During last week’s RuneQuest game one of the group remarked that the previous session had been the campaign’s second anniversary. I’d been thinking about this too, although I’d not quite realised just how close we were to the two year mark. Our first session was on April 18th 2020, a Saturday, and (at least according to the calendar entry) was scheduled for just over two hours. I wrote a bit about starting the game in May that year and now seems like a good time for a bit of a retrospective. So to begin, some reflections on how our gaming sessions are structured and the practical challenges of keeping a group together.

Over the last two years we’ve played somewhere in the order of around 80 sessions. I’ve got 85 events in my calendar over the period, but some sessions were cancelled at the last minute due to illness, work or family committments taking precendence. Looking at experiences reported by other gamers on RPG blogs and forums I think this is pretty good going; it seems a lot of people have trouble maintaining interest in a campaign over a long period. Covid lockdowns certainly helped with this, no doubt, but the dynamics of the end of lockdowns in the UK and resulting changes in work patterns are starting to have an impact on our ability to meet as regularly.

We began by meeting at the weekends, mostly on Sunday afternoons, but after the first lockdown ended this proved difficult to maintain for various reasons so we switched to a mid-week session on a Wednesday in the summer of 2020 which has held, with the odd exception, ever since. The biggest challenge with this, one of the reasons we went with weekend sessions in the first place, is that it’s a remote game and we’ve all spent quite a bit of time in front of a screen and on video calls by the time the sessions starts. This can be a bit wearing!

Right from the beginning we’ve countered this by keeping the sessions fairly short, to around two hours. We currently play between 19:45 and 21:45. Much shorter and it’s hard to get any meaningful playing done. Any longer and it starts getting late and everyone gets a bit cross-eyed. Despite this we all tend to come off the game a bit wired (the combination of video call plus focussed activity has a habit of doing this) and often find it hard to sleep for a couple of hours afterwards so ending the game much later than around 22:00 doesn’t really work.

We keep the sessions fairly informal and always begin with a chat and a catch-up. Over the lockdowns the game was pretty much my only form of social life, so remembering that this is some fun with a group of friends is important - made even more so by the impact of the pandemic and, more recently, the war in Ukraine on everyone’s physical and mental health. One of our group has several Ukrainian colleagues and he’s felt the impact of the war more than most of us. So we don’t take it too seriously and we allow ourselves to goof around a bit. But we do try and get some gaming done too!

Two hours can be a bit limiting, though. RuneQuest combat is fairly mechanics-intensive and a large, complex encounter can easily dominate a session (although it’s worth noting that our group really enjoys the combats). You can’t always judge when a longer encounter or sequence of any kind might begin. My approach to GM’ing is quite improvisational - when running a homebrew scenario I’ll often have little more than a few notes covering the basics - but I try and break down each set of sessions into a reasonable pattern and sketch out what I expect to happen in each session with a view to there being a natural end-point. This doesn’t always work out - as all GMs well know players often do unexpected things and events take you on a different path.

I try not to end a session mid-combat and we’ll often decide to stop a few minutes early if it looks like a complex scene is about to unfold, but it is sometimes unavoidable. Currently our heroes are in the middle of a desperate fight in Big Rubble with a pair of great trolls who have had decided that their tethered mounts look a lot like dinner, low on Rune Points and tired and injured after a series of earlier encounters. Luckily the trolls had already driven off a small pack of Broo who’d also had their eyes on the mounts for entirely different reasons, but they may still be lurking nearby, awaiting the outcome of the current conflict…

There’s a lot more I could talk about: how our group of slightly self-conscious rusty old-school 80s gamers and newbies have got into the role-playing aspect of the game and how the newer RuneQuest mechanics (I’m think in particular of the bits lifted from Pendragon here - Passions and the impact of Rune affinities on a character’s behaviour and actions) have helped with this. I find it interesting to read about the approach to role-playing developed by other groups, so I think there might be a post here.

Another aspect of our gaming I’ve been thinking about is how we’ve handled Glorantha itself. With so much material and detail, Glorantha can put people off despite the exhortations in the rules that Your Glorantha May Vary. As I’ve said before I’m a longstanding fan of Glorantha but at the start of our campaign the setting was completely new to everyone else and my approach to how to portray the setting and its meta-plot (while we wait for the campaign book) had evolved quite a bit over the last two years. So I reckon there’s mileage there for some further posts when I’ve got the time.