The topic of preparation for roleplaying games often covers the creation of immersive characters and interesting plot lines. But what about starting earlier than that? Preparation for a game happens long before you crack open the books and I plan to cover that in a series of articles aimed at getting you ready for the big night.
Just as an athlete stretches before the big game and makes preparations to ensure all is set before stepping onto the field, a game master must make several decisions that will ultimately improve the quality of their presentation (running the game). In this article, we will go over a couple of these and I encourage you to participate in extrapolating on what is presented.
Decision #1: Food & Drinks
Food is a big part of gaming nights where I come from and has been integrated into our gaming ritual since I can remember. Back in 2005 when I started hosting game nights at my place, one of my good pals Jon starting taking up a collection so that groceries could be purchased for everyone. He would then take the money and go to a local wholesale grocery and purchase everything from assorted drinks to frozen pizza. One would be very surprised to see just how far their money can go! If everyone chips in, you can have a feast that will last the entire night. Alternatively, ordering pizza or Chinese food is a great substitute and prevents you from having to take the time to actually cook.
One item of noteówe would purchase and entire big bag of brown rice. You would be surprised how long this lasts and how tasty it is with minimal effort. If you are looking to save on cash, this is a great route to go. Heck, even if you're not strapped for cash, it is a great choice!
As far as drinks, this largely depends on your group. Buying cheap supermarket assorted sodas is always a viable option, but depending on the age (and maturity) of your groupóbeer is an excellent alternative! Keeping bottle water around is a good idea as well as it will help to keep focus more than sugary drinks that tend to cause people to lose attention after awhile. Energy drinks are also great for obvious reasons but tend to be pricey comparatively.
Decision #2: Location of play
Try to have ample space to play your game. Many games entail having enough space to have your character sheet, a book or two, and room for a drink and possibly a plate. Make sure your players have the space they need to enjoy the game. This will work to help keep their attention and ensure things can be found easily. When players become uncomfortable, they become antsy. When players become antsy, they become disruptive. Remember that you are the marshal of entertainment. Providing the best and most comfortable place to play is key!
Decision #3: Time Blocks
Having a regular schedule is important. Saying that you will start and end "whenever" can cause issues with how the game progresses and will make continuity suffer. Make sure you and your group decide on a good time block and stick to it. Depending on the game, this can be anything from 1-6 hours. Remember that this is a game and that strictness is not necessary, however don't allow your players to constantly show up late as it is a disruption. It is also unfair to your other players who took the time to respect the rules you have put forth.
That's is for Part I! Remember, this series is neither right nor wrong. Each group will find their sweet-spot and while you are encouraged to use the ideas presented, remember that they are only suggestions. Stay tuned for Part II that will detail the little things you can do that will make the actual session run smoothly!