Every game takes some degree of organization to play with friends, ranging from picking a time and place to play a board game to making sure everyone’s online for multiplayer. If someone’s late or isn’t able to attend, it usually isn’t an issue. Disappointing, sure, but the game and the fun can still continue. Roleplaying games, however, have the unique challenge of needing consistent participants who are prepared and committed to come together and tell a story week after week. Trying to coordinate schedules between more than two people brings the phrase "herding cats" to mind.
And yet we were recently complimented on our organizational skills at Tech Diff (i.e. Laura’s organizational skills). In the hope that what works for us might help you and yours have more game nights, here are some of our best practices.
Pick a Time and Date and Stick With It
This is the best thing you can do to make your gaming life easier. Having a consistent game night (or day) will turn it into a habit, something that you can easily plan your life around. You’ll have less instances of players forgetting or accidentally over-booking.
Make your gaming a priority. Not above your family or school or work (it’s still a hobby), but realize that there are other people involved in the game who have also set aside time to play. Others value their time just as much as you value yours, and keeping your commitments, whether gaming or otherwise, shows respect and courtesy to others.
Emails and Texts Get Lost
Did you get that email? Did you see my text? What date did we decide on? It’s ridiculously easy for plans to get lost in email and text threads.
There are a few things we do here that help us keep everything straight.
Someone needs to be the organizational boss. Standard protocol usually pushes the GM towards scheduling everything, but that doesn’t have to be the case. If you’re management minded, don’t be afraid to step into that role. Again, the biggest thanks to Laura for being our Producer in that regard.
We have a Google calendar that lists not just what and when we’re playing, but also when episodes go up, blog posts, and any meetings we have planned. Everyone has access to it and can change any event. This might not be necessary for some groups, but it’s something I can check whenever I’m making plans and has kept me from double-booking on more than one occasion.
We use When Is Good to schedule any stray game times and coordinate with The Roleplaying Exchange or anyone else that’s not in the core group. It keeps information from being lost and prevents those annoying text threads that just bounce back and forth between “how about this date” and “that doesn’t work for me”. Spare yourself the trouble and use When Is Good.
We typically re-confirm everything the morning of a game session. It's a quick way to reaffirm commitment, provide a gentle reminder in case anyone forgot, provides an opening to communicate if plans have changed, and usually gets folks talking about the game and their characters.
Know Your Limits
The sad truth of being an adult and also a human being is that you can’t play every game every time.
Unfortunately, I won’t be participating in our upcoming Eclipse Phase campaign. As planned, it’s going to take a year or longer to complete. And because of my erratic work schedule I don’t feel comfortable committing to a campaign for that long. It sucks. I want to play in it, but I also don’t want to hold things up or be unable to attend key sessions.
Roleplaying is a group activity, and if you can’t make the commitment, don’t.
*clouds part, sun rises*
Having said that, we’re also very fortunate to have a large enough group where one-shots and smaller campaigns are plentiful, and I’m able to jump in whenever my schedule allows.
If you have a smaller group that’s not as flexible, be sure to confirm that everyone can commit to your multi-year campaign before working on it proper (as Adam did). If one or two players can’t join in but you still want to run that epicness, consider alternating between game sessions, allowing those with limited free time to get some non-campaign gaming in.
Life is going to happen and plans are going to change, but there are steps you can take to mitigate these instances and continue the fun.
If you can’t make it to game night, let the rest of the group know as soon as possible. That way other plans can be arranged in a timely manner.
Having a one-shot or two prepared will allow gaming to continue, even if the campaign needs to be put on ice for a session. It also allows for those that aren’t normally available for campaign play to join in for a session.
And hey, there’s nothing wrong with everyone taking a night off to spend time with family, catch up on work, or just relax by yourself.
And that’s how we (again, i.e. Laura) schedule. It works for us, and we hope that it can work for you too. Remember that every group is different, and every situation is unique. The tools that work for one group may crash and burn for another. However you organize, whether simple or complex, the point is to find what facilitates communication and commitment for your group.
We hope this advice helps you to have a more consistent and stress-free gaming experience, and ultimately, more fun.