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RPG Evolution: Thankful for My Players

Wanted: Four or more people to play a game for four hours every week for at least a year.

Wanted: Four or more people to play a game for four hours every week for at least a year.

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Picture courtesy of Pixabay.

Role-playing games are a commitment. Not everyone wants to play the same game every week, much less at the same time every week. And not everyone is interested in playing a game for that long. Much of a long-term campaign's success is in the ability for the game master and players to come together, over and over, to keep building on the story from the week before. Over the years I've had players who would faithfully play and I've had players who simply didn't prioritize the game. I love my current online gaming group, but they didn't come about by accident. Here's what works for us.

We Get Along​

Conceptually this may seem like an obvious factor, but it unfortunately isn't always true for gaming groups. Not surprisingly, this means that often our playerbase overlaps with our other relationships. My current group includes friends of over a decade and my wife.

New players may have fundamental differences that come into conflict with each other. Through role-playing and repeated play (assuming once a week without cancellations, 52 games a year), everyone is going to get to know everyone else quite well. If there's strong personalities with differing opinions, the odds of those differences coming up are high, particularly in role-play where a player's philosophy may strongly influence the character. That tension can split the group over time.

That said, in larger groups players can manage their differences. But differences between a player and game master is harder. In short, my gaming style hopefully meshes enough with all my players so they stick with me. This isn't always the case and it takes time to figure this out.

To help make the loss of a character a little less jarring, I give players a graceful "out" by letting them quit the game between narrative beats. This makes a player's exit much less disruptive to the game, so we have time to reset expectations and recruit replacements. Over the years, two players have quit with one returning for a later campaign arc with a different character, and one sat in on a session and decided it wasn't for her.

We Prioritize the Game...​

As busy adults and engaged parents, all my players have family and work obligations. They are all very accomplished, but they still make time to play four hours once a week. This is no small feat, as there are plenty of factors pulling them away from the game, including family events, early work days the next morning, illnesses, kids who won't sleep, etc. These priorities can shift over time with major life changes like graduation, moving, birth or death of family members. Having a somewhat stable home life goes a long way in investing in hobbies.

But the reality is that these factors are challenges for any long-term hobby. Sorting this out is a critical part of being a member of any hobby community. As we often say in the business world, your calendar tells the story of what you value. If you don't make the time, that hobby may not be for you, at least until things settle down.

...But Are Candid About Our Priorities​

As much as my players are committed to the game, they are also clear about when they can't make it. This happens a lot with holidays, business travel, and the pandemic in general. We use a Facebook group and Roll20 to manage our game planning, and we're clear about when we plan to show up and when we can't. Even then, not everything goes as planned. I've discussed before how sometimes I get too few players or end up with more than I expected.

They Keep Coming Back​

It's not uncommon for players to be really enthusiastic about their characters in the first few months of play and then gradually get bored with the character's arc, the game itself, or playing with the same group week after week. There are lots of reasons for why this can happen, but they all amount to the fact that if a player isn't having fun, they're not going to return. Or worse, they will return, but their enjoyment (and thus everyone else's enjoyment) is a little less each time. This is often how campaigns trail off, without resolution, because the group loses the will to continue.

Conversely, enthusiastic players keep a game going in spite of adversity. My core group of players want to play as often as they can and even talk about how the game went at work the next day (two of the players work together). They avidly read our in-game fiction and summaries and show up week after week, on time and ready to play.

One of my long-term players and fans of my game from my original high school campaign caught me by surprise when we were discussing plans for the next campaign. "I'll play in any game you run," he said. It caught me off guard, because I had always just taken for granted that he was always there -- I never considered it was because he WANTED to be there despite his turbulent home life. That quote was from my friend Joe, who passed away in November 2020. Players like Joe keep us going when not everyone may be up to it, and round out a party when not everyone can make it.

Add all these traits up, and finding your gaming group is really something special. I'm grateful for my players and mindful that it took a lot of work for us to find each other.

Your Turn: What traits make for your perfect gaming group?
 

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Michael Tresca

Michael Tresca





Xamnam

Loves Your Favorite Game
The number one trait, bar none, easily the most important thing I've observed: They care about the fun of everyone else at the table at least as much as their own (if not more)

Which is cheating a bit, because it can really cover so much of the other stuff that's sensibly listed here. But the second you start violating it with any sort of regularity in ways outside of mistakes or ignorance, I don't see how the table survives.
 

jasper

Rotten DM
Your Turn: What traits make for your perfect gaming group?
Stinking Rich. So stinking rich they buy me a van and provide me with a driver to and from the game.
Diverse in most everything.
Will to listen when I nuke a race/thing for plot.
Timely
And keep you updated if they are not coming.
 

Yeah, it's just that important. When I think about the people over the years that I've hard- and soft- booted from gaming groups, about 90% of them have all been guilty of breaking that rule and breaking it hard.

The number one trait, bar none, easily the most important thing I've observed: They care about the fun of everyone else at the table at least as much as their own (if not more)

Which is cheating a bit, because it can really cover so much of the other stuff that's sensibly listed here. But the second you start violating it with any sort of regularity in ways outside of mistakes or ignorance, I don't see how the table survives.
 

toucanbuzz

No rule is inviolate
#1, We Get Along. Ditto.

#2, We Prioritize the Game. Ditto. OP echoed my thoughts for #1 and #2.

#3, We're all working adults. We all hail from a similar walk of life, so we get it when someone has a family thing or a work thing, or if the DM uses adult language and references at the table that couldn't be made with a different audience.

#4, The DM rocks. I'll toot my own horn here, but if you're going to get gamers back to the table each week, the DM has to be doing something right. If you've been to enough conventions, talked to enough players, and/or been through several gaming tables, you'll know when there's a DM that excites you and when you're looking for excuses to miss the game.
 


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