GMing for the long (or moderate) haul

Posted on October 12, 2011


Again, no [AD&D and me] post today. It’s not a project that’s dropping, though. The vision is to post something new every Wednesday night, with [AD&D and me] being a continuing series. It won’t be here every week, but it will be here. I’m quite looking forward to writing about it again next week, in fact. Mostly I didn’t write it because I was at Geek Girl Con all weekend, and today I both started a new job and had to prep to run Apocalypse World.

Which brings me to what I want to talk about. We’re set to have our 9th session of an ongoing Apocalypse World game. I sent out an email last week to the crew letting them know that I want to wrap the game up in the next 3-4 sessions. In a lot of ways, it feels like the game could go on for much longer than that, but some long-standing conflicts between the characters and their little society are coming to a head, and hitting the climax of those seems like a good place to close the game.

Plus, I, as GM, am just kind of ready to move on. I’ve greatly enjoyed this game. We’ve had a hiccup here & there, but for the most part we’re all really into the game and have a collaboratively creative vibe going on. But man, I just. Maybe I have ADD? Maybe it would help if the game was every week instead of every other week?[1] I feel ready to put this one to bed and move on, but at the same time I don’t want to just drop it–I really want to come to an ending.

The last Apocalypse World game I ran went 7 sessions. There was no ending, and it was my fault as the GM. I just said, “look, guys, I don’t have it in me to finish this one. I want to be done with it.” I think I’m eager to wrap this current game up soon because I don’t want to repeat that failure. I want to finish it, and finish it well, but if we went on for 10 more sessions, or even 5, I can see myself hitting that point again.

Which brings me to the question: How does one GM something long term? In large part, I’m not that interested in GMing (or even having a PC) in a game for a super long time. There are a lot of games on my shelf and for the vast majority I’d be happy playing them for 3-4 sessions, or playing multiple one-session games. Apocalypse World, though, and especially Burning Wheel, are different. I can see myself having a PC in a Burning Wheel game and playing that for a year, maybe more. But GMing a Burning Wheel game for that long? Maybe. I haven’t GMed Burning Wheel so I don’t know, but I suspect and fear that I’d get back into this antsy place where I’m ready for the game to end.

Maybe it’s because in these last two games I haven’t had much of a creative vision as GM. I mean, while we’re playing, I’m excited about what’s happening, and I deeply enjoy throwing things at the PCs and forcing them to make difficult decisions. But in Apocalypse World, for example, Fronts & Threats have left me mostly cold. I’ve enjoyed coming up with them, and I feel like the stuff I prep is fairly creative, but it’s been a while since I’ve come into a session thinking, “I can’t wait to see what they do with this!” I know I’m not supposed to prep a story in AW (and lord knows I don’t want to), but I feel like I’m lacking some sort of overarching vision or direction for the game and the PCs that might give me some fire in my belly.

Or, I don’t know. Maybe I just want to sit in the PC-controller’s chair for a while. When I read Apocalypse World or Burning Wheel, the thing that gets my heart pumping (mostly) is imagining a character and wanting that character to be put in tough situations. I want to have to make difficult decisions and find out who I am when I have to pass through the fire. Being the person that puts the characters and my friends in that fire is fun, and I do enjoy that. But so far it hasn’t been a sustainable enjoyment. Around 6 or so sessions in I can feel myself wanting to move on.

Have you ever felt the same? How do you feel about GMing now? Let’s talk.

[1] As much as the next person, I’m busy. We all do other things. But really, I want to push hard for the next multiple-session game I play to happen every week. Perhaps it’s just wishful thinking, but I imagine the momentum and imaginative consistency of a weekly game would help a lot with my problem of long-term GMing. I should say that I’ve never played a weekly long-term game, and in fact this so-far-8-session AW game is the longest one I’ve ever played, or tied for it.

Posted in: Processing Play, rpg