There are different ways to not have time for gaming. Some of what I’ve talked about so far as been about saving time on the back end – so that your prep time, as a DM, is shorter. That’s a pretty common problem. It’s not really the problem I have anymore, though. This is another thing I’ve only recently realized. I mentioned in my introductory post that I started gaming in high school. Lots of time for both prep and play. They’re different because they require, for me, a different type of time. To play you need large blocks of free time, such as days off, which, as a high school student with no other hobbies and jobs that very rarely affected my weekends, were plentiful. What you need to prep, is, again, for me, lots of short periods of time. Trying to do a lot of prep in a long block of time will just end with me thinking and writing in circles, I like to have some simmer time on what I’ve written. So I work best a little bit at a time, spread over several days. The other thing that prep requires is bandwidth. I’ve started using “bandwidth” alongside time to do things and every time I explain what I mean the person likes it. I’m sure you’ve said you don’t have the time for something when you technically do, you just can’t be made to deal with it because if you don’t spend those 20 minutes on something more zen you’ll snap. That’s bandwidth, just because you technically don’t have every hour of your day blocked out doesn’t mean you have the bandwidth to think about it. Prep requires both, and long time and short time and bandwidth will be more or less plentiful at different times. So in high school I had all in plenty (if you’re now in high school – I know it doesn’t feel like it. It didn’t for me either.) When I got to college and had more things to juggle, I didn’t feel like I had a lot of prep time, and that was largely a bandwidth problem, but it was also harder to find those small blocks of time, I really did have most of my waking hours blocked out during the week, but I didn’t have too many issues with large time blocks. I worked more weekends, and I had more hobbies that could eat weekends, but there was still a lot. That was when I really needed ways to make the prep time shorter.
Now, it’s prep time that really isn’t a problem anymore. I’ve had it stuck that prep time is a problem, so I continue to try to shorten my prep time, despite not needing to. I will continue to document ways to shorten prep time, because it will be useful to plenty of others, but for my own purposes I don’t really need to do that anymore. Thus the change on the horizon, I may finish the Greyhawk plot I’ve been writing first, but I intend to do some worldbuilding next. I was talking about gaming with a dear friend for a couple hours over the weekend and I told him what I’ve been working on, and railed a bit on how the peerage in Greyhawk doesn’t make sense (a Duke is not the highest authority in a sovereign state, and an Archbaron is not a thing.) He asked if I like pre-generated settings, and I told him no, I generally prefer historical games, but I decided to use Greyhawk because that’s what the 3.5 books for D&D use, so I thought it would be easier for the new players I want to incorporate, and I thought it would save me time. That’s when I admitted that I don’t actually need the time savings. My friend also challenged my theory that using a home brewed setting, or even a more complicated one like I tend to, would be much of an extra hurdle for new players. That’s a more complicated thing to approach, though, and I will need to spend some time casting my players. That’s one way to try to keep things fun and player driven, courtesy of the aforementioned friend. Spend some time thinking about what characters your players will probably have, and how they’ll probably run them.
I’ve had more interesting conversations lately, and one compelling reddit post, but I don’t want to go on about too many different things in one post. Some things to look for in the future, though:
Risus. A major part of why I don’t have time is by the time I finished school I had picked up a rather time consuming hobby – reenactment. My wife and I do 16th century Highland, and with our local Renaissance Faire taking up the entirety of spring we’re going to be busy real soon. You may not find it surprising that a lot of reenactors are also gamers, and the topic of an after hours game comes up a lot, but never happens. My wife is in the process of planning a time-travel game using Risus. If you don’t know what Risus is, here: http://www222.pair.com/sjohn/risus.htm It’s an extremely simple, and versatile set of mechanics for any setting. Lightweight systems can be a great way to cut your prep time, and to make play itself faster, and the learning curve smaller.
Worldbuilding. Like I mentioned above, I have the time, so after I finish outlining this campaign, I’ll do some worldbuilding to shift from Greyhawk to something homebrewed. Since I don’t need to keep the setting secret, I’ll do some posts sharing what I’m making, as well as technique, and time management type things.
Remote gaming. I’ve been making the distinction between my maybe-Greyhawk-maybe-not game meant for new people, and the historical games I like to run. Something that I admitted during that conversation with my friend over the weekend is my proudest campaign I have had on hold because I want to keep playing with the same people, but I don’t see that happening anymore. Simultaneously, I know some experienced gamers who live outside of hey-lets-get-together range who would love to play, and one of whom I’ve talked to about using Google Hangouts and Roll20 to do a remote game. So I will need to dust off some notes, and talk to some people, and possibly make a system change, but there may be a small, occasional remote game coming for some of you. You may even know who you are.
Finally, another poll!: