Anyhow, Eric was my old game master. We played a game set in Yrth, though we weren't much for gritty politicking; it was very much a swords and sorcery dungeon-delving game. Actually, originally, it was set in a cyberpunk world, but I only learned that from my dad. See, I joined this campaign when I was three years old and played until it ended in 14 and a half years; I'm given to understand it actually ran for something like 17.
To call this a formative experience in gaming is something of an understatement. It informs the whole way I look at gaming, and it explains a lot about my priorities, both at the table and beforehand. So, without further ado, lessons I learned (as a GM) by playing and talking with Eric.
All rules are suggestions. Many are good, some are not; none are necessaryNo, seriously, all rules. We played GURPS in Eric's game of course, but we rolled 2d10 instead of 3d6. Why? Because Eric wanted to; he liked the curve better and wanted a good excuse to use those dice. Also, we never used the shock rules. Those aren't optional rules; they're core functionality. So what? Eric didn't like bothering with them, so we didn't. There are numerous other examples, especially in monster design. I really don't much care about exactly statting out the Affliction or Innate Attack (Emanation); all I want to know is that if the PCs walk within 5 yards of the slime they have to roll vs HT-5 or be nauseated and take 1d-3 damage because it's spewing out nerve gas.
At the same time, it's good to know the limitations of the rules and the designs that stick to them rigorously, in case it comes up. (PCs have to follow the rules in character creation, for example.) I just don't blink twice at making exceptions.
Player/character actions matterHad a plan of something really cool that could happen? Did the players mess it up? Good for them.
Here we enter the dangerous waters of gamer reminiscence...
We had an over-arching quest to gather the pieces of a magical hammer so we could destroy a powerstone fueling the transformation of Keyhole Bay into a pocket dimension for various reasons. Along the way, there was a huge, nasty dungeon complex; we attempted it and were soundly thrashed by venemous animated trees in the vestibule. Further, we knew some very nasty folks lived there, who would be very upset if we took their hammer-piece. What to do?
We eventually settled on the plan of teleporting two people in, grabbing the hammer, teleporting back out, and then teleporting in a 2,000 pt Exploding Fireball. This was a risky plan; people had to go in to grab the hammer beforehand, which included finding it. (We knew roughly where it was because of a Seeker spell, but that doesn't give you exact location in a room, and it was guarded.) On top of that, this is on a 5-second timer, because that's roughly now long we have before the ubermenschen figure out they no longer have their piece of the hammer and come looking for it, by our estimation. Plus, there's a chance of teleporting into solid rock, etc.
Needless to say, when we pulled it off, Eric was not particularly happy. He had spent a lot of time preparing that dungeon. However, he let us do it, because we planned it out meticulously, we took advantage of a high-risk high-payoff strategy, and he operated by a policy of no-take-backs.
Conversely, this was all a problem in the first place because we'd accidentally warped the nature of magic by over-abusing the Catastrophe tables. Also, Black Cat.
Black Cat, to be succint, was a former PC-turned-pirate who was the bane and nemesis of the party. She was competent and brutal, and an enemy because of several mistakes on our part, including leaving her in the tender care of a demon while too far down on our priorities list (underneath figuring out what was going on in Minder and killing a local dragon, etc.) Furthermore, she recruited our cast-offs, even occasionally having them show back up to spy on us. (In fact, in the end, she won...)
I could go on (and on, and on), but the point of this post isn't to air my fond memories.