Saturday, November 7, 2020

How to Make Family Game Night Fit in Your Schedule

This is an excerpt from the upcoming book "Roll Dice, Build Character: How to Use RPGs to Help Raise Great Kids"

Keep coming back for more excerpts and for publication alerts.


Remember how I said that one of the greater evils of RPGs was the time suck? Remember how I said that if you let it, it will rob you of focus and balance in your life?  That’s a very real danger.

So, to start with, make sure that you set up ground rules so that gaming becomes a good, fun, and healthy part of life, rather than something that takes over your whole life.

I recommend that you start by setting aside regular times. Mark it off on the calendar. Make it a part of the family consciousness. Weekly, biweekly, monthly, whatever your family schedule can fit in. For us it works to do it weekly, with exceptions. That’s important as well. All of us realize that the game will happen, and we try to schedule things around it, but that if an event with extended family, or some important school or work event comes to happen on gaming nights, we will skip game night. The family and extended family is very important to us.

If you have to miss several weeks in a row, that can get to be problematic, too, though. It’s easy for memories to fade and then you lose your place in the story. Don’t let too many empty weeks go by.

Also, if one player or two of the party has to miss a week or so, what do you do? One way we have handled this is to simply magically “blip” their character temporarily out of the story. We would joke that that character is “visiting his sick grandmother” that week. That can mess with your story, but it does keep the story flowing. 

Another option is to do a “one-off” adventure or a side quest. This is a short, one-session bit of fun that doesn’t have to impact the main story line. It can even have a different GM and different characters. At one point, I told all of my players to make extra characters so there would be something to draw from if we suddenly needed to “pick up” a game.

While we’re talking about scheduling, It’s also important to find time within your own personal schedule for prep time, if you’re going to be the GM. Gaming sessions can be improvised, it’s true, but they’re never as good as a well-planned storyline. We’ll talk about this more, later.

Blocking out a couple of hours for prep and a full evening for playing each week is a pace that works very well for us. At first, I was doing all of the GM duties, but over time, I’ve allowed my kids to take their turn. Their friends have come into our group as well, and have found friendship and belonging among us. As I’m writing this, one of these friends is our current GM. We’ve made scheduling accommodations for the friends, too, but often we just have to set the calendar and say, let come who may.

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