Battling Complacency or Unhappiness at the Game Table

Today we’re taking a little break from the magical worlds we’ve been visiting and instead talking about the real world of the game table – which can be virtual or physical, funny enough.

But what do I mean about complacency? Unease? What are you talking about Fitz? Well, let me explain.

13aI recently had a chat with George Fields, who is running a few HackMaster games these days. He has a fairly new group where he’s running into some issues. Not with the players, but the characters. He’s just not feeling right about them. And he really wasn’t looking forward to an upcoming session. It sounded as though he just wanted it done.

Well, I’m firmly of the opinion that no game session should be wasted. As adults, time is a precious resource and gaming time is more precious still. So if you’re feeling particularly “meh” about a game, it falls to you to find some way to give that experience a shot in the arm again. Shared storytelling experiences only work when all parties are invested in the story. And if one person falls out of the experience, it has a way of dampening things for everybody else.

And if you’re the game master, dungeon master, referee, or whatever you want to call your title of “chief high muckety-muck”… you’re the linchpin that everything revolves around. Without you to guide the action and keep things moving, things have a tendency to fall apart even faster for a group. If the GM isn’t having fun, the group probably is in danger of not having fun either.

So I suggested that he find ways to inject something new into the session, whether for himself or for his players. That can be as simple as trying out a new monster in a battle or adding some new tactic he hasn’t tried before or a new technique for ramping up the tension. Pick one thing to experiment with. Try it out. See what happens.

struggle_resizeI’ve done this as a GM – using newer campaign management tools on the computer, attempting to use more physical maps and figures at the table, purchasing paper craft terrain, and even going back old school by using a dry erase board. All have worked to various degrees.

The same holds true as a player. I’ve struggled with this from time to time myself. As a player I’ve used those opportunities to try out different strategies of skill usage, behavior changes, or even voice or accent changes to keep things fresh and interesting. Occasionally I’ve even engaged with the GM to inject a bit of back story into the picture so that I had more hooks to sink my teeth into.

No session should ever go to waste. And if we get stale, complacent, or unhappy with an element of our gaming there’s no better place to start than with ourselves. Use every session as an opportunity for growth and exploration. It’s our fun time and we need to do everything we can as gamers to maximize it!

I look forward to hearing how George’s session went!

What techniques have you used to combat the blahs at your game table? Let us know in the comments!

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