Learning From Experience At The Table

My weekly Sunday Dungeons and Dragons campaign is no longer weekly, nor is it necessarily happening on Sunday. After over a year of slowly decreasing session regularity, we’ve decided to swap from an expected-weekly game to one that is scheduled based on availability at the end of the latest session. Because of various scheduling conflicts and time constraints, we’re pretty much looking at only Saturdays, Sundays, and possible holidays. I work into the evening most days and some of my players are in different time zones, so our weeknight window is incredibly small, meaning we’d have to do two hour sessions and those really aren’t a satisfying way to play a game like D&D when you’re used to playing in four hour chunks (and can’t even trade your less frequent but longer session in for more frequent but shorter sessions since the frequency won’t change no matter what you do). Which is why we’re focusing on weekends and pushing out as far as needed to get the session schedule on a Saturday or Sunday.

In the meantime, I’m going to be trying to assemble a new group for my Sunday afternoon/evenings. I really want to have a weekly tabletop roleplaying game scheduled in that time. Since I’m still isolating due to the on-going pandemic and most of my friends pretty far removed, it is incredibly helpful to have a regularly scheduled social time planned each week. I also really enjoy storytelling, so having a solid game with people whose company I enjoy is an important part of my creative fulfillment. I have other games, but none of them have dependable frequencies either. The only game I’ve got with a frequency I can really depend on (broadly speaking) is one I play in on Thursdays, and that one is a limited-run game that will eventually end. Playing also isn’t the same as running and I get different benefits from each thing. Playing is escapist and fulfilling in the way that a good story or game can be fulfilling. Running a game is fulfilling in a creative sense and feels a lot like a good workout for my brain and imagination. There’s almost no overlap between the two, so I like to have some of both.

The trouble is that all of the people I know who play games are involve in all these infrequent games and while I know one of them is willing to join another game that plays weekly, I think that might be it when it comes to my current cast of players. I have one other player I might be able to ask, but he’s in my coworker game and I’m not sure I’m ready to cross those streams. Other than those two, I’d be asking people who I haven’t played games with before. That isn’t necessarily a problem, of course. I love bringing new players into my games (new to the game or new to my metaphorical table), but there’s always the risk that there’s going to be interpersonal compatibility issues. Not everyone gets along and bringing in people I don’t have a history with is always a risk. It’s difficult to not feel more leery of that than ever after I had to kick one of my coworkers out of our campaign for promoting bigotry and espousing bigoted and hateful conspiracy theories. I don’t want to deal with that situation again.

But that’s the risk you run with new people. In your life or in your TTRPG group. Sometimes people are very good at concealing their bigotry behind a pleasant veneer and you just have to deal with it when it comes up. Or sometimes people are fine and good players but they sometimes wind up playing in a way that is toxic and unhealthy for the other players (and GM) involved and you just have to deal with that when it happens. You can’t anticipate every problem before it happens, much less solve it. You just have to take risks on people and deal with whatever happens. I remind myself frequently that this is just two players who I’ve had to remove from campaigns in my twelve-ish years of running games, but they’ve both been in the past two years so it doesn’t really fill me with confidence for adding people I don’t already know very well.

Still, I’m going to have to take a risk eventually if I want to get back to having a weekly game to fill my Sunday afternoons. It might take a few tries to build a new weekly group, but I think I’ll get there eventually. I am pretty good at getting a feel for players and group compatibility at this point, thanks to all my hard-earned experience, so it’s only a matter of time. Well, time and however many short-run campaigns it takes to find a group that gets along and has a similar level of investment. Similar to me as well, this time, not just each other. At least that extra requirement means I’m learning, I guess.

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