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Written by Expy - Published on September 26, 2007

Mr. Johnson over at Basement 51 wrote a great piece on the soul of roleplaying games and why custom-made campaigns will always rock harder than video games and published adventures. I wrote about MMORPG vs TTRPG a few weeks ago.

So why don’t TTRPG lovers play more?

Scheduling conflicts have to be the number one reason we don’t get more tabletop action. But a dungeon master has to invest energy to make a game happen.

Activation energy

I’ll go on a tangent here. Back in the day I was a semi-professional athlete. After a competition in San Francisco in which I performed well my training partner told me he was amazed that I didn’t spend a lot of time warming-up before the competition.

Here’s the twist. Not warming up makes it hard to perform well mentally, hard to focus. Physically it makes sense not to warm up too much – which is counter-intuitive. Of course you need to warm up enough to avoid injuries, but the less energy you spend (warming up), the lower your activation energy is.

The activation energy is the amount of energy you have to invest into a physical activity before the optimal perfomance can be achieved (I believe it’s originally a chemistry concept).

Self-sustaining reaction

The good thing about roleplaying games is that they usually are so much fun that they give back energy and motivation to the dungeon master. So invest that initial activation energy and keep reinvesting the energy it gives back into preparation time right after a game. It should allow for extra motivation and inspiration and will keep the games coming and the entertainment level high.

Don’t let real life – or video games – suck the life out of your D&D game! Sit down and invest some prep time after a game and you’ll find your DMing experience exponentially rewarding.

(I’m camping on the Big Island until September 27 and won’t be able to reply to e-mail. Don’t worry, you’ll still get your daily Dungeon Mastering everyday – I’ve got a few articles scheduled to go live while I’m away.)

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Written by Expy

Meet Expy The Red Dragon

Expy is the mascot for DungeonMastering.com and the real mastermind behind Expy Games. He likes to hoard treasure, terrorize neighbors, burn down villages, and tell white dragon jokes..

No matter how fearful the legends claim dragons are, they always end up being defeated in 5 rounds by adventuring parties they encounter. That’s what dragons are – experience points for the heroes in your Dungeons & Dragon party. And this mascot is no different, hence the name Expy.

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3 Responses to “MMORPG vs TTRPG – Part II”
  1. Psygnnosed says:

    I spend my entire “activation energy” scribing in thousands of separate notes…
    Then, when the session begins, I have no idea where are most of the things… :)

    I’ve come up with a new idea after last session… I try to use pictures of my major NPC, and now I hang them with clips in my DM screen facing the players! Just a curious way to remember them who they’re dealing with.

    “Don’t let real life suck the life out of your D&D game!” – that one made me laugh Yax! ;) Please teach me how!

  2. jill seal says:

    Yes! I so agree with doing stuff straight after a game. When we finish playing late at night or even in the early hours of the morning I’m tired and needing sleep but I’m also so hyped up from gaming that I need to wind down before I’ll be able to sleep.
    I find that there are three things that are really useful ways of spending that winding down time.
    First I check through my notes on what happened and try to fill in any blank spaces where I was so absorbed in the game I forgot to take notes or so busy I didn’t have time. If any players are still about you can pick their brains while it’s still fresh in memory.
    Also if any players are still there I find it’s a good time to get feedback – what did they particularly enjoy and why, what could have gone better, what are they trying to trick you into revealing clues about, what do they want to have more of.
    The third area is related to my previous post to you about improvisation. Checking to see if there’s anything improvised that needs elaborating, deciding on, connected up to the main game/adventure. Although it’s most necessary for improvisation it can sometimes apply to prepared and planned items. I don’t try to resolve all these problems in the time straight after a game but I do try to become aware of them (and make a written note about them) so that my subconscious can work on them before I next get to prep. Of course if anything comes to mind while noting the problems I’ll make a note of that as well.


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  1. […] You don’t have to use the wiki for planning. You could use it as a campaign log or an NPC database. Keeping a campaign log, no matter if you or your players write it, can be a great way to create a self-sustaining reaction of RPG goodness. […]

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