RPG Fridays: Time Is Not on My Side
For gamers, the love of gaming is in our blood, our hearts and resides in the fibers of atoms that make up who we are. You can’t have a happy gamer in your life without the game, occasionally much to non-gamer-significant-others' chagrin. Gaming is so much a part of my being that when my wife and I were discussing our future, she said, "our child will be raised Jewish" and I said, "our child will be raised to be a gamer." It's a family deal. I have even convinced my wife's parents (they may say "tricked" but tomato, tomahto...) to play in a one-shot.
So what do you do when real life puts the crunch on you with too many commitments--your kid's karate class, new job with crazy hours, traveling, writing (or thinking about writing), etc.? This is where I am right now and it SUCKS. What is a gamer to do?
Take a break. It is the only option; all of that stress, those responsibilities, circling around in your brain weigh on you and affect you, and also affect the vibe you bring to the table and to your fellow gamer. How and when do you do it? That becomes the next issue spiral. You don’t want to upset the GM, the players or leave the game in a lurch.
How To Bow Out (Temporarily)
1. In the immortal words of Winnie the Pooh, "Think, think, think."
First, I thought long and hard about the things pulling me in different directions. Was there anything I could move around or triple down on? In previous years, my gaming went on hiatus following the birth of my daughter but slowly increased to a frequency close to its old standards. At the time, I had to sacrifice my bi-weekly Star Wars game that ran from 12pm – 6pm on Saturdays, and my fortnightly Rise of the Runelords game on Mondays). That still left me playing in a bi-weekly Pathfinder game, running a bi-weekly Horror on the Orient Express game, and becoming the One-Shot King for random games and playtests. But my schedule changed again recently and dramatically, so I have to pause all of my actual gaming for a while. It was a hard decision and one that I think about every day.
2. Figure out how long you need and add a month.
This is a hard one but vital for reintegration and GM planning. If your kid starts taking a swimming class that conflicts with your gaming and it is set to run for three months, let your GM know that you need to step away for four months. Why the extra month? That is to allow you time to reintegrate yourself without disturbing the group. Say you got in the habit of taking the family out to dinner after the swim meet? That is something you can't just stop with a young kid but is something you can transition out of over a couple of weeks.
3. If you are a player, tell the GM first.
Give the GM as much time as you can. If you know the GM needs a couple of days to process the info, give it to them and let them know in detail when you hope to return. Be prepared that the GM may find another player for your slot, or the campaign may be at a point where you can't jump in right away. But by giving a solid idea of your return, it allows the GM to plan accordingly and likely keep your seat warm. My move is to have my character do a couple of key things he is known for. In our game, I am playing Porthos basically (or for my Pathfinder peeps, Inspired Blade with a little Mysterious Stranger). He has a rapier or pistol in one hand and a flask of whiskey in the other and sings a song while exploring. (Due to to watching a lot of Sesame Street lately, the song I have been singing is a little diddy by Sirs Bert & Ernie . . . he he he). In our game, my sister went missing during a raid on the city and my character has left the group to go find her. It is a great in-game reason for Jabari, my character, to step away from the party but still be in the area.
4. Spread the word.
Let your fellow players know after you have given the GM a little time to process your temporary departure. It is your responsibly to let the other players know that you need to step away and to relay your intention to return. Also, if your character has any gear the team needs, you'll want to allow them to access it.
5. "Throw me the rope."
Ask to be kept on email chains and communications. By keeping in the loop, you will have a smaller time frame needed for reentry. Plus, if there are any major decisions to be made by the group, you still have a voice and may have an insight the other players have overlooked. After all, you're still a team.
6. ^ If this is the type of reception you get, move on. (Quickly.)
If the GM or players, can’t handle it or give you (non-good-natured) grief, you are better off without them. There are plenty of awesome gamers in the world; you can find a new group that is understanding of your time constraints. Luckily, my fellow players and my GMs tend to be some of these awesome gamers.
7. Lead, guide, and get out of the way.
If you're the GM, let your players know that you have some things to take care of but plan to restart the game on X date. Have a solid date in mind and stick to it. Give them the opportunity to step away either temporarily or permanently. Hopefully you will be able to resume with everyone on board.
Gaming is our life blood but reality doesn't wait for gaming.