I've taken a break from GMing for my Deathwatch group for a couple of sessions. One of the other players wanted to try running a mission, and I gave him the go-ahead to take over the game. It's giving me a chance to experience the system as a player - most of my gripes/likes are still the same - and it is giving me a chance to try to relax as I figure out where I want to take the game from there. Over the last couple days I've noticed that it also seems to be letting my brain rest in a way that is proving positive for all three of the games I currently GM. I want to talk about that today.
Running Three Games
I'm very lucky in the sense that I have a group of friends here that enjoy table top role playing as much as I do. Most games here are on an every other week format which means that certain nights get to do double duty. For example, we have game every Friday night, but what game we have changes depending on which Friday it is. Some Fridays it is a Dresden Files game that just began recently (it was Dark Heresy before that) ran by a friend, the other Fridays it is an L5R game that I'm running. I also run a Marvel Heroic RPG game every other Tuesday, and then every other Saturday (the weekends I don't run L5R) I run Deathwatch.
Essentially this means that I am GMing every weekend, with two games in one week every other week, and hitting each of the major settings over the three games (fantasy/past, modern day, future/sci-fi.) The groups have some overlap, but in general each game is at least 1/2 different from the other two games, which keeps group dynamics different. It also means that, generally speaking, I have no more than 5-6 days to prepare for the next session of one of my games before I'm in the driver's seat. Something that can make letting ideas mull take some time. It's not all bad though.
One of the awesome things about running the three games is that each system has its own things to teach the GM about how to run a game. Deathwatch is very much an old school RPG where you let the dice rule all and if the PCs get in over their head it is on them. It is also, in a large way, about having very powerful PCs and presenting them with challenges that match that level of power. L5R has in its mechanics ways to let the players control the outcomes of their rolls. PCs can literally call their own critical shots and bring an over-abundance of skill to bear on problems. Marvel has an interesting focus on narrative and the dramatic that makes other, more common aspects, of RPGs a bit more superfluous while also providing mechanical means for controlling scenes or even ending them prematurely - and thus a section explaining the benefits of doing such.
Now, Deathwatch and L5R I've been doing for long enough that much of what they have to teach me is already mixed in my brain and digested. I inherently try to give PCs the freedom to do more with their actions as if they could call raises, and in more action oriented sessions the dice can be king while I have ways at my disposal to make the PCs feel powerful while still challenging them. The fun is coming in now by mixing in Marvel's lessons with the ones already there.
A Weekend To Rest
This weekend was the first weekend in a long time where I had games but didn't have to GM anything. This is especially awesome - to the point that i'd recommend anyone who GMs a lot to try it some time - because it kept my brain focused on gaming while not having to worry about any of the GM stuff. In other words, while I was thinking about games, the GM part of my brain was able to rest, ingest what it saw, and recover from being used so much up to this point. The result: I'm starting to get a lot of ideas again. Not campaign ideas either - in a real sense campaign ideas are like the ideas you get for new stories when you're already writing one - but ideas to help breathe new life into the games I'm running that have been going for a while.
The Plan Going Forward
The plan for this is to take much of how Marvel works and bringing it to the table in the other games. This doesn't mean replacing mechanics, but rather using the lessons on keeping the eye on narrative and a cinematic experience - that players play through - into both the Deathwatch and the L5R game. It means more work in prep as a GM, but the influx of ideas for scenes, fights, and challenges is definitely a welcoming change. I'm a GM who, I like to think anyhow, is good at improvising and can come up with ideas based off what PCs do and what has been going on. It still is nice to have the ideas coming first again.
Have you had experiences like this/ How did you harness it? Did you manage to prolong it? Sound off in the comments below.