Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Distracted by Sparkly Wonders

This is more of a ramble than it is a serious point.

I’ve got a bit of a problem when it comes to running games and that’s keeping myself focused on the game that I’m actually playing; not while running the actual game, but all that downtime between games when I’m in danger of being distracted by something shiny and attractive. It’s not Gamer ADD or anything like that. I wouldn’t even put it down to boredom with the game that I’m playing at the time. I put it down to an overactive imagination.

If I ran nothing but fantasy games then there would be no doubt that any new sparkly fantasy thing that caught my attention, like a setting or a campaign idea, would be easily adaptable and useable in the game I’m currently running. So, basically, I find an idea that I like, I take the idea and I incorporate it into my ongoing game. This is probably why many campaigns last so long, because the gaming group don’t need to switch systems or genres. The GM would slip the idea into the campaign and the game would be constantly invigorated by new ideas and situations the GM is excited about, by the sparkly thing he found. As the GM runs games in that single genre using that single system then anything that gets his attention doesn’t disrupt the group and he can run his continuing game with the same players and PCs.

My problem is that my experience falls across multiple genres and usually the sparkly thing that grabs my attention is of a completely different milieu to the one I’m currently playing in. I could be running a deep, emotionally charged fantasy game and half way through the campaign I see a setting for a science fiction game that gets me excited; what to do? Drop the fantasy game and tell my players ‘This is what we’re playing now, people!’ Sacrifice any momentum or involvement the game has created and just drop it in favour of what I consider to be the Next Great Event?

I don’t see this as gamer ADD as I don’t abandon my current game in favour of the new shiny. I can quite gladly continue with my fantasy game even if my heart and imagination is screaming out for some galaxy-spanning sci-fi adventure. I just need a few moments to get into the zone before the game starts, get some inspiration and get into the mood for the game I’m about to run. If I’m given long enough I can run any kind of game no matter what I’m in the mood for.

So, how is this a problem? Well, the problem occurs when I decide that I want to run a game and spend the time creating the adventures and the campaign leading up to it. It becomes a problem when I spend ages designing a game around this Holy Shiny Thing and it takes so long to actually begin the game - either because I’m still running a different campaign or I’m playing in somebody else’s – that I lose the initial spark and the excitement I felt as to why I wanted to run the game in the first place, and it’s replaced by despondency. I’ve got reams and reams of material and characters and locations and plots and images, and I look at it and I find it difficult to remember why it was that I wanted to run this in the first place, and I can’t capture that initial excitement because it’s been so long since I first thought of it. This lack of zeal then translates onto the game, and I know that if I do run it it’ll be a lacklustre half-arsed attempt, a pale facsimile of the incredible firework display of a game that I wanted to run in the first place. I’ll sit and stare and my shoulders will slump down and then I’ll feel guilty, because no doubt I’ve bigged this game up to my players, they’ve got themselves in the zone and the mood to play in it and I’m either going to bail on it or the adventure will be bland. Then I’ll lose a bit of trust from them as they’ll wonder if the next campaign will be like this, all dull and uninspiring.

I know that there’s a long list of things I should do to make sure this doesn’t happen; remain focused, don’t get distracted, don’t make promises, don’t spend so long concentrating on a game I’m not even running yet. But I’ve been like this for the better part of twenty years and I can’t help myself. Perhaps I should embrace it, realise that it’s a good thing to be so excited about the games I want to run, but I know that this pure excitement I feel about new games is going to be to the detriment of my games and my players. If I can capture this excitement and then run the game straight away I know it’ll be good.

Reading back on this blog entry, I can’t tell if all this is a good thing or a bad thing.