We all have those games that we have always wanted to run, but they either psyche us out or our gaming groups do not want to play them. They sit on our shelves taunting us between each campaign. We make pacts with ourselves to one day run those games, to live the dream. When that day comes, will the game live up to your dreams? Well I have been to the edge and back, and for me, the answer was yes.
Every GM has a few games that they have always wanted to run and never have. You can’t force people to play it, and yet you can’t get past not running the game. I have a small stack of these games, games that I think would be interesting to run, but that my players have lacked interest in playing. There are some common reasons why a group cannot rally behind a game:
- One Person’s Passion – the game may be very interesting to a small number within the group, but others do not like that genre, setting, etc.
- Mechanical Differences – the game may be either too crunchy or not crunchy enough, depending on your groups preferences for rules.
- Aged/Dated – the game may have elements in either the setting or mechanics that make the game feel dated.
- Not the right group dynamic – some games require certain group mechanics (i.e. command structure) that may not work in the dynamics of your group.
My short list of games like this included: Legend of the Five Rings, Burning Wheel, Gangbusters, Star Frontiers, and Underground. The first two I have never run, and honestly something about Burning Wheel psyches me out. The next two were games I ran in my youth and would love to try again. Underground was…well, we’ll get to that in few paragraphs.
For my group the reasons we did not play any of these games varied. For L5R it was that I am the only one in my group who is a fan of Samurai settings. For Burning Wheel, it was the mechanics of the game. Gangbusters and Star Frontiers were not popular because some thought the games were old and feared that the mechanics would feel dated compared to more modern games. Underground was interesting to me and another player, but not to the general group.
Tips for Playing Your Dream Game
So how do you get your group to let you live out your dream? Here are some suggestions:
- Play a One-Shot – start small. Don’t try to sell a full campaign, rather play a one-shot. Most players will agree to a single session of a game. If the session goes well your chances of pitching a campaign later will increase.
- Play/Run it at a Convention – if you cannot get your group interested, try the game out at a convention. Sign up for a session and play the game to scratch that itch. If you are comfortable enough with the game, offer to run it at a convention.
- Find another group – easier said than done, depending on the gaming scene in your area, but you might find other players with a similar interest at the FLGS, Meetup groups, or college gaming clubs.
Once you find a way to get to run your dream game, here are a few tips for how to run the game:
- Don’t Geek-Out – in the excitement to run this game, you may start to overdo it in terms of the story, how you are going to run the game, etc. Be cool. Being too intense is a surefire way to turn people off (Remember those Titanic people back in the 90’s? It took years before I would watch that movie).
- Accentuate the game – Make sure that what you do run puts the game in the best light and shows off its best features. Running L5R but downplaying the role of honor is selling the game short. Don’t compromise the core features of the game in the hope of making it more likable. In the end if you do sell it that way, you will be disappointed with the results.
- Lower your expectations – sounds pessimistic, but if you have put this game on a pedestal for a long time, the actual running of the game may never be able to live up to your expectations. Worse, the game may actually be dated or it may not fit to your current gaming style. Be grounded so that you are not crushed.
Experiences from The Underground
I bought Underground in 1993, in Crazy Egor’s Discount Gaming Warehouse in Rochester, NY. For months I had been seeing the ads in Dragon for it, and was losing my mind. I bought the game, read it and fell in love with it. I was the only one of my group who did. There were a few failed attempts to run it over the years, but for 20 years that game sat on my shelf. In the meantime I bought every supplement in both paper and digital copies. One day…one day…
Then that day came. With one member of my current group and a friend who I met through the college group for which I am the adviser, we set up a campaign and started to play. Overall the experience has been great. The rules held their age much better than I had expected. The setting, which was interesting when it came out, seems even more relevant now. Though I attribute that not so much as a gradual slide into dystopia (though I could make a few arguments for that) but rather that I have matured quite a bit in 20 years and have a lot more life experience. In all though it has been a totally enjoyable experience.
There are always more games than there is time, but nothing is more frustrating than a game you yearn to run or play, but cannot find the outlet in which to do so. If you look around you may find your opportunity to take that game off the shelf and give it its day in the sun.
What are some of your dream games? Why have you not been able to play them? Have you ever had a chance to play one of your dream games? If so, how was it?