Had the opportunity to do a little Gming this weekend, and I have to say it went better than I expected. My wife decided to go scrapbooking for the night on Friday so I took the night off as a chance to gather a few players and 1) play test my game system further, 2) hone my waning GM skills.
I had started a little Zombiegeddon game last Halloween just as a between session filler and for a little seasonal gaming. And to be honest, I needed a break from sword & sorcery gaming for a little while. I love D&D and fantasy settings, but once in a while I need to play something different or I get burned out and everything starts to blend together.
I was sort of nervous about GMing again because its been so long but I had committed to doing it so I was forced to write a game whether I liked it or not. I went back to the method I used to use a long time ago: Write a couple of events I would like to have happen, sketch a couple of maps around those events and then see what the party does and improvise around them. I had everything set to go early and they called and said they were running a little late so I decided to sit down and do a nice combat map on Dundjinni while I was waiting. It only took me about 45 minutes do draw a battle aftermath scene in the middle of a city street complete with a pile of dead zombies (is that redundant?) and a few soldiers with vehicle support. I wanted a good opportunity for the players to gather some solid equipment and a clue as to where I would like them to ultimately be heading.
They had an injured party member and the last time we played, they were headed towards a medical clinic so I thought I would put this encounter just before they got there. My plan was to give them a few rounds to pick through the remains of the fight before zombies started to rise out of the pile and advance on the party and force them into the hospital.
So I printed out the map, which took up 12 sheets of paper and most of my ink and laid them out as the party approached. The players looked it over and, almost in unison, said "Lets go around it". And so they did. True to form, the party is always unexpected and drove their broke down toyota right around the entire encounter and right to the hospital. No big deal in terms of the game. It was just there for a little action and some resupply for the party, but it reaffirmed a valuable lesson that I learned long ago. The more detail you put into the game, the more the party will skip. Oh well, I'll keep it around for another day.
So they got to the hospital trailing a group of undead attracted to the sound of the car echoing through the deserted streets and had to scramble inside with what they could carrying in their backpacks and abandoning 90% of the food they had gathered from a convenience store they found along the highway last session.
Once inside the hospital, things went well from my perspective. They all seemed to be having a good time and I found I was able to improvise quite a few things that I hadn't seen coming. It was a good feeling to be able to do that again and I felt pretty happy with myself for being able to entertain a group of friends for the night and have them planning what they were going to do NEXT time as they walked to their car.
I don't think I'll be nearly as nervous the next time I get to GM now. In fact, I've already got some ideas for an entirely different campaign running through my head.