The dark and usually unconfessed truth about being a roleplaying GM is that you can only run the games that your players will let you run.
As a GM, and for most of my life that's been my role, I like to hold on to the conceit that I'm in control. I decide the game. I decide the setting. I decide the system. I decide the adventure. I decide the encounter. Wrong.
Actually, as a GM, I don't have that kind of power or control. I'm at the mercy of my players.
When No-one Shows Up
We've not played for nearly two months. Every reason is valid: Christmas holidays, family commitments, illness, shift work, marital celebrations. I've heard it all, Hershey.
This is not an unusual cycle. The December till February period can often be interrupted. The break gets folk motivated, and they come back keen to play. It's also the period that kills almost any campaign, however.
But underneath all of these events is a deep, dark truth for the GM: if no-one shows then you don't have a game. Loneliness is the largest recruiter for the computer gaming fraternity, one suspects. Our social hobby requires other people. No people = no game.
As a GM you usually either take a break or you plot and scheme. This year I've started to draft my own system, work with an online group to create a new SF setting, and generally poke around games I'd like to try.
But we're not gaming. And there is little prospect of a game soon either.
When Player's Aren't Keen on the System/Setting
GMs can propose systems and settings. Players decide.
Players who don't want to try a game or setting will vote with their feet. See above for the effect on your GMing.
I fancy a post-apocalyptic game, a fantasy game, an SF game. I want to try Traveller5, Fate Core, Barebones Fantasy, Cortex System, and Castles & Crusades. The chances of getting a go at any of these is, however, equal to the interest of my players. If they aren't keen then I am reduced to reading the book and fiddling with solo play.
GMs propose. Players decide.
Campaigns are Fleeting
Campaigns do not happen by the effort of GMs alone. Mykenaea is on the brink of death because my players aren't available. If enough time passes without play then the campaign will die. It has maybe a month left right now.
Campaigns happen by consent. The GM works at an idea and runs a successful session or two. Players get hooked and keep attending, creating a demand for the GM to respond to. As the players' enthusiasm burns then the GM's enthusiasm is ignited and sustained. Miss too many sessions, however, and the flames die.
Campaigns happen by the play of the players. If they don't make it burn then it'll grow cold and die.
Is there an answer?
Probably. I've not found it yet though.
My suspicion is that, try as you might as a GM, if the players don't realise and accept their power then you're in for a rough ride. They need to show up, be willing to play, and let their enthusiasm show.
Of course, it's not all up to them. As GM you have to show up, provide an exciting and engaging game (easier said than done), and let your enthusiasm show too.
In the end, it seems to me, the dark truth is that if they come you stand a chance... but if they stay away then you're left with books, dreams, ideas and notes. None of those is really, really the same kind of fun.
May your players turn up.
Labels: GMing, musings