Waiting can be hard, but savor it while you can.
A few months ago, D&D came out with their Starter Set. For a while, my home group thought Jennifer might get a chance to run it, but she was overwhelmed by life. Finally she turned it over to me, so I spent a couple of days devouring the Lost Mine of Phandelver, built up a mental model of the adventure, figured out how long I thought it would take, and tried to project how many sessions we’d need to devote. I worried a bit about subjecting my group to the first stumblings in a new system, but didn’t devote a lot of time to wondering when we’d play. (Spoiler: we haven’t yet.)
Life Gets Busy
Since college, I’ve found that juggling life and schedules is often the hardest part of roleplaying. People have lives, workdays run long, emotional crises crop up and derail the best laid plans. Even a group with steady interest in a game has events crop up that require cancellations–whether of the gathering altogether, or just of the evening’s roleplaying.
It can be a terrible burden for the GM to always have to be the scheduler in addition to the person who spends the extra time preparing the session. It’s cruel to ask her to add to an already time consuming task, particularly to bring in the less pleasurable logistical organizing requirements. In most groups the GM is the person who is most invested, so it falls on their shoulders. That’s not for the best, but it’s habit and tradition for many groups.
Seek Out Opportunities
While I had planned on running for my home group first, I’ve since had a chance to practice my skills quite a bit. A nice side effect of that is that I’ve developed some expertise in the new edition before they go hunting for the Lost Mine.
Conventions are a great opportunity to shift to the other side of the table. If you’ve prepped well in advance, you can often get free admission to a con for running a few games. If your availability crops up later, speak to organized play coordinators at the con. Saturday morning I volunteered to help out if needed and was pleased that they were able to slot me in Monday morning for a sick GM. It was good to help and to keep the attending players playing.
Your local game store–or even library–probably features organized play. Most stores have a constant struggle to get and keep a solid stable of GMs for their roleplaying tables. If you step up, you can be part of the solution. You might be a pinch hitter for a game or two, running when they desperately need people to cover for last minute cancellations. You might even develop a stable group of people to play with consistently. Both Pathfinder and D&D feature organized play that’s often weekly, and more than monthly almost everywhere. Every additional GM helps spread the load and prevent the current GMs from burning out.
Just talking about games with new people can lead to play. A friend of a friend was telling my wife about how badly he wanted to get indie games off of his shelf and into play. She pointed him my way, and after a brief text discussion, we realized just how many of the same games we’d love to play. I reached out to the gamers in the area that I thought would be most interested and had great feedback–we’re all on a list to discuss and schedule those games for table time. We aimed to get Lady Blackbird to the table first, but see above for the difficulty in arranging adult’s schedules.
Our second attempted gathering didn’t lead to Lady Blackbird, but some of us played a fun one-shot of My Life with Master, and enjoyed a solid game. Success will kindle success… One problem was that we started up in the middle of final preparations for a local con, when everyone was already over-committed. (Today we played a few hours of Lasers & Feelings… at 4 am, during Extra-Life. It was zany fun in our hands.)
Roll With It
Sometimes groups say “Maybe Later” to games that only one person is really interested in, games that don’t really gel with the group. It’s a passive way to try to avoid conflict, but it can lead to hurt feelings down the road when the game is turned down again and again.
Most of the time, though, people really do want to play the game you’re offering to run. Treat failures to schedule as “life happens” and try again. Eventually you’ll be chucking dice and slaying dragons.
Embrace The Day’s Game
We’ve got a few sessions left in a very fun Pathfinder game (we’re exploring a hidden pyramid, lost to time, now revealed in Osirion) and are finishing up the fifth of six chapters of the Rise of the Runelords adventure path for the card game. Both games are a lot of fun. Even though I enjoy running games and am looking forward to playing Lost Mine with my group, I’m thoroughly enjoying the adventures I’m in now. Make sure that you appreciate the games you’re playing… after all, a few weeks from now you may be drowning in prep and wondering why you ever wanted to return to the GM’s side of the screen!
+1 for Lasers and Feelings. 🙂
The game went from light to absurd the first time the android answered the comm. It was fun, completely crazy in a Scooby Doo way… perfect for 4 am. I wouldn’t mind seeing if it can do semi-serious next time, or if reducing it to “Lasers” and “Feelings” just pushes it hard to comedy.
I don’t think there’s anything NECESSARILY comedic about it; Our one run was, while not entirely serious (“At least it wasn’t life support!”) was certainly not overly silly either.
This feels especially applicable to me, as I am currently playing in one game, running another, and planning a wedding. What makes things even more difficult is the fact that my fiancÃ©e is not a gamer. It seems like couples who game together would feel like they spend a goodly amount of quality time with each other, but since I have to do this time-consuming hobby apart from her, it can feel like we barely see each other some weekends. (I’m formulating a plan to run a pick-up game of either Spirit of the Century or Dead of Night. It seems like either might be up her alley setting/genre-wise, and her main aversion to tabletop roleplaying is that she doesn’t like the idea of committing to multiple sessions that are six to eight hours each.)
Non-gaming (or just in a different game group) spouses are trickier. One of the most rewarding times is when someone who isn’t a gamer plays in a game and really enjoys it. Once it’s comprehensible to them, they’re often more willing to encourage your hobbies. (Big shout out to Bryan’s wife Bre, who joined us for a few games and livened them up when she did.)
A pickup game with a short commitment is a great idea; enough to give them a taste of the experience without overwhelming them, or threatening to eat the next three years of their lives. In addition to the games you list, PSI*Run and Penny for My Thoughts are both great for one shots and don’t use funky dice.
I cannot express enough agreement with Psi*Run as a gateway game. Such a well-designed game, and I feel like the mechanics are both easy to grok and really interesting to and for new gamers. Not just interesting, but…illustrative…of the idea of game mechanics driving story without controlling it.
Didn’t think of it until mrm1138 mentioned Dead of Night, but I bet it could be easily adapted for the horror genre, too.
Also in that vein…Dread is always a crowd-pleaser. 😉
Thanks for the recommendations! I will definitely have to check out Psi*Run and Penny.
As for Dread, the one thing that made me a little ambivalent about it is its player elimination mechanic. While it’s always possible for a PC to die in a game, Dread’s rules are such that it is unavoidable. While that certainly makes the game more intense, I’d be afraid that, for someone new to roleplaying, if she were to be the first person eliminated, it would be super boring to sit out the rest of the session and would lead to a bad first impression.
Very good point about Dread! And there’s no fudging that “roll,” either. 😉
My wife doesn’t game at all – and she LOVES to eavesdrop when we are hamming it up when I/we host. I am a fortunate guy.
One thing I’ve run into with one of my regular GM’s (I GM on Sat evenings, her on Sunday afternoons) Is a hectic week at work can burn her out for GMing that weekend, so it can be nice to have something planned as a back up for the group to do, be it a popular board game or multiplayer co op video game for those times when GMing is just not possible the gang can still hangout and have fun.
Yes, that’s invaluable. There have been weeks where we’ve played the card game because the GM had a horrible few days, or just isn’t in the mindset to run. Alternating games, particularly zero-prep things like board games, can make last minute swaps easy.