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Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Another One Bites the Dust



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).  

4 comments:

  1. Yup. I agree. It's tough to lose a good player. I know from personal experience that it can change the dynamic of the entire game for everyone when a key player is called to flitter away yonder. So a couple of thoughts come to mind in regards to what you wrote there.

    One, I also have used meetups to recruit new players. That worked nicely, and I had no problems of any major sort. On the other hand, I've clocked some time with a few people whom I'd probably not have invited over had I known them a little better in advance. So - here's a thought - why not set up a neutral meeting place at a coffee shop before committing to a new player? Just explain that you try to ensure that new players will enjoy the game, and be compatible with the other players and so on. If they balk at that you've probably saved yourself a headache.

    Another thought, and something that worked for me, is to have a computer monitor setup with google hangouts to connect with players from afar, while at your home local game table. I do that and it's almost like they're in the room. Can't share snacks, but other than that it's not half bad. The only issue is die rolling, and for that I often say "Do you want to roll? I trust you. Or do you want me to roll for you?" That's worked out pretty well. It's not 100% perfect, but it's close to 90%.

    Anyway, thems my thinkings for what they're worth. Thanks for the thoughtful post. :)

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  2. Thanks for the comment. I used meetups when I built the group initially, and it had both positives and negatives, as you've stated. I would definitely use it again, though. A neutral spot for a first meet is a good idea, and I will likely do that this time around, as I'm only trying to fill a single slot...though if I found 2 great players I would make space.

    Both of my remaining players are from a meetup connection and they are great players, and great people who I'm happy to host.

    I appreciate the Hangouts option, but the player who left would probably have mentioned seeking other options if he wanted to keep playing...but it is an idea to fill the slot with someone else at a distance whom I already know. I will have to think about doing just that. Thanks again for commenting and reading!

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  3. Hey bro!
    I saw the pic, killer table! The prev owners of my new house left a 42" Panasonic plasma, which still works. It has a hard surface which I think I can cover with self adhesive, paper protecting sheet plastic.
    Throw on the laptop with HDMI connection!

    Thanks for running your games in FG! Sometime RL cuts into things but I'm back for more.

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    Replies
    1. Yo!
      I wish that was my table..lol. It's just a pic I nabbed to add some color to the article...but anytime you want to come build me a custom rig like that I will pay your airfare!

      I'm dying to run my IRL game using FG and a fat monitor like that.

      Der is handling this campaign, which has been fun so far, but we're glad you're back. See you Sunday!

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