D&D: 2020 Is The Year We Defeat The Scheduling Monster
One enemy has defeated more heroes than any other monster or villain you can think. Time (and by extension space). Until today, that is.
When I first got into gaming the hardest problem I faced was finding people to play with. At the time, D&D hadn’t quite blossomed into this huge. TSR was in decline and most gaming depended on having a local group to play with. If you wanted to find a game, you had to literally find a game. That was then.
Now, years and editions later, the hardest problem is finding time to play. And it makes sense. The ease of childhood with its heady lack of responsibilities and surplus of free time, or even the strictly structured time of high school and college made gaming easy. Here’s a group of people you’re always going to be in close proximity to. Do you like games? Are you into D&D or Vampire or Shadowrun or whatever other system? Here just play together.
But as those have given way to more pressing responsibilities–work, friends with kids–it’s tempting to say that adulthood is not for gaming. And yet some of these pressures don’t feel particularly tied to any measure of adulthood or maturity. Work feels more demanding. People are expected to respond more readily, or to be always available. The gig economy keeps people busy at odd hours. The friends you know might move away (or you might) or the blush of new love might keep you busy. And that’s fine. There isn’t some sinister sort of Calendar Man plotting to steal away your time…
But that doesn’t mean that the number one rpg resolution for most folks out there is to actually knuckle down and play more. You wanna do that, I wanna do that, so let’s make like Robin and take down Calendar Man this year. Seriously, Robin beat Calendar Man single-handedly when Calendar Man was planning to kidnap Robin to use him to (first day of) Spring a trap on Batman. Calendar Man is a punk, even the 90s Hannibal-esque reboot is a punk. It’s time to show him who’s boss. How?
Find your group
This is probably the trickiest thing. But find the people you want to play with. They might be friends you’ve known for years–they might be the people waiting at your friendly local game store, or online in that discord community you’ve been lurking in for a while. Why wait? It’s 2020 and we’re living in a time when it’s easier than ever to find people to play with. Ask the people you’ve been thinking it’d be fun to play with. Odds are good they’ve heard of D&D at least–and even if they haven’t, it’s easier than ever to explain to someone what roleplaying is. Bring that newbie into the fold right along with you.
Know your schedule
I don’t want to sound flippant here. It shouldn’t be so hard to keep a weekly game going, but we live in a Capitalist hellscape, and that means that free time is one of the most precious resources we can have. And that means you have to try and figure out what works for you. Don’t commit to the idea of a weekly game when six times out of ten you’ll be busy come Monday. For some people, myself included, monthly is hard enough. But say you want to improve your schedule? Say you want to push for a weekly game–well then, you have to commit. In fact that’s our next point.
Know your goal
Once you have your people and have your time set aside, you’ve got to set a goal. Maybe your goal is something nebulous like “run a campaign that goes from level 1-20 and is an epic saga” but that feels like a lot to accomplish. Set a smaller goal. Maybe it’s just get your friends and run through a pre-existing adventure on the regular. Something you can accomplish with a little effort, but that’s not outside of the realm of immediate possibility. Because once you do that, once you achieve your first result, you can set the next one.
“Okay we hit level five, let’s keep playing this new scenario.”
That’s an easy way to recalibrate with your group once you’ve played a little. I cannot stress enough the importance of checking in with folks. And here’s another tip, if you want to make that push for a weekly game that will last a while, you’ve got to take the pressure off.
There’s a fine line to walk. Too much pressure to get it right means that you’ll invariably abandon the idea the first time things screw up because hey, you failed, you don’t need to keep trying. And that, friends, is how Calendar Man wins. So take some of the pressure off–you don’t have to be perfect. Because, spoiler alert, you’re not going to be. You’re going to have times when you don’t feel well, or when you’re genuinely busy because your whole life is on fire. Accept that, and embrace it even. Don’t think of it as a failure, but rather, as a part of the ongoing plan. Then get right back to it the next week. Habits are what we repeatedly do, they say.
Commit to showing up
So show up as much as you can. It seems simple, but if it was we’d all be playing on our big multi-year campaigns, and high level characters wouldn’t be almost non-existent. Instead, plan to show up every week, or whatever interval you have. If you can’t make it, no big deal… but try. Even if your whole group can’t make it, figure out what you can still do.
In my gaming group we’d just run a session if we’re a character or two down. That doesn’t always make sense, but if you’re wondering what to do when not everyone’s there, be flexible. You could run a one-shot, maybe even set elsewhere in the world. You could play a different RPG, try out something like Ironsworn or iHunt. Or just watch movies with your friends–that’s a great way to remind everyone that you’re hanging out together because you like each other.
Best case scenario, you start playing a campaign worthy of story and song. Worst case–hey at least you get to hang out with cool friends. Whatever the case, make some time for yourself this year. We spend so much of our lives doing the things we have to, here’s hoping this helps you do at least some of the things you want to.
Happy Adventuring, and best of luck in 2020.
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