Concern

We broke for the holidays just before Christmas, but have been unable to get back together since. There are a lot of very good reasons, and much of the fault is mine–my schedule has become difficult to mesh given a series of events and conflicting opportunities.

Another roadblock is that before Christmas we’d tentatively identified the next game, but the prep required made it a non-starter for the GM. We’re now looking for other options, if only to buy the GM a little longer before his prep intensive game needs to be ready.

Going so long without a game would ordinarily have me anxious, desperately scrambling to arrange the next session. My busy schedule keeps me distracted–while I do worry, it’s not continuous concern. Another thing that helps keep me balanced is an article by Kurt. He reminds us that sometimes the best thing is to Take a Break. Read his article; many of his bullet points are beginning to manifest in my life.

Opportunity

I’ve been a slacker recently; while I ran D&D Encounters for the last few seasons, I haven’t given back as much to my personal game group. Now that I’m not even playing regularly, I’m coming to appreciate how nice the break from GMing and opportunity to play really was. Martin is right in his linked article; getting to run a character is a great chance to recapture a player’s perspective and remind you of what the game is like from the player’s side.

Being a player is a little like being an anxious mom, taking her teenager out driving for the first time. Stomping the floorboards in terror–or gagging as the suddenly taut seat belt stretches against your neck–makes you appreciate having the car back under your control when the ride’s over. Even awesome, experienced drivers have a different style; riding with them can remind you of the fine differences that lead to a subtly different feel. I’ve found the same; as much as I enjoy the other GMs’ games, they’re never quite what I’d run. (Often, they’re better than what I’d manage–but we each have things that we look for in particular. For example, Kenneth Hite recently spoke about the extensive resources and research he uses to GM; he’s very dedicated to grounding his experience in real world history. He’d probably be quite disappointed in many of my games, which often embrace rules-make-world logic.)

Challenge

The realization we need a GM is a challenge to me. Right now, we need someone to step up. Looking at my game library, I have many short form games that I loved reading but never ran–or ran for a few sessions, but haven’t run since. It sounds like it’s time to freshen up on some systems and get a good proposal on the table.

Several challenges follow from that decision.

  • Quick Turn Around: I often plan games for quite a while, or steadily work on a campaign for while playing in another. But we’ve already been off for a few months–I’d like to resume gaming before skipping becomes a habit.
  • Time Management: I’ve been a big part of the problem for scheduling; I need to embrace the extra prep time that comes as a consequence of my current work schedule.
  • No Buildup: Because I haven’t been working on the next game for months, I haven’t been getting people excited about it. I’ll need a strong pitch–and it needs to contain more than just the fiction. Most short series games that I’m looking at have different priorities or responsibilities than the traditional games that we’ve been playing.
  • So many things to contemplate; will the game have a traditional narrative structure? Should I schedule it for an aggressive scene framing style, like Rob Donaghue’s Rethinking the Campaign? Decisions, decisions…

A Story of Hiatus to Purpose

So that’s my story of how not gaming led to realization that I need to contribute more–and a spark of first stabs at interim campaign considerations. How about you? What last inspired a realization about your role at the table? Has necessity driven you to experiment with new styles or outlooks for quickly launched games? What’s led you back to the GM’s chair after a hiatus?

About  Scott Martin

Scott is an engineer turned gnome and game store owner. He lies awake at night building intriguing worlds and plotting your character's demise.



9 Responses to Game Break: Challenge, Opportunity, and Concern

  1. A couple of years ago, a split over a new version of a favorite RPG ended my long-running game group. I took a few months off before looking for a new group. I was much more relaxed and I found gamers who are also more relaxed. I moved the game out of my home and into a game store. Worked wonders for keeping gaming a hobby and not an obsession!

    We just wrapped up Pathfinder and tried Fantasy Craft but everyone is burnt out on D20 fantasy. I’ve been scrambling looking for a new system.

    The advice a player gave me is, I run games best that I know fairly well. I used to run WFRP 1E a lot and I have also run Rogue Trader for a few adventures.

    So we went Rogue Trader–I know the rules well, it isn’t fantasy, and it isn’t d20. One player likes Cthulhu and it has hints of that mythos.

    Basically, I just kept asking the group questions until we drilled down to a game I liked and worked for them. Everyone is interested again and I believe the game will go well.

  2. I think the biggest threat waiting to bite any working stiff/parent/GM is that once you stop running a regular game, even if the intent is only to take a short break, life is tidal and will wash in to fill up the space formerly occupied by Game Night with other stuff so you won’t have any “free” time when you get the urge to restart.

    Momentum. Inertia. We use these concepts advisedly in the gaming world, and it’s easy to lose your audience to the laz-e-boy and the XBox.

    Of course it is possible to go to the other end of the scale. Up until last week I ran two Space 1889:Red Sands games (for two *different* groups), a Delta Green game and a trad Call of Cthulhu game per month. The original intent was to lose two (and only two) weekends a month to back-to-back RPGs, but because my players decided that their lives were more important than mine, they ended up leaving me with four one-day weekends per month. So no work got done on my house etc.

    When one of the Space 1889 groups imploded a few days ago due to Real World Demands* I found myself thinking seriously of scheduling another Savage Worlds game (ooh! Slipsteam!) on the vacated day before reality decided to demand a long overdue check.

    There’s a bathroom in the fabulous Roxysteve Towers needs pulling apart and rebuilding, but all I can hear is the throbbing theme music from Flash Gordon pounding away in Mr Brain.

    * – Memo to Self – When the player invitee count exceeds the GM invitee count a game becomes vulnerable to “one walks, they all walk” Sudden Death Syndrome.

  3. There was a time, when our gaming group was much younger, where we would fade in and out of games every six weeks and nobody could keep something constantly running. Good times, but I’m glad I’ve got a life to get in the way of gaming now!

  4. »like Fred Hick’s Rethinking the Campaign?»

    The original article was written by Rob Donaghue btw.

    Spideydave

  5. Speaking as a member of Scott Martin’s group, I can say that this hiatus is largely a case of “The Perfect Storm” more than any one particular person’s personal schedule or activities. Our entire group has been out of sync since just before Christmas. Everyone has events or changing schedules going on in their life or they just have other interests competing with RPG table top play.

    I’ve been having a frustrating experience as a GM lately, not at the table (obviously) but in terms of game prep and motivation/enthusiasm. I’d been working on another Star Wars series for the past several months – Actually the original thoughts started over a year ago now. For every step of progress, I’ve taken two steps back once I try to put things together. Flashes of progress mired in a pool of incoherent organization and a major plot gap quandary.

    Add to that my adventures in the Old Republic PC game. Hey look! It’s virtually my Star Wars Knights of The Old Republic series without any of the rules crunch or frustrating game prep work! Wahoo!

    Just a few days ago, I threw in the towel about having this Star Wars game hit the table any time soon. When I’m not happy with a game idea and its development, I’m just not that enthusiastic. Enthusiasm is a big factor for me when running a game. I really feel like I’ve lost my mojo on this game for the moment and so I’ve placed the campaign back on the shelf to let it recoup.

    I’m trying to make some productive use of our downtime by changing gears. I’m finally giving The One Ring a read through. By dropping the ball on Star Wars (for now), I feel that I can focus on something new and fresh. Hopefully it will come with a rekindling of my enthusiasm. Either way, I’m sure the group will get going again soon. We just have too much fun when things are going smoothly. :)

  6. @Charlie – I’m glad that you found a good game and a group that’s got a better attitude. Well done!
    @Roxysteve – You’re right; a fear that “free” time gets swallowed by other things is why my baseline reaction is concern. I’ve enjoyed the crazy “too much” gaming in the past too; while it’s hard to explain that it’s a problem, it really is. I’m glad you’ve found balance.
    @RocksFallBlog – True. I like life too–I just wish less of it was work!
    @Spideydave – I bet they hate being treated as interchangeable; I’ll be sure to fix that up.
    @BryanB – We’ll get things working again. I just realized how long I’ve been taking rather than giving, even if circumstances supported it.

  7. Kurt "Telas" Schneider

    Thanks for the shout-out, or props, kudos, or twix, or whatever the kids are calling it these days.

    Have you considered running a few short-arc games, say 2-3 sessions per, to try out new games?

  8. @Kurt “Telas” Schneider – Our group was designed around the idea of trying different games. Each game is supposed to go anywhere from three to ten game sessions. Our shortest series has been three. The longest was twelve. We’ve had a couple of one-shots as well.

    Sometimes we lose sight of that original vision when the hiatus hits. At least I know that I do. We should probably play something light and short term until something else is ready to be played. With my current GM quandaries, it probably isn’t me that is going to step up to the plate. Though maybe it could be time to dust off Primetime Adventures for another spin……

  9. It is July 18, 2012.

    Update: The group Scott and I formed back in 2007 recently realized that things just aren’t going to work out for the group anytime soon. That’s just the reality of the group’s current dynamics. It was a great run while it lasted and the door will certainly be open to rekindle things in the future should circumstances change.

    Last Saturday I had the opportunity to game with Scott again at our local RPG Meetup. It is always fun to play alongside Scott as over the course of four plus years we have often been on opposite sides of the GM screen. So it was great to sieze the opportunity to game together.

    For now, I will be focusing my creative energy on working on a FATE-based RPG that has long been on my mind. When a door closes, another door can open….

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