Since Dungeons & Dragons was my first game played, you might think it was the first game I game mastered. But that ‘honour’ goes to another TSR product, Gamma World. For those not in the know, Gamma World was set in a grim, post-apocalyptic world full of strange technology and irradiated mutant creatures. Some of those last included the player characters, who could be normal humans (rarely), mutants, or anthropomorphic animals and/or plants. You were explorers in a landscape that was familiar and horribly broken.
Now, I say it was grim, but I don’t remember any session being particularly serious. The only real context any of us had for the setting was what we saw in film and TV at the time, so our games were laden with every cliché we could find. One guy played nothing but variations on Mad Max. Another insisted on playing the post-apocalyptic version of Ewoks at every opportunity, making them way more cannibalistic than I remember from Return of the Jedi. We basically did everything that any campaign creation or game mastering resource will tell you not to do. Which was okay because, a) we were in junior high, and b) we had metric butt-loads of fun.
In fact, I sort of feel sorry for the current generation of young minds entering the hobby. There is such a wealth of well-meaning and sophisticated advice and instruction on how to game master and play RPGs, that I think many new young players miss out on the, in my opinion, crucial phase of gaming: the ‘As Long As You’re Having Fun You’re Doing It Right’ phase. It’s the phase where your Big Bad isn’t inspired by Ash, it is Ash down to his S-Mart boomstick. Where you unapologetically play a post-apocalyptic Wolverine, because hey, if anyone was going to survive a nuclear holocaust it would be him, right? I think we sometimes cut that phase of unrestricted play short, and we do young players and GMs a disservice.
What was the first game you GMed? Leave it in the comments!