Saturday, August 20, 2011

What Works For Me

...and may not work for thee, but hey, I can't make it down to the South Texas mini-Con and there's a good chance I won't be posting much next week as I slay a few Real Life hydra that have been creeping up on me for a few weeks now. So, three "best practices" and how they work, etc.

1) Play Every Week.

We play (almost) every week. Every Thursday is game day, and my group game plays. Yes, I make that commitment to the game up-front, and I ask it of my players as well. We'll move stuff around on rare occasions when necessary, and cancel for holidays, but otherwise, we play every week.

This keeps the game fresh in everyone's minds. There's less fumbling around for what we were doing last time, and what everyone's goals are. There are also fewer cancellations or arguments about scheduling; everyone knows that Thursday is not open. We play, we play regularly, and we play for years.

Sometimes I can't play with great folks because they can't make that kind of commitment. That sucks, but I think it's worth it. Besides, I have a huge pool of players to pick from because...

2) I play online, via text-chat.

The entire world is my hobby shop. I've had players from as far away as Japan in my game. And no matter if I'm at home in Texas or visiting family in New Jersey, if I can find access to the intrawebs, we can play.

More than that, however, is the depth of play you get in text chat. Verisimilitude is heightened not only by the engrained habits of life-long readers, but also by access to everything that was said and done in character from the log files of previous games. Players also find it a lot easier to speak and act in-character via text. It's not at all rare for players to banter back-and-forth in-character in my text-chat games. Players interact with the world and the characters far more than they do at the table. It's just easier to suspend disbelief.

Understand that you also lose a lot playing this way. You lose body language and non-verbal ques and the way suddenly rolling the dice behind your DM screen focuses everyone's attention. The game is also slower, which is why it's vital that we play every week.

But it's absolutely worth it, because it really allows me to leverage my writing skills. Descriptive passages, characterization, mood and atmosphere are all much easier for me to conjure via text than I could at the table.

3) I play with topics that interest me.

In junior high and starting in high school, I was obsessed with the Arthurian legends and kept trying to invest my D&D games with that feel. I failed miserably.

But I never lacked for players or for ideas.

If you do it right, you'll be playing your new campaign for a long time, so it best be what you want to play, not what you think (for whatever reason) you ought to play. Enthusiasm is infectious, it builds quickly under reinforcement, and can weather criticism (especially of the constructive sort). "Ought-to" and "should" will just make the thankless task of GMing an unmitigated burden.

These days, I'm most interested in pre-Roman ancient civilizations. Apparently, including terror birds was one of the aspects that attracted Oddysey to my game. Be honest about your passions, and you'll be far more likely to find folks who share them.


Aos said...

Weekly play is unbelievably important. You would think playing online would make this a non issue, but it is surprising how some people who really, really want to play are unwilling or unable to make the commitment to be in front of the computer at a specific time. I play via voice chat, but I've thought about using text chat for the very reasons you mention. Furthermore, Terror Birds are cool.

trollsmyth said...

Yep. I've seen lots of people actually take the commitment less seriously because it's online. As far as I'm concerned, I'm more than meeting my players halfway by finding a medium that works for us to play through and forgoing the usual DM tribute of pizza. ;)

And honestly, if folks can't be bothered to show up on a weekly basis, they don't really want to play.