Okay…not memorable or great or fun. Impactful.
My single session of play that had the most notable, singular impact was Mark Delsing’s Burning Wheel adaptation of Gilmore Girls. First BurningCon, whenever that was. 2010? Maybe earlier? Anyway. I thought Mark was so brave for running such an off-the-rez adaptation. He had seen more deeply into what makes Burning Wheel so good: lots of internal and interpersonal conflict. Many years later, looking back, I think I sense too much NY-vibed srsbzns confrontation baked into the Burning Wheel aesthetic and I’m not so sure any more that it’s the perfect match to that WB/CW chatty-teens style.
But the impact, beyond all that, wasn’t just seeing bold creative GMing on display. It was also the first time I played a female character (the Rory analog in his fantasy setup) unironically and as a player, rather than a GM. I’d had lots of women NPCs in my games but embodying, really owning a teen girl role was a threshold I had yet to cross.
It wasn’t a kickass con game. It was totally not a one-shot blood opera like Burning Wheel tends to shake out as. Honestly I can’t even remember much of what happened at the table. But it was such an important personal threshold for me.
I feel like 90% of my thinking and attitude about small-press/indie/story gaming today can be traced back to that event, and the personal, political and emotional vistas that were opened up to me. Such a small thing! Kind of laughable that I’d either not ever considered the possibility of having fun in the role of a sassy, emotional teen girl, or some underlying brittleness or insecurity or, yeah, fragility had kept me from going there. I still laugh at Past Baby Indie Paul!
I’ve also carried with me the thought that probably most dudes (and maybe also over 35) would benefit from a similar experience. I’d never tried a role tied into different aesthetics and play needs than my default mode: clever, funny, outsmarting an adversarial GM, suspicious of everyone, unfairness radar dialed all the way up.
None of this will sound even a little bit surprising or interesting to the all-in storygame crowd. It was a revelation for an older player who’d been re-performing the same play role in one form or another since 1979.