How Do You Find The Time?

Playing any roleplay game is easy. You work out what night your free and you turn up.

Running a campaign on the other hand is an altogether different kind of beast. When I was young, free and single I could block off a few nights a week for a couple of weeks and have plenty of time to draft up a new campaign. I’d also have a few spare hours a week to go over the previous session and prepare for the next one. It was easy to arrange but it took a lot of time out of my normal week. Not that there was anything else I’d rather have been doing though. These days I have a wife, 3 kids and a home to look after as well as a myriad of animals. Where am I going to find all this free time to write up the setting that I need or draw the maps I’ll be using?

As I mentioned previously I’m planning on running a one off Shadowrun game. I’ve managed to track down some old source books and a 3rd edition rulebook to get me started. We’ll be running the game using the 4th edition rules but I’m really only looking for ideas for the setting and to get a feel of the game again. It’s been a stupidly long time since I last played it so all I’ve got in my head is a basic Cyberpunk 2020 setting. It took me a good 3-4 hours to remember how the various races appeared and I’m still struggling to get me head around it. It’s not that I can’t imagine the various humanoids running about but that I have a very specific setting in my head for various games and I am really struggling to separate it from the Cyberpunk game.

So yeah, it’s taking it’s toll so far. I have a rough setting in my head so now I need to have a quick word with my players about what kind of character they’d like to play. As it’s a throwaway game I don’t want to have them make their own characters up. That will take up half the day when we could be playing but I also don’t like just randomly assigning pre-made characters to players. If I can get a rough idea of what they might like to play I can quickly throw together some characters for them and let them spend a short time pre-game personalising them. Hopefully that will go down OK with them.

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  1. Questing GM says:

    Me too! I’m running out of time to play games much less preparing them.

    One-offs and adventure modules are the way for me to go and while I still do spend occasional (and rare) free time to work a little bit on a homebrew, I don’t think I’ll ever have sufficient time commitment of running a campaign.

    Questing GMs last blog post..Simple Homebrews: Mix and Match

  2. Jonathan says:

    Heh.. I just canceled my regular weekly session becuase of this problem: no time! Seems like its a constant tug o war between hobbies and real-life – always has been, always will be i think.

    TO help me plan better, I bought a moleskin notebook. I take it with me everywhere, jotting down information and ideas, maps, whatever whenever it strikes me. Occasionally (rarely) I’ll sit down and synthesize all these ideas together into something coherent, but for the most part my game is run using my note scribbles.

    Jonathans last blog post..Core Lists: ADVENTURES

  3. Stargazer says:

    I have quite a bit of free time at work, so I can put it to good use for planning my campaign and even blogging. BUT I have some trouble getting my regular gaming group together. We are all over 30 and most of my friends don’t have that much time during the week, so we play on weekends. And even on weekends most of the players have prior appointments, so we usually play with very small groups like one GM and two players.

  4. I find I have to roll my game prep into all my other work. I treat RPG prep as a project, written on my weekly project list, just like painting my pergola out back and writing code for freelance jobs.

    Brent P. Newhalls last blog post..Dead Poet’s Society

  5. PatrickWR says:

    I’ve been leaning heavily on published material lately. As I see it, the group will leave its creative footprint on virtually anything I offer up … so why feel guilty for running published modules or settings? No harm, no foul, and this practice works perfectly with everyone’s hectic lifestyles.

    PatrickWRs last blog post..Meet the magnificent bastards

  6. Micah says:

    I find that staying 1 step ahead of the players is much easier than being 10 steps ahead. So, I do very little planning beyond the next session, and we just run with it like that. No detailed histories, no twisting side-plots happening off screen, nothing like that.

    I realized that as long as they’re busy, the players don’t care about anything else.

    Micahs last blog post..The Awakening

  7. gamefiend says:

    Time? I think the last time I found time was when I was drudging through the bottom of a lake, right next to the lochness monster :)

    Seriously though, I do everything I can to replace time with money. Purchasing adventures is one way of doing this, but I like to roll my own, really. In 4e, I like to buy pre-made battlemaps. If I’m particularly starved for ideas, I comb through my collection of maps and something comes up very quickly. From there it’s just a quick scrabble of notes in the computer, and I’m more or less ready.

    Fpr a game like Shadowrun you can do more or less the same thing. Just steal maps from your supplements, rename/repurpose as appropriate, et voila! you can string together what you need for a run with semantic glue (otherwise known as words) and then create stats with some more careful stealing of critter/monster/npc stats.

    I would definitely get out of the habit of creating actual NPC blocks as it eats a ton of time for, let’s face it, not much reward. In Shadowrun especially, a well-prepared party ( who knows that fighting fair is something best left for suckers ) could end up getting gacked long-distance via astral carpet-bombing or just regular old sniping.

    And if I may make a suggestion for setting…if you’re using the 3e SR flavor (no reason not to, because it’s fantastic) may I suggest bug city? It comes with probably the most accessible adventure hooks in the universe, cutting further down on prep time. You can run so much cool stuff. You can run a 28 days/weeks later scenario where the players are stuck near a hive trying to survive, or something more X-files where they are exploring an infested area for some corp, or whatever…the list goes on, and because the plot tension is built right into the locale, so much easier than working from vanilla Seattle.

    OK, I’ve chattered a bit too long. Apparently time is on my side today!

    gamefiends last blog post..Minionize Me.

  8. Ripper X says:

    I think that the most important thing is that you KNOW the material, and you don’t need to look up everything, and when you do need to look something up, then you should know exactly where to find it.

    I run a game on every 3rd Monday, everybody who plays has Monday off, and it does help when I’ve got 3 weeks to do prep, and by the time Geek Night comes around, everybody is simply dying to roll some d20s!

    I need to know exactly where the game is going, and prep only what I need, and then, as briefly as possible. I visualize what I want from a given game, and see it in my head, making the place real, seeing the bad guys, and just writing down brief notes to myself to help me remember.

    Of course my biggest thing is RECYCLING! Any work I do I want to be able to reuse it at some later point. If I can’t then I probably don’t need to prep it and can just play by the seat of my pants.

    Ripper Xs last blog post..Adventure Notes #8: Voyage to Horta

  9. Ravyn says:

    I improvise, mostly–it’s necessary given I’m out of the house either at work or in transit for about eleven and a half hours a day. I’ve got a set time blocked away for session, which helps–and I run online, which eliminates commute and allows me to run part of a game while prepping another part. I’ve also gone a bit more player-driven, asking people what they plan on doing next so I have a better idea what to focus on rather than having to plan out several possible paths. I don’t stat NPCs if I can help it; my group’s usually not going to be doing anything with them that requires dice, and I can usually ad-lib stats pretty quickly if necessary. And I use every opportunity to plan I can get. In my case, this is a combination of thinking things up while doing housework (or sometimes work-work), and using every minute of my two hour mass transit commute to get my blog entries out of the way and start planning for my next session. (Fun fact: Conlanging on a moving bus does not work too well; no dictionaries.)

    Ravyns last blog post..Ecology for World-Builders: Why Does It Matter?

  10. Bob says:

    I have a major problem running pre-made games. I’ve never managed to make any of it believable unless I do a lot of work on it myself anyway. I tend to find any that I have bought in the past have been the basis for campaigns but never the campaign I actually run.

    I do carry a notebook about with me most times although thats slowly being replaced by my PDA.

    As for source books I have it just so happens that Bug City is one of them and as I’ve never ran it before I may just use that one :)

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