Simple Rules: Varying gaming schedule…

2009 September 4
by Dante

It is expected as we continually search for ways to make our gaming better that trends will emerge.  Periodically, one of these simple rules will be “discovered” that can really take your gaming group to the next level.  I hope that these “Simple Rules” articles will illuminate these minor epiphanies and hopefully help your gaming groups improve.

Simple Rule: Varying your gaming schedule keeps the campaign moving forward.

We are all busy people, with day jobs, kids, other social obligations (for some of the more outgoing nerds), and other hobbies.  The simple dynamic of requiring a group to come together in order to roleplay is often one of the more difficult challenges that busy adult gamers often face.  Our gaming group is comprised primarily of busy, busy people so scheduling is a major issue.

This past week, we embarked upon a weeknight gaming session.  This is extremely rare for the gaming groups that I have been in recently, and since several of our group members have children I suspected it wasn’t going to be that successful of an endeavor.  I’m happy to report that I was dead wrong about this – the weeknight obligations were very apparent ahead of time, the group was aware that the session would be time constrained and planned accordingly.

Dinner orders were placed ahead of time and food was there ahead of the players, allowing us to quickly enjoy some Chinese food as we settled into the incidentals of getting ready to begin gaming.  We had started the session by 7 pm, and had a productive (albeit somewhat short) session.  We had plenty of time for roleplaying and got a good-sized battle accomplished before the game wrapped up around 10 pm.

These sessions appear as if they will be good for certain things like bridging minor plot points, small encounters, and some “town time”.  They might not be as well suited to large epic battles or very intense protracted roleplaying, as there still were a few distractions relating to food, the kids needing to get homework done, and the like.  But if you go in with your eyes open about the limitations around a weeknight session, it can be a powerful tool to prevent multiple-week long delays in getting together as a group.

It’s all about velocity.

This rule needs not apply only to weekday gaming sessions.  It’s more about varying your play schedule to ensure you can keep the momentum of your campaign up.  The worst thing with medium-to-large expanses of time between gaming sessions is that there’s always the rediscovery period that has to take place.  “What actually happened last time?”  “What was that guy’s name we talked to last time?  What was it he told us?”  “Why do I have an evil staff of power?  Should we be worried about this thing?” are some of the questions that might clue you in that its been too long since you’ve gotten together as a group.

Finding a way to have a shorter session outside of your normal group schedule can be a powerful tool in keeping the progress of your campaign moving forward.  If you’re an experienced Dungeon Master you might be able to plan things such that you have some smaller encounters or little gating plot points that can easily be made to fill this shorter session, its all about scope for you at that point.

Do you have any simple ideas that have made your campaigns or gaming groups run more smoothly?  Bring ’em up in the comments, or email them to me and I’ll write an article about the good ones!

2 Responses leave one →
  1. September 4, 2009

    Great advice. I stuck to something like this for my Iron Heroes game. In order to keep the momentum of the game up, we had a backup night for sessions. Our regular sessions were on Sunday nights, but if something came up and a Sunday would not work, we would switch up the game to a weeknight game.

    Our games run on a tri-weekly rotation, so in the week before the game, the GM of the upcoming session, starts emailing the players, often with a recap, and starts hyping their game, so that by the time the session comes around, everyone is on the same page.

    One final tip, when a campaign is first starting, anything that disrupts momentum threatens the health of the game, and can topple a game. Those you should be the most aggressive about finding a backup date. Games that are established, and have heavy player interest, can withstand a canceled session, here and there.

  2. September 4, 2009

    Hi all,
    We usually have a month between game sessions. After each session, one of us posts an adventure log at Obsidian Portal. The rest of the players and the DM then post comments, creating essentially a play-by-post. In addition to keeping the campaign fresh in everyone’s minds, we can explore, heal & rest, search for secrets, etc. Pretty much anything except heavy-duty role playing or combat.

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