Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Roll Your Own Life (17) - Just Keep Gaming, Just Keep Gaming...

A little out of sequence again, but I really wanted to talk about marathon gaming. Not gaming involving 1980’s Snickers, or the precursor to Halo. I mean gaming for incredibly long sessions.

Our little gaming group in our youth used to game a lot. I mean, at least three or four times a week. Sundays were the big day for gaming - we’d start in the afternoon, break for the traditional Sunday roast at our own homes, then reconvene for a follow up session in the evening (finishing in good time ready for school the following day). During the school holidays, we’d do similar sessions only almost every day of the week. Day and evening would be either a long and involved game, or a mix and match of two different games, split by the much needed food break.

So involved we were, we decided to push the boundaries of gaming endurance, and we thought we’d see just how far we could take it. But, of course, we’d do it for a good cause. We’d marathon roleplay for charity.

This must have been in the mid 80’s (I’m guessing 1986 at the latest). I have a vague recollection of it being at the end of the summer term at school, so we’d have some time to recover during the holidays. It was before the internet, and before we knew about how to donate to charities outside of our local area, but one of “The Eight” (Mole)’s parents was active with the local church and we came to an arrangement with them.

Strange, considering this was probably right in the middle of the “roleplayers are all satanists” nonsense from the time. However, we decided that we’d raise money to help repair the church roof, and the church kindly let us use one of the church halls, normally used for jumble sales or Sunday School, to play the games for the extended period.

We weren’t entirely sure how long we’d need to play to warrant it being worthwhile, so we looked at the Guinness Book of Records. We couldn’t find anything in there about the world record for roleplaying. Not surprising really. I don’t think anyone had really sat down to set the record initially anyway. We looked at the official marathon rules, how you had five minutes break per hour, and we saw that there were some records for board games or something that seemed to be around 48-72 hours. 

Rubbish! We thought. We could do better than that. We already gamed more than that in a week (when we weren’t at school) so we set ourselves the ridiculous target of ninety hours. Yes. 90. Non stop. Marathon roleplaying. We figured we’d not really trained for this, but we thought if we saved up the five minutes per hour into worthwhile chunks, we could get an hour’s worth of sleep here and there.

We couldn’t imagine playing the same game for 90 hours, so we each prepared a scenario, and decided we’d take it in turns gamemastering, and we’d do lots of different games – so we didn’t go completely mad. I remember we played two or three different sessions of D&D, a couple of Star Frontiers, maybe a Call of Cthulhu, and I have this vague recollection of Gamma World being in there somewhere… I may be wrong, I may be thinking of Traveller or Space Opera or something. 

Sponsor forms were made, we got our families and the few friends we had that weren’t already gaming in the marathon to sponsor us, and prepared for the madness to come. Starting at Noon on the Sunday, non-stop gaming through to Noon on the Thursday. How hard could it be?

The actual marathon itself is a bit of a blur really for me – it was many, MANY years ago. I have a number of recollections of it though.

I have a distinct memory of pain. Something we’d not really considered was the physical strain of sitting gaming for such a long period of time. Our legs started to cramp up, and we found that we’d have to take turns walking around the table (or around the room) for a bit until the blood started flowing again.

We also discovered that sleep deprivation brings about some incredibly crazy hallucinations. Sitting up for that length of time in a strange place (the church hall) lead to some weird sights. What started as strange movements glimpsed out of the corner of the eye had evolved by the end of the marathon to almost complete belief that the place was haunted, and we were being watched constantly throughout the game.

The press came and interviewed us in the middle of it all, and seemed to be moderately confused by what we were doing. I guess that’s nothing new really when it comes to the regular press and strange hobbies like roleplaying – though I do remember him mentioning the reputation Dungeons & Dragons had with devil worship and us being in a church hall, raising money for the church roof. He’d obviously done a little research, just not very much, or anything remotely positive.

Drunks, staggering home from the pub in the early hours visited us a few times during the night. Being a little, quiet seaside town, these were your typical old guys in flat caps, wandering in because they’d seen the light on. “What you doin’ in here then?” they’d slur. We tried to explain, but they’d just stagger about and we’d look worried. After the first night’s worth of visitors, we decided to lock the church hall doors over night for the rest of the game.

By the second or third day, the games had really degenerated. I have no idea what we’d accomplished in the games, even though they were part of our on-going campaigns. I remember they had mostly dissolved down to the old classic “Open the door, kill the monster, take the treasure.” If it was more complicated than that, we’d get confused. All we seemed to be capable of after the first 48 hours was rolling dice, working out damage, and reducing hit-points. God help us if we came across a trap, or an encounter with a local villager. If we kept it to a basic dungeon crawl, we could focus, and actually enjoy the game rather than becoming confused and losing interest. 

We had one of Milo’s camp beds set up in the corner of the room where we could try to recover and get a little sleep (if we’d accumulated enough time). And we managed to get through a vast amount of junk food and take away (delivered to us by our ever vigilant families). By day four, we were so tired we just kept going until we’d accumulated enough “rest” time that we could all finish early and go home to sleep. We packed up, I called my dad from the local phone box and he came to drive me home. I remember it was just after breakfast on the Thursday morning that I collapsed into my bed, and didn’t wake again until the Friday morning. Just in time to get the local town newspaper to see a photo of our grinning (and tired) faces from the interview so many hours before.

Clipping from the town paper. Full names have been removed to protect
the innocent. (L-R: Mole, Pete (front), Milo, Alex, Bragi, Me and Crud (front))
Excuse the bad nicknames!

We’d managed it. We may have broken official Guinness rules a few times, and there was no impartial adjudicator to keep watch on us, but we’d done it. We’d gamed technically for 90 hours continually, and raised money for a charity. In our own eyes we were the Gods of the gaming world. Even if our gaming world was only the size of East Yorkshire.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It was later than that - 1988 I think. I'd already done a 72 hour event at Poly for Union Rag Week so I knew the rules for the Guinness effort. I thought we were aiming for 100 hors though not 90? Then again, you know how unreliable my memory is... I had forgotten about the drunks opening the door. 'Twas a larf, apart from the Deep Vein Thrombosis or whatever it was - my legs swelled up like big swelled up legs type thing.... Ahem.