Monday, November 7, 2011

Holidays vs. Game Sessions

It being November, we are staring straight down the triple barrel shotgun of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years. At least for those of us in the states. And while the holidays bring a lot of good cheer to the area - along with stress and finals and stress and shopping - they're very rarely kind to your regularly scheduled gaming session. So, let's talk about some things to keep in mind as we move into the holiday season this year.

Missed Games Will Happen
I don't care if you're 12 or 53, odds are that at least some players in your groups are going to miss games over the course of the holiday season. Maybe it'll be the GM having to call a game because she is going away for thanksgiving. Maybe one of your players works retail and will be pulling a 24 hour shift on Black Friday. Doesn't matter what the reasons are, you need to understand that missed sessions are going to happen. Be prepared for it, and try to not have a session hinging on one player - particularly the guy working retail - during this time.

Keep It Light
Despite the fact that the holidays are supposed to be full of good cheer and high hopes, the truth is that they're often a very stressful time for everyone. People worry about money, shopping, how they're going to get to every relative's house in one day. The stress level is very high - there is a reason it is also known as 'suicide season' - and that is going to show in games. Because of that, this may be a great time to do a more light-hearted stress relieving adventure. Maybe string up some lights, tone down the high-octane thrill ride, and just let things kind of go at a more mellow pace. A lot can still happen during a slower paced session, but it happens at a less pulse pounding rate. That may be just what everyone needs.

Try Not To End On A Cliff
Remember how I said missed sessions happen? Yeah, well since you know that is going to happen this may not be the time to end a session on a cliff hanger. Why? Because let's say you do. Now there is a good chance that Tina and Jim can't make next session, but they're integral to the cliff hanger that is going on. So now you have to cancel that next session. Then, when you do get everyone back together, you have other problems. For one, the tension in the moment may be lost. For another, with everything people have going on they may not remember what happened last session. Key details could be lost, or the entire plot thread could be gone.

Your Advice?
A lot of folks that read this have been gaming longer than me, so what is your advice for the holiday season? How do you keep it all in line with your games? Sound off in the comments below!


  1. My two cents:

    If your game meets on a weekend, do not get upset if you miss a session or three. Weekends are like that.

    If you meet on a weeknight, be prepared to run something with only one or two of your players. As you say, keep the sessions light and breezy!

  2. Great Points. I hadn't considered the keeping it light, or avoiding cliffhanger considerations in my November/December planning, but I will now. My campaigns tend to have a couple of low-attendance windows (mid-Summer and end-of-year) so I don't usually present vital info during those times. But, you've pointed out that I can provide an opportunity for my players to relax a little bit from seasonal stress. Thanks!

  3. We've also had wacky one-off adventures with a holiday theme for whoever shows up. Ever had to battle a Dire Turkey before? Truly fearsome beasts.