Keeping Your Focus, or, Fighting Gaming ADD

Posted: March 29, 2012 by pointyman2000 in Advice, Articles, Roleplaying Games

Finally I think I’ve earned some right to talk about this topic. Today we look at how to maintain your personal interest and focus in running a game. GMs tend to be an imaginative bunch, and many of those who have been at this hobby for a while are used to drawing inspiration from damn near anything they’ve watched, read or even heard.

That said, GMs might still find that their attention wanders. Suddenly, the current campaign doesn’t seem quite so interesting as this other campaign you have in mind. Or sometimes, a newly released game grabs you all of a sudden, demanding to be run, drowning out all your ideas for the current game as you find yourself losing focus and thinking of games you haven’t even run. Soon you find yourself jumping from game to game with barely a couple of sessions in them.

You’ve succumbed to Gaming ADD.

I used to have this problem, and many of my gaming group will be the first to tell you of many aborted campaigns that had promise but were junked because something shinier came along. I’ll freely admit to having scrapped more than a few good games because I suddenly lost interest, because I was seized by the novelty of a new game or system that came out.

They say that the only way you can actually actively begin to work in correcting bad behavior is by recognizing it and acknowledging that it exists. I realized that things were getting out of hand when my games barely hit five sessions before I was starting to look for something else. It was a disservice to the players that devoted their time and effort in making characters under the assumption that I would deliver a good game for the time they invested.

It was then that I started trying to find ways to keep my games going for longer. I can’t say that I have all the answers, but these tips have helped me a lot.

  • Type out Actual Play Reports – Yes, they’re tedious at times, but they are very useful, both for keeping track of plot hooks and the game in general, and as a way to keep yourself inspired. One of the earliest things that one learns in GMing is that one is never as terrible at it as one might think, and going back to read some of my older Actual Play reports helps me find those opportunities to build a story on, while patting myself on the back for good times.
  • Talk about it – Talk about the game you’re running with both your players or with excellent online communities that share your like for the game. Chances are being able to discuss your game will keep your interest high, and you’ll get valuable feedback from your players. This is especially important because the players are right there working with you to come up with a great game. Listen to what they have to say, and see if there’s something there that you can use to make the game more awesome.
  • Keep reading – By immersing yourself in the rules and setting of the game you’re running, you’ll be able to get a deeper appreciation for the little things. Details emerge at the second or third reading, after all, and little plot hooks that you may have glossed over may present themselves when you least expect it, giving you a lot of fodder for future games.

They’re not a lot, but these three means helped me keep track on running a game, and delivering on a long and respectable storyline that both I and my players enjoyed.

  1. fictivite says:

    Agreed: and a good tool for that is obsidian portal. Even if the players don’t want to use it much, it gives the DM a place to put all that material and cross link it as desired. And it is free!

  2. fictivite says:

    I don’t want to give the impression I was recommending any blog over another; Obsidian Portal is a site for recording characters, items, play reports, forums for players, calenders for planning game sessions, and wiki pages for background and other information (including maps, pictures, and so on). It works well with a blog, as you can link blog entries to a wiki page for easy reference (or vice versa.) Over time, maintaining an OP site can give increasing depth to a player’s access to the game world.

    As one example, here is my Old School Hack OP site.

    I think it is easier to update information and to find what you are looking for on OP than it is a blog, because of its inherent layout. Still, there are lots of tools that help people who think differently get at the same end this post addresses–keeping the romance alive with the game you’re already playing. =)

    • Hey Fictivite!

      Thanks for dropping by the blog. I’ve had a little bit of experience fiddling with Obsidian Portal, but I have to admit that I don’t have the time to dedicate to a full-on cross-linked wiki at this time. That said, it’s a great tool and some of my friends who also GM have used it to come up with some of the most impressive campaign wiki’s I’ve seen. Definitely worthy of consideration for any GM who has the time to dedicate to it.

    • Hikkikomori says:

      hehe. No worries. It was a shameless plug. Just couldnt pass up the oppty.

      O.P. is indeed also a good resource if the players & GM took the time to contribute to the database.

  3. dbro36 says:

    I have the worst case of Gamer’s ADD. I am so easily distracted, I have only ever GM’d three sessions for three different campaigns. Trying to write a game system didn’t go any better. “I am going to make an old school dungeon crawler”, “No, wait. It’s gonna be an RPG”, “No, wait, it needs to be a racing game”… *sigh*

    I also collect fantasy armies… Last week I decided I needed to sell all the miniatures for armies that I don’t play nor intend to paint up. I found out some rare and out of print treasures, but that was about the only bonus in this sad state of affairs.

    It’s good to know I am not the only one, and it’s good to find out you are acknowledging it as well! You made my day a bit brighter.

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