Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Scheduling Your Game

In all the talk about GM advice you get a lot of, well...advice. People will tell you what you should look out for when running your game, types of players, types of games, types of characters. Warning signs to look for that a player is board. Signs that a player is being dishonest. How to handle a dishonest player. Ways to hook players. Lots and lots of advice. However, and mind I haven't specifically looked, I've seen very little advice that talks about the meta game aspects of running a game. Namely, the stuff that you need to keep in mind that doesn't directly involve the game but does directly impact the game.

Before I go on, lets start with an anecdote. I'm in a Dark Heresy game that is still going on, it is a lot of fun and people are having a blast with their characters. The group seems to primarily be a hammer (we started off with 3 arbiters and a sister of battle out of 6 players), but the most recent mission has been one to see how the group could handle a political intrigue mission. The justification by our bosses were that 1) we have a noble in the group, so they should be able to help navigate the political intrigue and 2) we had backup, so not much chance we could really screw everything up. Which, I don't think we did. Now, the story arc was a lot of fun, and a lot of characters developed in interesting ways during this. However, things could have gone smoother, and it was the GM that pointed out to me what the easy solution to the problem was.

See, the game meets every other Friday, so if a mission takes 4 sessions to complete, that is 2 months of time. This particular mission took about 3. However, if you go back a month and a half you find that the missions took place right over the Christmas/New Years break. Actually, they went back a bit further than that, because we missed a session due to prior commitments by several of the players. So, what was one of the more involved, intrigue based, and character development revolving story arcs started around the time when nearly half the game was gearing up for, or taking, finals, the holidays, and then a missed session.

This isn't really the GM's fault either, so don't think I am saying that. The GM did a great job with what he had, but there was a lot of frustration (particularly on the GM's part) with keeping things straight. Players were distracted, the GM was distracted, and missed games are practically a given when it comes to the holidays (and the end/beginning of semesters for college students)

So, what was the solution that the GM proposed when we discussed some of the problems after? His solution was simple, "I should've just run a throw-away before this." Now, again, the mission worked out fine and people had fun, but his solution is still apt. Had he run a throw-away, we would just be beginning that arc now. However, the next three game sessions are wide open with nothing special there to interfere. No conventions, holidays, or other things going on. (Well, in our specific case there is now, but that is an unforeseen thing.)

This is something that you need to keep in mind when running your games. The out of game schedule that can affect how the game plays out. If you are about to go into a rocky season where you can't guarantee regular sessions, then you may not want to be running the big finale to your game. If you know there is a time when your group can run later sessions, and having people show up isn't going to be a problem, then try to work it out so the big reveal (or big ending) is going to happen then. Your game will thank you for it.

Now, all that said, I need to go over my plan for the next few sessions of my games. Make sure things are going to go smoothly.

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