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Keeping The Home Fires Burning
Posted By Phil Vecchione On September 9, 2011 @ 4:00 am In GMing Advice | 13 Comments
When I was a younger gamer back in my 20’s – all decked out in flannel and sporting a glorious mullet – I had the fortune and the free time to run my campaign on a weekly basis, and sometimes run more than one campaign in a week. In those days, I never had to worry about keeping up the excitement and interest level of my game, for myself or for my players. We were playing all the time. Flash forward nearly 15 years and dump the flannel for polo’s, the mullet for something less embarrassing, and add on a career, wife, and two kids, and my ability to run a game has been slowed down to once every three weeks.
With so much time off between games, keeping player interest and excitement between sessions has become more of a challenge. Players forget important details of the campaign, and dramatic cliffhangers go stale in the off weeks. While the at-the-table play is still excellent, there is a certain energy that is lacking when we are not at the table. So I have begun to look at ways to energize my players, and my game, between sessions.
Last year, I wrote about ways to play your game between sessions: something called Metagaming. To sum the article up, Metagaming is creating game moments outside of the game, in order to keep the game going between sessions. The best example for this is an email thread which covers a dialog between one of the PC’s and an NPC.
There is great opportunity in using Metagaming to add to your campaign, but it requires an investment of time outside the game. At my height of using Metagaming for my campaigns, I was writing nearly 50 emails a day. I was fortunate at that time to have a job where I could do my work and keep a volley of email going without getting fired. The results were fantastic, and created some incredibly rich material for our game, complementing everything that was happening at the table.
Today, I don’t have the kind of job that allows me to put up 50 Metagaming emails during the day, and several of my players are in the same situation. Evenings are possible, but with a number of us married, and some with kids, getting a sustained Metagame volley is difficult.
Since my current schedule is not conducive to Metagaming, there needs to be a way to continue some light discussion such that the GM and players could keep up a banter about the game, which in turn would keep up interest levels.
Banter could easily be generated with some small email, where the GM or Players could start a discussion and others could reply. While email would be fine, I thought that there might be another medium that would favor light banter; Social Media.
While I am not a closet gamer, I do not want to broadcast my campaign across Facebook. My Facebook account is made of a mix of Friends, Family, and Co-Workers, new and old. What I would need is a private social network. I considered a message board, but that would require my players to visit a separate site . I finally settled on Google+, which all my players are on, for a number of reasons:
There are a few drawbacks to using Google+. The largest reason would be that unlike email, I won’t have an archive of mail to backup, or even reference, if rumors are true that you can only access your last 250 posts. For me this is acceptable, since my goal is to raise the level of casual banter about my campaign, and not engage in deep discussions or any Metagaming.
My goal is to keep the campaign relevant during the time we are not playing. I can use the G+ Stream to post updates on things I am working on (notes, an interesting NPC, etc), questions to the players, and links to support material. Immediate success would then be comments from my players to my posts, as well as a +1 here and there. Long term success would be a raised interest in the game during the off weeks, though that will be much harder to measure.
If you are a GM who is not running weekly, what are you doing to keep the fires for your game stoked between sessions? Are you doing a little Metagaming, talking about it on email, or have you gone “social”?
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