For a day and a night and another night, we fought our way up a cloud-wreathed mountain and across a rainbow bridge. Our enemies attacked, again and yet again, wielding flame-flicker swords that spat balls of screaming hellfire. Great boulders vaulted down the rocky slope, carrying away strings of packhorses in long crying chains.
The battle was already a score hours old when the sun peeked above the horizon, surveyed the scene, thought better of it, and beat a hasty retreat, plunging our world into a second night.
Now the skies themselves conspired to defeat us. Hail cut at our faces and tore at our clothes. Bolts of lightning arced down from sky to ground, leaving the night illuminated by a trail of burning moss. Still the realm’s defenders attacked, in wave after furious wave. But we could not be stopped, for even gods could not stand against men such as we.
With magical hammers we broke through the doors of the gates of heaven and advanced into its hallowed halls. Inside were glittering tapestries, which we looted, and thick shagpile carpets, which our dogs shat upon. We found a minor god of healing hiding beneath an upstairs table, and gave him a good twatting. Our backpacks bulged with plunder.
That afternoon we feasted in the great hall. That evening we played skullball in the crypt.
By nightfall we’d reached the final chamber, and it was there we encountered our greatest nemesis. He appeared in the guise of a kindly old man, but we knew him from before, and knew him to be much, much more. He was the God of gods, the creator of all. He’d been there at the start, when the universe bigged and banged, and he’d be there at the end when it fizzled and died. Our lives were his, to play with as his whims desired. He could hurl lightning from the sky, make the sun retreat from day back to night, stop our hearts with the merest flick of a finger. We slaughtered gods. But we were helpless before him.
He was the greatest opponent we would ever face.
He was our Games Master.
Understand this. The Games Master is your enemy. He may come under different names - Games Master, judge, referee... friend - but he is always your enemy. It’s a different game he’s playing, with different rules and different objectives.
His game is about control and dominance. He might dispute this, may use words such as ‘storytelling’, but ask yourself this: Whose story is it he wants to tell?
Now contrary to what certain 1980s animated series might have had you believe, Games Masters are not in the habit of descending from the heavens to walk the earth, for the very good reason that within five minutes they’d find themselves with a knife to their throat, and a voice whispering in their ear: ‘Tell the dragon to back away slowly...’ (Or perhaps end up nailed to a tree, depending on the genre).
But don’t get despondent, for Games Masters can be defeated.
And I’m going to tell you how.