Lately I’ve been a little busy at work. You see, I don’t have full time employment. Instead I work a handful of part time jobs. A few weeks ago one of my coworkers had an emergency and I had to pick up as much extra work to cover their shifts as possible. I managed to cut back at a few other jobs and add hours where they were needed, but my schedule was very tight. Then a coworker at another job moved on to a better opportunity, leaving me to teach 5 classes. (To be fair it’s 5 sections of 3 classes so I only prep for 3 classes. I just do 5 classes worth of teaching and grading, none of which I get paid for.) And then our grade book software went down for 2 weeks. So for the past few weeks and for the next few weeks I’m working in excess of 70 hours a week. I’ve had to cut back in other areas. I have some freelance gigs I’ve had to cut back on, and my sleep and leisure schedule is all out of whack, but for now the center is holding and the end of this schedule is only a few weeks away.
Of course this means that I haven’t been doing any prepping, running, or playing any RPGs. It’s just as well, while I was very excited with my last game player response was lackluster, so this is an opportunity to re-evaluate and rework. However, I have found that my enthusiasm to get something going is still high. I attribute this to the fact that during occasional downtime I have been skimming the Dragon Magazine Archive. (Thank goodness I bought mine in 1999 when it didn’t cost over $150.) While the content isn’t always 100% applicable to something I would want to run, the key is that there’s a few things every issue (and probably a few more if I read more carefully) that catch my attention and make me want to go search Amazon for books from the 90s or print out the articles and stick them in my GMs binder or what have you. In this same vein, I have put together a brief list of activities that can be done in very little downtime that, like reading old gaming magazines, will help you return from your hiatus ready to jump back into the game.
- Read – Short Stories/Comics: There are plenty of collections of short stories in your preferred genre available both on the internet and in your local book store. Comics are similarly available (I own the Dark Horse Reader and they have a large number of free comics available). These forms of media are a wealth of ideas and are brief enough to knock out in a few minutes during downtime.
- Read — Novel Reviews: If you had time to read actual novels, you’d probably have time to prep and run something, but that doesn’t stop you from reading abstracts, reviews and summaries. In addition to giving you some of the bigger ideas from the books, it also allows you to keep a list of books that sounded cool enough to read once you have more spare time.
- Read — Magazines/Blogs: I don’t suggest buying the Dragon Magazine Archive. The price tag is just too ridiculous (you can read about it elsewhere but it’s an understandable licensing oversight) but other magazines aren’t so encumbered and most blogs are free. In addition to being great sources for ideas and inspiration, articles are the perfect size for reading in small time frames.
- Read — Forums: I’m still mourning the death of YouMeetInATavern and haven’t gone out and found a new GMing themed forum, but these have the advantage of small easily digestible topics and two-way communication. Thus you can have actual gaming related conversation during coffee runs and breaks. Good stuff.
- Watch — Old TV Shows: With the advent of streaming media, old TV shows are easy to come by. With an episode under a half hour, they fit into longer downtime periods. The advantage of older shows over newer is one of recognizability. While ideas stolen from Breaking Bad might be obvious, no one will ever recognize something pulled from Thundarr the Barbarian (plot #54 in Eureka was inspired by Thundarr. Or maybe it was Pirates of Dark Water. I’m not 100% sure myself.)
- View — Maps: Wow! OldMapsOnline is completely awesome. It’s an atlas of old maps of the world preserved online with a GoogleMaps-esqe interface. Similarly, online you can find RPG maps and tactical grids.
- View — Art and Pinterest: I’m pretty sure the internet is 46% amateur art. Even better are the professional artists who keep their portfolios online for you to browse. Similarly Pinterest is full of RPG materials. Did you know that? I didn’t, but John Arcadian does, and he wrote an article on using Pinterest in your game.
- Make — Doodles: If you’re an artist, you can make cool art pieces. But even if you’re a no-talent hack like me, you can still draw a picture of the “pathetic trapped stomping T-Rex trap”. You can also sketch quick dungeons, characters, monsters, or other doodles with minimal time and talent.
- Make — Prep Pieces: You can also create quick NPC, location or plot write-ups. You may not be able to go into enough detail to drop them directly into your game later, but even a few lines is enough to keep your interest up and have something started when it’s time to move forward.