Last week, I nearly dropped my Night’s Black Agents campaign because of something shiny. It’s been years since I got caught by the “Oh, Shiny”, the lure of a new game, the rush of creativity about thinking up a new campaign world. In the past, I would have either asked my players to stop playing, or seeded them with ideas of a new game, in hopes they would tank the game for me. This time though, I managed to resist the urge and my group will be hunting vampires this weekend. Knowing I am not the only GM to have ever succumbed to the “Oh, Shiny”, I thought I would share some ideas of how I was able to stay on target.
Too Many Games…Not Enough Time
The core of this problem is simple enough. I have to do other things besides game, so does the rest of my gaming group. With a full-time career, a wife, and two wonderful children, my available time to game just isn’t what it use to be. Hell, after High School, my gaming time wasn’t what it used to be.
Compounding the problem is a rush of new and exciting games. In fact, in my time gaming, there has never been this many new and diverse games coming to market all at once. I have a stack of games that are begging me to be played, in the scant time I have carved out for gaming.
Therefore, the simplest solution is just to stay in High School, and play all the games you can.
Ok…since that is not going to work for all of us, what can the rest of us Wage Slaves do, to keep the Real Life going, and not tank our campaigns every time a new game comes out?
I wish there was a magic formula for avoiding the “Oh, Shiny” but there is not. The trick to the whole thing is to be able to keep focus and having enough discipline to keep running the game you are currently running. I have, over the years, picked up a few tricks that help me keep this focus.
The first thing I do when I am running a campaign is to stop looking at other games. Temptation requires opportunity, and by avoiding buying new RPG’s I can avoid the temptation of dumping my campaign for something else. I make it a point when I am running a game to not look at other RPG’s, and just focus on the game I am running and its associated supplements.
I am a person who does enjoy shopping for new games, so I channel those impulses into ways that are satisfying without creating temptation. First, I buy board games. Board games are great, they are the one-night stands of gaming. You buy it, you play it, no campaign, no commitment (as long as you avoid the new class of Legacy games, or some of those Fantasy Flight games). Second, Kickstarters. I love to back RPG Kickstarters run by established designers. A Kickstarter is a lesson in delayed gratification. I can spend the money now, but I am safe in knowing that it could be months to a year, before my game arrives.
When you start feeling that itch of the “Oh Shiny”, admit it. Tell your friends. By saying it out loud, you take control of it. Once you have acknowledged it, you can work to get through the feeling and stay on target. Solicit from your game group reasons why they are enjoying the current game, and use that to bolster your fortitude.
Your mind sucks at remembering things. So when you get the idea for a new game, and you don’t do anything about it, your mind keeps it bouncing around taking up valuable focus and mental cycles. If you want to move past something, write it downÂ -Â somewhere you trust. While your brain sucks at remembering things, if it thinks you wrote it down somewhere unreliable, it won’t let go. If you write it somewhere safe, your brain will relax and release the thought.
I keep a page in Evernote with all the games that I want to run or play. Nothing fancy, just a bulleted list. But I know that once something goes on that list, I don’t have to worry about it and I can move past that “Oh, Shiny” moment.
Scratch That Itch…Just a little
A new game always looks greener…um…something like that. The point is that sometimes the “Oh, Shiny” that you are transfixed on is not a good game for you, and if you had a chance to play it, the feeling might pass. The best way to do that is to get in a one-shot of the game.
Conventions are my favorite place for one-shots. I can sign up, try out the game without buying anything, and walk away after. If I can’t do it at a convention, then the next best thing is to get a group together and play a one-shot. Be explicit that this is a one-shot, or you run the risk of flipping games.
Take A Break
This is a bit more risky than the one-shot, but you can cycle games and stop your current game, switch to the new game and run that for a fixed amount of time, before switching back. That comes with a few challenges. First, there is a good chance you won’t come back; another game may come along and steal your attention, or the game you switched to becomes the new hotness. Second, bringing back a game after a long break is not easy, and there is a risk that when you bring it back, it won’t have the same chemistry as it did when you stopped it.
We wants it, we needs it
The “Oh, Shiny” has killed many campaigns in their prime. It wanders aimlessly, causing havoc in its wake. Sometimes after we have been tempted, we find out that it was not the great game we hoped, and our past campaign is now dead. With a little introspection and self-control, we can hang onto our campaigns and play them to their dramatic conclusions.
How susceptible are you to the “Oh, Shiny”? What is your greatest source of temptation (FLGS, conventions, etc)? What are the techniques you use to avoid temptation?
But… what was the Shiny thing you almost dropped NBA for? Now I NEED to know!
Seeing how NBA is my current shiny, I’m with uriel in wanting to know what could distract you from that!
Me three… I agree that good things are out, but don’t have anything big on my radar. What am I missing?
I know, right? Dracula Dossier just got released!
Or you can go one route many of the members of our group do — dump a ton of money on one game system. Then, if you even so as look at another game system, you will have feelings of guilt that you never made enough use all the splat books you bought for D&D 3.5 or D&D 4e.
I’m not sure if this helps but it keeps me on track: use a generic RPG. I run Savage Worlds, which has a metric ton of campaign sourcebooks, not to mention splatbooks and modules. That way if you’re gonna get distracted at least it’s in the same basic ruleset.
Not really helpful to a lot of people, because for a lot of people playing with the same rules is going to be fundamentally unfulfilling – not even just from the “new shiny” issue, but simply from the “I want to play something different for once.” side.
My plan was to use TWO systems for just that reason (Savage Worlds, and the newly-released Feng Shui 2, for which I was a proud Kickstarter backer). Plus, our group has another GM, who runs D&D 5. I have a BUNCH of Savage Worlds settings: I calculated that if my players breezed through each plot point campaign in 3 months (unlikely), I could still keep us occupied for about 3 years.
Another thing I have done is started working on regular SW demos for our local gaming society to get people introduced to the system. Between published settings and homebrewed fan-conversions, I have enough to run a demo scenario each month. I’m in the pretty early stages of this, but it seems to be keeping me occupied when my regular campaign isn’t, and scratching the ‘something different’ itch. Again, at least for me.
I read the article, then headed over to DriveThru and … bought a new game. To be fair, my long-running PFRPG is coming to an end so I am actually in the market for something new and shiny. 😀
I just played Swords & Wizardry WhiteBox and White Star (which is S&WWB with a sci-fi skin) at the Gamex convention this past Memorial Day weekend, and I instantly fell in love! They have now become my own new shiny, and I’m trying to figure out how to get at least one of my groups to switch to one of those systems. (I NEED to have more White Star in my life!)
This isn’t as much an issue for me, I suspect, as some — I haven’t been as drawn to spend money on the new and shiny for some time, more because of other priorities taking up my money. When a new game has caught my attention and I’ve purchased it, I usually do start doing some prep of ideas, but rarely get dragged off an existing campaign unless that game has been losing steam or is reaching a natural conclusion.
I had been running some form of Victorian sci-fi (i HATE the “steampunk” label) for about a decade and a half, when I shifted over to Hollow Earth Expedition for some ’30s pulp. Partly, the campaign was hitting a natural end point for many of the characters, partly it was due to a shift in my professional focus from Victorian Europe to Modern America. The Serenity and Battlestar Galactica RPGs hit right about the tine my six-year, started as a mini-campaign Star Trek game was burning out. Both of these examples allowed the New Shiny to step in and take over.
I’ve been sitting on an Atomic Robo campaign for well over a year, however, waiting for a natural break point for the BSG campaign. When that break came up, we jumped into the new game and it’s been running swimmingly, because i could really focus my energies on it. There’s a few more weeks of Robo left, and i’ve started to shift my planning focus back to BSG. I find not fighting the urge to prep the new game as you are rolling to a good break (not necessarily a stopping point) give you a chance to avoid the dreaded burnout, and get the break that a good campaign might need for a few weeks.
First of all, congratulations for the excellent article!
The article title caught my attention as I suspected it would be talking exactly about my problem.
During these last 3 months I have been trying to setup a good adventure, not sure how I got into this mess, but it’s “oh the shiny” after “oh the shiny”! I have to seriously get rid of it! Thanks for the advices!