Welcome to another installment of The Gamemaster. You can read past columns in this series here.
This week, we're going to talk about something we all know about: the time factor. Playing an RPG is a significant time investment. We're all adults. We're all busy, have jobs, responsibilities. Many of us have wives, husbands, families, etc. But we've decided this is something we want to spend our time doing.
How do you keep a group of busy players interested in a game where you can only play once a month, sometimes less?
My first suggestion is to create a private Facebook group for your game, including only the players involved. That way, you can all work in an easy way to coordinate the time you'll be able to play. I know it sounds simple, or obvious, but it's a big help, but for more reasons than just scheduling.
As a GM, giving them a space where they can talk amongst just their fellow players and GM will allow you to talk to them about where they want to go and what they want to do next. If they can make a few decisions over a discussion in the facebook group a week before the next session, that saves you a lot of time in preparation for the next game. Maybe you think a specific dangling plot thread is going to be what they're going to go after and you spend hours preparing for that, but they get to the table and want to knock off a casino instead, you're going to know about that beforehand and be able to adjust before the game even starts.
It seems like most people are on some type of social media a lot anyway. Creating a virtual scratch pad for your game where players and characters can communicate with each other and give you an idea of what's happening next extends the game experience into the times when you're not playing, it keeps interest up, and it saves you time in building scenarios.
The next thing I would say, to keep things moving quickly (aside from reading my piece on pacing) is to plan on games that last only a couple of hours. It's much, much easier to schedule a group of people for a couple of hours than those two day and night marathon sessions you may have been used to in high school or in your younger days. Sure, the game might go over by an hour, two, or three, or what have you, but it'll be the choice of the players based on the amount of fun they're having there, not the external pressures and grinding of daily life.
The other thing is to be patient. I haven't played in my world in more than a month. I was out of town every time everyone else could play during the month of February and we simply couldn't get it to work. But persistence was key. I've offered to mangle my schedule in a hundred different ways to accomodate the players because two or three hours, in the grand scheme of things, is really not that much to spare. I spend that much time in a week spinning my wheels on Facebook and Twitter, trying to motivate myself to get to work. Why not forgo most of that and dedicate it to a game?
If you're good at pacing your game and leave your players wanting more, then keep them interested and talking about it between the sessions, you'll be able to jump back in, even after a month or two, and no one will feel like they've missed anything.
After all: they'll be too busy having fun.