Speaking as a Gamemaster, do you want to know what I find the most irritating part of any game? The very start of one. I do not mean the start of a new campaign, though. Quite the opposite, in fact. Those I find some of the most enjoyable. I am referring to the first hour or so of each and every game session, what some have termed the āupkeepā of a game, but what I have come to call Gaming Foreplay.
This is the part of the game where players tend to do any work that could have been done over the course of the time prior to the game, but for whatever reason have not. Sure, this might be because they are busy with work, school, family, or whatever, and that is understandable, but it does not make it any less tedious. This is when players tend to level up their characters, go over any rules disputes they might have, do whatever shopping or maintenance that their characters need to do, and various other things that just take time away from actual play. Of course, I understand that this part of the game is necessary, as a few of these steps do require a Gamemaster’s oversight, but it is just boring and can sometimes stretch on much longer than would otherwise be necessary.
One game of particular note is Shadowrun, which is one of my all-time favorite games, yet it has some of the most obnoxious Gaming Foreplay I have ever seen. At the beginning of each session, players will ask how much downtime they have been allowed for learning new abilities to spend their Karma on (experience). They will make their rolls for finding a fixer in order to buy and sell whatever gear they might want. They deal with any monthly costs they might have. All-in-all, I have seen this stretch on for well over an hour. That is an hour of game time spent doing nothing but busy work, and considering that game time is a precious resource not to be squandered, it has caused no shortage of headaches for both players and Gamemasters alike.
So, how do you deal with this issue? Simple. You do as much prep as you can before the game. If you have the books yourself, be they physical or digital copies, then do your leveling up/experience spending beforehand and then run it by your Gamemaster before the game rather than waiting until it is time to play to do it. As a general rule, Gamemasters trust their players to be honest with dice rolls and leveling benefits. Trust me, it is in your best interest not to betray that trust. Few things are as terrible as a Gamemaster scorned. If you are wanting to have your character do something between sessions, get in touch with your Gamemaster about it early. Send them an email or Facebook message or something. Many game groups have a Facebook page for their game. This is a great place to take care of a lot of these matters before it is time to start rolling dice.
Gaming Foreplay may be tedious, but it is a necessary part of any game and nothing is going to eliminate it entirely. Even so, the more players can do to lesson how much time is needed to get ready to play, the better. The more players do before the game, the more time everyone will have to actually play that game.
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