Friends know when to say when…
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.
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.