8. Hardcover, softcover, digital? Which is your preference?
All of the above. It's hard to beat the advantages that a PDF version of a rulebook give you -- portability, the ability to easily add annotations and bookmarks, the ability to port text into your own handouts, and that lower price point don't hurt -- but some things will always be better as a physical copy. You can pass a physical copy to someone else and let them leaf through it, when you're trying to get them hyped to play a new game. And I'm also a big fan of books as a sensual object. Books have a weight and a smell to them. Books age like a fine wine, and a well-loved rulebook has a lived-in feeling that PDFs do not. How many old-timey gamers like myself remember knowing where to find things in the original DMG based on the different illustrations and tables?
This is why I'm such a big fan of Bits & Mortar, an effort to provide digital copies of books that consumers buy from their Friendly Local Game Store at no extra cost. It's supported by companies like Evil Hat, which is yet another way they're ahead of the curve in terms of modern game design and distribution.
9. Beyond the game, what's involved in an ideal session?
Players (including the GM) need to be in the right frame of mind -- receptive, ready to act and react in character, not distracted or too tired. Ready to explore.
For us, it always helps when you can sit everyone down and have a meal together beforehand. This has the advantage of giving you a space to have those early catching-up-with-each-other conversations, so that the game isn't interrupted by someone who needs to share something from their week. Connecting over food is something that humans are just wired to do. Some nights we don't manage a meal together, but we chat over tea or a bottle of wine, or have dessert at the half-way point in the evening.
I also think the ideal session doesn't overstay its welcome -- short and sharp is better than long and aimless.
10. Largest in-game surprise you have experienced?
There have been many over the years. Sometimes you're surprised by things the players do (or don't do), sometimes you're surprised by a die roll that changes the trajectory of the evening, or a social interaction that doesn't go the way you're expecting. Sometimes you're surprised by how a tight game design spins things differently in play than you understood from reading it on the page.
I'm having difficulty thinking of a specific "big" surprise, but the thing that's jumping to mind is how quickly we got to the good stuff (i.e. drama) playing MONSTERHEARTS by Avery McDaldno. All killer, no filler.
11. Which gamer most effected the way you play?
Probably my wife Megan, who is my constant scene partner, always willing to take scenes interesting places and take on new challenges. I would not have been able to play in the style we do now without her support and daring.
I should also mention our friend Rob, who really introduced us to some of the independent games that shaped our play more than others (such as PRIMETIME ADVENTURES), and my old friend Steve, whose ability to run sublime CALL OF CTHULHU sessions made me want to up my game as a GM.
12. What game is your group most likely to play next? Why?
I'm not sure what game will follow NOT FADE AWAY in the rotation, as the group is coming into a bit of a weird transition period for a while. Rob and Megan have both talked about running games, but I'm not sure if that will happen right away, or whether we'll end up playing something short-term (or some one-shots). Megan has talked about running a science-fiction game, and our friend John is eager to take on "the Big Chair" again at some point, and has talked about running a game set on a Martian colony outpost.
For myself, I'm thinking about a number of different games as ongoing campaigns, especially something using the One Roll Engine. I will probably run a one-shot BUCKAROO BANZAI adventure I'm working on sooner than later, though. That's using the ATOMIC ROBO incarnation of FATE, and it should be big fun.
That's all for today.