The Gassy Gnoll: If I Could Save Time in a Bottle… (CONTEST!)

With apologies to Jim Croce:

If I could save time in a bottle,
I’d drink it up like Mountain Dew,
just so I could stay
up late every day
and continue playing
games here with you…

**I’m soooo sorry Jim Croce!

This week marks the first week since college that I might have gamed two nights in a row.

Sunday night I joined a new group (thanks Jason, Jonathan, Mark, Ben, and Ben!) and played a single 4E battle from about 6:45p to 11p or so (didn’t get home until midnight). Four hours of combat. And it was well run so it didn’t seem like 4 hours, which made me a very happy camper. I have to decide whether I stick with the warlock (who was actually doing some serious damage for a bit) or shift to something else. Thankfully I have a day or two to decide (we don’t play again until the 2nd half of February), so I’ll have to check out my 4E book and see what I want to do.

And Monday night I was supposed to play in Justin’s group (with Adam, Jeremy, Steve, and Jon) and continue the Spirit of the Century campaign we kicked off last week. But the GM (Adam) had a last minute military commitment come up and we decided to cancel and try again next week. It’s just as well as I probably would have been zoned out during most of it.

But here’s my problem. I’m not in my teens or twenties now. I’m in my forties. Without large amounts of caffeine or sleeping all day, gaming two nights in a row like that (though fun and I’ll definitely be attempting the feat again in a few weeks) is not the wisest
course of action. Working an 8-11 hour day the day after a late session is nigh impossible I’m afraid.

So I’m asking YOU my amazing audience… How do you continue to game as you age and still keep your obligations the next day (i.e. not collapse in a heap on the couch snoring)?

I’m so curious what you have to say about this that I’m going to give a $10 RPGNow/DriveThruRPG gift certificate to the best answer I get between now and the end of the day Tuesday, 7-FEB-2012. I’ll announce the winner in this very spot next week on 8-FEB-2012.

Let me know. Leave me a comment below and give me as much or as little detail as you want. But curious minds definitely want to find out what you think!

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16 comments to The Gassy Gnoll: If I Could Save Time in a Bottle… (CONTEST!)

  • I find that as I get older (nearing 40 now) and with hour-long commutes to work and back, with winter coming on, and work getting me all down and depressed, that gaming is what keeps me going (certainly at the moment). I find that listening to music, the more upbeat the better, helps lift the spirits and make me feel ‘young’ again, in so much as anything does. Gaming with friends and having fun always gives me a boost, and the walk in the cold to work from the evil tube station, plus a warming cup of tea or a shop-bought latte helps perk me up in the morning. And that’s all I offer really.
    Simon Forster recently posted…Eternal Empire: Session Twenty-One: TPK!My Profile

  • Caffeine isn’t so much the answer in my book as time management. I try to play evening games, which also tend to involve eating snacks as dinner (have healthy snacks).

    Games that involve heavy prep (if you are running) is a bad sign, as are some of the more involved “epic story” games where you have to show up without fail week after week. Episodic or picaresque games work much better.
    Zzarchov recently posted…Carcosa ReviewMy Profile

  • It certainly gets tough. I’m 36 now and have two young children. My best advice is primarily about carefully picking games beforehand. I talk about it in this post: http://growingupgamers.blogspot.com/2011/03/sweet-spot.html

    To be more to the point, though, try to carefully make the commitments for the following day. If you work in place where this could be relevant, try to catch up on critical things the day or two before. This way, you can have a day where you can “coast” a bit. And when you get home, try to have a few expectations set. Have to cook dinner for your family? Put together a tray of enchiladas or lasagna the day before that you can just pop in the oven. Make that a movie night. Even plan a nap an use an alarm on your phone to keep it short. Preparation and setting expectations of others is key, though.

  • I find the easiest way to ensure I get to participate in gaming is to host the games myself. Without having to worry about packing up gaming materials, a drive to wherever the game may happen to be, and leaving in enough time to get home and get a good night’s rest, I find that there is always enough time to get in a good game. Maybe it’s not a valid option for every aging gamer, but usually along with age comes more mature things like a career and mortgage. Might as well put that monthly payment to use.
    Travelling Nerd recently posted…Total Party KillMy Profile

  • DeviousAlpha

    Simple enough. I still have the same group I had a few years back, despite the fact we’re all in different places. We schedule 1 night per week of 4 hours. We use the program Fantasy Grounds [http://www.fantasygrounds.com/] and all remotely connect in. I find if the family know you have this one night a week to catch up with your buddies then they tend to give it some real reverance.

    This way we play from the comfort of our homes, have great tools and a skype conversation running. So long as the DM has the time to put the game together outside of game day then you have no problems. I know a bunch of tools for free map making, and modules to load into FG2 predone and such now.

    Its really kept the game alive for us.

  • Orphansmith

    I know during the work-week you feel tired afterwards. Have you tried gaming on the weekends or friday nights? I’m assuming the trouble is children? Have you tried gaming with them? That’s what my Dad did. Problem: responsibility of dealing with children, solution: make them character sheets and smash them cause this is the 1980s and they don’t understand AD&D. Truly a wonderful father figure he was.

  • I’m 42 and I have 5 kids, from 6 to 16.

    The only way I’ve managed to survive competing pulls of family responsibilities and gaming is to combine family and gaming. My primary gaming group is my kids.

    We play Mouse Guard roughly every two weeks. It’s great introducing a new generation to gaming, and they all have a blast. I have given the older three a copy of OSRIC and we’ll see if they want to get into some dungeon crawling.

    I just realized that at this stage of my life, with the commitments that I have, a night a week is just not something I want to give up when I could spend it with my family. This is really the best of both worlds.

    The nice thing is that it starts immediately after dinner and even if we play for 2 or 3 hours it gets packed up by 9 pm. Win/Win.

  • I have a bit of a commute after work and get home about 6-6:30. But I have found a weeknight is still the most convenient game time — family etc. tends to take over weekends.
    So,
    1) I host the game at my place, with a 6:30 start time, 10:30 end time (sometimes 11 or 11:30 depending). Most of the guys have equal or less commute time so that is pretty fair.
    2) We all eat dinner on the way, before or at the game. We no longer try to coordinate pizza or anything. This saves time too.
    3) I might have a one pop or coffee but caffeine is not a big issue for me. A regular exercise schedule helps give you energy too. I can take one late night per week because I’m reasonably fit for a 40-year-old, spare tire or not.
    4) we aim for every Wednesday night, knowing that 1/4 or so of the time things will force us to cancel (illness, work, vacations, holidays, whatever). Making a regular night game night makes it easy to remember and schedule around.
    5) We tend toward rules-light (B/X D&D, C&C, Old School Hack, FATE-type games, depending of who is reffing). Makes it way easier to gauge end points, faster pace, etc.
    6) I have a dedicated area in the rec room, so I can leave stuff up between games…this improves our use of time too, no clean-up or set-up.

    The most important thing IMO is having a regular schedule staked off. My wife will only ask me to cancel if there is something
    important that be done another night, because she knows I’m available the other nights. Everyone pretty much keeps Wed night open for gaming, because it is regular.
    Mike Monaco recently posted…Who wants some stuff?My Profile

  • It’s important to start early on game days – try to keep the random chatter about this week’s tv shows down to a minimum, and get the game on so that you get as much of the adventure in as possible before you have to call it a night. I’ve found that if everyone is concentrated on getting a good roleplaying session going, then the night also feels more fulfilling.

    Everyone has obligations, but for a lot of us game night is a chance to unwind and relax before facing the grind again the next day. It’s important to set aside time each week or every other week to let off some steam by pretending to swing at sword at some orcs, and toss dice with friends.

  • Stephanie

    I go into work a half hour early so I can get out at 4:30. Cleared this with my boss and everything.

    I can be at the game shop by 5, ready to play by 5:30. The game shop closes at 9. I’m home by 10 (half hour of BSing around with gamers, then half hour drive home). Wednesdays are Encounters. Monday night we played a minis game from 6-9.

    I used to play in a home game on Thursdays as well. It got difficult to play 2 nights in a row like that, but it was manageable if the Wednesday night game didn’t run too late.

    Friday is date night with my husband.

    Weekends are for gaming. Saturday is usually social time/board games. Sundays are for our RPGs.

    I’m starting a new campaign soon and have structured it so that in between sessions, a player can drop in or out and not have to be a cardboard hero for the next session.

    I know lots of people who play online. I expect that gives them more leeway in terms of scheduling, but I miss the face-to-face interaction and I really insist on playing live.

  • William Wilson

    As I get older, I’ve found that time management is my key focus.

    I play games with fast lethal combat, gone are the 3-5 hour long AD&D battles of my teens, now it is 15-20 minute surgical death fests.

    When running games I 2nd guess my players so that I’m ready for what they’re going to try, especially when they have allies to give requests to or to order around.

    I have a policy of mutual escalation so that the NPC responses are metagamed to the PCs activities. This is so that if the players arn’t willing to spend the time hacking the bad guys guns to cause the magazines to eject at the depression of the trigger, the NPCs won’t either.

    I also crack down on OOC tangents, give scheduled smoke breaks and inist on a fixed start time.

    I also have been boxing the adventures so that I only have 3-4 hours of material available for missions and I rarely leave things as a cliffhanger to be started during the next game.

    When I plan missions and arcs I set the game up like a TV season. So that bad guys last for a number of encounters before being fully dealt with and so that players get a sense of fixed continuity.

    When playing in one game and running in another. I will also have a GMs meeting so that we can decide who is going to get what themes. So that each of our games feels fresh rather then getting prematurely stale.

    Currently I run an Serious Eclipse Phase Game, a for jokes DnD light Game and play in a CWoD Vampire game.

  • Ian

    I am 28 and my gamers are all around 30. We have one weekly game night, happens to have worked out to Tuesdays for us. Games on Tuesday nights are 3-4 hours depending on when we can get everybody together. Ideally, everyone’s settled in by 6pm and we can break up around 10pm. To keep things fresh, we run 2-4 month campaigns/chronicles of a game, then we have a pitch night for what game will be next on Tuesday nights, and play whatever game people are most enthusiastic to get into next – which might be a continuation of the previous one, or something new.

    On weekends, we have monthly games. Most weekends end up used up, and because my house is convenient and my schedule allows it this means most Saturdays and Sundays I’m gaming. However, each Saturday and Sunday game is monthly, so different people are in different games, and might be only coming out one or two weekends a month for those. Between the rotating out of the weekly games and this, we get a lot of variety.

    I also run a huge game once every three months, because that lets me bring in friends from other states for a gaming weekend. After two years of running in this style, the first missed session is going to happen in March due to scheduling conflicts, but we’ve managed to make up for it because we’re finagling a gaming week to happen in June instead.

    The secret to keeping all these games running is constant communication. I send out emails to the group at least monthly to keep up the monthly game schedules, and keep in touch with people face to face, via phone and IM, and so on. Basically, at least one person, in this case me, has to have enough presence of mind to keep a schedule and remind others of it, so that if something comes up those others are reminded to say something about the conflict so that troubleshooting can happen.

  • Zulan

    I am now 51, recovering from a heart attack, work a high pressure 6 figure job, and I am an avid gamer. I am also trying to lose a bunch of weight so I have to have scheduled work out time multiple times a week, and am taking some continuing education classes.

    I can schedule a weeknight gaming session about once every other week (4E game run with maptools with friends in NY on Thursdays), and a Saturday night gaming session (usually LAN games) about three weeks out of four. All other gaming is either super late night solo Skyrim like games, or a quick game of tower defense.

    I am a slacker at heart, but if I want my gaming sessions I gotta get my shit done. I end up moving like the wind using the gaming as an incentive. My workout Saturday was a 4 mile hike to the top of a local mountain. Then I got home about 3:00 and gamed all night long.

    It’s amazing what time you can squeeze out of your life if you set goals and use gaming sessions as incentive.

    I guess the answer is, those times where you sat on the sofa channel surfing while wondering what there is to eat are gone forever if you want to be an adult and game. If you want to game with friends, schedule it. If you have to cancel make sure you do so well before the session and re-schedule, and keep that to a minimum.

    Tonight I study and work out. Tomorrow night I play my vampire paladin as I attempt to rescue the kidnapped residents of a nearby town from the dreaded goblins in the local ruins.

  • I’m almost 52. I started role-playing in 1977 and my regular gaming group scattered to the winds over the years. I surrendered regular gaming entirely. Now I run three convention runs each year, one session per convention, six players per session. That’s my solution. Here’s why it’s so great: I go there, run a game that I enjoy, and have months between sessions to tune it up perfectly. Also, I use the Savage Worlds system. It’s fast and fun. Here’s the blurb on my game runs: http://games.xaxeres.com/

    Between writing a column for Roleplayers Chronicle, taunting the universe, hunting executives for fun and profit, managing family life, and developing web content, I had to place quality over quantity.

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