And it was okay. Not spectacular, just okay.
There were really two issues at work here that I think contributed to my dissatisfaction. The first, and probably most significant, was that I was just a bit too over-loaded on Saturday. I got back to the flat a mere ten minutes before the scheduled start time, and hadn't even finished getting changed before the first knock on the door. In hindsight, I should have given myself at least an hour to wind down from the fund-raising before trying to run the game.
The other issue is that RPGs are incredibly dependent on the people around the table. Ultimately, it doesn't matter all that much which game you're playing, or how exciting the premise is, or the nature of the setting, or the characters, or how well prepared the DM is. The majority of the enjoyment of the group will come from the people around the table.
At the legendary Hunter game of last year, we had a spectacular group, who really grabbed their characters, were excited at the premise, and who really ran with it. At the Christmas game, again, we had a great group round the table, who generated all sorts of craziness, bouncing off one another.
On Saturday, we were slightly hampered in that one player completely forgot it was on, and when called felt that he should instead use the time to study. And fair enough - actually important things must come first! The other three players took their characters and worked with them, playing competently... but there didn't quite seem to be that 'spark' that turns an okay game into a spectacular one.
(Plus, there wasn't much by way of plotting, sudden but inevitable betrayals, or general backstabbing as I had expected, and maybe hoped. But maybe there just wasn't the opportunity for it?)
Still, everyone had fun, which is the main goal. There were some lovely and iconic scenes. And, of course, they spotted the Ackbar/trap correlation immediately. I neither found myself running out of material, nor having large amounts of excess material prepared. All of which was to the good.
The lessons learned, I think, are fourfold:
- The 'magic' that turns a decent game into a great game can't really be manufactured, so all the DM should try to do is run a functional game, and let the players take care of the rest.
- There should have been more opportunities for scheming, and more overt opportunities for scheming.
- A game like that probably needs at least four players. Additionally, there are a couple of our players who serve as ideal "agents of chaos" - that's something this game could have done with a bit more of.
- I need to remember to give myself more time between activities in future. Starting the game while tired was not a good plan.
And that's that. Barring a sudden resurgence of the Saturday Game (which I don't now expect), that's my last game before the wedding. After the wedding, all being well, the next game will be the restart of "The Eberron Code". And then I potentially have a game to run in September, titled "Black Crusade: A Heresy of Angels". But whether that happens or not will depend enormously on how the next few months play out.