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Undercard #2: The Back Story

February 27, 2011

So to understand why I’m writing this game it will probably help to know the history of the team event here in Colorado; or as it’s properly known, The Colorado Team Role Playing Championship.

Short version: I ran an annual team event here for several years. After a while, I was no longer involved and others did a great job carrying on the tradition. But interest in playing the original format of the event waned over the years and it looks like this year’s competition might be the last. Since I don’t want to let it die and I don’t want to use the original format, I need to create something new to take it’s place.

The Full Story: In 2000 I become the president of the House of Dragons RPGA gaming club. This club had wide-open membership and was kind of the catchall for the Denver roleplaying community. At the time there was an RPGA event called the Club Decathlon. Every year, the various clubs around the country would compete in 10 different events. Some of these were simple membership drives or running/playing the most events. Others were creative writing competition for best module, best monster, etc. Another local, but more exclusive, club had won the 2000 Decathlon, so the stakes were high when we decided to enter the 2001 competition. One of the first events was a writing challenge; create a party of adventurers. The idea here was to writing a great group of characters and then play those characters in one of the last events of the 2001 Decathlon, a team roleplaying competition. I recruited six members to write the characters and eventually play the game and they did hell of job with their entry – they won!

We were stoked by this early victory and we worked hard on the next several entries. Unfortunately, we never heard another word from the RPGA. All of the submissions went into a black hole and the Decathlon died an unannounced death. But in early 2002, I discovered that the module intended for the Decathlon’s team roleplaying competition was available. I really wanted the team that had worked so hard and brought home our big victory to have an opportunity to play the game. Not only play it, but compete against other teams.

Team events weren’t new to Colorado, in fact I GMed an RPGA team event in 2000. But, with the RPGA changing, it became clear that if we wanted there to be team events in the future we had to organize them ourselves. So that’s what I and a fellow, passionate advocate of the form did. We recruited GMs, promoted the events, and got several teams to sign up. I even commissioned a banner and built the frame for it. My intent from the start was to build an event that would last.

That first year (2002) was real rough. The module turned out to be a confusing morass that was the inter-dimensional equivalent of “The World’s Largest Dungeon”, but intended to be played in four hours! Not all of the GMs handled it well, but we got through it. The best part was the awards ceremony where you could feel the excitement in the air as we announced the winners!

From there on out, we decided to write the event ourselves, our way, with our judging criteria for what made the best team. The event evolved quickly and the format that stuck was a character-provided event with scoring based on the portrayal of those characters and their actions. We ran it every February at Genghis Con, Colorado’s biggest gaming convention. From the second year on, the annual team event was part of the slate of events presented by RP-Artisans (an excellent organization I helped found, but that’s a completely different story).

I was involved in writing, running, or GMing the team event for most of the intervening years up until the last few. It was often a challenge to get a sufficient number of 5 to 6 player teams together to play a character-provided event – even though it was usually D&D. Over the last few years, it has become more than a challenge. Even when the good folks running it offered to write and run the event in whatever system the individual teams chose – a Herculean task – only two teams competed. Clearly, the event in its current format has run its course.

But it made it 10 years, that’s a pretty good run! Yet, for some reason, I can’t let it go. I love the excitement at the awards ceremony and the good-natured competitiveness of the teams. So for months now I’ve known that the most recent competition (held in February 2011) could be the last. For a long while I simply lamented my inability to do anything about it. Then I decided to at least try to brainstorm a concept that I would enjoy running and that others might be able to carry on. I brainstormed online with those kind enough to help me muddle through my own thoughts and then in person with my eventual co-author. We came up with something even better than I expected, but I’ll save that for next time…

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