Some time has passed since I sat down to take stock of my current calendar of games. I thought I might as well write it down here, for ease of finding it later if nothing else…
As a professional adult, I travel for work fairly frequently, though not overwhelmingly so — about one week a month on average. Given that I also have family responsibilities to consider as well, I just can’t play as often as I’d like. Making time for hobbies has always required constant work to stay in balance, and right now I feel like I’m in a particularly turbulent moment in that sense. My kids are a little older (adolescents) but they still need time and attention in their own way. We also help raise my sister-in-law’s kids a few days a week, and that only adds to the load.
Downtime matters a lot when you have a stressful, busy life. Other than work travel, I don’t get out of the house a lot. For the sake of my own mental health, we’re trying to change that in particular. Yes, Magic Arena is far more convenient than going to the FLGS, but I’ve only made friends at one of those two. So I’d like to enjoy more gaming that doesn’t take place online or behind an electronic screen.
Also, I’ve noticed that my D&D games with video chat lead to a better time. I have made some good friends playing on Roll20 with audio chat, but video creates a more human connection.
So I’m thinking about the following:
- Monday: Magic Pauper at my local game store. Cheaper than Standard, this format is basically just cards printed at Common rarity. The only real drawback here is that the games seem to start a little late for my liking, but the store lies less than 10 minutes from my house. When I’m traveling, I just skip it.
- Tuesday (alternating): Eberron game on Roll20 and Discord. This group is basically my old Tomb of Annihilation crew, but with one of the other guys running it. At only two hours per session, it doesn’t cause a lot of conflict with my family or travel schedule. That’s because it still ends at a reasonable time even when I’m in a time zone 1 hour ahead of usual.
- Saturday: Waterdeep Dragon Heist on Variant Roles. Although I only recently began to participate in this group, the VR community has an incredibly positive and inclusive vibe. It feels something like a social, mutually supportive MMORPG guild. The fact that this game happens while my daughter has her weekly cello lesson helps a lot.
- Sunday: One shots and short campaigns with a group of RL friends, albeit using Google Hangouts. We live all across the US and try to get together for about three hours. Typically this is D&D but lately we’ve branched into Dungeon World and other PbtA storygames. This game matters the most to me in some sense, because I know most of the players “in real life” and one of them is a particularly dear friend.
I know, nothing listed for Wednesday through Friday, because those nights often have family or travel commitments. A Thursday game might spin up soon with my previous Out of the Abyss group, but I have to weigh that one carefully. They like to play for longer sessions, plus I usually fly back home that day. Occasionally I go with my daughter to Friday Night Magic, but most weeks we are just too exhausted.
My current internal hypothesis is “Dungeon World for online play, D&D 5e for offline play”. This isn’t a strict dichotomy, but more about where each has its strengths. If you like to focus on improvisational storytelling and character development and not get bogged down in rules, DW is good for that. If you like more tactical play and mechanics to master, D&D is good for that in any modern edition. (I’m not into edition wars: different games appeal to different people. Rarely can we assess any game in a remotely objective manner anyway.)
I don’t think I’ll completely stop playing 5e online, but I’d like to shift the bulk of games I run online towards DW or other similar systems. By focusing less on VTTs, I can instead redirect that time towards playing in meatspace (and all the fun accessories that can go with that).
What comes next
As noted above, I now play RPGs without actually running any games. That definitely feels like an overcorrection after running three campaigns in parallel.
Once my Saturday DH campaign with VR concludes and the holiday season passes, perhaps a new Dungeon World campaign would work. I’ll probably stream that one. Early days, though Krevborna makes a likely candidate. That setting already contemplates things like moves and fronts, for example. More likely, it will provide the base for an amalgam of other fictional worlds I like, such as Diablo and Darkest Dungeon.
Also, I will probably get back to running one-shots (albeit not all in organized play) using things like Plane Shift Ixalan adventures and other ways to play with different people without spinning up year-long campaigns. This wouldn’t just be for my Sunday group, but on an open-table basis.
Fun times these days! Too many games, not enough available time and energy…
Image from the British Library’s Online Catalogue of Illuminated Manuscripts.