We’re now officially well into 2020. I’ve got half a dozen games logged already, but I wanted to take some time to go back over 2019 and talk about what I played, what I learned, and how it went.
If you’re curious and want to follow along at home, I keep a running tally of all complete RPG sessions I joined in a Google Sheet here: Jim Likes Games Forever
I’ve also started logging my plays at RPGGeek.com, where my handle is JimLikesGames.
I’ve chatted about a number of these sessions on my RPG recap podcast, Just Played, where I just dropped the first episode of 2020, and have actual play videos of many of my online games over at my YouTube channel.
A quick glance shows that I played a total of 241 RPG sessions in 2019. The vast majority of those were online, mostly through the Gauntlet RPG Community or at conventions including a couple of small ‘house cons’ and game days.
Because of that, my play happens overwhelmingly as one-shots or monthly series of 3-5 sessions. I did manage to sustain a monthly campaign of Night Witches for the latter half of the year. We’re playing on The Gantlet, with a rotating roster of players, some regular and some intermittent. That’s been my only regular campaign as such, though I did manage to revisit some of the settings I created in some of those Gauntlet games every few months.
I managed multiple sessions or mini-campaigns of over 30 different systems. The most games of anything I played was Masks: A New Generation with 24 sessions, followed by Night Witches at 22, Hearts of Wulin at 21, and Urban Shadows at 18. I managed a dozen session of Trophy, mostly to run my published incursion The Flocculent Cathedral, and everything else was 8 sessions or fewer. I amazed myself by somehow not managing to play Dungeons & Dragons 5e all year? I wasn’t actively avoiding it or anything, it just never really came up as a possibility at any of the events I attended, and no one asked me to run it.
As you can see, that’s a lot of ‘Powered by the Apocalypse’ games! The ease of playing and presenting them online, along with how well the Agendas and Principles approach to GMing meshes with my personal play style means it’ll always be my go-to system. I was grateful that my sessions of Band of Blades finally allowed me to really get my head around ‘Forged in the Dark’ games. I’m also always grateful to get the opportunity to play and playtest in-development games, and 2019 had a particularly rich crop of those, clocking in at around 3 dozen of those plays.
If I had to name a single favorite session of 2019, there are many, many to choose from, but as a player I’d have to say that playtesting Story Brewers’ anime sports game Fight With Spirit! At GauntletCon 2019 was the most sheer, unadulterated fun I had all year.
As a GM, it astonishes me to name another ‘sportsball’ game: Rich Rogers’ The Bat Hack, a minor league baseball simulator that I set in the 1940’s during the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, when women played pro baseball during and just after World War 2. Those games were emotional and exhilarating in exactly the way a perfect sporting event aspires to. Keep an eye out for both of them for wider release in 2020, they produce amazing and heartwarming play that will surprise and delight you.
The main lessons from 2019 that I’m turning into resolutions for 2020 are twofold:
I love to play, but I realized this year that the pressure to race over to MC a game after a day on the show floor was not working for me, even at shows where everyone was great and the players professed to have fun.
So for 2020, I am not going to offer any games at all beyond informal pick-ups and see how that goes. I suspect that I’ll have no trouble finding sessions to play in if I want to, and I’ll be a lot less anxious about racing to a game from my booth. Help hold me to this and sass me if I got back on it, please.
The other: I got to play more games last year than any other in my life, but there was something about it that felt … incomplete, even as compared to previous years where I played a lot fewer sessions overall.
Something my friend Judd said in his excellent RPG culture podcast Daydreaming About Dragons solidified it for me, though: there’s no substitute for the consistency of the good feeling you get from a solid weekly ongoing campaign, especially if that was your default gaming mode growing up (like it was for me, certainly).
So, in 2020 I am going to get into or set up a regular, weekly(ish) ongoing campaign online, and another face-to-face. I think that locally, we may have talked a good friend who’s a great GM into running an extended Night’s Black Agents campaign, so wish me luck on that.
Online? I don’t know! Maybe Marvel Heroic, maybe Star Trek Adventures? Maybe GM a Band of Blades game with an eye towards learning to shamelessly hack it into a mission-based time agents game based on the criminally-underrated Travelers? All on the table!If you’re spinning up something and you want to invite me, please do! 2019 wasn’t wanting for quality or quantity when it came to gaming for me, so I’m not worried about those in 2020, but I would love a dose of the consistency that I’ve been missing.
I’d love to know how your 2019 in gaming went, and what you’re looking forward to in 2020. I’ll be online and playing at cons throughout the year, so I hope we get to share a table.