The worst of it is that, right now, we've hit a period of not gaming. Pressures at work have meant that I've had to cancel two weeks of Traveller gaming with the lads at school. On top of that, due to the predatory nature of shift working on attendance, the Friday Night Roleplay group has also failed to play for a month. Oh, and the GM (me) is also totally wracked with butterflies.
I've spoken about the Butterfly Madness before but never really fully explored what it means. I'm not talking about time travel or the effect of treading on small lifeforms either. This is a matter of the over-active imagination and a total lack of focus in my hobby.
If it's shiny then I am likely to want to look at it. Flitting from one RPG system to another, exploring rules and settings, my average week is a trip through fantasy and science-fiction worlds aplenty. It's a constant flow of interest and absorption which fuels my passion for gaming. It also kills my ability to stick at anything for very long.
If you get the Butterfly Madness then you are going to exhibit the following behaviours:
- Short bursts of intense enthusiasm for a particular gaming idea
- Fevered periods of prep for a game in that setting or system
- Emotional highs if you can get even a short session of play
- Disappointment when it either doesn't get played or doesn't meet expectations
- Attraction to another idea, often inspired by something "cool" that you spotted
The Ups & Downs
The big positive of being a Butterfly GM is that you are filled with enthusiasm for your hobby and you can draw upon an ever-expanding knowledge of the games and settings out there. For me, this means that creativity flows quite easily - ideas popping into mind very easily if you ever need to come up with something for a game.
The big negatives, however, seem to outweigh the positives. Constantly shopping, constantly reading instead of prepping actual games, frustrating the players through constant changes of game, and a kind of over-fertile mental paralysis that comes from too much going on all at once.
And yet... the emotional kick from the hobby is in the discovery and exploration of so many exciting ideas.
Making It Stop?
I'm torn, really.
On the one hand this is my hobby. I love reading and exploring the hobby, borrowing ideas and tinkering with systems. It has been the "way of the loner" in the hobby for most of my life, especially from the periods in which there have been no players.
On the other hand, it drives my players crazy. It drives most people who know me crazy too. In fact, it drives me crazy. Why? Well... just take a look at the library of unused gaming materials in our home.
How does a crazy butterfly GM make it stop? And should you make it stop?
To be honest, I probably need a really engaging project to focus upon. The trick is probably going to involve playing to the strengths of the condition whilst working to minimise the negatives.
What has worked for me in the past has been a blend of conditions:
- A group willing to try whatever you throw at them
- A strong pre-existing setting which can be adapted with my ideas
- A system we all feel comfortable playing
- A definite sense of purpose and focus in the gaming
- An adventure / mini-campaign idea that excites me
We have the first - undoubtedly the most adaptable triad of players that I have ever known. They really will try anything once. Or twice.
What is needed is the rest of the recipe... and, at the risk of jinxing myself again, I think we have some options.
Maps, Modules & Playtests
All of my most successful spells as a GM have revolved around bringing three elements together all at once. The elements are a ready-made map, a cool adventure module and a set of rules we were testing.
The longest ever campaign I have run / been a player in (because we swapped GM for a while too) was played using a new system (Alternity) in the modern world. Maps were ready-made, the module was the Dark*Matter setting adventure "The Killing Jar", and the rules were new to us as gamers... and essentially flawed enough to keep us tweaking them.
Playtests have also been the times in which we have galvanised as a group and had a decent spell. We played Warhammer 2nd Edition in playtest for months, and we have had good spells with other systems too. It didn't matter that the organisations running the test were mostly useless at doing so... we had a good time. We had cool maps, a couple of adventures to run, and some rules to play around with.
This summer presents an opportunity for the group to playtest another fantasy RPG system. My plan is to draw out some interesting fantasy RPG modules and place them into an interesting setting. There are a bunch of cool maps and modules on my shelf, just waiting to be either played or adapted. Why not simply do a mash-up of what's cool and see how it plays?
Oh, and I need to resist the desire to see what's over on the other flower...