Thursday, March 21, 2013

Why Schedules Matter

Why Schedules Matter
by Tobie Abad

I remember the days when gaming meant meeting up during the lunch break with my classmates, pulling out our notebooks (that contained our penned down character sheets since there were no actual sheets back then) and rolling dice on the floor as we shared stories of how Captain America defeated Doctor Doom, how the Valkyrie fighters shot down the Zentraedi battle pods and how the wizard miscast the fireball and caused it to kill the entire party.    I still clearly recall those days when gaming meant meeting up on the weekend since the next class wasn't til noon the next day, and playing out the destruction of the Prince for practicing infernal rituals.  I will never forget those times I'd be at a table at some event, meeting new faces who love Harry Potter, or StarWars, or Matrix, or Firefly, and running a game just for them to enjoy while at the said event.  There games were long, some stretching through three actual days with breaks provided for eating, sleeping, and taking a crap.   I had so much free time to do such things.

Now, as an adult with familial and relationship responsibilities, bills, chores, and actual work to do, having a proper schedule to make things work is vital if not required to still have a healthy and satisfying gaming life.

Sounds impossible?

Let me be the example here.  I am currently living with my partner at a condo unit we have rented.  We have a pet dog, and a pet fish, and some plants.  We have no household helpers.  We have a car, have laundry, cook our own food, and do our own chores.

I am also a Game Designer, handling around five to ten different game projects in a given week, and writing around three to five new game concepts each week for future projects.   I am also helping out at a family business, double checking around 50 to 100 documents each day to ensure templates, grammar, spelling and accuracy was maintained.

Finally, as I posted in my earlier post, I have a healthy gaming life right now.  With a wide range of ongoing campaigns (Esteren for fantasy, Houses of the Blooded for Drama, Blood and Honor for tragic heroism, Lacuna for thrilling mystery and soon, Kult for disturbing horror) my partner and I are very happy to have so much gaming time even with our schedules.  And frankly, the tricky part is more making sure that the groups in each game are available for their said games.  After all, we two aren't the only ones who know have lives filled with personal and work responsibilities to manage.    That becomes the very reason schedules matter.

1.  Responsibilities Do Come First
So the first thing you have to consider giving up is the idea that a game can be scheduled every weekend.  You have to make sure you open up weekends for other things, whether or not you want to.  Maybe you have no problems with having nothing but a game each Saturday.  But what about your players? What about their need to have time with their family?  With their other hobbies?  Be realistic in your expectations of other people's free time.  I know this might sound like common sense to some of you readers out there, but the gods know I've encountered some people who think this is a heretical statement to make.

But yeah, chucking dice and trading stories is pointless if it causes you to lose your house.  Or causes your friend to lose a relationship.  The game, ultimately, is a game. So be sure there is time for other things.

2. If You Can Schedule It, Try To Stick To It.
It is pointless to say, "We will game on the 16th of March) for example, if you don't try to map out your own plans with that block of time marked down for the game.  After all, you did inform the rest of the group before hand that you will try to make that weekend free.  Ideally, they are doing the same thing.   (And yes, if none of you are, then it is time to accept the fact that maybe you guys need a break from gaming.  Hobbies you can always go back to.  Responsibilities need you.  And you better make time.)

But if all save one player seem to be keeping the schedules, then consider asking that one player to be a non-playing character for the meantime.  Rather than throw all the guilt-inducing phrases or demand explanations, just understand they have to prioritize more important things and inform them to be fair for those present you are running the game still.  If the player makes a fuss over that, then maybe it is time to look into that person's maturity.

3. If You Can't Make It, Inform the Others A.S.A.P.
Everyone has stuff to do.  And everyone makes time to play.  If you can't make it, inform the rest so they know.  Don't wait for them to ask.  Don't wait for them to nag you.  Just tell them.  No one enjoys waiting.  No one enjoys wasting time.

God knows I rather be told, "Sorry I can't make it" than to play the guessing game of "will he or won't he show up" for two hours.  Don't be a jerk.

4. Responsible Gaming Is Not Impossible.
Making time to game after all also means you are being responsible in making sure other things you do have to do won't be thrown on the wayside.  The fact that table-top games can take hours to play means it requires a hefty cut of your day's schedule.  So be sure to also end it on time to handle other things.

Like sleep.
Yes, definitely sleep.

I'm lucky to be in a relationship with a guy who loves to game too.  So yeah, we work our schedules to have gaming nights when we can.  But for those who aren't, keep in mind that if you do want a gaming life to still exist, then schedules will have to matter.

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