#RPGaDay2021 – 14 – Limits

All the entries for #RPGaDay2021 are meant to be positive and in the vein of celebrating all aspects of the hobby from the varied perspectives around the world and across generations of gamers. People struggle with that every year, and as one of the organizers that can be a challenge for me. The place I have found to stand to gain perspective on this phenomenon of negative positivity is that if nothing else it is a sign of the deep passion that people form to the hobby.

Some of these people might not be able to let the prompt ‘safety’ go without offering some subtle or not-so-subtle critique. They might not be able to celebrate the safety and comfort that gaming has always meant for them because they are being painted with a very broad brush that suggests that they have actively and intentionally made it unsafe for others. People do not tend to react well when accused – rightly or wrongly – and people tend to get emotional when something they love comes under fire for a slight that they think is unjustified – rightly or wrongly. People, being people, are prone to human behavior.

People get angry, people vent, people cannot help but snipe at problems or shortcomings and so on, but mostly they do it because they care. Their passion, their investment, and their desire to be heard all feed the emotional momentum which pushes them past the limits set up to define RPGaDay, and at times can push them beyond the point of it being fun for them or anyone else. I have been where they are, I can have empathy for what happens. I can also hope that they find a way out of such places and on to a place of greater safety and satisfaction with the state of their gaming.

But, as some famous YouTuber might say, this entry isn’t about that! Or is it?

Of the four prompts for today, Saturday, August 14th, 2021 – the 14th Day of #RPGaDay2021 – I have arrived at a strong feeling that I would enjoy looking at the prompt, limits. So, with no further delay, let’s get into it!

LISTEN to the Casting Shadows blog instead

Saturday Limits

In the wonderful group that I get to play with on Saturdays, it truly is a wonder that we get to play at all. In fact, we would not be able to game together were not for their willingness to fight steadfastly against one of our biggest limits: time; made made more obstinate and difficult by my variable schedule. With me living in Korea (GMT +9) and the other players clustered around the Atlantic Time Zone, we have a solid time difference never less than 12 hours.

To overcome this very real limit on our play time and even on the possibility of arranging play, the players agreed to start the game at their 6:30am. I play or run the game between shifts on Saturday evening, and they get up at or before dawn. It would be very easy to say no to a set-up like that, when you think about it. The short play time, the early start time for them and the constrained juggling of time for me – all of it seems like too small a box to try to fit some RPG fun in. Yet, it is some of the most fun and most natural gaming I am involved with. That is saying something.

One reason for this is that we got together as a group in accordance with the teachings of the Holy Trinity of Roleplay, but that is nothing new for us. What does stand out to me is that because of the finite limit of session time, because of the sacrifice of arranging this schedule and sticking to it, and because we gel so well as a group, this tiny allotment of time feels practically precious. It is not something to risk, or waste, or treat like just another day.

Most of the credit for this goes to the character of the participants, but a definite factor is how this opportunity to play is defined by its limitations.

In this group we have limits on when and for how long we play, but in other regards, the experience is wide open. This group experiments with new games. It offers introductions and explorations of games that some of us know and some of us don’t. This group talks theory, it puts theory into practice, and it is honest with its feedback. This is a group of like-minded individuals with vast and growing game libraries and a curious amount of dice. This is a group with a lot of laughter and a lot of support. 

Sunday Limits

In the wonderful group I get to play with on Sundays, it is less of a wonder that we get to play, because we are only managing two neighboring time zones and most of us have similar schedules. Most of us have known one another personally, both professionally and socially, for many years. The ridiculous quirks of work here plus the various challenges and tragedies of life with kids and dogs and vast separations from relatives are taken with empathy and understanding. Most of us have been the one who has had to cancel, show up late, or shift the time at the last minute. Yet, despite all the juggling and all the interruptions of play, the group and the games continue.

We have explored that galaxy far, far away, we have conducted operations for SLA Industries in the rain-soaked mega-city of Mort, and we have taken two voyages aboard Federation starships. Our campaigns are long, involved, and full of rich characterizations. We have a lot of stability in what we play and in what we want to play together. We have a lot of flexibility in when we play and for how long. In terms of limits, this is not the group that wants to play every new game that comes across my desk, and it baffles most of them when I get “more dice!”, but that does not mean in any sense that the games played and how they are played are limited in any fashion. Once a pitch grabs the group we are in for the long-term and in for who the characters are and what they want to do.

When you look at it in terms of limits, the Saturday and Sunday groups seem to almost be arranged under opposite constraints. One group’s members have never met in the same physical space except for 2, the other group met in real life before we started gaming together, except for 1. One group regularly shifts games and has a roster of pending ones. The other group keeps playing one game until it is time to stop. One group has to balance its time on a razor’s edge. The other can deftly navigate scheduling problems. One group is full of GMs who are torn between running characters and running games. The other group has me as a dedicated GM, but has its volunteers ready to give me a taste of the games we play together if needed.

As a study in important and unimportant opposites, these groups are fascinating to me, but the most important aspect of both is how much I enjoy spending time with all of the people involved, how much I appreciate and am inspired by their play, and how much I look forward to the next session each and every time – despite the limits that have been placed upon us.

It is a said that limits breed creativity and likewise that necessity breeds invention.

I think these groups would still be special without all the limits placed upon them, but when I consider my involvement with each group I can see that the limits encourage and press me to be better. That makes them worth it, too.

In Our Play

This example of play amply demonstrates limits of time and group size but has nothing to do with either my Saturday or Sunday groups. It serves as a completely separate reason to enjoy and embrace limits. Andre is playing a character that he had decided operates within certain strong shortcomings, we improvised the entire set up for play in 30 minutes, and there were just the two of us. Yet despite, or perhaps because of, these limits, a lot of fun was visibly had~

The link given is for the abridged and annotated version of the session which serves to highlight my point. The link to the unedited original is contained in the description box of the video on YouTube.

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