June 11, 2014
Do Not Forget The Fun
Gamemasters have this tendency, I have noticed, to let campaigns get really, really dark as they start to draw to their end and I am no exception to that. Especially in long running campaigns, the climax is meant to be the greatest threat the characters have ever faced, pushing them further than they have ever had to go before. The stakes are higher. The threat is more real. Everything, if you will forgive the expression, is cranked up to eleven. This sort of gaming is intense. It often tries to push player characters beyond their breaking point to see if they have the strength of character to stand up just one more time and keep going. It’s great. It’s dramatic. It makes for a wonderful story.
So then why do most players seem to get tired of it so quickly?
Well, simply put, when games go intense like this, they often forget to include one of the most important elements of all gaming: fun. The characters are not having fun, and by extent, sometimes the players really are not either. Sure, players who engross themselves in the story are likely enjoying themselves a great deal, but even that has its limits. Gamemasters need to keep this in mind when running these sorts of adventures. We need to remember to always include elements of fun into the game, even when the game is at its most serious. After all, it is just a game. You are not necessarily trying to tell an Oscar award-winning story here, you are having fun, rolling dice, and telling stories with your friends.
For example, during the end of my longest running campaign, things had gotten dark. The villain, the cursed-born of son of one of the characters, had plunged the world into war, he was undertaking mass kidnappings of entire villages in order to fuel his dark psionic powers, and he was continually tormenting the characters for being the ones responsible for his very existence. The final conflict was near at hand. Tensions were high. Both sides eagerly awaited the other to make the next move.
Then, one of my players asked if we could just do a little side-adventure with the characters. Nothing big. Just if we could take one session to go on a dungeon crawl or something, anything, that was not directly related to this. I will admit, I was taken aback and – initially – a little bit offended. I worked hard on crafting this epic tale for them and at first it felt as though they did not appreciate it. Well, that was not the case. The players loved the story, but they needed a break. They needed to have their characters go out and do something fun. It did not have to be canon in the story. They just wanted some fun. After thinking about it, I realized it had been some time since the last time the party had been given any sort of win, so I decided to go with it. Like a filler-episode of a television show, the characters went on a little adventure where they freed a kingdom from an evil tyrannical titan – they were pretty high level by this point, mind you. They were praised as heroes, showered with treasures, and had a lot of fun.
Then, next week when we resumed the final story arch, the players were all invigorated. They were pumped. Ready to go. That little side adventure had done more for them than I ever could have guessed. In a sense, it re-fueled their drive to be a part of this epic tale we were crafting. All the dark, gritty, turbulent things that had been happening to their characters had drained them to the point that they were growing numb to it. That little side-adventure was enough to give them that boost they needed to hit that last big battle with everything they had.
That campaign is still talked about to this day, and it ended nearly a full decade ago.
Gamemasters, do not forget to include the fun in your games. Players need a bit of that from time to time, and honestly, so do you.
As always, thanks for reading and I wish you all good gaming.
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