GMing Withdrawal and Melancholic Musings

I haven’t run a tabletop roleplaing game of any kind in a month and a half. As of just this past weekend, I’ve gone from having three regular-ish groups (weekly or at least twice a month on average) and one occasional group (with no pattern to our sessions) to having a weekly-intential group that hasn’t successfully met and might never since we’re now down to three players and me. As far as my tabletop gaming ecosystem goes, I’ve removed one player for picking the dumb wizard game over doing the right thing (along with assigning me blame for making him feel bad about it, amongst many other issues), lost two players to family difficulties that will keep them away for an unknown number of months or years, and two entire groups have dwindled to nonexistence thanks to scheduling difficulties and general burnout. I do not know when my next TTRPG session will be and I do not know what it will look like since my groups have all shrunk or haven’t scheduled a session in two months.

All I’ve got left is a weekly-ish game that sometimes goes months without playing and sometimes plays weekly, that I’m a player in, and that’s mostly just showing up to fight a mixture of different types of boss battles. Which, you know, is fun and all, but there really isn’t much room for character development or storytelling beyond the sort of light rehashing of the video game franchise this series of boss battles is based on. I enjoy having a group of people to play this game with, but I want more roleplaying stuff in my RPGs, not just number crunching. While this is a lot of fun to do, it isn’t something I find particularly fulfilling. At one point, I’d have said that it was better than nothing, but now I’m not so sure anymore.

As things rise and fall in life, usually something is better than nothing. The existence of something is frequently all you need to build more or at least have hope that it will grow larger. Sometimes, though, it just serves as a reminder of what you’ve lost, of what once was and is no longer. I know this is probably pretty maudelin of me, but the reason I can’t see past this idea right now is that I’m out of friends to invite to play games with me. Eventually, as I work to make better friends who share my values, I will have more people to invite to my gaming sessions. Eventually, people who had to withdraw will return and groups sundered by the tribulations of life in the modern era will reform or coalesce once more. Eventually.

As I try to find a way to assemble a group that will have enough consistent players to put it on my schedule, I am confronted with how long that might take. I’m a pretty shy person, all things considered, and making new friends is difficult for me. I’ve been doing my best, but the path has been rocky of late and I feel like a lot of effort I’ve been putting in has been misplaced. I’ve learned a lot about people I was getting to know over the last two weeks, thanks to the dumb wizard game, and realized some paths weren’t worth pursuing. Better now than 13 years down the line, of course, but that might just be my bitterness talking right now. Of all the people I’ve been getting to know, none are at the point where I’m ready to try to bring them into a tabletop gaming group as a potential permanent fixture. I have a few I might bring into smaller, one-off games just to see how they’d fit with the remaining three players of mine, but that’s a whole process all on it’s own.

It will be a while before I have a consistent group again. There is a lot of time and a lot of work between now and then. As burned out as I am right now, on both people who have fallen short of my hopes for them and on what used to be my main tabletop game, I don’t know if I have it in me to do the work required for the time to matter. I mean, all this aside, I still have my old frustrations about flaky players, about how much work I need to do just to get things scheduled, and about how much effort I put in for my players who never engage with anything I offer them (despite frequently saying that’s something they want). None of those problems are magically fixed since the people I’m losing to life problems or revelations about their true natures are the people who were the most comitted to consistent attendance and actual engagement with the game we’re playing. I’ve got one of my regulars left and I’m not sure it’s fair to him to bear the burden of giving me the investment and regularlity I want out of these games, especially considering the life events he has coming up this year.

I’m sure I’ll figure something out eventually. I’m not one to stay down longer than it takes me to catch my breath, regardless of all else, so this myopic melancholy won’t last forever. I’m just really not sure what I’m going to do when it ends. I was already struggling to get enough players together for a consistent game before this, back when I had four tabletop gaming groups, and I’m not sure what will be different once I’ve worked through these feelings. I still have three players, so we can keep trying to play, but we’re at the point where one person skipping leaves us unable to play a game so I’m not sure if we’ll ever get past “trying.”

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