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Gaming and the Busy Adult

Gaming and the Busy Adult

Caspar David Friedrich, Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog, If you’re anything like me, you started playing roleplaying games sometime in your teens. You know, back when it was nothing to start a game Friday night, pass out from exhaustion early Saturday morning, wake up at noon and continue from the night before with a quick lunch of leftover pizza. Then one day you wake up and realize that you haven’t had a decent game session in almost a year thanks to your job, bills, and responsibilities to your family. Even thinking about staying up all night makes you tired. Most times it’s a slow decline; for some people it happens the second they move out to college or to follow a career.

How do you find the time to play? How do you get started again once your flow has been disrupted? How do you organize a group of your own?

The honest answer is this: Hard work and a whole lot of luck.

The more helpful answer is to take a look at the things I’ve learned over the years and see if you can apply them to your search for games.

There are games to join if you look for them.

Yeah, this seems obvious, but there’s more work involved than you might think, and there are a lot more resources than you might realize. The easiest is to just go into a game store near where you live and let them know you’re looking for a group to join. Depending on where you are, you could also put out ads or flyers; you’d be surprised how well those work on a college bulletin board or (as I found in my own experience) the bus stops on a military base. And in today’s modern world. the Internet is a fantastic resource; heck, there’s even a reddit page (http://www.reddit.com/r/lfg/) dedicated specifically to finding a physical group or a game played online.

You’re not necessarily going to find a group into which you fit on the first try, or even on the seventh, but you’re not going to find a group at all if you don’t look for one.

Be willing to try new things.

Maybe all you’ve ever played is hardline fantasy games and your interest in sci-fi is limited to knowing there are six Star Wars movies. Don’t turn down an opportunity to try out a space exploration game just because it’s not in your realm of experience. You won’t know you don’t like something if you don’t try it, and just because they’re playing a sci-fi game now doesn’t mean they won’t switch to something else later on.

Another big change I’ve seen is someone organizing a group and having to go from being a player to being a GM and teaching new people how to play. Don’t be afraid of this if it’s the only way to play. If you aren’t that creative, there are pre-published adventures for just about every system you can think of, and for all you know you might stir your players to try out the captain’s chair for themselves.

Adapt your playing style.

Everyone has at least one story where the players and the DM were trying to play two drastically different games, and almost everybody’s got at least one story about the new player who just doesn’t get it. You’re going to be that new player at least once; the trick is to not let it bother you and adapt to the group’s style if you can. There’s fun to be had in all types of games, be they high-fantasy roleplay or a goofy, hack-n-slash dungeon crawl. Learn to have fun playing a variety of styles and you’ll never have much trouble finding a group to play with.

Quality over quantity.

I’m going to school full-time, working the hours when I’m not in school, and calculating how much time I’ll have to sleep in between loads of homework. And I still manage to be a part of three different gaming groups right now. “How could you possibly have time to do that?” you might be thinking, though likely you might also be thinking I’m lying. The truth is that the groups I play with don’t meet all that often and only play for a couple hours at a time when we do get together, but we make the most of every minute we have to play.

This leads to the best piece of advice I can give anyone: It doesn’t matter how often you play; it matters how much you get done when you do play. If you’re just hanging out and goofing around when you want to defeat the villain and liberate the kingdom, you’re not going to come out of the game satisfied or have much enthusiasm for the next game. Limit distractions: turn your phone on silent unless you expect an emergency call, print out your spell or feat list along with the descriptions so you don’t waste time looking things up, have an index card with a cheat list of rules you intend to use frequently, and whenever there’s a fuzzy situation let the GM decide and look it up later.

Like all my columns, I end with the disclaimer that this isn’t a be-all-end-all. Use this advice as best you can, and adapt it to fit your life when and where applicable. The ultimate goal is to have fun, and fun isn’t always easy to find. Just be patient and give it your best, and you’d be surprised what you end up with.

3 thoughts on “Gaming and the Busy Adult”

  1. Great article Hunter.

    We’ve had the same gaming group for getting on 30 years now and lost one of our old crew to a heart attack a couple of years ago, it’s tough for anyone new to fit into new groups but the advice here is absolutely spot on. ‘There’s fun to be had in all types of games’ as you rightly say.

    Rich

  2. On thing to keep in mind is that having kids is not always a detriment to playing. If you find other parents who want to play then a playdate for the adults can also be aplay date for the kids. And who doesn’t love it when the kids play so hard they pass out a little early for the night?

  3. One important factor to consider: when you join an established group, be prepared to accept that you may well be a second-class citizen for a while until the new group dynamic stabilizes. Sometimes, that new dynamic never comes into being. When you realize that you’re not gelling with the new crew, it’s probably a good idea to withdraw.

    As a practical example, I met a DM in my local game store and was invited to join his regular group – lads that had been playing together for twenty years. After a few sessions, I realized that the other two ‘new lads’ and I weren’t treated as equals. Our PCs weren’t integrated into long-term plots. Our abilities were nerfed by the DM to ensure that we’d never ‘outshine’ the main characters. The loot was always PC-specific, and unusable by anyone but the original players’ PCs, etc. There were other factors that made it a less-than-ideal gaming experience (e.g., bizarre house rules, the DM ‘playing’ his own PC, etc.), but it was the steadfast refusal from the regulars to treat anyone new as a peer that broke the group apart.

    I’m not looking to discourage anyone; only to point out that new groups tend to be hit-and-miss (and not in the THAC0 sense). It’s always a little rough to integrate with a new crew, but don’t invest more than 5 or 6 sessions with a group where you don’t feel welcomed. Ask for a a glorious in-game death, thank everyone for the opportunity, and then try another group.

    As a working adult, your free time is precious. If you’re not truly welcome in a gaming group, don’t feel obligated to keep trudging along as the unwanted squire in the back-ranks just for the sake of being in a game. There are always better, more friendly groups out there.

    Best of luck.

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