Monday, August 10, 2015

[RPG Musings] Do You Really Want To Run A Game?

I made a mistake in running Camelot Trigger over the summer break. Not because I don't like the Fate Core system or because I didn't like the setting; I love the system and I see a lot of possibilities in the setting. The problem arose because my reasons for running a campaign over the summer were bad ones. I didn't have any particular urge to run something, in fact I was still winding down from wrapping up my Firefly campaign this semester. I was not ready to jump back behind the GM screen so soon. But I did it anyway. I put together a shortlist of games I was interested enough in to run (and which I figured my players would be interested in too) and I decided to run the one that got the highest score in interest level from the group. That ended up being Camelot Trigger.

It wasn't all bad. The players certainly seemed to enjoy themselves, but I felt like I was phoning it in as a GM. I failed to do my usual homework and quiz the PCs to get a better idea of how to tie things to them. I had only the vaguest idea of an antagonist going in and no idea what they were up to. It wasn't until I took a leaf out of Dungeon World's book and created fronts for the game that things started to come together, but that came too late. Long story short, I went into the game when I was feeling creatively exhausted and as such I struggled to build a compelling story around my players' characters.

Why did I do this to myself? Because I felt an obligation to run something. Part of that comes from being a GM at GUGS - a university roleplaying society - where there is (usually) a large number of people looking for games and a short supply of GMs to run games for them. Part of it was because I figured I should keep myself in practice as a GM and decided to do so by jumping right into running another campaign.

Here's the thing: the moment GMing games becomes something you feel you have to do, rather than something you actually want to do and are excited about, that's when you need to take a time out.

If you run a game because you feel you have to (but really, you're not in the right mood or state of mind, or whatever), you're just not going to be going into it with the energy and enthusiasm you need to make the game sing. I found that I failed to be descriptive too often and my NPC dialogues were flat. Maybe, over the course of running, you'll start to warm up to it, but it might come too late. Certainly, towards the end of Camelot Trigger I was starting to have some cool ideas for the campaign, but I'd already created a tangle of half-baked plots to resolve by that point. If you go in with the wrong attitude, this is not going to be fun for you and, as a result, the risk is that it won't be fun for your players either. But that's beside the point.

The gamemaster is a player too. They should be having fun.

If you think you're going to have fun running, by all means go ahead. But if you're just running because someone has to then, for you're own sake, don't. Take a time out, try playing as a player character for a bit (if you can find a game to join, that is). When you feel like you want to run a game again, take a moment and ask yourself if you really want to or you just feel like you should. If you really want to, maybe then it's time to go back.

Until then, give yourself a break. That's what I'm going to do.

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