Gaming as Gift Giving

Crimson Throne

I’m going to be running a game. Pathfinder, based loosely on the Curse of the Crimson Throne adventure path, but so thoroughly reworked that it really only bears passing acquaintance in form or function.

This is a revamp of a game I started back in… holy macrame, 2011. It fizzled out when I went to Clarion West in the summer of 2012 and never got ramped back up again. This made me sad, because there were a few character arcs I was really looking forward to running my players through.

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine (Bryn) asked me to run something for her for her birthday. She has run the past three games I’ve played in, with her current Legend of the Five Rings campaign being one of the best and most fulfilling gaming experiences of my life.

This means she’s hit one of the traps of being a good GM. Pretty soon, you’re always running and never playing (roll reflexes, evasion lets you play half time).

Enter the idea of games as a form of gift-giving. I’ve paid my GM dues. I co-ran a huge, six-year Changeling LARP, and it left me burned out for running games for a long time. Bryn was one of the players, so I don’t feel so bad playing in her games without reciprocating because I already ran something huge.

However, I do like the idea of running a game as a kind of (reciprocal) gift. She puts a lot of work into running games that are fun for me, and I know that I can run a game that will be fun for her. Making it fun for her (and for the other players) will make the work fun for me. In a lot of ways, this reminds me of the gift-giving culture and exchange mentality around fanfic writing in fandom (with an abandoned game being like an abandoned fic).

As for the issue of sustaining the energy (which has been my challenge in the wake of the Changeling game), I’ve let everyone know that I’m running in a 6-game arc format with breaks in between for me to work up my energy. That way, even if I do need to take a longer break, I will have finished a story arc and not left people hanging. One of the worst situations in gaming is when a game fizzles out, leaving a story or character arc half-finished.

I’ve got outlines for the first two story arcs and a more detailed map for the first six or so games in the first story arc. Tonight we’re getting together for char gen for some of the new players and char refresh for people who played in the first game. I expect I will talk more about planning and GMing in the coming weeks, since that will be my main mental occupation.

In vaguely related news, I’ve started up a community on Imzy, which so far seems to be trying to take the best of LiveJournal, Reddit, and Tumblr and mash it together, with a side of active platform discouragement against harassment culture. I miss LiveJournal, I wish I felt safe to post on Reddit, and I’ve never liked the Tumblr interface, so I’m hoping this new thing takes off. So far, I really like the interface. We will see. You can find my new community here: Feel free to ask me for invites to Imzy if you want to set up your own stuff.

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