In which our intrepid hero relates the latest chapter in his wasted life.
When Return to the Temple of Elemental Evil came out, I snapped it up. I knew of Monte Cook from his Planescape products, and was a big fan of all the old 1st-ed Greyhawk modules, so I guess it was inevitable.
At the time, we had a player named Jamie in the group; like me, Jamie was a player of many years’ experience and had a love for D&D kitsch and Call of Cthulhu. I was a bit reluctant to run something the size of Return, but it would’ve been up our respective alleys, and would introduce the other players to the joys of Greyhawk nostalgia.
Since Jamie was running us through Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay at the time, this would be something for the distant future, when the group tired of Power Behind the Throne. But Jamie abruptly left. Return was the only thing that anyone in our group had even vaguely ready to run, so I allowed myself to be coerced. In hindsight, I wish I hadn’t.
It’s not that Return is a particularly bad adventureit’s somewhat better than averageit’s what happened to our group since we began.
We gained players here and there, and we lost some. Why we lost them wasn’t entirely clear to me; I’d be GMing the module and ask whether the others knew why we hadn’t heard from a particular player for a few weeks. I’d be told simply that they weren’t in the group any more. Fair enough, I suppose, but as the GM, I would’ve liked to have known beforehand. I have my suspicions, but I won’t air them here.
When we began Return, I estimated that it’d take us between six and eight months of play to complete. I don’t believe that this is an unreasonable guess, given most groups.
Fast forward to yesterday. Looking over the module (and the notes in my head), I figured that any reasonable group only had about eight hours of play before, once and for all, they managed to stop the cultists from freeing the Cthuvian übergod Tharizdun from his extra-dimensional prison. One marathon session, and it would all be over. Instead, it turned into a prime example of how to cram an hour’s roleplaying into five. In the end, the actions of one player led others to just get up and leave. Sadly, this wasn’t an exceptional occurrence.
I look back at the time I’ve spent GMing Returneight months stretched into thirty-sixand I ask myself "Why?"
Every Sunday that I haven’t been working, interstate or crippled with illness, I’ve run that game. I think of all the relationships I could’ve saved, all the career opportunities I could’ve taken, if I hadn’t said, "Sorry, I can’t do Sunday; I have to GM."
I want it to be over. I want it to end. I want to get on with my life. I want my Sundays back. Most of all, I want all the memories of Return to be good ones, and I want to feel like the last three years have been worthwhile.
But that’s something I’ll never have.