Saturday, January 03, 2009

A Place to Play

I still don't have a system for the game I'm running next semester (or even much of a concept, beyond a lot of possibilities) but that's okay. What worries me more is that I don't have any clear idea where I'm going to play. There's dorm rooms, lounges, and library break out rooms, but none of those are exactly ideal. I'm used to a particular kind of play space, and I suspect (as I mentioned when I manically discussed how to get into the hobby) the inadequacy of the one we were using threw off the game I tried to run last year.

Play spaces are important. I know it's possible to run a game in any old place, but I prefer my gaming environment to have certain qualities. I like a large table, especially when running a game that needs a battlemat, but even without one I like having space to spread out all my books and notes, and space for players to do the same. Ideally, I'll have a little table of my own that I can have at my side, for reference materials and so forth. Light is important, too. It has to be bright enough to read by, but too bright light (a category that mostly applies to fluorescents) will put me to sleep. The chairs should be good, and an assortment of mismatched ones ads flavor to the affair, though that's far from necessary.

I'm not as big on snacks as some people, though I recognize that they're an important feature of the social rituals surrounding any gathering, and I like to be able to provide whatever food and drink the players prefer. (At home, that means Doritos and Cherry Coke, by ancient tradition.) Myself, I've mostly given up eating junk food while gaming -- takes the edge off, mentally -- so when I do have snacks it's mostly cherries and carrots and the like. What does matter to me is water. I tend to drink a lot of water when I GM, both because of the damage even mild dehydration does to my alertness and because I talk so dang much.

I also like being able to keep stuff where I game. Mostly I just don't like having to move all my books around, but it's also nice to be able to do prep in the same spot that I GM. And it's a major convenience when running a battlemat game, in case we have to break in the middle of a fight.

At home I just play in someone's dining room (or basement) but none of the spaces I have available at college quite fulfill these requirements. My dorm room doesn't have a table or much in the way of chairs. The one actual residence I have regular access to tends to get sort of crazy on game night, and doesn't have a good table anyway. The study rooms at the library have these huge glass windows so anyone can look in, lousy lighting, too small tables and not enough chairs for the group size I'd like to have. I'm probably going to end up running it in my hall's lounge, but the table there has this picnic bench thing going on, and I'd have to pack up my stuff.

I figure I'm not unique in having preferences for my gaming environment, those my specific preferences might be. Anyone else given this any thought?


  1. For tabletop, someone's house is my preference but for online... There are alot of options and so far, most of them until I got FGII just kept failing to lift, let alone get anywhere.

    Suspension of disbelief is a huge part of RP and place, on or offline, really affects that.

  2. Ah, the great college gaming diaspora years. Gamers wandering the halls of academia in search of a place to play. I don't miss those.

    I ran into similiar dire straits during my own time in college and faced a lot of the problems you've described. It was a grim time until someone got a house off-campus, which allowed us all to escape from the hell of the dorms on game night. But as you say, that avenue has it's own worries.

    We made do for a while by using the rooms in the Student Union Building. Of course, most schools may require that you form some sort of public organization in order to utilize this resource. The upside to that is that it's a great way to meet new faces. The downside is that you have to let anyone join, which may come with its own problems. This option also doesn't do much in allowing you to store your gaming materials in one place and avoid slogging them across campus on game night.

    My only suggestion is to make do the best you can for the time being, but keep your eyes peeled for Option B should it reveal itself. I've know some groups that have developed friendly relationships with local coffee houses and the like, even the town's public library, and made use of these facilities on off-nights.

  3. I don't know where you go to school, but do you have access to seminar rooms? I've gamed in a number of classrooms that were essentially set up like small conference rooms. They've often worked well.

  4. *curious Brit question*

    Do you folks on the other side of the pond not rent apartments/houses while at Uni?

    Most folks here spend their freshman year in dorms, then move in to private rented apartments, so space is much less of an issue after first year.

    I just use my lounge for gaming (admittedly board rather then RPG last year). The coffee table is too small, too low and doesn't really have enough space for miniature based RPGs unfortunately.

  5. Viriatha: Good point about online. My play-by-blog DM (noisms of Monsters and Manuals) puts a lot of pictures up on the blog, makes it feel homey. It's a lot nicer than the game my group tried to play on Google Groups, felt sort of sterile. Fantasy Grounds looks like'd be even more optimal, especially if I could convince my whole group from high school to go in on it.

    Amityville Mike: For every story I've heard about the great games people had back in college, it seems like there's another who was just busy or couldn't get a group together or something. It's a weird period -- lots of free time, but lots of stuff to do, too. I'm sort of intrigued by the idea of starting a game club, but I know I don't have the enthusiasm stamina to see such a project through, or the interest in dealing with campus bureaucracy.

    I'm looking forward to next year, when I'll (if everything goes according to plan) be living in my own house with some of the people I play with. Then the only space for a suitable table in the house won't be taken up by "pong."

    Szilard: There is at least one classroom arranged in such a way. The light is still abominable (oh, how I loathe fluorescent lighting) but it's not as claustrophobic as the study rooms and it's got more chairs. White board, too. I should look into that.

    Hammer: It depends on the college. Mine requires you to live in the dorms freshman year, then on-campus housing sophomore and junior year. There's a mix of townhouses, regular houses, and apartments, awarded in order of GPA/credits, and all owned and managed by the school. Seniors can live off campus in places with the right zoned density. (Apartments, basically.) In practice, this means that most sophomores live in the dorms, unless they have junior or senior friends willing to add them to their group.

    Most of the other schools I've looked into have similar set ups, but mind that my knowledge applies exclusively to small liberal arts colleges. The big state schools and universities might have some totally different system.

  6. @ Oddysey

    "awarded in order of GPA/credits"

    That's harsh, but I suppose it helps drive some people. I'm quite surprised at you guys being restricted to campus though - from what I've seen on my travels to the US, you guys usually have way more freedoms then us in stuff like that ;)

  7. @Oddysey: We got lucky. A friend who can't gamers in his town, and has never gamed before, shelled out enough cash for two full and 4 lite versions as a christmas present to himself :)

  8. About 1/2 my gaming nowadays is done online, primarily via Fantasy Grounds II software: At the moment I'm running 3 regular games including the Mouse Guard RPG, FATE/Spirit of the Century, and 4E.

    As far as face-to-face gaming, I now have the luxury of a finished basement dedicated to my geek hobbies.

  9. Viriatha: Dang, that is pretty nice.

    MJ Harnish: I wish I had time to run an online game. I've played in a couple, and I've had a good time. But I'd rather be running the tabletop game I've got planned, and I don't think I have time for two games at once. Maybe if the tabletop game doesn't pan out.

    And I'm very jealous on the gaming space score. Setting up something like that is one of my long term goals, but I've got to get my own place first.