This post is a part of the #RPGaDAY series for 2017 by David F. Chapman and RPGBrigade. For more information, see this post at AUTOCRATIK. I'm modifying per suggestions from S. John Ross as well as applying my own interpretations. Comment with your answers or links to your own posts!
Day 7 - What was your most impactful RPG session?
This is also one I'm going to liberally apply some interpretation to. There have been emotionally significant moments here and there, certainly, but the thing that's jumping out at me actually had a lot of impact on me as a gamer instead of as a person. This was still fairly early on in my RPG history...I was probably about 12-or-so years old. I had just recently moved to the city I lived in at the time, and I had picked up membership in a gaming group that met on weekends at the local library. (So, effectively strangers, is what I'm saying.) In this particular session, we were playing a generic fantasy setting, I remember that, but I can't remember if it was D&D or Fantasy HERO. It was one of the two. I do remember that I was playing a ranger, though, and it will become clear in a bit why that detail remains. I had a pretty generic backstory for my character: woodsman, hunter, loner. In the opening session, the GM had set it up that I was in town picking up supplies, so that's how all the adventurers were in the same place. I don't even remember the Inciting Incident, but whatever it was happened, and the City Guard attempted to press us into service to help out with whatever had occurred. It was basically, "Join up, or we kick you out of town." My reaction was, "Fine by me! I was only here buying supplies. PEACE" or whatever the equivalent was from me at age 12. There was some silence, and I remember the GM looking confused. These were all older kids, by the way, maybe mid-to-late teens. The "old" one of the group -- I remember he seemed so adult to me back then, but in hindsight he was probably like 20 -- who was not GMing this game, leaned over to me and stage whispered, "Hey, maybe just go along with this so we can go on the adventure." So I did, and we did, and it was fine.
That moment always stuck in my mind, though. I was aware that something had happened. I don't particularly regard this as a "but that's what my character would do" asshole kind of moment, though I admit I could be wrong about that. Like...I was 12; I'm not sweating it. But for a long time, I did think of it as a sort of failure on the GM's part. Like what did he expect me to do? He knew the kind of guy my character was. I mean, he had contrived to have my character be there in the first place, right? It didn't seem like so much to ask to contrive to have there be an in-character reason for joining the party. It also really cemented something for me about RPGs. That was one of the big crystallizing moments for me that what I liked so much about RPGs was playing a character. Without that, it was just a complicated board game. Which is fine, but it wasn't what brought me to the table. In any case, in the intervening decades and with loads more experience under my belt, I look back on that situation and feel like I can take a lesson from that day as a player instead of as a GM. As a GM, the lesson for me was to play to character motivations. As a player, though -- and this lesson didn't sink in until many years after that session -- maybe I should have better learned that playing a character isn't the only thing different about RPGs; it's also a collaborative game, and then everyone at the table works together to make the story happen. It wouldn't have been that tough for 12-year-old me to come up with an in-fiction reason to join the party, because clearly it was the out-of-fiction goal. I mean, yes, it was a different time, different games, different players, but the lesson is a good one. The load can't all be on the GM to make good games happen. We're all in this together, and that's something I like to take with me to every game.