The End of my Tabletop Era
Today, I boxed up all my RPGs. They're still in plain sight, they're still loved and memories cherished, but the boxing, for me, means the end of my involvement with tabletop gaming. This has literally been a long-time coming: when I first started Gamegrene back in 2000, my orbit was already slowly decaying, and I hoped that dedicating a site to my love would keep things going.
More and more, I devolved away from RPGs
It certainly did, but not in any long-term sustainable way: I still bought RPGs, I still read the books, I still created scenarios and adventures in my head, and I still dreamed of running an online game somehow, having long given up the idea of a local flesh group. I hoped that newly minted oldies like Paranoia XP and Pathfinder would keep things going. They did, for a time.
But, more and more, I devolved away from RPGs. The delivery mechanism, sustained physical interaction with a small group of people, just didn't fit with me anymore. After becoming a paid programmer and writer, I holed up in my home longer and longer, becoming further ensorcelled by the Internet, a veritable money tree which accomplished many of my goals quickly and easily. My physical social interactions are nearly zero, but my electronic interactions are constant.
I still wanted to play games, and I still steered away from "the typical", playing everything from "casual" (hidden objects, puzzle and adventure, Facebook games, etc.) to console-based (both physical releases and arcade titles), to massively multiplayers (Korean dupefests, free-to-play kiddies, big budget), to transmedia, armchair treasure hunts, alternate reality games, and independent releases. I hoped that virtual tabletops like OpenRPG, Fantasy Grounds, and Wizards' vaporware would reignite interest in faux tabletop gaming; they didn't. Then I had two children. Awesome for me (roleplaying at a toddler's level!) but not so much for "real" tabletop gaming: I had even less time than I had before.
Every month, I get a PREVIEWS catalog and every month I look with extra care at the Games section to see what's new and exciting. I still buy all the new Paranoia releases, out of a sense of duty and memory, though I rarely do more than scan through them. I still check to see what Wizards' and Paizo are doing and I wonder what the hell FFG is doing to the Warhammer FRP. Solely reading new releases, however, just doesn't seem to be enough anymore. I'm in a different place now.
The memories are worth far more than the decades of monetary value
So, with some sadness at "abandoning" a hobby that has been part of me for nearly 25 years, into the boxes they go. I'll never throw them away: the memories are worth far more than the decades of monetary value (blue books and original modules, Boot Hill and AD&D 1E, etc.), but I need to clear the shelf space for current interests.
This doesn't mean that Gamegrene is dead, though if you've visited in the past few months, you'd likely think it is already. I won't pull the plug on the site: like the physical books, the bonds and discussions that have been created here are too valuable to throw away. I just don't think that, if it continues, Gamegrene will be RPG-flavored, primarily because a) no one has submitted any new articles lately and b) I've no further expertise in the matter. I could change the subject matter to relate to things more in my line of work: internet-based gameplay (be it MMORPGS, transmedia, metapuzzles, etc.), but I suspect that might drive any remaining community anyway - it'd be a Starting Over, per se. Your thoughts are welcome.
Finally, a Gamegrene sekrit
Two years ago, we published an article from Joanna Winters entitled Giving In To, Then Defeating, Player's Expectations. I am her. This article was an attempt to tease a Hunter: The Vigil play-by-post which I had internally called Gamegrene: The Compact, which would have been created and written by myself, Aeon, and gamerchick. The basic idea was that the real-life community of Gamegrene was a training area for fictional hunters and, when Joanna soon disappeared (as she did, by never writing again), it'd be made active. One of the unpublished in-game posts, from the head of the fictional compact, might explain it better:
When I originally had the idea of using the Internet to bring hunters together and coordinate their separate missions, Joanna was one of the first people who believed in the importance of what I was trying to do. Her support and her advice got me through the hard times when my dream seemed close to failure, and her unwavering dedication helped draw other people to the cause. She also believed that when the time was right, Gamegrene's readers would be receptive to the difficult truth of what this world really is, and ready and willing to do something about it. It is my deepest hope that you will not prove her wrong now, when she needs us the most.
Joanna's disappearance has deeply affected us all. Fortunately, we can do something in response to this heinous act. The decision to target gamers as a key group in the expansion of this compact was no accident. Gaming produces creative and open-minded people, with full control over their problem-solving skills and their logical and strategic minds. These abilities, when applied, are stronger and more deadly than anything magical that a witch, a demon, or a vampire can dish out. I have to believe this, or what is our vigil for?
The fictional leader would then go on to believe that there was a puzzle hidden in Joanna's last post and, in fact, there was. At the end of her article, she concludes with:
Go ahead, send the players to a dungeon, but make it one floor and one room, abandoned and with no conflict. Or, make them slave through a 20-floor dungeon, traps and treasure at every turn, with the final room containing the somber and expected single pedestal with a calmly glowing scroll hovering just above it. When that scroll turns out to be just a grocery list, like the note below I found on a phone's message pad, and not the massively powerful spell or document one would expect, the question and wonderment of "why?!" becomes the new motivator for the adventure.
258 123258-147369456-258-7415963-147359 258-7415369 1471235987-14712345789-258-7415963-321478965 14712345-14789632-14789-14789-14789632-1475963-14712345789-14712687 159357-258-159357-14789-159357-123258-14863-321456987-258-147359-258-258-7415963
"Found on a phone's message pad" is the key to solving the puzzle: if you move your finger in the direction of the numbers on a phone's number pad, you'll spell out letters for each grouping: "I THINK IM BEING FOLLOWED XIXLXTVSIKIIN", a clue that Joanna had anticipated her fate. The whole article was meant to be a tongue-in-cheek representation of itself: it defeated reader's expectations by being something more than just an article.
Alas, a few weeks into planning the play-by-post, I decided that I didn't have the actual time to keep it running in a way I deemed awesome or with justice. I shuttled the attempt but, with the article already written and edited, I published the trailhead. I felt it was good enough to be "just" an article, and the comments seemed to agree.