Friday, August 26, 2011
In a lot of ways, a GM is like an actor delivering a show to an audience, with the unique twist that the audience participates in return. And so, a GM can similarly have off nights. They should be expected. They will happen. Nevertheless, when they do happen, you feel just as awful. That was me last night.
Last night's game began with a bar fight. It should've been exciting. It's something I have wanted to run for a long time, but I felt like I just didn't click into it. My notes were a mess, I spent a lot of time looking up rules and even more trying to find the right sheet in a disorganized stack of books. This threw off the rhythm, drained the energy and slowed down what should have been a fast-paced, exciting scene. The problem didn't come about for lack of preparation. I had my notes and quick stat cards. I had thought things through. I think the real problem was a lack of calm.
Let me explain. By calm, I mean that quiet time before the game begins. This is the time in which I get into my GM mindset, organize my space behind the screen and focus on the task ahead. Last night, I got tied up for an extra half hour at work, so by the time I got home, my players were about to arrive. The group had decided we would fend for ourselves for food, so I had to order pizza for the GF and me. The laundry I had laid flat to dry on the dining room table was still in place, along with the detritus of several days, which needed to be moved to make room for the battle mat. I had also just received a package containing a new dungeon tile set that I REALLY wanted to use that night, so I had to punch out those cards. Oh, and despite having taken good notes, I hadn't printed them out. All this led me to feel rushed and my focus scattered when 7pm rolled around and it was past time to start the game... and I think it showed.
My takeaway from all this is summed in a mantra repeated ad nauseum by my high school theater teacher: "Leave your day at the door." Last night really made me realize just how important it is to have time before running a game to take a deep breath and just clear out all the mental clutter that life brings.
Next time, I will try to remember that so that I will hopefully be less concerned about starting "on time" and more concerned about starting at the "right time."