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To Game or Not To Game

In the last few months life has been pretty tough, to say the least.  It has been hard enough to get out of bed every day for work and life in general, to say nothing about trying to run a campaign.  I found myself struggling with the question of whether or not I should keep running a game that I wasn’t able to put my heart into, or keep it going for the players that count on me.

So what do you do?  Do you keep the game alive to honor your commitment to your players despite not being at your best?  Do you come clean with them and put the game on hold until you resolved whatever problems may be affecting your state of mind and the game?  Believe it or not I spent weeks going back and forth with these questions and more, trying to decide what I should do.  One day I would think, “I have to keep this game going, I can’t let the players down!” – but then game day would come and I struggled, with little or no motivation to bring myself to the table.

bad-day2

I listen to quite a few RPG podcasts and almost all of them have discussed “GM burnout” and how to deal with it, but this wasn’t exactly my situation.  I still had the love of the game, deep down in my heart I wanted to see the campaign through.  However, after each session I left the table feeling like I let my players down, that they were paying the price for my woes and this really weighed further in my dilemma.  Of course there were quite a few cancelled sessions because of the events in my life, which is significant when our group was already meeting for only a few hours.

Finally I forced myself to really look at the situation and try to make a decision, whatever it be I will inform my players and move on.  First I had to determine what options I had; I could cancel the game indefinitely, put the game on hold for a certain period of time, come clean to my players and push forward with the understanding that I may not be at my best for a while.  Cancelling the game indefinitely was quickly placed as the last possibility in my mind, I enjoyed it too much and felt that wouldn’t be fair considering my player’s investment as well.  Putting the game on hold was a fair option, but as I put more thought into it I began to have concerns about the length of time it may be on hold and losing players as a result.

bad-day1

Playing one shot adventures or trying out some other games was something I considered to go along with taking a break from the campaign.  I figured this would allow me to keep the group coming to the table while at the same time not letting my campaign take damage from my the problems of my daily life.  Picking up a new system however was not something I could handle, I definitely did not have the time or right frame of mind to begin learning a game…no way.  Running one shots would probably take the same amount of preparation as my campaign, so perhaps that’s a wash.

Just come clean.  This was my final option and the one I decided would be best.  As much as I didn’t want to reveal things going on, and of course I had control of just how much I wanted to put out there, I felt I owed it to my players.  I explained briefly some of the things I had going on and apologized for how it has affected the game, and if they were willing and understanding, I would like to struggle through it rather than walking away from the game.  Continuing to play our campaign, even when difficult at times, at least allows me a brief escape from my problems and likely my players as well.  At least now that they are aware they will understand when I have to cancel a session or if I come to a session not as prepared as I normally would.

As a GM, or even as a player, life can sometimes make it difficult to bring yourself to the table.  Although everyone handles things differently, sometimes the game may be exactly what you need to put a little joy back in your life.  If you’re playing with the right people, in my opinion honesty is definitely the best policy.  By making your players aware the group can make a decision that will hopefully work for everyone and save the game that each player has vested time and effort into.

I would welcome your comments and experiences.

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