Thursday, June 20, 2013

5x5 Gaming: in or out?

So, I just started DMing a new D&D campaign for some nice folks I met over the Internet on one of those meet-up sites. The groups is mostly noobs and players with little experience, which suits me fine - I think DMing for people new to the game plays to my strengths and my real-life identity as a teacher.  We've only met for a couple of sessions, but so far it's going well: the characters are beginning to gel as a party, the story seems to be unrolling apace, and the players are all having fun and laughing a lot.

We've been holding our sessions at a sci-fi-themed/geek-friendly coffeeshop just down the street from my house. This is the first time I have played for an extended period in a public place instead of at someone's home (usually mine if I am DMing). It is a comfortable place to game; we can reserve a big table for six hours, so there's no pressure as we play.

I have noticed, of course, some differences between playing at home and playing in a public venue. Here's the five by five:

1. Playing in public seems to result in better behavior and more focus on the game. There are fewer sidebar conversations and less off-topic talk. Maybe it's because we have to tune out the rest of the coffeeshop and pay close attention just to make sure we hear each other clearly, but all the players - and me as DM - seem much more centered. There appears to be less trash talk, too.

2. The reservation makes us respect the time limit. This is related a bit to number two:  knowing that the session limits are set by an outside party (the shop) takes a certain pressure off. People are less likely to be wanting to end early or extend the session late since the time limit is more formal and prescribed. As a result, game time is game time and if anyone wants to do other stuff, it happens before or after the session.

3. The DM has to transport all the game supplies, and that can be a pain. When I DM at home, I have all my minis close at hand - if the plot changes direction drastically, I can reach into the bin and pull out a troop of lizardfolk instead of using the naga I expected the party to encounter.  Now I have to bring the figures for the expected adventure, and have some generic stuff for unexpected turns of events. Besides figures, I also need to make sure I have all the paperwork, NPC info, etc. before I leave the house.

4. When we play away, everyone eats less: since there can be no outside food brought into the coffee shop, gone are the piles of chips and other snacks usually associated with a long gaming session. Everyone gets a drink and/or a bite to eat when we arrive, and another when we break at mid-point, and that's it. I actually spend less money that when I would stop at the store to get victuals for a session.

5. Playing in public might be a recruiting tool. We've already had some folks hanging about and watching the game politely; who knows whether that'll help expand or renew our ranks when needed.

I originally thought we would eventually move the game to someone's home, but they way it's working out, I am not sure that well ever feel the need.

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