Becoming the Master of the Game

My wife and I are tabletop role playing gamers (TTRPG). We enjoy getting together with friends, telling stories, pretending to be new people for a while, and telling stories. It’s a good way for all of us to make the time to hang out and spend time with each other. Since a lot of us are more introverted or tend to be otherwise busy, it’s useful to have a reason to meet up.

I’ve spent a lot of time lately as our main group Game Master (GM). For those of you not in the know or aren’t familiar with the hobby, the Game Master is the person in charge of telling the story and moving the narrative along. Depending on the game, that title can vary; Dungeon Master, Story Teller, Director, Hollyhock God…. But Game Master is by far the most common.

Each other player takes on the role of an imaginary person, a Player Character (PC) or character. They design their character based on a set of rules. Most people who play TTRPGs start as a PC.

The GM is in charge of everything else in the game. They decide the actions for all of the Non-Player Characters (NPCs), decide the weather, the setting, tell the story and interpret/adjudicate the actions of the players.

When I started, I played one, maybe two sessions as a PC then moved behind the gaming screen and became a GM. Since then, I’ve gone back and forth and still enjoy being a player but I feel like I really know what I’m doing as a GM and I like that I get to be the group entertainer.

Sometimes I feel a little insecure and I’m constantly asking my groups if they had a good time or if they think I need to change or adjust anything but the fact that they keep coming back to my table really makes me happy. I get to make them feel like Big Damn Heroes. I love that feeling.

Early games often had the GM as a more neutral judge and some games felt like the GM was the opponent of the PCs. The GM was The Enemy. Some GMs actively looked for ways to “win” against the other players or the others saw the GM as the adversary. Or both.

Personally, I see myself as part of the team. I want my players to succeed but I want to challenge them. I don’t want to make it feel too easy. Individual gaming sessions or entire campaigns should feel satisfying, and that works best through mutual collaboration. And I love it!

Moving on to moving on

My wife and I are finally getting our own house. We’ve been married for ten and a half years, and we’ve been living in my parents home while my dad was working in different states (and once in Canada). We paid them rent and they got to keep the house while they rented. It all worked out.

We’re finally in a position where we have the savings and means to get our own house. We’ve selected a place, have a contract in place, a mortgage and insurer lined up… things are going well.

There are going to be a lot of changes on the way. All of the housework and expenses will be on us. We’ll finally be developing equity. We can decorate how we want (within our means). It’s exciting and terrifying and exciting again.

Life under COVID-19

A little context for people reading this in the future: right now, the COVID-19 virus is working its way around the globe. Many people have been asked/ ordered to stay at home and keep physically distant from each other in order to slow down progression of the virus.

This is a stressful time. I’m considered essential/critical personnel, so I go in to work mornings on campus. It’s nice to be able to get out of the house and it feels good to be needed at work. There is some concern about contracting the virus and taking it home, but there aren’t a lot of people on campus anymore.

I feel like I’m writing the opening paragraphs of a dystopian short story.

There are some positive signs. Several countries mortality rates are dropping or have remained constant for the last few days. Things where I live seem to be going well. Stay at home orders seem to be helping as they were intended to.

Stores are going to start limiting the number of people allowed inside to 10% of the maximum allowed by the fire code. It’s recommended that we start utilizing the internet to order supplies for pickup or delivery to reduce wait times at stores.

We will make it through all of this, though it can be difficult to see it from where we are. There are going to be a lot of scared, stressed people looking for help from scared, stressed therapists and other medical professionals. We’ll all need to learn to be patient and more compassionate towards others.

I’ve been trying to keep things lighter and funny on my Facebook page, not that I wasn’t doing that before. People need to be able to smile now.

I’m not really going anywhere in particular with this. I just thought it was important to document what’s going on, for posterity.

Stay the course, be patient with people, be kind where you can, and be safe.

What free time?

My quest to improve myself has an unexpected side effect. My free time is disappearing. I’ve begun taking classes towards a certificate in Web Programming so I can expand my skill set at work. I’ve taken programming courses before, but I didn’t use what I learned, so I’ve forgotten a lot of it. Taking this course on Python has help sharpen my problem solving skills, but taken up a lot of my evenings with studying. I want to do well in this class.

Thonny has become an invaluable tool for class. I like that I can slide it onto a flash drive and use it in class and that it runs on both Windows and Linux. I’d definitely recommend it if you’re trying to learn Python.

I’ll pop back in when I have more time. My analysis paralysis on web browsers alone should be good for a page or two. Don’t get me started on the sad state of email clients.

Learn to pick my fights

I’m starting to think I should just stick with what works and learn to be happy with it.

Solus Linux has been working wonderfully on my laptop, so I decided to install it on my desktop too. It turns out it throws me an error when the machine boots up. So, back to Manjaro on the desktop, maybe the laptop too, I haven’t decided yet. It’s not that I don’t like Manjaro. I really do. I just thought I’d found something that was simpler to maintain, requiring less work.

A couple of weeks ago, I broke a zipper on a pair of jeans. I decided to replace my regular carpenter jeans for something a little less relaxed fit and a little more professional looking. I also decided to try out a different brand. I thought it might be nice to jump down a little on the waste size. That was a mistake.

A few weeks before that, I decided to try a pretzel crust pizza and a fast food carry out place. It was not good. Instead of red sauce, there was cheese-based product.

Sometimes it’s hard pushing your boundaries and trying new things. Sometimes that new experience comes back to bite you. Its more expensive, it takes more time, its not as satisfying.

Does that mean I should stop trying?

Probably not. Maybe I learn to live with some choices. Manjaro seems to take anything I can throw at it and come back smiling. My regular jeans are comfortable, affordable, and I know they fit. Sausage pizza is tasty and I don’t get it all that often. Live with it.

However, you never know when you’ll find something new that you love. You could end up with a slice of processed cheese pizza sadness, but you could find an operating system that you like that runs on anything you throw it on.

Maybe I just need to choose my battles a bit better.

What I’ve learned about myself so far

I started blogging for a number of reasons; I wanted a way to record and collect my thoughts, I wanted to see if I could get input from others, I wanted to find out if other people had some of the same issues I did, and I just wanted to give blogging a try.

I have gotten some excellent responses. Several people seem to resonate with my ramblings on web browsers and on Linux. I’ve even found a fellow Castles & Crusades fan out there!

What have I learned about myself? I already knew I had problems with my attention span (a deficit disorder, one might say).  But I’ve always learned to work with or around it.

I know I have to pace myself when I have a task to get done. I know I’ll stop for frequent breaks (just a quick game of sudoku, maybe read a webcomic…). I know I’ll have to work to reign myself in. I know I can’t go too hard on myself when my attention strays. I know it’s harder for me and I accept that.

I know it can make me better at parts of my job. I take in a lot about my environment and it helps when I do inspections. I can see other sides of issues. I can relate when other people have attention problems. I can take a step back and I can compartmentalize things.

I also know that my interests change quickly. I get interested and focused on things quickly (a rolling release is JUST what I need for my computer, no more reinstalling my operating system! I know what game I want to play next!). I know I dive deep on subjects for a week or so.

I know the temptation I feel when I have the need for change. Everything is working SO WELL on my computer… but I know I’ll like this new distribution more… until I don’t. I NEED to change my RPG campaign… instead of focusing on the game I have and putting effort into it.

How do I deal? Ride it out. Learn something new. Relearn something old. Let myself get focused, it’s how I enjoy spending my time. Learn, adapt, become versed in a variety of subjects and systems. Enjoy the journey, not just the destination.

I have a hunger/thirst for knowledge. That’s okay. It’s not wrong, it is what is. I like that I know a little about a lot of things. I thrive on little changes and can adapt to new situations. I’m not set in all of my ways. It’s the way. It makes me unique.

I’m me.