What’s It Like To Play?

I’ve decided to hang up my Game Master’s hat (if such a thing exists) and ask myself the question that has been quietly nagging at me for months: “What’s it like to play these roleplaying games?”

I know that, in a very real sense, the Game Master is a Player in the game. Yet, as Andy Goodman recently outlined in this excellent podcast, the demands placed upon the Game Master are significantly different to those of the typical player. I am curious to (re)discover what that difference might feel like.

Frankly, I am exhausted. Recent months have taken their toll and I am not able to give the energy needed to run a roleplaying game for others at this time. I know that I’ll recover and, probably by Autumn, once again crave the honour of Game Mastery. But right now, as I write this, I am spent.

What does it feel like to be a player?

Why return to playing?

Some might be wondering what precipitated this change of heart? Fuller details will emerge through the annuls of the Dungeon Master’s Diary, but the short version is this:

  • I have been struggling with my energy and enthusiasm for the two games I had committed to running:
    • In one, I had killed three player characters in the last session and was feeling bad about returning.
    • In the other, I had realised that I wasn’t interested enough in running in the Step On Up mode of play to pull it off – much as I might love to play in that game.
  • I have been run ragged by work and the Covid-19 lockdown, with all it entailed personally and professionally.
  • I have been slowing my life generally, reconnecting spiritually through the reestablishment of Sunday as a day of rest.
  • I have been seeking to create the World that I really want to offer the gaming community, which takes time and attention.
  • I had become mildly ill with a common cold, fatigue, and tiredness.

In the past, I have feared that if I stopped being the Game Master then I would inevitably stop being able to get some gaming. In my groups, others are also busy and no one else has historically wanted to run the game; thus, I stepped up to that for the benefit of all. Now, I am sad to admit, I cannot maintain the energy and carry my friend’s hobby as well as my own.

In the world of internet gaming, now made richer because we have all been forced online to play due to the pandemic, I recognise the extreme hubris of my former assumption and also the opportunity to find new Game Masters who might welcome me to their tables.

In the past twenty years, I have perhaps been a Player as many as 20 sessions of gaming time. Several of those have been in the past year. They have all been good games and I experienced a great deal of enjoyment. The barrier has been that I kept trying to run games for others.

The Catalyst…

The catalyst was, oddly, the receipt of a book of adventures for RuneQuest Glorantha. With the arrival of this book, “The Smoking Ruin & Other Stories” from The Chaosium, I found myself aching to both create a character to play and to experience those adventures. I really want to PLAY in a RuneQuest game, not run one.

On top of this, with my friend Arlen offering to run me a game of 2d20 Conan, my brother-in-spirit Derek offering to run Doctor Who, and Daniel offering to introduce me to Primeval Fantasy it was becoming obvious: I realised that – at heart – I am seeking to go adventuring on the other side of the screen.

I know that I will return as a Game Master, perhaps in the autumn. But when I do I hope to be both energised and transformed: energised by the spirit of adventure and transformed through the ability to find my focus again.

For now, I am just hoping that I can find a space at someone’s gaming table. All else, as they say, is but dreaming.

Game on!

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