The Long Slow Oscillation

It feels like, as the year comes to an end, so does my ever-lengthening sine wave of high interest in roleplaying stuff. It’s been a good year! Lots of excellent games. And now I can feel it backing down, cooling off, losing urgency.

There’s some restlessness with it, too. Maybe it’s a matter of habit more than passion? It’s Tuesday, time to tell stories! Even as we wrap up Urban Shadows and chew on my Fall of Magic experience, I’m poking at a to-play-next list (currently it is: Edge of the Empire, The Clay That Woke, Ryuutama in no particular order), but I’m just kind of poking. No enthusiasm.

I think there’s some of that happening with my players as well. Now that we’ve been gone from Urban Shadows for three or four weeks, everyone’s had a chance to chew on the experience and decided they’re not going to miss it if we don’t play it again — specifically, if we don’t return to this particular setup. 

Pretty sure I’m not alone in feeding off the enthusiasm of the players, right? And it’s not like any of them disliked the game. But they all recognized where we’d screwed up the setup: two of the three characters being fish out of water rather than deeply entrenched in the locality, one of the players joining only after a couple sessions and having his situation retrofitted to the rest of the storyline. At least two of the players growing dissatisfied with the sense that they’re constantly reacting to crises rather than proactively pursuing agendas. That last one is so very interesting, very enlightening. They say that even as they acknowledge that they really really like the storyline and situation. If they were watching a TV show, they’d be hooked. But they want to play from a position of stronger character advocacy, rather than story advocacy. 

(Side note, I can get into it in another thread: I’ve always been kind of ¯\(ツ)/¯ about the term “storygame,” like it’s such a big and inclusive bucket that it doesn’t actually describe anything. So in my brain I’ve been chewing on slightly more precise terms of art, stuff like authorgame and actorgame and whatnot. It’s got legs but it’s also yet another excuse for gamers to hate on each other.)

So, anyway. The sine wave grows long and I feel our collective interest lulling. Probably we’ll play boards games. Hell, an evening of heated Pitchcar rounds might even be fun.

Maybe I’ll get more serious about putting out a couple of my more elaborate designs for public consumption. If everyone secretly has a novel inside them, I think roleplayers (who spend too much (?) time in online communities, and/or rush from system to system, and/or can’t help but fixate on rules and Why They Fail To Deliver What Was Promised) all have a game design inside them.

(No, you’re describing yourself.)

0 thoughts on “The Long Slow Oscillation”

  1. I definitely feed on the enthusiasm of players. I once had a group that I played with regularly who would say, “Sure! We’ll play that!” and say they were enthused but then be really listless at the table with any game we played even though they kept saying they enjoyed it. And I think they maybe didn’t even realize they weren’t having fun but when you put D&D in front of them they went crazy for it. It killed the fun of running any game that wasn’t D&D for them for me (and the other GM who ran games for the same group).

  2. Rather than feeding off the players’ enthusiasm, in my experience, they feed off mine.

    On the topic of reacting to crises vs pursuing agendas – to that end, I find that involving the players in creation of the crises/fronts/etc helps make these actions similar. By reacting to a crisis they created, they are pursuing something they wanted.

    Aside to your aside: I really like the author vs actor delineation, but I personally use the divide of setting heavy vs setting light – where “story games” tend to fall on the light end of the spectrum (setting created during play) and “trad games” on the heavy end (setting in a number of books). I wonder how these two ideas would work on a 2D plot…

  3. I can definitely relate to the author/actor line, too. I have thoughts on this that might either be germane or derailing. One was the recent experience of a BW game that completely slid out of the fiction. When any roll could be a) resolving the action at a wide spectrum of scales, and b) that allows us to neatly incorporate story-pacing concerns, if you don’t solidly ground things in established fiction, play can morph into an OOC negotiation of which two outcomes would be coolest.

    The other thing is that I’m a ‘mastery’ player, but in a particular way – I want to accomplish things and for them to feel complete, and then to exult in what I’ve done. When the game system is a machine that produces drama at some ideal rate, it can have the effect of neglecting these strategic accomplishments. You can still find system mastery, but it’s in mastering the story-related concerns, rather than developing and making use of campaign capital.

    This is a little like the on-the-fly randomly generated dungeon, where I can’t shake the bleed that delving deeper is what’s making more dungeon, not getting me closer to my PC goals of conquering it.

    It’s also like the tit-for-tat advancement/difficulty climb you get in CR-appropriate challenges, where finding a +3 sword just makes you able to deal with the next crop of monsters, whose AC is ~3 better.

  4. Always makes me sad when I hear people getting burnt out on games. :/ I hope the new year gives you a revival of excitement for what you do, Paul! Besides, there’s New MexiCon!

  5. Maybe you just need a vacation from games? I have to stop RPing for a few weeks/1-2 months a year and just chill out, read, hang out, etc to come back at it with enthusiasm. Same with martial arts, work, everything else too. Take a break for a few weeks and just hang out with your friends?

    Or maybe have others run the games for a few weeks, perhaps?

  6. I take breaks from games all the time! I don’t know if it’s good or not!

    Keep getting together with people and doing activities. I do movie nights when games aren’t pushing my buttons. (The only ones that are are my own weird designs, which suck to work on!)

    OH and just make your cowboy game! Just have Luke finish it up if you want to stop working on it and eat a burrito.

Leave a Reply