Growing with your Games
This morning I came across a fellow gamer who posted a blog entry about the difficulty of playing tabletop RPGs as an adult. You can check it out here. The dominant concern was the logistic difficulty of several adults with busy lives of their own, making room in their schedule to all sit and play together.
Strangely enough, this issue is a commonplace topic I encounter whenever I discuss the hobby among other adults. As children with less responsibilities, RPGs become vast time sinks that allow the players endless freedom to explore every little facet of their character. Entire sessions can be devoted to a single conflict or scene, and this is fine. Unfortunately, time constraints are unavoidable as adults and such depth is often implausible. No longer can the group set aside a whole evening to game and walk away having spent half of it catching up out of character, and the rest chatting with an irrelevant, yet interesting, non-player character.
Many people use this detail to profess how difficult the hobby is to enjoy as an adult and claim it explains the dominance of less involved gaming methods (boardgames, videogames). While it's true these alternate forms of gaming frequently enjoy less set up time, that does not remove RPG's powerful asset of being completely malleable to the user's desire. Change your game to suit your needs! Below I've listed a couple of concepts that I've focused on to make better use of game time in my adult life.
- Story arcs need to be clear and present. You can't guarantee the players won't take extra time for a task so you don't want to have them accidently spend the majority of a game session without actually advancing the main plot. Players tend to leave the game table feeling like "nothing happened" even if they enjoyed the experience while it was occuring.
- Have players coordinate their character creations more effeciently. Adult players recognize their own time limits and are often more than happy to take efforts that ensure their game time is as productive as possible. Having characters that are well thought out and crafted alongside one another prevents any single player from using a character with vastly different interests than the group. Typically, there is no time for a solo mini adventure, since it comes at the expense of everyone else's game time.
- Use the time inbetween wisely. In my own group, as adults, we shifted our focus to the core story elements and used the time between game sessions to write short stories the extrapolated each characters thoughts/feelings/downtime. This practice served us well as it let the players add some detail to their characters on their own time. We'd pass the stories out among the group and everyone would get insight into each others character, making us better prepped for the next game session.
- Don't prepare stories unless they have reasonable timetables. You need your stories to "end" in a reasonably predictable amount of time. While ending on a cliffhanger can make the anticipation for the next game session exciting, being forced to end in the middle of a pivotal plot moment can sully a story. Adults have strict time tables. Staying a few minutes/hours more just to finish a scene is not always an option.
Adapting your game can alleviate some of the heartache of transitioning from childhood RPG marathons to adult story-driven evenings. Time, however, was not the only issue the blogger mentioned. He came to the second most common conclusion I find gamers arrive at as they grow up with the hobby. Is my game setting/system making it harder for me to enjoy game sessions? Obviously I can not tell you the answer to that, only you can decide what is best for your group. What I can tell you is that in my own experiences, I realized that as myself and my players grew more accustomed to the hobby, we slowly began to realize that it could offer SO MUCH MORE than what was being alluded to in many of our favorite games. Realizing this eventually drove me to create a new game and run a business. I regret nothing - and neither do my players.