Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Sharing the Load

As of the writing of this article I have to admit that I am deeply sad. I feel as if I'm being forced to saw off my right arm.

My Best friend, My Co-GM and one of the great loves of my life is moving away to California.

Her husband got a job there that I can only grudgingly admit is pretty spectacular and so in two weeks or so she will be boxing up her two cats and her books and will head off into the next part of her personal adventure.

I won't tell you the whole freakish story of how Jenna and I met. I won't tell you the whole sordid story of our doomed love affair either. Such things are mine alone to try to make sense of. But I will tell you that the games kept us together at a time when there was very little else. I will tell you that the games saved the friendship when things looked bleakest for us. If for no other reason, I owe gaming a huge debt of gratitude for that.

She taught me much. I won't lie. I had faults as a GM and as a player. Still do. (I'm working on them.) but I know that Jenna helped me over the last dregs of power gaming that I had in me. She showed me that it was possible to run great stories without resorting to shooting and car chases and dice flying everywhere.

She helped me to learn how to build a world one person at a time rather than by trying to paint the whole thing at once.

In the beginning, when we still lived together, we would play most every other night. We were a young couple with very little cash and we didn't go out much because of unreliable automobiles. For about a year or so we played almost nonstop. She playing her tough talking Katey O'Hara and all my NPC's and I played the soft spoken but potent Rabbi David Solomon and all of her NPC's.

Eventually the two games (Both of which were Mage: the Ascension) kind of cross-merged into something that would pass back and forth between us with nary a beat missed.

As time went on, the situation between us changed but the games stayed a constant. We added new people occasionally. Some would stick, others would not. But it was always me and Jenna at the helm for the most part. She had this incredible facility for remembering names and people. After a few years of play with hundreds of NPC's that facility became more and more valuable. She could whap together a complicated family tree on the fly and make it stick to her memory. The rest of us had to rely on her chart.

She was also able to keep OOC knowledge separate from in-character knowledge. It became our habit to occasionally sit down and lay out our metaplots to one another to see whether they would play well or not. Occasionally one or the other of us would have our character get into massive trouble in order to further the plot so that the other players would get involved.

Granted, we didn't tell each other everything. I was God and she was my high priestess. And vice versa. If I told her everything then I couldn't move in mysterious ways...Heh. It was always the most fruitful sort of competition to surprise one another and to make the other suffer (in character of course.)

She played the bulk of the female characters and a few male characters too. At time I would ask her to play one of her NPC's on the spur of the moment and she took right to it. The only time she would have trouble is if she had to get into an argument with herself. She created some of the most hideously evil villains it has been my privilege to test myself against. Killing Julia DeWinter has been damn near the work of 4 years.If there was a textbook on villain writing. Jenna could write it.

I remember a time when we were in the car and talking about the game. She had created a character who had turned out to be a serial killer. This person had been an element of the game for six full months before he had done enough to get caught by one of our players. He wasn't jailed but he was torn apart by a vampire nearly in front of that player. To this day, if you mention the name "Nathan Thomas" to Stacy she lets fly with a stream of profanity that would make a Calcutta whore blush. We were in the car trying to decide what to do next while driving the groceries home.

Then it hit me. And I turned to her and said "How about this...The Return of Nathan Thomas."

Her eyes got real big as she read my mind. Thomas had been put into the ground over a year in actual real world time. Stacy would never see it coming, Would never suspect a Specter with puppetry, would never see the cool, calculated, body-hopping psychopath until it was far to late.

The nasty laughter lasted until we got home. I treasured it.

I won't say it's always been great, there have been times where I wanted to GM something completely different from what she was wanting to do and she wouldn't go along. I could have still run that stuff be she wasn't interested in playing, so why bother. I simply wouldn't have as much fun. Occasionally this left me feeling creatively stifled. But it also taught me how to compromise.

We also had to deal with one another's strengths and weaknesses and find ways to put them to work for us rather than create more problems. I can run combat and be very cinematic in my style of play. Jenna loathes combat (although she runs it better than she thinks.) and won't touch it with a 12 foot lance if she can help it. On the other hand, Jenna is far more able to get into the thoughts and feelings of the characters and deal in their emotional and romantic lives than I will ever be. I don't know if that's a Man-Woman thing or just a Pete-Jenna thing, but it was there to be seen.

Now I'm faced with the unenviable task of trying to break somebody new into that position. Never mind trying to replace her. It simply can't be done.

She's moving to a little place outside Fresno California, If there are gamers on the west coast who read these pages regular, and you should happen to be lucky enough to meet Jenna Mcguire. Treat her right. O.K.? She is a rare gem and I have been both honored and blessed to have gamed with her.

Besides, if you don't, I'll get on a plane and come over there and kill you.

Sono Finito.

She came back you know. They moved away. Pulled up stakes and went elsewhere and lived there for a whole year. They came home at Christmas. And we were happy to see them of course. But I think it was the final nail in the coffin. They hated it there. And they missed us, I think. So they came home. And while Jenna and I have yet to agree on a new game to run together, It's good to have her back and to have that possibility.


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