There comes a point in everyone’s gaming life where the game they’re playing just doesn’t hold the same thrill it once did. Maybe you’ve played a fighter, a cleric, a sorcerer, a wizard, a druid, a psychic, an inquisitor, a rogue, and a medium, each as a different race, possibly more than once. Your group wants to continue gaming, but they’re starting to feel like the Q Continuum and wondering who has to play the dog in the next campaign. The answer may be you need to try a different game.
Taking a break from a system doesn’t mean you’re breaking up forever. Knowing the mechanics so well can make the experience more of a rote exercise of going through the motions rather than wondering whether or not your party can pull something together. Changing out your gaming system can give you a whole new sense of discovery for the space you’re exploring and the individuals you’re portraying. One of our favorite ways to do this is the one off or short campaigns in alternate systems for special occasions, such as holidays – no matter how big or small. A scary game on Halloween is pretty standard, but running trickster driven story for April Fool Day or repetitive storyline to solve for Groundhog’s Day can jump start other parts of our gamer brains.
It’s best to discuss with your party which new system you want to explore, we frequently drop back to other systems we’ve played before to cut down on the rules learning curve. New/different systems pushes us to think about how a character interacts with their surroundings. Is there a mechanism for perception or how do you improve interpersonal relationships through conversation rather than Charisma checks?
Planning your break
As we approach summer and a traditional vacation time, this is a good opportunity to think about shaking things up a little – maybe one of your players is going out of town on vacation, going home (or on work co-op) for the summer, if you have college aged players, or someone’s attending a convention or three. Another time for this kind of change is at the end of the year, when holiday get togethers slam up against game night. Regardless of the reasons, a missing player doesn’t have to mean game night is cancelled.
Advanced notice is always appreciated. Our groups are usually good about knowing a week or more in advance when we have other obligations, so it’s not a foregone conclusion that we’ll just cancel game nights, we may hang out and watch movies or play something else. For a one night interruption we may hold a practice run through of upcoming convention games or even some down time encounters for our PCs from our regularly scheduled game. For extended breaks, we get more creative and run short campaigns of something else.
This is a great opportunity for someone who has never GM’d before or only briefly run something to try their hand at the helm. For the new GM, definitely run something you’re familiar with, and as I’ve discussed before, consider a one night adventure, such as a Pathfinder Scenario.
If you have a long break and really want to try something new, change systems all together, as always choose wisely. Pick a setting that holds the greatest appeal (and some passing familiarity) to the most people at your table, then find a system to match. Do you want more science, role playing interactions, high fantasy, dinosaurs, or pulp adventure? Some systems have those setting flavors baked right in and are easier to pick up than others, sometimes you have to craft/adapt your system to meet your setting needs.
Best practice is to set a return date, especially for longer than one or two week breaks. Just because you’re taking a break doesn’t mean you’re leaving behind your previous campaign, planning your return strategy means that if your new game doesn’t hold the same appeal as your previous game, then no one is committed to a game they aren’t enjoying for an indefinite period of time. Also be open to feedback – if your players really like it, add the game as a future option or plan a rotation. Keeping things new and fresh help keep the creative process moving.