A lot of the things I’ve talked about in part 1, part 2, part 3 and part 4 will help anyone be better at running games of any kind but let’s face it, we all have day jobs and doing these things is going to add to the investment in time and effort developing a good campaign or adventure already takes.
I clocked myself writing an adventure from scratch this week and it took me a little over 5 hours to write it all out from developing the story to statting NPCs and monsters to figuring out what loot to include as treasure. Going back over it and polishing it up using some of the ideas I’ve written about on this blog added another 90 minutes.
As I get more practiced, I will be doing these things as part of the actual adventure writing from the beginning and that will cut down the amount of added time it takes but most of us don’t even have that extra 90 minutes in the first place. We’re already squeezing gaming in the spaces left by work, family and other hobbies.
This can lead to a real sense of pressure and work overload: You can’t do everything that everyone wants, and this can leave you stressed, unhappy, and feeling that you’re letting people down. – Mind Tools
That sense of overload is going to eventually lead to burnout and then an end to what could have been the campaign of your life. I recently had to end a campaign for this reason among others and I felt a sense of futility and failure that I may never overcome entirely. What an awful thing to feel about a game! Hobbies are meant to be enjoyed, not add to the stress and pressures life already brings, but to help relieve them.
…I’m currently swamped with work, and surrounded with distractions. Because of this, I’m less prepared than I’d like to be in terms of my GM planning. … That said, there are a few tricks one can work with in order to come up with a good session, when real life has your schedule out of commission: – Pointyman2000
There are some extremely good tips on saving time or using the time you have more efficiently in that post. Using commuting time, break time at work, time in the shower are all good ideas and something most of us are probably doing to some extent. His reminders of time we have available to us are worth a look over.
Another really excellent options is to have your players help out with the workload. Leaving parts of the setting deliberately vague leaves room for them to fill in detail based on the inspiration they have for their characters. I’ve done that with Valiant and Chgowiz writes here how that worked out for him as well. This not only saves you energy and time but will make things even more unique as you tap into their creativity. You can find even more time management tips here at Roleplaying Tip Weekly.
Another option, not quite the same thing as leaving holes for players to fill in, is something I’ve seen mentioned occasionally but until recently never tried myself and that’s to delegate to an Assistant GM. I talked to a friend who wants to learn how to GM himself and told him how he could help me out. Then I offered a small added experience bonus for his character. He quickly took me up on the offer.
This seems like such a simple solution and yet, in talking to several people I know who have either run games in the past or are currently running them, they have never tried it nor had they known anyone else who had. I myself had only read about it and in 25+ years of being a Game Master had never done it myself.
When discussing the subject with them, one thing quickly came forward. They felt it was actually less work to do it themselves than ask for help and then have to redo whatever the person helping had written. My own experience is bringing this to light as well. My Assistant helped me write some spells for Project Valiant and I did indeed have to go over them and rewrite portions to fit my vision.
Now hold on… wasn’t this article about making the job easier?
Yes. First, in the long run, as he learns the job and how I’m fitting things together, he’s going to get better at it. This will save me alot of work because I can then ask him to help create NPCs and monsters. Since I’m actually running two games a week, and he’s from one group helping me build content for the other group, this should ideally work out very well.
Second, as much as I enjoy being a game master, creating and building worlds, writing epic stories for people to explore, I’d like to play once in awhile, as well. This gives him a chance to see the process from the inside out, see the work involved, develop his own ideas about how things should be done and viola! I can play in his game next time!
Delegation is a win-win when done appropriately, however that does not mean that you can delegate just anything – Mind Tools
I doubt I’ll ever ask him to write story for me although I’m undecided about eventually asking for a complete adventure. There are some things about Valiant I’m just not willing to see someone else poke their noses into and stir up. Before you delegate everything ask these questions from Mind Tools (my comments after each in italics):
- Is there someone else who has (or can be given) the necessary information or expertise to complete the task? Essentially is this a task that someone else can do, or is it critical that you do it yourself? Obviously I’m having to teach as we go but many groups have multiple people with experience being game masters. You could save considerable effort asking them for help.
- Does the task provide an opportunity to grow and develop another person’s skills? Perhaps you know another game master who’s games no one enjoys playing. Is he redeemable? Can he learn to do it and just needs experience? Often I’ve noticed, players can get pretty impatient with someone new to being a GM. This could be their chance.
- Is this a task that will recur, in a similar form, in the future? Creating spells, NPCs, monsters – these are all things I’m going to have to do over and over again. Teaching and correcting him a few times early on should pay off for me over time.
- Do you have enough time to delegate the job effectively? Time must be available for adequate training, for questions and answers, for opportunities to check progress, and for rework if that is necessary. Yes, I know. I keep suggesting things that add to the time and work you’re already doing but I think I’ve shown how this might be a good idea to attempt regardless.
- Is this a task that I should delegate? Tasks critical for long-term success genuinely do need your attention. I would never ask him to screen players for the game or to write sections of the campaign. These are things I need to do myself, given I’m the only one who really knows the vision in my head.
An assistant GM might be just what you need to do first before you attempt any of the other dieas in this series. Once you have him or her up and running, you should have enough time and energy for the rest of it!