Saturday, July 27, 2013

Learning to Let Go

Learning to Let Go
by Tobie Abad

Sometimes, a game just isn't going the way you all want it to.    I think we've all found ourselves in such a dilemma in the past. Maybe it is a gung-ho tactical war using the Pathfinder system which for some reason keeps feeling less like a tactical game and more like a video game.  Or maybe it is a dark brooding Call of Cthulhu game which somehow keeps dipping into Monty Python humor.   Or sometimes, it can even be more insidious: Those games that are going the way the group wanted it to... but somehow, the fun isn't just there.

And whatever the reasons behind the game's collapse, you reach a point you have to decide whether or not it is time to pull the plug.  Is narrative euthanasia still acceptable as a response?  Should you just throw the game away with the bath water, so to speak?

1.  Ask your Players
Ask them what they truly think of the game.  In fact, ask them if it is really fun or if they'd want to try playing something else.  In games like the Onyx Path's World of Darkness, players write down Aspirations as small goals they want to achieve in a session or two.  Other games like Dungeon World's Bonds system has a similar system.  Those might provide insight on how much fun your players are really having.  If their lists are expansive and interesting then you got a good game going.  But if they seem to talk more about wall flowering, then maybe the game should be given to the roses instead.

2.  Throw them a Break
If you're lucky, you'll get to throw them a one-shot game or something which might either just be the break they needed to get back into your game.  Or they might like the alternative game so much, that its clear its time to let the dying game lie in its shallow grave.  But ultimately, it is a win-win proposition cause you not only get to try a new game, but if it turns out to be the game that hits the "fun" they want, then you got a fun game to enjoy too!

3. Take a Time Out
Instead of a usual game night, try having a boardgame night instead!  Or grab your friends to head off to the movies and catch the latest blockbuster movie you've all been planning to see.  A change in the routine at times might be more beneficial than you think, as it allows the group to synch up in an environment different from where you run your games.

And that's not necessarily a bad thing.  Sometimes, it is during games that major cathartic releases occur.  And after such moments of de-stressing, an unconscious association to that "heaviness" still connects to the locale.  So try taking a time out and see if it makes things go smoother.

4. Ask Yourself
Now even if the players feel its really going great, if you as the game master feel very dissatisfied or lousy about it, by all means - STOP RUNNING IT.  Maybe you need to stop for the moment.  Or stop running the said campaign for good.  But again, you are NOT paid to entertain people.  You are enjoying a hobby to have fun with your friends.

So if you aren't having fun, then admit it.  Tell them it ain't working for you.  And stop.

But do know they deserve to know how "long" this "stop" will be.  As they too deserve the right to do what's fun for them.   If your bonds with your friends are pretty strong, there shouldn't be any childish "sulking" going around.  And frankly, if there is... I think it might be better to not have *that* person be part of your gaming group.

Let's face it.  The time wasted in trying to resuscitate a dead game would have been better used in starting a whole new cooler game.  Just my two cents.
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