Friday, April 25, 2014

The Great Adult Gaming Problem

Look another blog post!  Unfortunately I don't have the Part 2 of the Slumbering Tsar Saga conversion done yet.  I have made some progress on it though.  Today I wanted to talk briefly about something many gamers are familiar with, what I call the Great Adult Gaming Problem (GAGP).  I think most gamers have encountered this in one form or the other, I'm just giving it a name so I can talk about it more easily.  This problem, and how I am going to try to tackle it, will be covered in the next few blog posts.  I will break them up so they are easier to consume.

The root of the problem is one that I'm sure the founders of the hobby encountered many times.  As opposed to when you are a teenager or kid, when you are an adult you don't have the luxury of summer breaks, free weekends, etc.  Work, spouses, errands, and all those other things we adults worry about keep us from having a consistent schedule for gaming.  I may have weekends off and can make time, but maybe some of my players have to work weekends.  That sort of thing.  You can't guarantee everyone is going to be at every session.  You sometimes see players bring friends for a one-off occasion, which may not mesh with what is going on in the campaign.

In addition, longer adventures (including modules, megadungeons, and many story arcs) can't be completed in a single session.  It seems these days, 8 hour long marathon sessions just aren't possible.  I'm typically able to have 3-4 hour sessions or the sometimes 5-6 hour session.  If a dungeon, module, or what-have-you takes longer than a single session, people begin to forget what is happening when we get back to playing.  My last SWN game ended this way.  We are in the middle of a dungeon area.  If we sat down to play again we'd spend half the session trying to figure out why they were there, what had they done so far, and what room they were currently in.  Even with my notes.  If schedules get out of whack, it could be weeks or months until the game could be picked up again.  Long stories with numerous variables is too much paperwork to keep if attendance is so variable.  Dave can't make it to the session, guess his assassin is in drone-auto-pilot through the rest of the dungeon.

Relying on adventure path modules won't work, they are too "on-rails" to maintain unless you have a super consistent group

So how do you insulate your campaign from these problems?  How do you make every session enjoyable, no matter what the attendance is, or how often you meet?  How do you continue to make the players have agency and let the world feel alive?  I believe the key is in a particular form of sandbox gameplay.

I've spent sometime reading other blogs and pondering solutions to the problem.  I think I may have some solutions.  They aren't novel ones, I must admit I will be using the ideas of others.  I'll post links to those sources as I explain it.  I hope that the solution I use, plus some liberal house-ruling, will allow for an interesting campaign that will be hard to derail.

Links to Solution Series: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

For readers, how do you address GAGP in your groups?  Leave your comments below.

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