Over the decades my free time has become less and less. Gone are the times in my 20s when my responsibilities were low and my time to enjoy the hobby of RPGs was bountiful. What time I have for the hobby is also divided up between campaigns I am running, podcasting, blogging, and occasionally game design. As a productivity geek, I have mapped what time I use in the week, and nearly all of it was accounted for. To be clear, I am not crying about it, I am running a number of long-term campaigns, two successful podcasts, etc, and those things are all pretty awesome, but there is not a lot of free time. 

Recently, I reorganized the time I spend on the weekend and re-prioritized some of my weekly activities. One of the things I created time for, during the weekend, was to engage in some RPG recreation. What I mean by that is time exploring RPG things that are not prep nor running games. Rather it is time for other RPG-related activities. In just a few weeks since I made the time, I have realized that I allowed my life to become so busy that I had lost the time to explore, tinker, organize, etc. 

If you happen to be like me, strapped for time and are only prepping and running one or more games, let me convince you to carve out a little time for some RPG recreation.

Isn’t Prep and Running Games Recreation?

Yes..and no. Prep and running games are a form of recreation, but they are also an obligation. You have made a promise to others to do these activities on a timetable. While these activities are often energy-giving, in that partaking in them gives you energy rather than draining energy, those two specific activities have obligations and you can’t just pass on them if you are not in the mood, interested in something else, etc. 

From personal experience, I sometimes feel the weight of my obligations if other parts of my life begin to become a drain. I may have a rough work week, or the kids are sick, and I am drained, and I want to relax, tune out, etc. Then I realize that I need to get my prep done or run a game, and I feel the obligation of those activities. Suddenly those activities are not as energy-giving. Sure I can cancel them, and at times that is totally the right thing to do, but then I also feel as if I am letting my group down. 

This is all to say that Prep and Running games come with strings attached.

Define RPG Recreation

There is far more to the hobby than just prepping and running games. Let’s build a definition to work from. 

  • It is RPG-related. Either directly or indirectly.
  • The activity is not an obligation.
  • It is enjoyable, energy-giving, spoon-giving, etc.

Here is a short list of some of the things I have been doing:

  • Reorganized my RPG components (dice, cards, minis)
  • Researched VTTs
  • Read a game that I am not running
  • Wandered around DriveThruRPG looking at games I did not recognize
  • Learned how to use perchance.org
  • Investigated new name generators
  • Jotted down some ideas for future campaigns
  • Worked on a neighborhood map for my Cyberpunk Red campaign (note- we already had a map, and this one was just making a fancier one, with no deadline, and no commitment).
  • Worldbuilding in World Anvil

Why is Recreation Important?

Recreation recharges your mental and emotional batteries. While prep and playing games will do that, the specter of obligation means that not every time you prep or every time you play will be recharging. Having some dedicated recreation time ensures that you can recharge.

In addition, because recreation has no strings attached, it is a great time to experiment and to tinker. You can try new things out, look up techniques, advice, etc. These activities are the things that can lead to improvements in our games, in the way we run games, etc. 

Also, recreation can be educational. It is a time when we can learn something new and use that to improve our games. You can read (re-read rules), watch some videos, listen to a podcast, etc.

Making that Recreation Time

How much time you can dedicate to RPG recreation is going to be a function of your available time, but even 30 min can be refreshing. What is more important than the amount of time, is that you hold to making it true recreation time, based on the definition above. Don’t sneak prep into that time. 

Can you paint minis for your game and have it be recreation? Yes. 

But if those minis are for tomorrow’s game, then no, that is not recreation, that is tied to a timetable.

For me, I was able to shift a number of things around, which caused me to give up a few other activities so that I could give myself a 2-hour block on Sundays to recreate. In order to have that time, it means that I have to complete my prep for my Sunday games by Saturday, otherwise it is too tempting to use that Sunday time for the prep. 2 hours is not a trivial amount of time, but I wanted enough time to be able to do 1 large activity or a few smaller ones. 

<dalek voice> Recreate! Recreate! </dalek voice>

For those with lots of obligations, recreation time is not easy to find. At the same time, recreation is important for us to mentally and emotionally recharge. While the very RPG hobby is one of recreation, it is also, at times, work. So we need to have a part of the hobby that can be pure recreation. You need to give yourself that unbound time to engage the other parts of the hobby, explore, organize, and learn. 

What are your RPG recreation activities? Do you have separate time to engage in them?