As I have previously stated, there are many pros to online GMing. But as some of you have pointed out, there are limitations as well. I don’t call them “cons” for two reasons: (1) limitations can be overcome with some compensation, while (2) true cons are inherent and unavoidable. In today’s article, I want to discuss the limitations placed upon communication when GMing online.
You know what ruins an RPG session? When the rulebooks get opened up. You know what ruins it the most? When the GM is the one opening the book.
While my point could be applied to “rules lawyering,” I’m actually hitting at a more present problem at my gaming table: lack of familiarity with core rules. As you know, I’ve embarked on a quest to play through many of the classic 1st Edition AD&D modules. We have one session remaining in T1: The Village of Hommlet by Gary Gygax. That means after a solid ten sessions, we’re still having to look at rules. Why is that?
Of course, there is the charge that 1st Edition is too complicated, contradictory, and clunky. Granted, it is complicated. There are moments of fuzziness to the point of possible contradiction. But there’s a charm and personality about the system that helps me to overlook all that. I’m enamored by the tone of the game.
Beyond the quirks of 1st Ed. AD&D, I think that there are some rules that are simply hard to remember when you first begin playing any game. They’re not on the GM screen–they’re not readily available–nobody remembers! And, as a result, you can find yourself digging through your books at the gaming table more than is necessary.
So here’s my solution!
Post-it notes! That’s right. It’s simple, it’s easy, find those finicky rules quickly if they’re absolutely needed at the table. The problem is less the books and more the fifteen minutes finding the rules.
So grab a pack of post-its, whatever RPG book you’re learning right now, and let’s mark our pages together. Ready? Here are the top pages that you need to mark right now:
Reading is an absolute necessity for creators. And that applies to Game Masters and game players as much as it does to any other creative!
But if you’re like me, a grown-up gamer who is already juggling family, work, and gaming, it can be hard to find the time to read. And therein lies the problem. My creative juices flow better when I read. I feel more engaged and “in touch” with the world when I read. But when I don’t read? Well, let’s say it leaves the creative fields of my mind fallow.
Shouldn’t it be easier to develop ourselves intellectually? Shouldn’t regular reading be a simple discipline to develop? You will develop a healthy habit of reading if you follow the process that I followed. I read every day at work (that’s not a discipline…that’s work). But I also read for myself at home. And you can too! Here’s how you can develop the same practice: Continue reading
“Competitive games are not for me.”
“Competitive gamers tend to be jerks.”
“Competitive games take all the fun out of it.”
Have you ever heard sentiments like these? Maybe you’ve said them yourself! The fact is, a lot of people have had bad experiences in competitive gaming. People have acted like jerks at tournaments. They’ve complained, harassed, or even cheated. I know, I’ve heard the horror stories! And for folks who’ve had that experience, I am very sympathic. Tabletop games should be different from those negative experiences.
That said, I just returned home from three days in lovely Roseville, MN, where I competed in the World Championship for the Star Wars Living Card Game. And I will report that (though coming in at a meager #35) I had a great time! And here’s what I want to report back to you:
Competitive gaming, while it can have frustrating moments, can also be very fun. Have you not played laid-back, roleplaying games that got frustrating? Competitive play is the same way. Sometimes thing go awry. But often, it’s a great experience.
Here are my three take-aways from my World Championship experience that I think will encourage you to give competitive gaming another shot:
What was the last movie that you saw?
I’m ashamed to say it was Ted. Yes, the Mark Wahlberg movie with Peter Griffin talking for a foul-mouthed, pot-smoking teddy bear. I was getting over a stomach virus. I needed a laugh. So sue me!
Twenty bucks says you had a pretty good idea how the movie would end well before it ended! Stop and think about it. Most movies forecast the end, so that we anticipate the ending in advance. And until that expected ending comes, we’re on the edge of our seats.
But what does that have to do with gaming? A LOT. Game Masters have a lot on their plate. And one of those responsibilities is keeping their players engaged. How can we utilize this same technique used in most movies to keep our players on the edge of their seats?
Reading is one of the best things any gamer can do. Especially GMs. It’s hard to be creative in output, when you’re not taking in creative input. Every night when I go to bed, I read. No more than thirty minutes, sometimes no more than a paragraph. But I always read. What do I read?
- Every Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comic that IDW releases
- Star Wars novels
- Biographies/historical novels
- Parenting books
- NOTHING WORK-RELATED
I’ve been on a real history/biography kick lately, thanks to the Broadway musical, Hamilton (man, you’re really getting a grasp of how geeky I am today). I finished off 1776 by David McCullough a couple of weeks ago and then in only two weeks’ time (really rare for me), I finished an amazing biography of Gary Gygax by Michael Witwer, called Empire of Imagination.
Not only was it written in an engrossing narrative style–not only was it written about a current obsession of mine–but it also had a lot of helpful tidbits for gamers like ourselves, who like to sneak away once or twice a week to get a taste of freedom and fun in imaginary lands.
So in this first installment, I’d like to share the first thing I learned from THE Dungeon Master in my stroll through his life story:
D&D 5th Edition is finally coming of age. If you’re a DM just getting into the game (like myself), you have a short time before you hit option overload. The number of quality modules and campaigns being published by WotC and through the DM’s Guild is quickly getting to a saturation point, if you haven’t been working through them already.
As a DM, though, you really want to present the best gaming experience that your players can have. So where and how should you start? With the Starter Kit? With the sweet new Storm King’s Thunder campaign? Or perhaps with something new, original, and creative?
Rather than recommending a resource to you, I want to do you one better. I to help you, Dungeon Masters and Game Masters, to find your own personal game style and to choose accordingly. Here’s how:
“Fantasy as a cultural phenomenon felt vaguely unsettling to me. I wondered if pervasive escapism had infantilized an entire generation.”
So began a quest for Ethan Gilsdorf, journalist and geek par excellence. The quest: to explore every form of fantasy roleplaying games, in order to discern whether they are healthy entertainment for responsible, balanced, functional adults. He raises the same question that I’ve posed before: does growing up mean giving up gaming?
The result of his search is the fascinating book Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks. I devoured the book very quickly and I commend it to you.
In the end, Gilsdorf names a number of reasons that tabletop RPGs in particular are healthy activities for adults–they encourage problem-solving, team-building, and creative thinking, for starters. That said, I have a followup question:
If playing tabletop RPGs is so healthy for adults, why is it so hard to find a group to play in?
I’m blessed to live in an area with an active gaming community. But I know that for many of you, that’s not the case. What’s to be done for those who lack that resource nearby?
I’m sure you’re familiar with the popular sitcom, The Office, whether in its British or American versions. They’re both excellent, for the record.
Regardless, it’s a story of people who never seem to leave the office. Even when they leave the office, the relationships and issues seem to follow them! And this experience is not foreign to us.
We bring our work home with us literally, emotionally, and intellectually. We work on it at home. We stew on it at home. And we think about it at home. And we even bring our work to the gaming table.
How long does it take you to engage as a player or GM? How often do you find your mind wandering to the meeting earlier in the day? Does your work end up wandering into your headspace during your gaming, introducing unneeded distraction and stress?
If it does, it probably leaves you asking: is it possible to disconnect? Is it possible to just chill out and enjoy the evening without worrying about spreadsheets, projects, and emails?
I promise you: it is possible to disconnect. And here’s how you can do it:
Have you ever found yourself feeling guilty at the game table?
I’m not talking about the lawful good paladin who is appalled at his colleagues activities. I’m not even talking about the player feeling some moral guilt over their character’s questionable chaotic evil decisions.
I’m talking about guilt over what you’re missing back home.
The fact of the matter is, many of you have significant others, spouses, even children back home while you’re gaming. And if truth be told, between work and other responsibilities you don’t feel like you’ve spent enough time with them.
Yet here you are, away from them, playing a game and feeling kind of guilty. In the end, it raises a question that I’ve heard put many different ways:
Does growing up mean giving up gaming?
As a husband, father, and (thus far still employed) member of the workforce, I want you to know that growing up does not mean giving up gaming.
When it comes to this question of guilt when gaming, here are three steps to help you improve the situation: