Monday, June 21, 2010

The Next Game

So it's coming up on a year since I last ran a campaign, even a short one. And I'm pretty happy with that, honestly. Playing 2-3 times a week continues to be pretty rad. Being a player is just fun, and it's given me a lot to think about in terms of how I'm going to run the next game. I'm also enjoying the opportunity to get some time to really think about what I'm going to run next, and for whom.

I still really, really want to run my own chat game. The format really clicks with me, as a player, and I'm not going to master it until I run my own game. I've got the player base. And I've got some ideas and inclinations that wouldn't really work except in chat. I know that if I were to run a tabletop game, I'd spend at least some of my time thinking, "Man, if this were chat, then we could..."

And yet, I've got this gentle, persistent nudging that my next game should not be the intimate, 1-3 player online chat that I'm really digging right now, but open, anyone-who-shows-up tabletop. Some kind of crazed LL/S&W/LotfP WFRPG/"you want to play a centaur? sure!" megadungeon sandboxy thing, just to get that all out of my system. The game itself wouldn't be quite as good, not quite what I'm grooving on at the moment, but the game isn't everything.

In short: My social life revolves around gaming. A lot of this is just because people I have other things in common with tend to be gaming-curious; partly it's because I make a conscious effort to be "out" about my gaming, and to bring my non-gaming friends into the fold. The overall effect is that, since seventh grade, about 90% of the people I voluntarily interact with on a regular basis (as opposed to classmates and such) have been people who I'm actively gaming with, or people who I'd gamed with in the past but for various reasons wasn't at the moment. Which means that, at the moment, a great deal of my social life is online.

I should probably be more worried about that than I am, but I'm actually pretty happy with that right now. Skype is an awesome thing, I'm weird enough that "mostly online" means "fits my strange niche interests," and a lot of it is that I'm using the 'net to keep in touch with the people I hang out with at college, now that we're scattered across the state.

However, what mostly gaming online does mean is that I don't have a whole lot of influence on my local social scene, and that's going to be even more true once I get back to college. I'd like for there to be a little more communication between the different groups of gamers I'm in touch with at school. I'd like for there to be a reliable group of people around for me to hang out with, who understand how to socialize without getting as drunk as they possibly can, as quickly as they can. I worry about some of my friends who, when I'm busy with my online gaming, often end up hanging out with people who drink more than said friends are really comfortable with. Running a game isn't necessarily going to have the effect that I want, and it's obviously not the only way to create that kind of environment, but it's a tool that I'm comfortable with, and fairly good at using.

So there's that. Plus, like I mentioned before, the kind of "anyone can show up!" old school exploration game I've been curious about running for a while is going to be a lot easier to wrangle while I'm still at college, and have a handful of people bugging me about running some variety of old school D&D already, than it will be once I graduate and have to start over cold in a social environment. I'm not quite convinced that's the kind of game I want to run, but it's enough that I've started (once again) scribbling down notes and maps for something of the kind.


  1. As someone who plays a lot of chat-based games, usually on an intimate 2-4 player scale, I can support your instinct to go for a large-group, more sprawling game. I've only done them a couple of times, once as a player and once as a DM, and both times it was really fun.

    Not sure if I'd like to do it all the time, but it's surely worth trying out.

  2. SuperSooga: Any tips? Thoughts? Stuff you thought worked really well/would have done differently?

  3. In my limited experience I can think of a few tips for larger scale games.

    - Don't get too drawn into rules and dice-rolling. For a lot of players a faster-flowing slightly more freeform game prevents anyone getting bored from sitting through everyone else's turns.

    - Have some sort of link between the characters before the game starts. I always like to do this but when you have a group of three characters it's quite easy to build their relationship in play. When you have 8 players they're not going to have as much time to interact with eachother so will benefit from a starting point.

    - Hack and slash can be great fun with groups and so can collaborative puzzles (If done well. They're always a bit of a minefield, I find) and situations that require the group to talk over a decision and cooperate. You may want to leave behind the more intimate situations like discussions with a single NPC or challenges that involve a single character.

    - Again, it's general advice, but I'd make sure the game gets off to a brisk pace. Lots of characters means the group moves that bit slower than a group of 3 or 4 PCs. If it was me I'd start them right in the middle of some action.

    - If you plan on having a rotating roster of characters, which can be great fun, make sure you try and end each session somewhere that would make sense for characters to be joining/leaving the group. If you have a unifying theme for the group then finding reasons why three new characters are joining the group is that little bit easier too, so another vote for that from me.

    Hope some of this is useful. Look forward to seeing how it goes.

  4. Bah and humbug I say to running a game I can't play in. ;)

  5. Oh! I have been running a hybrid online/tabletop campaign for a few months. You can check it out for some ideas if you'd like:

    It's like the westmarches but with the in town stuff taken care of online. Also the adventuring is done in the ruins of a mega city, basically an above ground mega dungeon.

    I run the game guaranteed once a month, and open to any player who wants to show up with their character. In between I run random game sessions here and there.

    @SuperSooga: Great tips! The first point is key I think, I have to remember that more often. I have one player who constantly argues about rules, going so far as to tell someone else what they should be doing. It really bums everyone's trip. I'll keep that in mind: freeform.

  6. SuperSooga: Thanks! Point three is particularly interesting. That pulls it away from a lot of the major things I like in chat games, but also probably plays more to my tabletop strengths.

    Trollsmyth: Yes, yes. ;)

    Aberrant Hive Mind: Oooh. Ruins of a mega city, you say? Most intriguing.

    Handling "town" stuff online is an interesting idea. I'll probably handle hireling recruitment that way at least -- that's how we do it in the small chat game I'm in right now, by e-mail. If I do much hireling recruitment, anyway. Might not be a big deal if there are enough players.