In recent days I have seen more “15 Games in 15 Minutes” posts floating around the RPG Bloggers community than I can count, and I wanted to get in on the action. So far as I can tell it started out on Facebook, and was, perhaps originally aimed at video games, but I wanted to list RPGs only, so I decided to make a list of 15 RPG one-off games or campaigns that I have played that have stuck with me as a player. This list was rattled off in the requisite 15 minutes, but the blurbs about each game (so I can explain my list to you) were added outside that time frame.
I should mention that this entire list was played under a grand total of three absolute GM Gods. I adore them all for introducing me to role-playing and providing such rich games to encourage me to stick with it!
1. Legend of the 5 Rings
I hesitate to admit this, since it sometimes feels like the “real veteran gamers” have been playing since they were 8 years old, and I most certainly have not, but this point refers to my very first ever structured, published with rules RPG. It happened when I was 17. (Though, with Shelly Mazzanoble, I would argue that, like most girls, I had been role-playing nearly my entire life, I just didn’t get around to using books to guide it ’til this game.) I played an orphaned girl who was a member of the Crab Clan. I remember investing absolutely hours creating this character, with a seriously detailed back story and could even recite little vigniettes from her life to the GM. She had a “dark secret” that, had it been revealed, would have forced her to take her own life, and to this day the only other person who knows what it was (because he had to know, how else would he have known if it was revealed?) is the GM. And no, I’m not telling you now!
2. Rifts (40K)
This game was played with my then-boyfriend’s crowd of friends in Victoria, BC. They all had history together, and I was the new member in the bunch. I played a male character (a first for me) in a campaign where everyone else was playing characters based on themselves, but the GM never got confused. (I had to play someone else. My “self” character was elsewhere. Read on.) This game was loosely based on Rifts, and it began with a hoard of 40K Space Marines crossing over into our reality and decimating Sooke (where the GM lived at the time.) Our task was to escape his house and ultimately travel up-island to meet with the other group of real-life gamers playing parallel in this campaign. Highlights I remember: Richard successfully rolling to find leather pants, while I was absolutely denied the discovery of any gause or first aid supplies of any kind. My character died just outside of Goldstream park, at an ice cream stand next to the highway at the beginning of the Malahat. (All those place names are real places, folks!)
3. Rifts (StarCraft)
This game was the other half of the campaign described above, except it was played in Ladysmith, BC, with my high school crowd. We started the game out at my friend Tami’s house, in the heavily-wooded Cedar area, and our task was to somehow travel up the highway and connect with the other real-life gaming group from Victoria. (We really intended to bring both groups together for a massive meet-up session, probably in Duncan, at some point, but the campaign never made it that far.) The Zerg had crossed into our reality and infested my home town of Ladysmith! We had to battle our way past the aliens using only what weapons were actually in Tami’s house. My “self” character was in this game. Highlights include: critically failing an attack roll weilding a sledge hammer, which resulted in me overswinging the weapon and breaking three of my own ribs when trying to beat back the aliens coming up the stairwell. This was also my first experience with in-game chainsaws (but not my last!)
4. White Wolf Mashup
This game was under the second GM God, and was my first experience playing with him. It was a completely impromptu game, held in darkness, many bodies lounging on the kitchen floor of my house (of all places) by candle light on New Year’s Eve. We had no books, nor any dice, but the game was brilliant. Players played alter egos of themselves (pre-existing characters that they were already role-playing online, for example, mostly, though I did not) based on White Wolf rules for games such as Vampire, The Masquerade (that was, specifically, my friend Tami, playing Sinistress, a character who has endured for more than a decade now), Werewolf (Mike’s character, among others) and Changeling (yeah, I was a fairy; what’s it to ya?) With no character sheets or stats to dictate our actions, the entire experience was role-play rich, based on vivid mental pictures of our characters and our ability to act out as they would. “Dice rolls” were completed by stating our desired action and then picking a number, which the GM would then narrate the success or failure of based on how close that number was to a number he had in mind for each action. I know it sounds like a recipe for disaster, but it was beautiful, really. Memorable moments include: when Tami’s character Sinistress the vampire, without anything to do in a boss engagement, stated that she “walked over to” another character who was at that moment channelling Gaia, and critically failed at walking, resulting in her not realizing the Gaia energy was diametrically opposed to her Vampire-ness, and damaging herself to the point of entering Torpor.
5. D&D 3.5 (Townsend)
This was the first game under the 3rd GM God; this is how I met my husband. I was new to town, and had headed straight to the Friendly Local Gaming Store (Wizards, at the time) to find out if I could be connected to a local group. Shaun (to whom I owe a great debt) scribbled a name and a number on a piece of paper and said, “This guy is really good. He might be running a game you can join.” That guy is now my husband, but at the time, he designed the amazing Townsend Campaign for me, two girl friends I brought with me, one of his guy friends and that friend’s girlfriend. (I have a long and distinguished history of playing in girl-rich gaming groups!) The Townsend Campaign was centered on the adventures of the three Townsend siblings: a pair of twin elves (myself and Brian) and their adopted halfling sister (Shannon.) Memorable moments include “the pink room,” “Splash” the incredibly not-stealthy rogue, sleepless nights drawing the likeness of a golden dragon, and storing the sub-zero HP bodies of my companions in a magical, airless room (much like a bag of holding) so I could get them to a cleric. I moved out of town before this campaign could come to an end, and Suzuki “The Mantis” Townsend (my monk) was last seen being spirited away on the back of a golden dragon.
6. D&D 3.0
We were playing this game at the same time as the Townsend Campaign, but with a different, less girl-dense, group, and at someone else’s house. My leaving town meant that I had to be written out of this campaign (which continued after I left, unlike the Townsend Campaign, which ended when I left). On my final night with this group, my Paladin, burdened by his heavy plate armour (failed his dex check), was crushed to death by the falling corpse of a Chimera which had been slain in the air by another party member. The druid successfully performed a reincarnation spell to raise his fallen comrade, and my character awoke in the healthy and not-at-all-jam-like form of a Centaur. Needless to say he had some things to work out, and parted ways with the adventuring party.
7. Changeling: The Dreaming
My first time playing with the actual rule book for Changeling, and my last time playing with the second GM God, this game was solo (just me and the GM), also conducted by candle-light, over a very long night in Portland, Oregon. Sleep deprived and caffiene spun, we whispered this adventure to eachother until we both passed out.
8. D&D Pathfinder (Redshore)
My return to Whitehorse, evil city of mostly snow, brought me back to the fold of my 3rd and Enduring GM God. Here I was willingly and immediately incorporated into an already-existing campaign on a continent called Redshore. My character, once a torch-bearing NPC cleric, was adopted by the party mid dungeon-delve. This character kept a journal (which I still have) entitled “The Great and True Adventures of Hector, God of Retribution.” Hector was a member of our party. I became his cleric and converted NPCs to his worship. The fighter became his paladin. Memorable moments include the one (and only!) time Josh threw his sword and struck the killing blow (with a critical hit) on a boss who was otherwise kicking our butts, and the door trap that disintegrated our lazy rogue.
9. D&D Pathfinder (Sasserine)
This game was run just for Josh and me, though Alex participated in one session. He quit after his character was slain by city guards when he pulled his weapon and attacked someone within view of the guard house. (It really was the logical thing to happen, the guards coming to arrest him for committing murder within their sight, but he resisted, and was ultimately killed, which he felt was unfair.) That left just Josh and me (and my character’s gargoyle familiar) to figure out how to escape the quarantined garbage island in the archepelligo of Sasserine. Memorable moments include intentionally distracting a rooftop courrier who slipped and broke his leg and then taking over his job, holding up a local pawn broker for a gem, and “nobody here but us chickens!”
10. D&D 3.5 (Creature Catchers)
I know I’m not twelve, but this adventure was really enjoyable! It was based on the idea of collecting magical creatures and battling them, rather than the PCs fighting. (Yes, that does remind you of something.) I successfully caught a chameleon, served me well in my battles, and whom I dubbed “Bloodmaw.” Josh got his butt whooped by a snake during his first attempt to capture a creature.
11. Witchcraft (Nick & Lelani)
This was the most role-play rich game I’d experienced since that night on my kitchen floor. Our first session included exactly one die roll, which resulted in the incredibly satisfying demise of the bad guy (who had been abducting and ritually sacrificing children) at the business end of a chainsaw. That session was easily four hours long. I loved this campaign and these characters so much I almost ache because we never finished the campaign. Josh quit gaming and left us in the lurch.
12. D&D 4e (Count’s Carnival)
This was another campaign that died on the vine when Josh quit gaming. The world was magic-limited in that most fantastic creatures were rare and hard to find, most magical races had been hunted or bred out and so were also rare, and it was hard to find magic users at all. I managed to come up with a plausible back story and was rewarded with the opportunity to play a half-orc who started out with a name, but later came to be known only by his nickname: Thug. Thug was extremely distrustful of “tricksy magic users.” His travelling companion held absolute sway over him, and was the only magic user he ever trusted. The purpose of the campaign was to travel the world to collect a carnival full of fantastic creatures for the Count to keep as his own personal menagerie. Memorable moments include the completely unscripted fight with an owl-bear (the GM hadn’t intended for us to engage it), and continually knocking said owl-bear unconscious in order to pack it home and cage it up to add it to our collection. This game was so much fun, my husband has given me permission to ressurrect it for one of the groups I’m GMing. I’ve taken his concept of a magic-limited world where creatures are rare, and we will be hunting for them to create our own little zoo, but everything else will be of my design.
13. D&D Pathfinder (Orphanage)
This was a rather epic adventure on several scales. First of all, it occurred in a world entirely of the GM’s design. Secondly, it was comprised of 4 parallel storylines happening simultaneously, in which each player played one character. A different player was the leader for each of the four groups. I played a monk (in a group that ended up with a total of three monks. Wow, we did some serious damage!), a rogue (who ended up fowling up her task in the boss fight), a cleric (she was my leader character), and an orc barbarian. We have this great little book that gives rules for playing orcs, and because all the characters were orphans, we were able to justify a full-blooded orc in the mix. I’d been wanting to play one for years. This was the return of Thug (though it hadn’t started out to be), who was easily influenced by his leader, Riley (who looked a lot like James Marsders… I’m just saying.) Josh returned to gaming to play in this campaign, but we never finished because he moved out of town.
14. Pirates of the Spanish Main
Although this was only a one-off game, it sticks with me not because of anything in particular that happened in-game, but because of the prep I put in before game. I wanted very much to play a girl, but this girl was to be participating in a boys’ world of adventure and become a pirate. I had to come up with an incredibly detailed and realistic backstory to explain why it was that everyone my character knew at the start of this game was completely under the impression that she was actually a “he.” She was going to be loads of fun to play.
15. D&D 4e (Return to Redshore)
My husband put so much work into creating Redshore, he wasn’t about to let the campaign setting die. As has happened in our life more than once, we have somehow managed to acquire a large group of people who want to play RPGs in our social circle, and so we have returned to Redshore. It’s seven years after the original party adventured here, and this new group has no clue. This game is current, but will stick with me because it was my introduction to GMing as “co-GM” for the table.
So, that’s my list!