player: they don't really know what to expect. This week the Wizard player received a bit of his own medicine when a Goblin cast a Magic Missile spell, and you really can't experience that kind of surprise more than once.
That being said, I've felt that my own enthusiasm for the hobby has waned when my players turn up, all tired from the world of work and reality, with barely the energy for picking up a die. When I set up the school sessions I get the opposite feeling: the guys are excited, ready, keen and full of questions... often too much energy is flowing, and I need to calm them down a little... but you get the drift.
Enthusiasm Is Infectious
There is an energy that flows when both the players and the GM are up for playing. If either side is tired or unwilling or unprepared then that energy is diminished.
For my part I often turn up tired and, I have to say, under-prepared to play. I rarely put in more than the minimum effort for preparation because I feel that my players will turn up and not be too bothered anyway. We run some fairly good games... and sometimes the guys bring energies that I can tap into. Our recent foray into Infinite Worlds was an example of really high energy... but our last session lacked that spark.
The school Pathfinder games had me spending around 5 hours so far this weekend in preparation. I've been upgrading heroes to the full rules, ready for dropping that on the players, and re-writing the combat scenes for the opening encounters in "Burnt Offerings", the first part of the campaign. I have not felt this energised in a VERY long time.
As for the sessions, well... they are active, exciting and entertaining. The game-play is not necessarily high-quality, because the players are inexperienced, but their energy and interest is high. Co-operative play is rife, as are some tongue-in-cheek attempts at character acting, using voice and accent to entertain everyone else... and that's the players, not just me.
I found myself up on my feet, leaping around the table and acting out some of the reactions of the creatures. This is stuff that I've not felt for a long time. Why is it happening? I suspect it has a lot to do with the players.
Taking The Energy Forward
Try as hard as I can, I can't muster this level of energy for my Friday gaming. I hate to admit it but I think that we're missing something at our table. What I want to do is re-kindle the fire in us old farts that I see in those new players... fully accepting that we are no longer teenagers and it's never going to be quite the same.
What can I do?
First of all I need to be excited. Pathfinder is easy to run and, more importantly, easy to prepare. I have some cracking campaign materials to draw upon and this is feeding the energy I have. Not having to do ALL the work is really nice... selecting creatures from the Bestiary is fun, as is customising them using "Hero Lab".
How can I inject that back into Friday Nights? Most obviously I could run Pathfinder for those guys too... except that I suspect that they will lynch me.
I think I just need to find a way to summon up the enthusiasm I have at the school table back into the Friday table. That probably means getting back to the dynamic encounters that I'm enjoying in the fantasy setting and trying to invoke that feeling in our GURPS setting. Truth is, I'm not sure I really know how yet.
That leads me to think that I need to find a way of energising my players too. We need to be free enough to just roll some dice, shout and laugh... and play. Play is the operative word here.
My guys come to let off steam and relax. When we used to play D&D4e that was the mantra at the table... until the game itself became boring. Combat encounters repeated ad-infinitum killed our enthusiasm... but, in a lot of ways, giving up the fantasy was not necessarily the best plan.
When I think about what our group likes I see a lot of similarities with those school kids. This probably has a lot to do with the fact that we are, in many ways, simply grown-larger and older teenagers at heart.
My guys love a good fight. They love the tactical challenges that moving pawns around a board gives them, and they love working out the options and angles to win victory. But they also love a story and a mystery, searching for clues and trying to piece together the plot.
Roleplaying is all about the fun. The really great thing this week is that I have begun to recapture the fun that, somehow, I left behind a year or two ago. Having got it back I really want to spread it around.