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Interview with a full-time gamer

Dear Roleplaying Tips readers, meet Logan Horsford. He's a past (and current) contributor to the e-zine and is a big RPG fan. In a recent e-mail exchange, I learned that he games a lot, as both a player and a GM. He games so much, as I discovered, that he logs more hours each week at the game table than many people do at their full-time job! Intrigued, I asked Logan if he'd tell us a bit more about his enviable gaming lifestyle.

So, Logan, just what is your gaming schedule each week?

  • On Tuesdays, a buddy of mine GMs us in a Deadlands campaign from about 1:30 PM for about 5-7 hours.
  • On Thursdays, I GM from about noon till roughly midnight or 2 AM.
  • On Fridays, I GM from about 6:30 PM till roughly midnight or 2 AM.
  • On Saturdays, I GM from about noon till roughly midnight or 2 AM.
  • Sometimes I am very fortunate and someone else guest GMs. It's a treat for me.

It's quite a few hours. All of this gaming gets recorded and put up on the internet for people to listen to. Apparently, it's interesting enough that we've attracted some non-gamers to listen to it as well as gamers.


That's a ton of GMing! How do you stay fresh for each session? What's your secret to keep from getting GM burnout?

I see staying fresh and keeping from burning out as related, so I'm going to answer both at once.
  1. Passion. You have to really enjoy what you do.
  2. Get input. I like to listen to a variety of audio books, watch movies, pay attention to people around me and my surroundings, etc. You do these things if you want to keep your mind refreshed. I believe that not doing so will cause you to get burned out over time. I think the big difference between the way I watch a show and most people do is intent. When I watch something, my main thought is 'is there anything in here I can use' opposed to just being a couch potato. I call it active watching/listening.
  3. Study. I read things on how to become a better GM and player. I think there is a lot more I can learn out there. Things like Roleplaying Tips are good for this sort of thing. Sadly, a lot of well meaning GMs get bogged down in study and don't ever apply. They become gaming scholars. They can tell you all of the different player types, but haven't run a game in months. Application is the key.

All those players - do you need to find new ones from time to time? How do you find new players and handle new recruits?

Everyone needs new players from time to time. Everyone will eventually quit gaming. It might be due to getting a spouse that doesn't game, getting different hobbies, job, school or even death. It's crazy to think you'll have the same players years from now. There are some people that do have long-running gaming groups and very happy we are for all of them, but in general you need to look for new people often.

I think also that having a constant influx of new people helps keep you more fresh than gaming with the same group for a decade would. It's also important to find the best gamers you can - iron sharpens iron.

Finding new players on the internet, I have several sources:

Other ways to get more players include things like Yahoo Groups, Facebook, making a podcast/boards, etc.

On handling new recruits, I am fortunate enough to have several players that have been around for awhile. They get to handle the recruits. Because the people get the opportunity to listen to the game before even playing it, they get to know what the people are like, what is expected of them, etc. I also have written down steps for new people to go through to spell it out for them.

I think with new players my best advice is to be upfront and to have what you expect out there for them to see.


You are big into podcasting. Tell us about that - what do you podcast about, and where can we tune in?

The podcasts started by someone (don't know who or I'd give them credit) saying 'You should record your games and put them up on the internet for other people to listen to. They're funny.' Back in the 'old days', I had thought 'Gosh, it would be nice to be able to capture all of this stuff on a recording so that I could play it back later and not lose it all.'

At the time I came up with this brilliant plan, the best I had was cassette tapes. Yes, I started gaming in the late 1970s. As you can imagine, changing the tape every half hour or forty five minutes didn't help with the flow of the game and editing was pretty much impossible. Now, I can change the recording every 3-8 hours (as I see fit) and editing is easy.

Most of what gets podcast is the game. The only thing I edit out are the silences. If someone has food in a lovely crinkly wrapper they are attempting to eat food from, you hear it. If someone coughs, you hear it. It pretty much takes you straight to the gaming table and all of the lovely things you would hear. And it won't let you escape. From what I'm given to understand by people who keep track of such things, if you were to start playing all of the stuff we've recorded for Heroic Cthulhu morning noon and night - non stop, 24 hours a day, seven days a week you would go for two months or more straight before you got to the end.

We've also recorded rules discussions about the Heroic Cthulhu system when we sit around hashing out some rules, spells, etc.

In the past, Gamer Talks have been recorded. These are much closer to the standard gamer podcast where we bring up topics and roundtable them. As it is difficult to keep coming up with new topics after a couple hundred hours of recordings, these now happen rarely.

The real purpose of the podcast is to find more players. We're always looking for new talent and it's a fun game to get in on.


What is your all-time favorite RPG and why?

I suppose that right now, of the hundred or so systems I've played, I enjoy Heroic Cthulhu the best (one I got stuck making up). I am playing the system because it has the ratio of realism to simplicity I like. I can tell you what I like and dislike in a system however.

Level based systems are broken if you play them long enough, being that I play more in a week than most gamers do in a couple of months, flaws in these type of systems show up very quickly indeed. Hence, I prefer skill based systems.

If I have to look at charts or buy extra books for a system, I don't want to play it - I prefer simplicity and speed.

The closest system I found was Call of Cthulhu. I shaved off a bunch of extraneous stuff (which made them a lot of money padding out needless books) and added survival mechanisms (otherwise the characters had the survival of wet tissue in a hurricane) and put in some other things that I felt were needed. We are getting far enough away from the original system that Heroic Cthulhu has almost become a new system.

But, if I find a system I like better, I'd be delighted to go with that.


What is unique about your Heroic Cthulhu system?

Some games use playing cards for different effects - this system uses cards made for the system. Some of the cards are temporary skill bonuses, some are useful for character advancement at the end of a mod, and some of them are linked to the survival mechanic of the game (called Poz). All of the cards have some wacky picture on them, many of them are found by - or actual pictures of - players of the game. It shows others who you are playing with in other countries or other gamers who have played here before you. It's a personal record of the group. I have had many people tell me they enjoy the cards in the game. I have received e-mails and such from other people telling me they liked the idea and implemented it into whatever system they were playing.

What is different from its source system?

It's gotten so far from the source system (and continues to get further as we try to standardize many of the rules) that it could almost be published under its own rule set. The biggest difference between this system and its main source system is in that system 'go insane and/or die' is the norm - this system allows for ongoing characters in an ongoing campaign.

What is different about your game?

I've been told that there are a lot of games out there that are recorded with their regular group. Heroic Cthulhu is the first that sought new players from all over the world. Now, I've heard other games are doing that. I think the fact that a lot of mystery adventures get run is a big difference - most games are merely battle simulations. I also think that having fans (no groupies as of yet, sadly) is also something you don't see in a lot of roleplaying games out there.

Where you can tune in:

I use to have an account on mypodcast.com. They had a minor (3 weeks) problem with their servers. When the servers came back on line, some of the things were missing, others were scrambled a bit. For the people that published ten or twenty podcasts, this was no big deal. Since I had close to one hundred gigs on there, this was too much to try to repair. I moved it to The Internet Library, who is kind enough to host it for free and have the listings for which order they are in and teasers of what happens in the general board under 'podcast list' on http://heroiccthulhu.proboards.com/index.cgi

Yes, everything is free to download. Eventually, I will have a server I can upload things to that will put it into an RSS but until then people are out of luck on itunes.


Are you going to any game conventions this year?

I'd be really surprised if I did. A lot of gamers do like conventions but I see them as 'single serving friends'; I'd rather game regularly with someone over Skype.

Back to your marathon GMing - what advice would you do you have for readers about being a good GM?

Edison once said "Thinking is hard work. That's why so few people do it." The same thing goes for GMing.

The best advise I can give is "DO IT".

I'm constantly amazed at how many people think that they can't GM or don't want to GM or stink at GMing. They just want to play. This either comes down to laziness or insecurity. You need to GM as often as possible for as many different people - and different types of people - as possible.

Work on your craft. Read up on how to become a better GM (Johnn might have some things you can read on this!) and practice your craft.

When you are a player, rather than just playing, also take a look at what your GM is doing right and wrong. Learn from their strengths and weaknesses.

If you start GMing, realize it is like skiing. When you first start, you will probably stink. You have to do a lot of skiing before people start to compliment you on it. Many people try once and quit - not just with GMing but many things in life. You have to want to be a good GM bad enough to be a crappy one until you can learn better.

Something I did when I was young is I would constantly try to play with older players. Generally speaking, they had more life experience (or at least had been around longer) and would run more interesting campaigns than my peers.


Some GMs, like you, are fortunate enough to have to handle two or more campaigns at once. What would be your advice to them?

I have one campaign but more than one group in it. The current game has 20 or more players in it. My recommendation is 'just have one campaign and focus on it'. Otherwise, your energies get diffused planning for multiple campaigns.

Thanks for your time, Logan! Readers, if you are interested in finding out more about the Heroic Cthulhu campaign and how to get in on it, be sure to check out the Heroic Cthulhu boards. They are looking for new players!