Thursday, October 13, 2016

The Ramp-Up Phase

My gaming life moves in phases. So far, the predominant phase has gone something like this:
  1. "The One Shot Phase." Where I host numerous one-shots for various systems throughout the year.
  2. "The Ramp-Up Phase." I eventually get tired of rotating casts and learning new systems, so I try to get a steady group together with an epic, long-term campaign.
  3. "The Failure Phase." The campaign starts, but usually stops soon after. Reasons are numerous, but it almost always comes back to me. I no longer like the system; the group falls apart and I can't put it back together; something happens in my personal/professional life and I no longer have enough time or the proper mindset to run. Whatever; it all falls apart.
  4. "The Regroup Phase." I usually leave RPGs for a couple of weeks/months, moving to board games or video games. The lack of human contact slowly creates a depressive front in me. I respond to this by returning to RPGs, even if it's just "one-shots so I can socialize." Then we start over again at "The One Shot Phase."
This has been the pattern of my gaming life for at least the past three years. Just looking back at all the entries in this blog, that pattern is crystal clear to me now. I want to change it, but I don't know how. I don't even know if I can.

Right now, I'm deep into The Ramp-Up Phase. I'm emailing and hosting meetups, scouting for people to get together for a couple of possible campaigns I'd like to run. I really, really want it to work this time. Of course, I said that last time. But I mean it this time! Of course, I meant it last time, too...

But sometimes it's the struggle and not the victory (or defeat) that matters. So I will keep trying to break out of my pattern, to skip The Failure Phase and go to the Regroup Phase only when the campaign I start is complete, and I inevitably want a break before doing it again. So for this year, here are some of my new strategies:
  1. I want to play a proven, established game. Typically, I get googley-eyed over whatever RPG has enthralled me at the moment, and I run with it, and only discover just a couple of weeks later that I'm no longer interested. This time, I'm only considering games that have been around for a long time, stuff that I've played, run, or read for several years now, so that even if "I'm not feeling the system anymore," I can at least rote my way through sessions.
  2. I'd like the campaign to be largely improvisational. I constantly talk about the importance of prep, and the reliance on improv only when necessary. I still believe that, but as it applies to me and this Ramp-Up Phase, I want a game/campaign where little to no prep is part of the game, so any prep I do end up doing is a bonus, rather than a necessity. Even in the case of running published adventures/campaigns, I'd like to be familiar enough with the game and my players that I can freestyle when I want to, then tie it back into the published material later.
  3. I want to play with my friends. The vast majority of my games are in public, and typically feature at least a few new faces every session. I love this, but for a long-term campaign, I want dedicated, motivated players who are as interested in seeing where the campaign goes as I am. I'll need their energy to keep motivated, myself.
  4. This is going to be the hardest one, but I want the campaign to be weekly. It's too easy to lose track of things in a biweekly campaign, too easy to lose momentum. By contrast, with a weekly game, a missed session here and there isn't that big of a deal. I know a lot of players...players I'd love to have at my table...cannot commit to that. I understand, and that pains me, but I need this to work, and this, I feel, is how it will work. It doesn't have to be the same time or the same place every week. It doesn't even need to be during the weekend. But it's gotta be weekly.  
So here's to hoping I'll avoid The Failure Phase this year!


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