So I have written some version of this post about six times and deleted it every time, not wanting to write whiny, introspective posts about everything that has been going wrong, but yesterday I finally called one of my best friends from my old home town and told him everything that was going wrong these days--work, family, and yes gaming, and after all of it he says, "You have a system problem."
Now, he was referring specifically to the problems we're having in my RPG campaign, and how the game we are playing is contributing to the difficulties, because out of all of that it is the gaming problems that will hold his interest, but it was an apropos comment regardless, because most of the things that are really chapping my hide aren't specific "do this and it'll be fixed" problems, it's the general system of things.
Case in point (since this is not my life blog but my hobby blog): my wargaming, or lack thereof. So the local gaming group meets at 5:00 PM at the back room of a gaming store in which is crammed five gaming tables (which are 4' by 6' sheets of plywood laid across folding tables) where things are so tight that basically you'll spend the game continually brushing up against the back end of whoever is playing on the next table. Last Spring and Summer getting there at 5:00 PM wasn't a problem, but now my son doesn't get out of school until 5:00 with sports and I don't get him home until 5:30 and then maybe I could fly over and get there by 5:45. It's a big gaming group, which means that quite a few times lately I've been out of luck and can't game that night. Which stinks. Actually what is odd is that I'm lamenting not playing a game that I don't really love but still spend hundreds of dollars on so I could play something, although now I'm running into problems with that.
What's the solution? Well I could see if one of the members of the wargaming club who is not a student or unemployed and can not make the 5:00 curtain call wants to game somewhere else, like a my basement, although that thwarts some of the "get out of the house" benefit I was trying to cultivate. Again, system problem.
Then there's the roleplaying game situation. Basically my gaming group has three players: Evan the DM, Rod, and me (I've changed names to protect the innocent). We've been playing D&D for about a year, first with me DMing, then Evan when he asked if he could run this module he really liked. In addition, there have been about ten other people who have drifted in and out of the campaign, sometimes only coming once. Right now there are four additional people in the group: a woman who is friends with Rod, her boyfriend, her daughter, and her daughter's friend. A sort of four-player unit. We play every other week to accommodate Rod's schedule, but it has been so sporadic that we're one year in and are only at sixth level. Two sessions ago, the four-pack of players didn't have characters. Last Friday Rod's friend called fifteen minutes before game time to say that she and her boyfriend couldn't make it, which meant the other two of the four-pack weren't coming either. To make matters worse, neither did Rod. So Evan and I shot the breeze and downed a couple of beers instead, mostly talking about how many this might be the beginning of the end.
In addition, Evan told me that in his other campaign, the one I can't play in because of my job, the DM wants to quit running that game and since that's really his primary game (since it has apparently a larger, more stable group), could I take my campaign back? What am I to say: no, you have to keep running this time as long as I want you to?
So in two weeks I'm going to find out if the four-pack are really out or if this was just a hiccup. But I'm once again in the unenviable position of needing new players for D&D 4E, because the game doesn't really work with two or three players. Like my friend said, system problem. The solution here is a little more straightforward: sell the group on another game, one that doesn't need such a large critical mass, and can handle having the drop-in and drop-out problem that we seem to perpetually suffer.
It just seems like after a year living in the new place, I'm not that much better off than I was before--trying to build the whole thing up from the ground floor. The only benefit I really have is that now I'm aware of the local gaming communities and how they communicate. Maybe that will help.