Question of the Week: Best Game Session

Because I’ve been busy with other matters, I’ve neglected the Question of the Week. And while I’ve often favored writing and reading topics, this time it’s back to another of my great loves, tabletop roleplaying games.

What is your single best memory of a one-shot game that you never played again?

For me, the choice is easy.

Joining TSR in 1993, I expected to play more D&D than ever. Perversely, the opposite happened. I was so full of D&D (and several other popular RPGs) after editing for 10-12 hours most days and running RPGA games on weekends that the last thing I wanted in my free time was more of the same.

That wasn’t true at first, because I leapt at the chance to play games with my colleagues, including those whose work I’d admired for years. And I still kick myself that for personal-life reasons I begged off an invitation to play a Call of Cthulhu game run by Dave “Zeb” Cook in a freaking observatory.

Worst “selfless” decision ever.

Anyway, after a year or so, my default answer to “Wanna game?” was “I have to wash my hair.” The exception was when Lester Smith asked me to playtest game for his review column.

The reason Les’s games were an exception was that he always did a different game, the session started with his walking us through character creation, and—except for one unforgivable event that occurred in the TSR offices over lunch break—the game was always rewarding.

The one that stands above all others in my memory was a session of Don’t Look Back: Terror Is Never Far Behind. Lester ran it at my rental house in Delavan, a short drive from TSR’s offices in Lake Geneva. The other players were David Wise, Thomas Reid, and Ted Stark.

As usual, we began with Lester reciting the essential rule and walking us through character creation, which included all the famous archetypes of high-school. We each made our choices silently, but it wasn’t much surprise that two of us picked nerds and two picked bullies. I was the trailer-park thug, while Ted went for a jock. Thomas and David picked slightly different spins on the nerd, and I’m sorry to admit I can’t remember which of them went with an incarnation of Steve Urkel (I think Thomas), but he was the one I bonded with. The jock “adopted” the other nerd as his protection project, and with our combined brawn and brains, we went to investigate a haunted house.

Out of consideration for my fading memory, I’ll share only a few scattered images: a nerd kicking along a trail of his own urine while his video camera dangles between his legs, recording the horror that pursues him; a bully lighting his cigarette off the flaming face of a ghoul; “Downtown” Julie Brown getting punched out on live MTV when she annoys a survivor of the “event.”

I liked Don’t Look Back, including its at-first-glance lame (but in play rather fun) +/- system of d6 stats, and I ended up with a coverless review copy (after it had been mangled for our low-tech scanner), but I never played it again. In a way, that’s just as well, because I had so much fun that one night that I can’t imagine replicating the experience.

Now I’ve showed you mine. Time to show me yours.

What was your best one-and-only-night session of a TRPG? Give us some details.

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