Ahhh, the great outdoors. It’s a great place to host a roleplaying game. A little camping, a little gaming, what’s not to love?
The woods. The ticks. The blistering sunburn. The blood-sucking mosquitoes. The thieving raccoons. The dead humid air on a 90-degree day.
Nothing like leaving the cozy confines of the proverbial parent’s basement and venturing into the sunlight.
Or, if your players are less adventurous than the in-game characters they are portraying, then how about the backyard patio, the front porch, or a pavilion at the nearest park. (They say D&D’s founder, E. Gary Gygax, liked to run games from his enclosed porch).
Whatever your destination for your roleplaying game, a little fresh air will do you, and your players, good.
Tips for the great outdoors
So, what are some tips to having a productive rpg session beyond your game room?
- Clipboards are handy for holding player character sheets. But if you don’t have a clipboard, using clothespins on cardboard will do the trick. Some people prefer plastic sleeves, but if it’s too hot, they can get tacky. Pens explode in hot weather; use pencils when possible.
- Leave the fiddly game components behind. Unless your outdoor setup includes a landscaping table for terrain and minis, it’s best not to fuss over such things. Metal minis get too hot to the touch, plastic ones wilt (and even melt) and it only takes one stiff breeze to scatter most things. And agree to keep rules references to a minimum. NO one wants to be flipping pages (and risk tearing them) in a brisk breeze. Make quick rulings by GM fiat or table consensus and move on. Who cares what the exact perimeter of a web spell is or the intricacies of travel time or even the exact hit points of a goblin brute. Let the story carry you.
- Refreshments — pack a cooler. I prefer water or lemonade. This is important so you and your players stay hydrated. Also, let me add: This lets you stay hydrated. Oh, and one more thing: STAY HYDRATED.
- Limit distractions, as best you can. This is out of your control — when you play outdoors you might not have any control over who saunters up to your table to have a conversation. It’s up to you how you wish to handle those situations. If you are interested in continuing to play, I prefer to listen politely, then explain, equally politely, that you and your friends are engaged in a game. Would you like to play? If not, that’s OK. But if you stay, please observe quietly. Otherwise, I’ll call you later.
- Dice rolling box or alternative methods, such as resolution with rock-paper-scissors. Whatever solution you arrive at, be sure it veers toward simplicity. If you choose to allow rolls on books placed in your lap, have a “table” rule for dealing with dice that fall off the edge.
- Have the story match the environment and/or weather. If it’s a hot summer day in real life, then set your game for a hot summer day. If you’re exploring a dungeon, it might not matter. But somehow there is a nice vibe going when the PCs are experiencing nature as you are.
- Add a thematic element to the experience. This is a game run narratively around a campfire. Gaming starts at dusk, light the lanterns and play till dawn (very good for horror or expansive dungeon crawls). Want to kill a couple of hours with cold drinks and friends, maybe light the grill for a barbecue on the side — it’s an afternoon delight. Or, if schedules collide, it’s the breakfast of champions, cereal and fruit for a quick session in the cool of the morning.
All of these are great possibilities. So, pack up your gear, and go claim the great outdoors.