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What’s Your Excuse?

Posted By Kurt "Telas" Schneider On January 6, 2010 @ 3:08 am In GMing Advice | 24 Comments

I've only got one leg, and I'm running.

Why aren’t you running a game? 

Do you have a good reason for not running a game, or is it just an excuse? Take your time, look at this picture, and think about it for a few minutes.

If you really want to run a game, very few things should truly prevent you from doing so.

Some of them include:

  • A job which demands erratic 80+ hour work weeks.
  • Being locked in solitary confinement.
  • Parenting a newborn.

(Yes, parenting a newborn often feels like the first two, but let’s give proper respect to those raising the next generation of gamers, as opposed to those who chose to take the salary option or the violent sociopath option.)

Only three things are necessary to run a role-playing game. Everything else is optional:

  • Rules – Can’t afford rulebooks? That’s garbage; there are free games out there. I can think of at least one game that is both inexpensive and popular (and easy to play). I’m sure our minions readers will volunteer more.
  • A Place to Play – First off, you don’t even need a table. But that’s fine, some hide-bound traditionalists (like myself) insist on the old ways. If you don’t have a big table, does one of your players? Have you checked your local libraries, colleges, and gaming shops? How about a coffee shop or restaurant? Another possibility is to game online, either play-by-post or in real-time, using one of the many tools out there.
  • Players – Or “Player”, if you want to include 1-on-1 games. If you can’t find players, you’re probably not trying hard enough. Some guy with a funny name wrote this article about finding gamers, which still holds true. In the real world, try your FLGS, or leave a note on bulletin boards at colleges and coffee houses.

Common excuses for not running a game:

  • Don’t know the rules.
  • Nowhere to game.
  • Lack of players.
  • Lack of confidence.
  • Unfinished homebrew game/setting.

Is one of the above your ‘reason’ for not running a game? Because nearly all of us behind the screen have overcome each of those barriers, sometimes more than once.

I was stuck in the game-less rut last year; my excuse was my daughter’s birth (reasonable when she was younger, but she’s a year and a half now). It was shortly before the holiday season, and I was using rules I only knew casually, with a wide mix of players, and an unfinished and untested setting.

But I bit the bullet and dove right in. (Mixed metaphors – yet another free service from Gnome Stew!)

Yes, I made a few mistakes, and my players even managed to find one or two of them. But the game continued, and (as far as my players know) all of the issues are worked out. Most importantly, I no longer have the secret shame of writing for a GMing blog while not actually running a game.

There’s no time like the present.

This is the perfect time to start a new campaign. The holidays are over. School will be back in session soon. The midseason replacements are on. And it’s time for New Year’s Resolutions. How about making a resolution to start a campaign?

Got a good reason not to be running a game? Care to attempt to justify commenting on GMing blogs while not running a game? (Yeah, I’m trolling for comments…) Sound off and let us know!

About  Kurt "Telas" Schneider

Kurt Schneider played D&D in 1979 at summer camp, and was hooked. He lives with his wife, daughters, and dog in Austin TX, where he writes stuff, and tries to stay get fit. Look for his rants under the nom de web Telas or TelasTX. Quote: “A game is only as balanced – or as good – as the GM."




24 Comments (Open | Close)

24 Comments To "What’s Your Excuse?"

#1 Comment By MaW On January 6, 2010 @ 8:46 am

At the moment, it’s mostly that I haven’t got off my backside and persuaded enough people to come and play. And because I can’t decide what game it should be.

There’s a break coming up though – the GM of a group I’m in is going on holiday for a month. I’m going to talk to the group about what we do in the gap, and am hoping to run a one-shot or a very short campaign in a different system.

#2 Comment By ironregime On January 6, 2010 @ 11:22 am

I am on self-imposed hiatus until I remember why I thought GMing was fun.

#3 Comment By Walt Ciechanowski On January 6, 2010 @ 11:43 am

One excuse that is common in my gaming circles is that would-be GMs spend their game time playing rather than GMing and don’t have the time (nor inclination to leave their current game to free up the time) to GM.

#4 Comment By Restless On January 6, 2010 @ 11:45 am

I didn’t run a game for almost two decades for much the same reason ironregime pointed out.

Now I haven’t because I can’t find folks in my area that like the same sort of gaming I like.

#5 Comment By BryanB On January 6, 2010 @ 11:49 am

I’m not in the GM chair at the moment. Our group rotates games and GMs every eight to twelve sessions and we play two sessions a month when scheduling is kind. Once our current game is winding down, we will discuss what we want to do next.

My goal is to pitch something new and different from the game we are currently playing (D&D 4e). At this moment, that will probably be REIGN. I’m trying to work out the details while I’m playing in the current game.

#6 Comment By BryanB On January 6, 2010 @ 11:55 am

@Walt Ciechanowski

That sounds like a rather convenient excuse to have in order to not have to put in the time and effort to prep up a game.

As a player, I’m still working on my next GM project. Being a player requires very little in the way of prep work. Unless someone is a player in two or more campaigns, I don’t see why this excuse would hold any water. :D

#7 Comment By Walt Ciechanowski On January 6, 2010 @ 12:39 pm

@ Bryan – because the question posed is “why aren’t you running a game?” not “why aren’t you prepping a game?” ;)

#8 Comment By Target On January 6, 2010 @ 12:54 pm

Excuse for hiatus: Full time job + graduate classes

Though I’m still thinking about trying to schedule a few small things in during the semester. Especially if Mouseguard is easier to prep than my Starship Troopers campaign.

#9 Comment By drow On January 6, 2010 @ 1:47 pm

to let someone else in my group take the DM chair, of course. this lets me play for a while (warforged paladin ftw!), gather information on what works and doesn’t work in 4e (treasure parcels are crap), and plan my next campaign (probably either an old school 4e campaign, or a serenity/bsg crossover campaign).

#10 Comment By Patrick Benson On January 6, 2010 @ 2:00 pm

I think that prep for a lot of people is more about psyching themselves up to run a game, and not actually preparing materials.

I’m not saying that prep is bad, it is just that a lot of GMs I know over do it. My notes tend to be something like this:

“Encounter #3 – Wherever the PCs are, throw a 5th level encounter at them. Add an interesting terrain problem that inhibits the PCs but not the enemy. Throw in some kind of “Instant Winner!” gimmick for the PCs to take advantage of.”

That turns into something like goblins throwing rocks and lit gourds of gunpowder at the PCs from a hilltop during a storm. The rain makes the terrain difficult for the PCs to charge the hill, but a PC might be able to shoot a flaming arrow into the goblin’s stockpile of explosives to end the encounter quickly.

So don’t let prep time be an excuse to keep from GMing. How can you know what to prep for unless you are actually running a game anyhow? Buy a module and dive in with no prep other than reading the module. You’ll probably still run a great game!

#11 Comment By Airk On January 6, 2010 @ 2:02 pm

This post overlooks the best reason ever for not running a game:

Because I don’t -want- to run a game. ironregime and to some extent, Walt, have it right.

The most important thing to have when running a game is DESIRE. A GM who doesn’t want to be there and is only running the game because no one else is doesn’t make a very good GM, a very good game, or very much fun.

Note: As I say this, I -am- running a game, or will be once scheduling congeals again after the holidays.

#12 Comment By peter On January 6, 2010 @ 2:06 pm

I need no excuse because I’m dming 2 games at the moment, and playing in 3 more. but I’m still thinking of starting a new campaign for some friends who complain that they are not playing enough

#13 Comment By Tyson J. Hayes On January 6, 2010 @ 2:45 pm

I do have to agree on “the GM must be into it.” If the GM doesn’t want to run and is more interested in playing then they shouldn’t be running.

But I do have to agree that a lack of players is not a good excuse for not running a game, though I love having people over at my place to run a game I am moving it online as most of my players are dispersing across the country (and one to another country entirely). So not having players at the table isn’t an excuse, go to some meet up boards or find a board specific to the game and ask for some players. Odds are you will find enough people to play your game.

#14 Comment By umbral.fury On January 6, 2010 @ 4:45 pm

I am in the military and I am currently in the middle of 2 moves (one short term, one long term), however I have several plot-lines prepped (I’m one of THOSE GMs) which I will be running as soon as I am fully settled.

#15 Comment By fizzatbeyond On January 6, 2010 @ 6:50 pm

I haven’t ever been the DM, that’s my excuse. That being said I will use this as an excuse (yes you twisted my arm) to try and convince friends to give DnD a try and so I’ll DM that.

#16 Comment By Razjah On January 6, 2010 @ 11:16 pm

My girlfriend’s excuse is that she’s scared that she will panic and the others we game with will judge her. I’m pretty sure she’s aware of the irrational logic here.

Having someone else GMing is a pretty good excuse, or at least avoiding GM burnout is a good excuse.

#17 Comment By Eric Wilde On January 6, 2010 @ 11:27 pm

How about parenting twin babies? I’m exhausted and have no imagination left; but, I have rolled up a handful of player characters and will be introducing my nephews (8 & 4) to D&D 3.5 in two weeks. Now if I can just find a way to repay my wife for taking care of both babies for a couple of hours every other week….

#18 Comment By Matthew J. Neagley On January 7, 2010 @ 9:14 am

@Eric Wilde – There’s no way to repay someone for that kind of thing. Your best bet is to spend a couple hours before your game tuckering them out so when she “on duty” they’re liable to sleep (and maybe she can too!)

#19 Comment By Foolster41 On January 7, 2010 @ 7:05 pm

I’d like to GM, but I guess my excuse is lack of confidence. I’ve tried to GM twice now (once in D&D 3.5 and another with Mouse guard) and I don’t think my players had such a great time. The worst part, is I’m not quite sure how to improve, and I’m having a hard time getting exact feedback from the players.

#20 Comment By Tyson J. Hayes On January 7, 2010 @ 7:22 pm

@Foolster41 – I’d say just keep trying to play. My suggestions to new GM’s is to take a prebuilt adventure and run it, and just focus on making sure your players are having fun and developing your NPC skills. Good GMing takes time and practice.

You read Gnome Stew so you can’t be that bad. :)

#21 Comment By Martin Ralya On January 7, 2010 @ 10:23 pm

1. She’s not a newborn, but Lark is now just about 11 months old. That still totally counts. ;-)

2. We have four GMs in my five-person group, and two of them are running games right now. Three is too many games!

3. I’m editing.

#22 Comment By Eric Wilde On January 8, 2010 @ 12:45 am

@Matthew J. Neagley – Oh, believe me, she’d love some kind of reward.

We trade off duties, so I should actually be in good shape. Like I said, two weeks (and boy am I jonesing for a good encounter.)

#23 Trackback By The Homework Never Ends On January 13, 2010 @ 11:56 pm

I Have No Excuse (Not to Start a GURPS Game)…

Over at Gnome Stew, there’s an entire page of drill sergeant screaming in my face: This is the perfect time to start a new campaign. The holidays are over. School will be back in session soon. The midseason replacements are on. And it’s time for New Y…

#24 Comment By Katana_Geldar On January 18, 2010 @ 8:52 pm

I’m trying to psych myself up to recuit players again as all of them but one left me mid-campaign. Including one who told me he wasn’t coming 30 minutes before I began.

There’s an online game I am running, but it’s not the same.


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