Friday, April 30, 2010

Sweet Spots for the Time-Crunched Gamer: Weeknights, Nine To Midnight

So you've tried all the automation tips and game systems we've discussed and still can't get your group together to game. What's an RPG enthusiast to do? You're now battling the toughest constraint of all, which is time itself.
For years, I attempted to maintain my standard gaming time: noon to 6 p.m. on Saturdays. As life pressures continued to rise, my group cut back to every other weekend and finally every third weekend. As even that became untenable, I began skipping sessions, so my gaming dropped to once every six weeks.
As well documented on this blogzine, I discovered MapTool and increased my gaming days back to every other weekend, but that eventually became a time slot to plan all family activities around so I stopped even that. My motto is "Family First."
Luckily, I worked from home and had a friend working a sales job on the West Coast. He and I recruited a few others and began gaming a few hours a week via MapTool on Friday mornings beginning at 7 a.m.
While working from home isn't a luxury enjoyed by most, the Friday morning time slot worked well for a couple of reasons:
  1. I was alone in the house and didn't disturb anyone with my gaming.
  2. I was alone in the house and wasn't disturbed by anyone else while trying to game.
The game system used, Savage Worlds, was fast enough that even playing a few hours a week allowed for significant progress in the adventure.
MapTool automation via macros put turbo speed into an already agile game system.
Since the work-from-home job involved a great deal of travel, I decided to take another job that kept me closer to home. An unfortunate side effect was the death of my Friday Morning Madness group. So what's a devoted gaming geek to do? Luckily, MapTool came to the rescue again.
As a country, we work long hours, get home, help the kids with homework, give the kids baths, watch a bit of TV, and then get everyone to bed. There just isn't much time at night. Most weekends are out since you've spent all week just existing so if the family is to have any fun at all it must be on the weekends.
This time works particularly well if you have smaller children, but you may run into issues if you have teenagers wanting to use your computer in the later hours.
If your family is like mine, they usually start settling in about 9 or 9:30 p.m. To be honest, I'm usually ready to settle in about that time since my day starts around 5:30 a.m., but this pattern means the house quiets down with everyone in bed around 9 p.m.
Because I write for a hobby, I would spend a few hours a week after everyone went to bed posting to my blog or creating a short story. Then it struck me. This might be a fine time to game, but would anyone else be up and available? Turns out, they all were. Each of the members of my old face-to-face gaming group was up and available weeknights.
By using online gaming via MapTool, Voice over IP (VoIP), and a speedy game system, I'm now able to squeeze in a two to three hour gaming sessions and still make it to work the next day somewhat awake.
I have a word or two about frequency of gaming sessions as well. My suggestion: Unless your significant other (SO) games as well, keep the sessions down to once every other week. This allows for me to have enough gaming to scratch the gaming itch while not seeming overly indulgent to the family. After all, if you're behind a computer every night, your SO will begin to wonder just what you're up to. The other advantage to bi-weekly gaming is that you can use the same time slot to prepare the game for the following week.
An added advantage – you're remote. You don't have to pack and unpack your gaming gear, there is no travel time, and you don't have to worry about bringing munchies. You can even game in your PJs.
So Sweet Spot No. 3 in RPTroll's bag of tricks is bi-weekly 9 p.m.-to-midnight games via a virtual tabletop using a speedy, generic rules system such as Savage Worlds.


  1. Our group has had very good luck with Fantasy Grounds as our virtual table top. Regardless of what VTT is chosen, online play is very much worth investigating by anyone who is time-crunched or separated from gaming friends. It's no exaggeration to say that our group wouldn't be playing at all if it wasn't for this great technology. There's a great list of online resources, including VTT's, at

  2. I did a fairly extensive review of VTTs before I landed on Maptool. It's primary benefit was that it was free and the developers were very interested in the needs of new users.

    I like the fact Fantasy Grounds actively supports the Savage Worlds rules set and regularly releases new modules for the various Savage Settings.