Thursday, September 13, 2012

Performance Anxiety

Anxiety is a regular companion of mine when I'm coming up on gaming sessions that I am excited for, particularly if I am the GM. Now, I don't get so bad that I'm huffing into a paper bag or anything. In fact, I'd like to think that most around me don't realize how fast the gears get to churning in my head, but it is something that's there. The reason for it is simple: I've got this idea which I think is great, but it needs to be communicated and handled well or it's just going to flounder. Which then brings in the problem that my communication and handling of situations are things that I feel need a lot of work.

I'm sure most of you have had the experience in some way or the other. You end a game session and it was good but not great, and you know the idea could have led to a great session but you screwed it up somehow. You couldn't describe something right. You broke the flow of the game with some pointless aside. You couldn't keep people on task. Heck, you couldn't keep yourself on task. It's something, always something, and it can feel terrible; especially when you know how awesome the session could have been.

So why am I talking about this? Well, because I'm starting to feel that anxiety again. It's subtle right now. I still have a few days until game time at the time of this writing. However, I think I have a fun first mission here for my players. I think it has a lot of depth and that if executed well could be a great way to see how the party works at solving problems, how they approach issues, and what they do with the information they gather. However, like all ideas like this it is going to require good execution.

Part of the story is a mystery. That means I need to be strong with my descriptions and convey the "out of placeness" of certain things while also helping to keep them feeling normal. Description has never been my strong suit. I'm the kind of person who can write a 50,000 word work about two guys and a van and never describe the van beyond being a work van with some rust spots on it. Now, Description is something I want more of in my game, so this could be great practice for me. However, I want it to carry well and right now I'm not so sure I can do that well enough.

The rest of this story is heavily dependent on character. The minor daimyo that runs the village the PCs are going to, said Daimyo's family, the peasants in the village, the local ronin, etc, etc, they all need to be conveyed properly and I'm not sure where I stand with that. I've been told that I have good characters and NPCs. However, I'm not strong at portraying them. I can talk about them, show them through words, but not really inhabit and act them out in a way to bring them to life. I'm not sure how much this will impact my game either.

All in all, there isn't much that I can do aside from continue and try my best. I have strong players. Four of the best RPers I've ever actually had the pleasure to share a table with. They're all good enough to take something and run with it, or to carry the game when they need to. Between that and preparation I should be ok and the session should be enjoyable.

How about you though? Do you get performance anxiety before a game? How do you handle it?

8 comments:

  1. I tend to get this a lot, but I try to power through with the mantra that "nothing is as bad as it seems."

    My first sessions tend to get pretty rocky, but as I proceed with further sessions my play gets much smoother.

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  2. It's T minus 8 days until my first campaign ever starts. At least I hope it will be a campaign, for now it's just one adventure. And I'm not even sure I can pull it off. I might well be huffing into a paper bag next Friday.

    I'm playing with people I've known for a long time and they are all excellent players (among them the player of Don Ramon I mentioned in the comments yesterday). I know they will do whatever they can to make it all work. The setting I created is very much alive in my head and I can't wait to try it out. But I'm sure my hands will shake when I sit down at the table. I'll let you know how I handled it next week :)

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    1. Jeb, that is awesome. Let us know how it goes, and good luck with the game. Trust your players, and let them know it's your first time. Most groups are willing to cooperate to let the new guy settle in before they start lighting plot keystones on fire.

      Seriously though, I hope it goes well for you. New GMs are awesome to have around.

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    2. It was brilliant. The players had fun and they immediately got into the setting and their characters. When two of them started to roleplay a scene between their characters on their own while I was busy with my third player, I knew it worked. I'm thrilled and I wish I could play again today instead of in two weeks. I'll blog about the whole thing later.

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  3. I'm gearing up to start something big in a few weeks, and it's the first time I'm creating my own setting. Well, not strictly true, I'm using a comic book setting and making work for an RPG. http://shortymonster.co.uk/?p=206

    What I'm hoping to do is get the descriptions down well enough that I won't need to resort to pointing people at the comic book so they know what I'm talking about...

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    1. Don't be afraid to have a book handy to show though, especially if something is iconic and important. This is one of the benefits of using an established world, you get to steal their graphical representations. 5 seconds with a picture can often do more to cement an image in someone's head than a minute of description.

      Or, if you are doing a different plot, just recommend your players read the comic to get a feel for the "mood and setting" you'll be going for.

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  4. I've been GMing for 29 years or so (my god, that sounds impossible, but I was like... 12 when I started), and I still have performance anxiety each and every time. It is worse when it is with 'new' groups- people I don't know so well. But oddly enough, it is still there when I play with folks I have known for years. For me, it is the anxiety of making sure the players have fun and are engaged. I mean, they're my friends. The last thing I want is to 'let them down' somehow, and that's kind of a big hurdle. Thankfully for me, most of those 'jitters' go away once I get into the game. But I'd say this is universal of most GMs. Or at least those who give a damn.

    As far as HOW I get through it, well.. that's a toughie. I guess I just bull my way through. I HAVE found, however, that the more I prepare before hand, the less I worry. Unfortunately, I'm a horrible procrastinator, so... the two things conflict.

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    1. Yeah, all I want at my table is for the players to have a good time and enjoy the game. I don't want to let them down.

      Totally believe the 29 years GMing thing. That time adds up fast. I'm coming up on 20 myself. Don't see myself stopping anytime soon either.

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