Monday, March 30, 2015

Suffering from [Genre] Mood Swings



I’m not sure if this is typical of all gamers, or just me, but I often describe myself as being in a “[genre] mood” when looking to play certain games or declining others.  At any given time, I’m really excited to be playing games in one very specific genre, typically for a period of three to six weeks, and then I move on to something else.  I get obsessive and very specific during these periods of time.  For instance, I may be in an "Ancient Roman" mood, listening to Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History podcast, watching Spartacus: Blood and Sand, playing Rome: Total War, and preparing materials for a Savage Worlds: Weird Wars Rome one-shot.  If I am in a “space opera” mood, I’m typically absorbed in games like Mass Effect or Master of Orion 2 (yes I still play that), and sit down for endless hours of Battlestar Galactica and Firefly.  

Star Wars would get its own mood altogether.  

Currently I’m finding myself in that “space opera” mood, ever since running Savage Worlds - The Last Parsec last week for my kids.  Starting Saturday I began drowning myself in the glories of space adventure.  I finally got to the last boss in FTL, although both my crews of the Sigil and Sigil II failed to take down that monstrous vessel.  I watched the new Star Trek movie again (Pine & Quinto part 1), as well as Guardians of the Galaxy for what has to be the tenth time.  I rekindled my Mass Effect 2 game yesterday morning, and even played some of the Firefly board game last night with my wife (winning for the first time).  When everyone else in the house was busy yesterday afternoon, I was digging through my garage so that I could find all of my old Battletech miniatures and sourcebooks… it’s been years since I’ve roamed the battlefields with House Kurita!  


Battlemechs!  Arise from your slumber!


Although rediscovering old loves is a lot of fun, as someone who is a game-master for multiple campaigns, I find it very difficult sometimes to get excited for my regular groups when I’m in the middle of a conflicting [genre] mood.  If I’m steampunking on the inside, but running traditional fantasy with my players, I feel a disconnect at the table.  In the past, I’ve let my [genre] moods win over, and I’ve ended successful campaigns so that I could get to play something else, only to regret the change later… when I’ve entered a different [genre] mood altogether.  

When I first started playing Savage Worlds in 2012, and was collecting a lot of new and different sourcebooks and campaign settings, my tendency to switch genres of interest was downright destructive!  Our group was enjoying a very successful homebrewed steampunk setting called Clockwork when I got the itch to run something superhero related.  At the time I was reading a lot of Hellboy, and I wanted to do something dark, so I talked the group into making the change to Necessary Evil.  We ran three or four games of this campaign before I returned to a steampunk mood and we drifted back into Clockwork.  

Then Weird Wars Rome came out in print, and the rest became history.

I believe that my tendency to switch [genre] moods so quickly is why I’ve found such a terrific home in The Strange.  Our current campaign started on modern Earth, with a secret agent feel, but then shifted to the sword and sorcery Dark Sun recursion.  After Athas, the players will get a chance to see how we’re going to incorporate Star Wars into the mix… just in time for May the 4th perhaps!  I’ve found a similar experience in Numenera, since there is such a blend between science-fiction and fantasy that I can lean in either direction and still keep my players engaged and my interest piqued.

Long term campaigns have always been a challenge for me.  Even when I’m able to keep the group on track for a while, typically I need to run several one-shots a month just to scratch those [genre] mood itches that occasionally pop up.  This may just be a sign of just how many incredibly awesome game systems and campaign settings are on the market in 2015…

… or that I completely lack all self-control as a gamer!  


As a game-master, when you are running your campaigns, are you able to stay focused on one story/setting/genre week after week or do you find yourself distracted?  If your mind drifts, and your mind wanders, what do you do to stay on target?