I have a great problem. I have too many RPGs and not enough time. LOL. I know you do, too. Hell, who doesn’t? I guess the better way to describe my problem is that I have a bunch of new games that I want to play, but all my current campaigns are going well and are stable. In the past, I often had a game or two that was going well, but not great, and so introducing the idea of switching games was often welcomed, allowing me to get newer games to the table in a reasonable amount of time.
In these quarantine-times, my players are enjoying the games we have, and I suspect they like the stability that a reliable game brings in terms of knowing that they are going to have an enjoyable evening, when things, this year, have been so tenuous.
So here I am with some new shiny games, and nowhere to play them. I would be lying if I said that I don’t have that New Shiny itch, but also I have the patience to wait this out. So while I am waiting, let’s chat about how to manage the new shiny and not topple your current games.
The Threat of the New Shiny
I am no stranger to the new shiny. For years my players would be terrified of my return from Gen Con. Inevitably, I would come home loaded up with all sorts of new games, and within a few weeks, the old games were out and the new games were in. In that turnover, some decent games that could have run longer…well, didn’t.
The urge to play the newest and hottest games is something that many of us experience. For some of us, it’s the FOMO of other people playing the game while you are playing something else. For others, it’s because they are early adopters, and like to be the ones trying the latest stuff. Sometimes, it’s just because the new game fits your likes or styles better than what you have running. No matter how you get there, the new shiny is an itch, and it needs to be scratched.
Depending on how good you are at delayed gratification and self-control, that itch is manageable, something that you recognize but don’t act upon; or it is an ambulance running full lights up your nervous system, that won’t stop until you scratch.
In my youth, I was the latter. If it was new, I had to play it and play it now. As I approached 50, had kids, and some other factors, I have developed the patience to manage that urge and hold it at bay. So let’s start there…
How to Manage Your Need to Play the New Hotness
I am not saying it will be easy — and for some people, not even possible — but if your nervous system is not melting down to run that new shiny RIGHT NOW, here are a few reasons that you can tell yourself to hold that itch at bay.
New is not Always Better
Let’s be honest. Just because something is new, does not mean it’s better than what you have. It’s important to understand why the new shiny draws you in. Recognize that the urge does not mean that a new game is better than your current game or any past game in your collection. So if your reason to tank an existing campaign is that this game is new and that one is not, you might want to hold off.
You may have a great game running, one that deserves to be played out to a logical conclusion. While that game is not new, it’s good, and people are enjoying it.
The Second Mouse Gets The Cheese
Being on the cutting edge for most things is not great. Software for instance is one of those cases. The initial release is never as good as the first update. The same can be true for RPGs. Playing a game when it first comes out may mean that you are encountering rule issues or having to take the steep learning curve without others to follow.
By delaying buying or running a game, you get to draw on the experiences that other people, beyond initial reviewers, will have. Also, if there are rules errata, those will come up and be published as well. Even better, as more people play, articles and live streams will come out of people playing, allowing you to learn the game beyond just reading the rules, which depending on the type of learner you are, can be helpful if not essential.
Also, if the game for some reason underdelivers, that will also come out as more people play. It may not be that the game is “bad” but it may be more that you thought the game would play one way, but after watching a few streams and reading some tweets it plays more like something else, of which you are not a fan.
Use the time not playing to learn
Another thing you can do is that you can get the game and in the time you are not running it, you can read and learn the game, in a way where you can take your time. I know, for me, that if I get a new game and push it right away to the table, that I have to blitz through reading the game and then fumble through the rules while running my first few sessions. This has happened to me more times than I can count.
If you don’t rush the game to the table, then you can set a very different timetable to not only read through the game but take some time to study it. You can build up a bit of familiarity with the rules and setting before having to run it. That will make your initial sessions smoother.
How To Work In A New Game
That advice is great but sometimes you have to PLAY that game, and NOW. So how can you scratch that itch without making a mess of things?
Your gaming group may not be ready to drop the game they are playing right now, but they may be willing to end a campaign if you bring it to a satisfying conclusion. Is your game coming to a natural ending in a few sessions? If so, it may be a good time to ask if you can end the campaign and bring it to a tidy conclusion. You may have to wait a few weeks or months as you get through the last sessions, but that is a perfect time to learn the game (see above).
Run a One-shot
Sometimes a little hit is better than going cold turkey. So if you can’t drop your current game and it’s not ending soon, plan a one-shot. It can be with your current group or with others. The one-shot is a great low-commitment way to try out a game. It will address nearly every one of the reasons that you might be itching to play it so badly (FOMO, early adopter, good fit, etc.).
Find a group, a time, and determine how many sessions (one to a few – beyond that, you are just playing a second campaign) that you would be willing to play. You could play it on another night or you could take a break from your current game to play for one evening, before going back to your existing campaign.
So not only will this help scratch that itch but it may also help to hook or convince others to play the new game as well.
Set up another game night
The other extreme is that you could just set up another gaming session and run the new game in that slot with a group (new, existing, or some mix). This is great if you have time to do that, and time to keep multiple games running. For some people, this will be easy, and for others not doable.
This was totally my solution back when I was only running one game. Today, I have maxed out this option. I have three games running on a bi-weekly schedule, and as much as I would like to, I cannot fit another game into the rotation.
You Can Get With This Or You Can Get With That
There is never going to be a time when you won’t have a new game in your hands and the itch to run it. New games are coming out at a rate that far outpaces our ability to play all the games we desire. Some games don’t run well in one-shots, they really need a campaign to let them breathe. So this conundrum will always exist. I am not sure how I went from being someone who had to play everything when it came out, to someone who can hold a game and wait for the right time. In some ways I am grateful for it, but also there are a bunch of new games that I really want to PLAY…
For now, they sit on my bookshelf waiting for the next time one of my games ends, or I hit the lottery and can devote myself to just running games.