What if we were kids? A gaming year in review

I’m not the first person, and I will not be the last, to sit down and write about the utterly unexpected gaming outcome of 2020. In January, very few of us could have foreseen the changes that would happen, the importance of online gaming to our gaming lives, and the way that we might react to the wave of convention cancelations. We had no Mitchester Arms and very few people even knew what a Zoom was! 

It has – sort of – however, allowed some of us to answer a question that has been haunting our advancing years. What would be it be like if we all had the time to game like when we were kids? For me at least, the answer has been that I would game as I have never gamed before, to the point of near burnout!

Flashback 2019 – I wrote a proper project plan for 2020. I had writing projects all lined up, a properly planned expansion of Omnihedron Games into the world of podcasting, and a load of other stuff planned and laid out. I made a good start with the writing and then Covid happened and my game writing hole was turned into a defacto charity marketing office and it all went to shit. You never know, 2021 might see those ideas return!

Anyway, what did I get up to? Here are the stats!

Game Sessions Attended: 169
Games Sessions GM’d: 66 (39%)
Games Sessions Played: 103 (61%)

Top 3 systems (by number of sessions): PbtA* (28), Fate* (26), Symbaroum (16)
Top 3 games (by sessions): Symbaroum (16), Star Trek Adventures (14), The One Ring (14)
Top 3 GMs (by sessions): Guy Milner (37**), Nigel Robertson (12), Tom Zunder (10)
Top 3 Genres (by sessions): Fantasy (60), Urban Fantasy (33), SF (29)

* all flavours of Fate (including unpublished hacks) and Pbta (including FitD and TGAW)
** all told Guy was in 70 sessions with me this year, a Milner Quotient of 41%. Stalking.

Games That I Have Ran?
Without a doubt, my crowning achievement was finishing the Throne of Thorns campaign for Symbaroum with ‘The Thursday Group’. This was a brilliant gaming experience and has whetted my appetite for some more big ass campaign action.

For ‘The Sunday Group’ it’s been a quiet year on the GMing front, with me standing in with some impromptu Barbarians of Lemuria over the summer. I started a Saturday Morning group during lockdown that has resulted in some great stuff, including the adventures of Leech and Sons Funeral Directors in Blades in the Dark. At the start of the year, I was running an infrequent Monsterhearts game with some of the new crop of gamers that Young Mr Zunder has been seducing into the hobby. 

Nights Black Agents: Solo Ops was my first foray into 1-to-1 gaming with Guy and it was excellent fun. I also managed to get my second edition of Duty and Honour underway properly with some convention game shakedowns and then some pretty hardcore playtesting with ‘The Tuesday Group’

At conventions (face to face and online) I ran sessions of Spire (using one of the pre-written adventure frames to link two groups), Cthulhu Deep Green (my first every Cthulhu game), Scum and Villainy (with a Star Wars theme), Tachyon Squadron (with a Star Wars theme), Liminal (more Fang Gang fun) and The Great American Witch.

Games That I Have Played?

By group: The Sunday Group (my original gaming group) have had two ongoing campaigns. The first, which we started the year with and picked up again after the summer, was an epic Werewolf the Apocalypse game using Fate Accelerated, and an amazing Star Trek Adventures two-season campaign that made me fall in love with Trek all over again.

The Thursday Group (my second face to face group) have followed Symbaroum with some Pathfinder 2e, Fate Ghost in the Shell and Fate Shogun.

The Tuesday Group, an online session that started early in the year pre-lockdown and has been by far and away my most regular gaming this year have played The One Ring (I think it was Tales from the Wilderland?), Wrath and Glory, GenLab Alpha and is currently chewing its way through Shadow of the Demon Lord.

The Saturday Morning Group after Blades in the Dark, is tackling the tragedy of Agon. Well, its a bloody tragedy for me…

I’ve also had the chance to play with new people and different games – I’ve played Qin and Mage 20; two games I never thought I would play, and had the pleasure of playing in Lynn Yin’s playtest campaigns of Cloudy Brook Academy; a Dresden Files Accelerated hack based on wuxia tv and literature that has to be played to be believed. I’ve also just started playing in another Star Trek Adventures game with a spicy mix of gaming veterans and total new starters that is looking very good fun.

The one-shots and convention games?  I played Alien the day before Lockdown 1.0 started, grabbed games of Monsterhearts, Masks, Altantis and Zombie World at conventions, played one-shots of 13th Age and Liminal (my first ever live gaming appearance on Twitch!) 

Games Things I Have Made?

I suppose the obvious thing was the release of Pax Londinium for Liminal, which was well-received, and two case files for the same; The Eyes Have It and One Boggart’s Rubbish. Beyond that, this year has been a year of stagnant disappointment. Turns out that the major casualty of lockdown has been my ability to actually sit down and write. Novocastria and my Gazetteer entries for Liminal are written and submitted so we should see them next year. Ley Line of Duty, a P Division handbook is partially written but no further forward, and my adventure of King of Dungeons – the Great Roc Race – remains at the 90% finished stage. And the less we talk about Duty and Honour, the better because the hard work has been done now, I just need to write it.

I had, however, done some other things. Right at the beginning of Lockdown 1.0 I started doing some map-drawing again, this time with some inking involved too. I’ve always liked the idea of making artefacts for gaming, so this will come in handy when we get back to face-to-face. I also started, stopped, started and then stopped again posting to my Omnihedron Games blog. Do you know that saying about asking a busy person if you want something done? Well, when I was writing most I was also running four campaigns at the same time. That seems a long time ago!

The most unexpected creative gaming outlet of 2020 has been my reconnection with painting minis. The techniques used nowadays have changed a lot since I last picked up a brush (30 years ago we only undercoated in white and we never had shades, layering, glazing or bloody edge highlighting!) and I have had to admit that not only have my skills atrophied over the years but so has my eyesight resulting in some … interesting paint jobs. However, the process of it all I find immensely relaxing, almost meditative and the time I put aside to do it is never wasted.

In Conclusion
Like so many, I imagine the end of this year brings about a degree of dissonance. On the one hand, I really miss the conventions – online ones just don’t do it for me – as they are essentially my holidays during the year, on the other hand, I have never felt so engaged with my hobby as I have been this year. I never knew I could game so much and when tested to the limit I never suspected I could game myself to the very limit of burnout. Next year I want to create more and turn time into productivity. But every year, that’s what I say and shit gets in the way. Let’s see, shall we?

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