Refocusing Creative Energy
Last Thursday, my regular D&D group of 25 years gathered on Zoom and I ran the last session of a long-running campaign. It was a relatively rare situation of us wrapping up a full start-to-finish campaign, and it was particularly notable for two reasons. First off, it is the last campaign that I will ever run in the bespoke game setting that I started building over 20 years ago. Second off, it was my last regular game session of any sort with that gaming group for at least six months. I'm taking an extended leave from running table-top RPGs and significantly limiting my participation in table-top RPGs until Autumn.
The bespoke setting. If you ever played a campaign in the setting that I cooked up, you'd recognize particular NPC names that appeared again and again. Time within the setting marched on between each adventure, and by the time of the most recent campaign, all but a few of those NPCs had passed away. That's been one of the most interesting aspects of the setting for me – thinking about the legacies of people and events gone by; legacies that span hundreds, and in some cases, thousands of years.
But working within the framework of any story setting has inherent limitations. If I ever run another tabletop RPG, I want to start fresh. Tell a new story. So with gratitude I surrender Ymir, Idvalexi, Brother Helix, Black Molly Kithkani, Captain Braddock, the Lightwing, and all of Serkemir and the Five Realms to the void. Zola Shadowland, last of the Hell's Footmen, has a reprieve until the end of the campaign where I play her as a PC – her origin story. Then she will join the others in the mists.
The extended hiatus. With the exception of the very infrequent campaign in which Zola Shadowland abides, I am taking a break from table-top RPGs completely. This decision has been driven by two main factors. The lesser factor is Zoom fatigue. I spend a lot of my working hours on Zoom, and weekly evening Zoom sessions were very difficult for me. I found it particularly challenging as a player of RPGs rather than the DM, because my focus was likely to wander often. The greater factor in this was how DJing got me reconsidering where and how I want to spend my creative energy.
Running a bespoke D&D campaign takes a fair amount of time and creativity. By tapping into an established setting, I reduced some of the work but not much. By making extensive use of D&D's online tools, I reduced a fair amount of the bookkeeping. But what remained to be done was the raw creative work of telling a story, and that energy comes from the same place that all of my writing comes from. It has always been a tradeoff – run games, or write stories. This year I want to write stories and see where I can go with them.
There's a side benefit as well. Thursday nights are apparently a big night for the local electronic music scene in Boston, and I want to see what kind of connections I can make there. Even though writing and DJing don't require the same sort of energy from me, taking an extended break from my deeply established D&D hobby gives me more time and creative energy for both of those other pursuits. I'm not expecting to become an overnight success in either, but I am excited to see what I can do with the opportunity.