The months have turned, and November brings the travelling RPG Blog Carnival to Mike Bourke at Campaign Mastery.
Mike nominated an intriguing theme for the month.
The Campaign Mastery site outlines the topic like this:
The theme is Ordinary Life.
This is a deceptively plain brown wrapper for a variety of content, falling into three main areas:
- The Ordinary Life of the GM and how it impacts on their gaming, and vice-versa.
- What compromises do you have to make?
- What tips and tricks do you have for making Gaming part of your everyday life without getting characterized as “weird” or a “nerd”?
- Or perhaps you’re a veteran who would like to educate younger readers on how gaming used to be a closet activity – and how it came out of the closet and became socially acceptable, or at least tolerable?
- Or perhaps, how gaming has changed your life, and what you can learn from it? I saw a social media meme just the other day on how to describe gaming on your resume . . .
The second and third options in Mike’s list cover the ordinary life of a Player and a Hero. This final area is tempting, but I generally write as a GM, so I shall stick with this approach for the essay.
So much in life is a balance. There are many demands competing for my time, and for everyone’s time. How we divide out these demands varies according to our personal goals and circumstances. Being a full-time father to two boys has to take priority, and my life is scheduled around their school timetable.
However, I also have to juggle household chores, my writing and the gaming. I tend to devote more time to the last two tasks, but I cannot ignore my chores entirely. For the purpose of this essay, I focus on the gaming-related parts of my schedule. This comes down to four main headings:
- Geek Dad
- Faster Prep
- Improv Style
- Gaming in Writing
I will discuss each one in turn.
Wrapping gaming into my primary role gives me bonus gaming time. I hope to raise the boys to be gamers, giving us a common interest for the future. Primarily, this has been about boardgames. The boys are less keen on this now they have tablets, but I continue to promote this aspect of gaming with them.
Despite their ages, eight and six, they have already been introduced to Euro-style boardgames. Catan Dice proved a good introduction to the principles of planning and resource management. Alhambra and Settlers of Catan were at their limits of attention span, but they coped with the mechanics very well. This is all a promising start, and an area I hope to develop further.
I also tried roleplaying with the boys. This month, eldest wanted to progress to D&D. I have thus begin a Basic D&D game for the boys, although only eldest has played the new Legend of Dragons campaign so far. His initial session ended badly for the thief in the first room, which is probably an authentic Basic D&D experience. However, I think the addition of floor plans, miniatures and different dice to roll all appealed to him. I can live with running Basic D&D for a few years if this will turn them into dedicated gamers as they grow up.
Away from my primary role, I also need time for my Tales of the Hero Wars campaign. This is a vital chance for me to hang out with friends for one morning a week. I also consider the campaign an essential component of my blogging, and by extension self-publishing of gaming material. By running an ongoing game, I legitimize my blog posts as a GM, and have a vehicle for developing my own ideas for publication.
Thus, the continuation of the campaign is crucial. However, time is limited through the week. The combination of these two factors propelled me towards my current faster prep routine. I cannot conjure up additional hours in the day, but I can achieve more overall if I work efficiently. Fast, streamlined prep is the best way for me to increase my productivity through the week.
Once I embraced a faster prep routine, it was inevitable this would translate into greater use of improvisation at the table. Making the transition was a scary process, and there were mistakes along the way. Yet, the more I can improvise at the table, then the less I need to prepare in advance. This is not the only way to GM with a reduced amount of time for game prep, but it works for me. The pressures of balancing gaming with my life commitments have lead me to this style of GMing.
Gaming in Writing
Finally, the last area of my life where gaming plays a role is with my writing. The connections here are less obvious, but I am sure the two areas overlap. Many of the basic principles of story vital for a writer also feed into how I pace the session when I improvise.
Likewise, the general need to improvise at the table has helped me develop a more “seat-of-the-pants” style of writing fiction. I like to have at least a rough outline of the story. When it comes to the actual writing of the first draft, however, I find it a lot easier to make it up as I go along. Of course, this is only the first draft, and thus subject to a lot of change. Yet I need to complete a first draft before I can craft a more polished second draft. Overall, I believe my improv gaming experience has helped me write faster, and thus complete more stories.
As you can see, gaming informs so many areas of my life. The time restrictions of being a full-time father have trickled down through faster prep and improv gaming, culminating in a looser style of fiction writing. I did not plan this, but changing one area of my life has duly influenced so many of the other areas.
How has gaming affected your daily schedule? Can you see trickle down effects from your current gaming routine? How do you cope with finding time for gaming in a busy lifestyle? Share your thoughts with your fellow GMs in the comments below.
- Read all the current entries to the November Carnival at Campaign Mastery.
- The RPG Blog Carnival is under the stewardship of Johnn Four, at his Roleplaying Tips website.
- See my Index page for a full list of all my RPG Blog Carnival contributions
- The host for the October event was Scot Newbury at of Dice and Dragons. where the chosen topic was potions.
- Do you need more Tales?
If you enjoyed this article, then please share it, or the associated quotations. You may also be interested in the following links:
- Something for the Weekend last week: Updated Brainstorming Locations
- Something for the Weekend next week: 7th Sea Exposition part 2