It’s tough to lose a good player.
As a kid, playing or running a game often meant a solid group with lasting friends. You saw each other at school each day, lived close by, and generally had a good idea about what was going on in each others lives. Hell, for me, a game often ran the length of a weekend as we would pack a bag and make someone’s basement basecamp until sunday afternoon. Game sessions lasted longer and fun seemed stronger...back then.
I still love gaming, of course, and I play when I can. I’m older...47...and life imposes itself in ways that make it difficult, if not impossible, to dedicate the amount of time to playing and running a game than those long-ago, halcyon days of youth. Thankfully, we have a new set of tools at our disposal to make gaming (Live or Online), an easier thing to do when free time makes itself available.
It’s that lack of time, though, that makes losing a good player even tougher.
I play in two types of games. Online, I play in a couple of Fantasy Grounds games. I have played FG since 2008, and I credit the platform (and Skype) for making playing over the nets a reality. It managed to bring me back to the (virtual) table with my best friend who lives in a distant state, has helped me make new and lasting friendships with some great folks, and has enabled me to keep my head/hands in the RPG world when playing at an actual table was not going to be an option (such as when my son was born, and all through his very early years, or when work became a priority that dominated a great deal of my time).
It has it’s drawbacks though, and one of them is player retention. I love a solid campaign. A one-off is ok, but it doesn’t quite feel the same as a long-term game played in a well-dressed setting that enables my character to enjoy some steady growth. I dig leveling...who doesn’t? Nothing works for me like a character I’ve built from seed, and watched grow into a mighty hero (or villain, depending on the game). Often with a game played online, players come and go with less of a feeling of commitment, so there is generally some high turnover. Sometimes folks just don’t mesh, other times work schedules change, and then there are just those guys who don’t take the game as seriously as you (or I) might, and bail frequently before finally giving up. Finding reliable and steady folks to play online is a struggle many of us know. I’m very thankful for the few people I’ve gamed with who have stuck to it, and just as thankful for those who have come back to it after needing a break when life hit them in the gut (yes Rich...talking about you. Glad you’re back!)
It’s twice as tough for me to find the time to game IRL. This always feels like the best way to play (for me), as it has all the elements I love, and don’t real dice feel better than just about anything else? Recently I’ve found my way back to the table, but in order to do so I knew that I needed to host, and I had to limit my game time to 2 Sundays a month and about 4-5 hours of play. I have a rough schedule, and my weeknights are often in flux. Weekends are tough too, because as a divorced dad, I have my son during those times.
I managed, through a Meetups.com group, to find some great guys to game with, and for some time now we’ve been at it. Gaming now is somewhat different. Adults don’t play like kids, but that’s not a bad thing, and I find that the snacks are of an especially high quality :)
We play Labyrinth Lord + AEC and it’s alot of fun. There are 3 of us at the table in my somewhat cramped apartment, but we manage to make ourselves comfortable and get to gaming! Recently, however, one of my players has decided to drop out. He was travelling quite a distance, but since he often found himself in the area on the day I had available to game, it made sense to pop over for a few hours of table-time. This changed. His reason for coming to my area ceased to be, and so has his ability to come to the every-other-Sunday game.
It’s a hit. Not gonna lie. I really, REALLY enjoyed the dynamic we had going. Each player was managing 2 characters. Another nice thing about playing with guys my age is that they have a great deal of experience and maturity, and playing 2 characters was easy for all of them. They do a great job managing 2 distinct and individual PC’s so that the party size is large enough to accommodate tougher battles and sustain some character death (which does happen…).
I’m also going to miss my lost player as PERSON. I enjoyed his company, his personality was solid and genuine, and he brought alot of fun and experience to the gaming table.
Soon, the search to find a replacement will have to start. I know I won’t be able to fill the exact shoes I lost, but I’m hoping to find a steady, sturdy player like the one I just lost. Thankfully there are places like Meetup.com and Reddit where I can post for a player. It’s tough...seriously tough, to simply let some stranger into my home to play. Again, as kids we mostly knew who we were playing with, but as adults we are taking risks to have someone new come into our homes, sit with our friends, and play our games. Aside from a personal reference and introduction, there isn’t a great vetting process for new players one finds on the internets.
As before, it’s a risk I’m willing to take. Playing at the table is so rewarding that I feel I can justify the potential downside(s).