Friday, March 28, 2014

The Will to Lead

For me, the hardest part about running an RPG is, more often than not, the leadership role I have to take. Of course I don't have to take that role, but if I don't, the game suffers. Oftentimes, the game doesn't happen at all if I don't take charge and say "We're playing THIS game, on THIS day, with THESE rules." It's not about ego, or any particular compulsion to be in charge or in control; it's simply that I've discovered, time and again, that tabletop gamers tend to be an unfocused lot, and without someone steering the ship, that ship is very likely to hit a sandbar and sink (sinking, in this case, being playing Carcassone). 

I'm terrible with logistics, and my prep is a constant weak spot in my GMing, but that leadership role is the hardest. It requires confidence; confidence in yourself, in the game you're running, in just believing that everyone is going to have a great time, yourself included. I know there are a lot of GMs out there who don't take the leadership role at all; they just play the game like everyone else, only doing it from the other side of the GM's screen. For whatever reason, I can't do that. Perhaps it's because I just GM by force of personality, rather than through intelligence or careful prep. What I mean by that is I often feel like a session goes well when I believe it's going well, and they go poorly when I believe they aren't. Very rare is the time that everyone except me had a good time playing an RPG; likewise, if I had a great time, I can tell everyone else did, too.

I haven't been playing many RPGs these days because my confidence hasn't been very high. My confidence hasn't been very high because of the personal stuff I've talked about already. For the past couple of weeks, just getting out of bed has taken about all the spirit I have. This is also why I've been leaning on boardgames so much these past few weeks; they give me the social connection without needing to assume that pro-active, leadership position I need to have to run an RPG.

Problem now is, I'm starting to miss 'em. In the world of tabletop entertainment, there is nothing like a good role-playing game. The intersection of creativity and logic and communication and camaraderie is unrivaled by any other tabletop game out there. Yes, the games can take awhile to learn; yes, they can be a pain to prep for; yes, they can require a commitment that can leave out just about anyone who can't make a weekly obligation. But, as I've said before, the juice is worth the squeeze.

So how do I get back in the saddle? Where do I get the confidence to step behind the screen again and start running a game? Here are some of my ideas:

1. Zombies. As I've said before, I've got a thing for zombies. Zombies are comfortable. They fit me, like an undead sweater. Perhaps playing an RPG about/involving zombies would engage me on an interest level high enough to raise my morale and give me the confidence to lead. I know a few of my players are kinda done with the whole zombie craze (for the record: I was into zombies BEFORE they were cool, alright? Long before The Walking Dead), but it might be worth it just to go there with whomever is willing to go there with me. I play a zombie game or two, get my mojo back, then move on to something less-played-out.

2. Low-prep. Since prep is such a big issue with me, something with little to no prep would be a nice way to ease back in. So, why not my zombie apocalypse hack World Gone Mad? That's a possibility, but then I run into this...

3. Shiny and new. I really geek out over brand new RPGs (whether they just came out or have been out and are merely new to me). So being able to dive into a new RPG and try it out, one that's simple enough to understand and have low-prep for, but deep enough to qualify as a "complete RPG" and not some mini-game, would be great. 

4. By invite only. My nerd rolodex (Nerdolex?) is pretty deep now from a year+ of playing for the public. So maybe, rather than chancing a bad crew (or, even worse, no crew) in a public meetup, maybe I just send out email invites to those I want to play the game.

If you, Dear Reader, can think of ways for me to get my groove back, I am, as always, all ears.


  1. Hi Ed,

    I'm kinda new to the blog, so I've only read a small fraction of your work before, but I wanted to lay down some support. I can't imagine what you've been going through, but trying to strike back into RPGs by running a game is a heroic move towards getting back to the hobby. I've run only a few games in the past, and I always find the time leading up to a session nerve-wracking, even if the session turns out to be excellent in play. Getting my gaming group together tends to be on par with herding cats, and after my last Star Wars Saga game came to an abrupt end, it was even harder to put a group together. But I've found that having an impending session bearing down on my really gets the juices flowing - I'm a work-under-pressure kind of guy, and trying to wing a d20 game kinda freaks me out, so I always over-prep.

    That said, I've toyed with the Cortex Plus systems a bit - mostly Marvel Heroic Roleplaying - and I think you'd find it fairly low-prep and enjoyable. If you haven't already, check it out.

    And I sincerely hope things turn around for you soon.

    1. Thank you very much for reading and commenting. Funny you should mention Marvel, as that is the very .pdf I have open on my desktop right now!

      Thanks again for the support.

  2. Hey Ed,

    New reader here as well. Read what you're going through and it is tough. Keeping your mind busy is a good thing to do. RPGs are a good way to do it. As for games, I like All Flesh Must Be Eaten as a Zomibe game. Lots of options and lots of room to wing it as well. Check it out.

    1. Thanks brother! I do have All Flesh. It does seem pretty cool; never played it though, oddly enough. I may have to revisit it. Thanks again!

  3. Regarding the desire for new-ness, does it need to be a whole system, or are story-elements enough novelty? I love reinvigorating systems with a different style of encounter and mission. My current system is taking a break from the epic tale for a character to go off in search of some rare hops with which to brew beer...

    1. Thanks for the response...a few days later, looking back on this entry, I actually think "new-ness" is actually not so important as "inspiration." Inspiration is easy to find in new read it all for the first time, your head just naturally fills with new ideas. But I think I would be just as well off playing an old game if I had a great idea for something to do with it.


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