Friends know when to say when…

2007 November 12
by Dante

This weekend I did something that I have only done a few times in my DMing career: called a session off. I have halted sessions early due to exhausting the source material and my tolerance for shooting off the hip for the evening, but rarely have I preemptively canceled a session ahead of time.

Energy: Your best friend and worst enemy

There are many times when the positive energy that exists between the members of your gaming group is an excellent and powerful tool. Now, IANAH (I Am Not A Hippy), but I do know that when these energies are collecting a certain special way it can equate to MAJOR distractions and lack of player engagement.

In our case, this usually takes the form of off-topic discussion, jokes/puns, sarcasm, or other non-value added discussion. For this particular session, we began with an excellent meal prepared by two of our players. Conversation around the dinner table was lively, and as the plates were being cleared I started in a bit on my pre-game check in: was everyone leveled up, what did they think of last session, etc.

It took three times to get three separate players to even acknowledge that I was talking, let alone give me some answers to these questions. This is not a problem, it happens commonly with our group, but then something else hit me.

The Partial Prep Blues

One of the perils of running a co-DM campaign is that it is fraught with dependencies. Recently, my co-DM Kanati sustained an injury while casting levitate on an automobile and had to undergo some surgery. As a result, his involvement in our sessions has become digital-only and we do our prep and in-game discussion via chat. Our arrangement is that he writes the plot and I run the incidentals of the gaming sessions.

We had done some pre-prep during the week and we had an excellent set piece for our plot all worked out. We even had a convenient hook, however in this case I was going to thrust heavily into “wing it” mode after this plot piece resolved and I knew that it would resolve early in the night. Normally Kanati would feed me some additional plot as the session went on, however this time he was away from the computer for the night convalescing and unavailable to steer the plot.

Instead of subject my group to a potential “big bang but end with a whimper” session, I explained this problem to the group and we all elected to forgo gaming for another week and enjoy pleasant conversation instead of playing.

Net results?

Opting to electively forgo a session once in a blue moon can work out well… our entire group had a good time just getting to hang out and catch up without the roleplaying involved.

I’m a major proponent of shooting off the hip, however the co-DM situation where one person writes and the other runs can hinder shooting off the hip for fear of fouling up the prepared plot. Kanati and I are working through our skills in this space still, I imagine we’ve got some room to improve.

Has anyone else out there electively canceled a gaming session, and did it positively impact your future gaming? I found that I got some out of game feedback that was helpful in aiding me to prepare the next session, so for me it was worth it for that alone.

6 Responses leave one →
  1. Yax permalink
    November 12, 2007

    I’ve cancelled games at the last minute because I didn’t feel good about running a fun session. It’s worth it sometimes.

  2. ChattyDM permalink
    November 12, 2007

    That’s why we keep our Magic the Gathering decks and our box of Munckins and Chez Geek close.

  3. mlund permalink
    November 12, 2007

    I had a disturbingly similar situation on Saturday night. Dinner cooked and eaten, plates cleared … followed by a somewhat slow-paced, game that didn’t turn out the way I’d hoped that I ultimately cut short.

    Part of it was caused by having a bad cut-off point during the previous session and needing to mop up things before leveling. Though players were supposed to bring leveled versions of their characters, there was just too much end-of-plot-arc stuff to tie up that really should have been done in the down-time.

    A short session, with maybe two brief fights, followed by a round of card / board-games would’ve been a much better plan.

    Starting a little earlier would’ve helped too.

  4. Dave The Game permalink
    November 13, 2007

    I’ve found it difficult in my newest campaign because the game runs bi-weekly and can be difficult to put together. I feel like I’ve made an implicit promise to run the game because it takes so much work to schedule that me backing out would be a betrayal of trust.

    There are weeks like this where I’m behind in my planning, need to use my creative energies elsewhere, have other things in life going on where I’d consider canceling but really can’t.

  5. ChattyDM permalink
    November 13, 2007

    In that case…. have Ninjas attack! If it works for NaNoWrMo it works for RPGs!

    Just make them 1/2 Fiend Awakened Dire Wereboars Ninjas!

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