I roleplayed for the first time in over six months on Sunday, in a small game of Barbarians of Lemuria. The plot was largely ripped off Robert Howard's Tower of the Elephant and involved me transforming Sataria, the setting's 'melting pot' city into a low fantasy Venice just because... well that's cool right? As I say there wasn't much originality to the plot, from the bar brawl start to the way the characters found out about the gem the size of a man's fist (blatantly stealing the Jewel of the Seven Stars from Bram Stoker by way of Kim Newman) and beyond.
The game was purposefully combat, planning and gravitas light. I dislike the former pieces of that trinity (I feel they suck the drama out of the game) and the players I was gaming with aren't much for serious tones. At the same time though the game felt like sword and sorcery rather than vanilla fantasy and that was really good; one of the things that annoys me is when a game doesn't have the right atmosphere (having sat through 'horror' games where it felt more like we were playing Toon or D&D including a Vampire game back in Uni - the first time - where an attempt to deal with nasty things in the sewers transformed the game into a dungeon crawl - not my finest hour as a GM). The PCs ended up riding a huge stone gargoyle thing out into the swamps before the magic animating it faded.
So the short of it is: that was was fun. The players got to be inventive and take control of the plot in places. We skipped over the boring bits and focused on the fun bits - playing around me cooking a roast dinner, which perhaps wasn't the best juggling act to perform (but I think it worked).
I'm not sure where this points for the future. It likely means that I'm not selling up everything I own, but that I'll be pulling back the focus of my gaming to stuff that's more story driven and shifting away from a lot of more traditional games that can't be hacked into the sort of thing that interests me. Playing with new approaches to games and especially to ways in which I connect games to player characters (hopefully bypassing the work for hire cliche) has made me interested in gaming again and I'm not washing my hands of the hobby entirely.
Eve has suggested trying to more gaming with the Barbarians group, which is her, Emma and Alyssa. That's quite tempting, especially if Alyssa gets a job over here. My limit for gamers at present is 3 or 4 people - anything more and I find that the game loses something and I start to get crabby. The other option is to put up an ad in my local gaming store, Waylands Forge and hope a) that people want to game with me, and b) they aren't invested in a game style I find abhorrent.
On the other hand one swallow doesn't make a summer, I'm unsure if this is a one off and if returning to the hobby in a more permanent way will simply show me that all roleplaying can really be is running around enacting stupid plans and punching non existent things in the face whilst trying to get as much money as possible out of some poor mug. I can plan (and am planning) to get around those things but that doesn't mean anything in the long run because the players are the people who set the tone, pace and nature of the game not the GM. If they're not on board with this idea then it'll go nowhere. I guess this falls into the need for more preparation, stronger links with gamers and not accepting 'I don't mind' as an answer; focusing on the 'how' rather than the 'what'. Given that the three people I'm likely to game with are pretty story focused I'm pretty confident that we can manage this.