How to kick up your game energy: meta-gaming edition

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It’s a Monday evening and people trickle into your home, paper and dice in hand and gather around your table. Twenty minutes later they are laying their heads on the table, stacking dice and texting girlfriends. If this is happening to you than it means that your campaign needs an energy infusion.

Alternatively, if you don’t game on Mondays it means that you need to invest in some door locks!

Kicking up the energy

Some campaigns grow stale over long play, others fail to ever get off the ground but neither of these setbacks need to be the death of your campaign. There are measures you can take to bring some vigor back to your table.

Lead From the Front

Players get their cues on enthusiasm levels from the DM. If he is staring at the clock and wishing he was somewhere else the players can feel it and respond in kind. On the contrary if he hops out of his chair roaring and snarling when the great dragon makes his appearance his players are going to take that energy and feed it right to him. Of course you can’t be bouncing off the walls every session but there are some things you can do to maximize your energy output. Preparing for your game across the week can keep your anticipation up for game night. Having a special ritual or prop can get you in the gaming frame of mind, always eating a particular snack before a game or wearing a DMing hat may sound goofy but it can get your players smiling and you into gaming mode. Shorter sessions tend to help, almost anyone will drag at tail end of an eight hour session. Also if you know you are going to have a night where you will be thinking of everything but the game, cancel! Sometimes it only takes one night of a dragging DM to ruin a long running game.

The Way to a Gamer’s Heart

No game table should be complete without everyone’s favorite form of sustaining life, food! I’m not talking about the greasy delivery food you get in the middle of the night, I mean decently healthy food. Good food is easier than you might imagine, you can get pizza crust shells that only require toppings and a preheated oven. At any supermarket you can pick up a pre-made roasted chicken and some cookie dough, a ready made dinner and only fifteen minutes until a warm chocolate chippy dessert. Admittedly there are some pitfalls to providing food, it represents an investment of time and money and could end up being a distraction if you are trying to cook and play at the same time. For all the trouble of making it good food does work wonders on the mood of your group. If you’re really lucky one of them might like cooking or they agree to take turns feeding the group.

Taking Away the Shinnies

In an ideal world your gaming room of choice would have no television, no animals, no family members passing by the game to gawk and your table would emit a field that blocks cell phone signals. In a less ideal world you need to set some ground rules for your players to keep them from turning on the TV because they are not it in the scene. However being distracted by electronics is often a symptom of a low energy game, not the cause so if everything else is done right it will usually not be a problem.


Have you ever met a player who you suspect plays D&D as a penance for some unnamed sin? As soon as he shows up he turns on the TV or opens a laptop, wanders away in the middle of combat and just in general distracts and drains the energy out of the room. It may surprise you to learn that he actually wants to play, perhaps more so than anyone else. These players just have a short attention span, they enjoy their turn in the spotlight but get easily bored when things aren’t happening for them. Most players will just sit and wait for the situation to move their way, others will force it to but these players usually just let their mind wander and it is quickly followed by their body. There are many story ways to keep them engaged which we will discuss later but there are also some things you can do outside of actual play. These players are great for exporting some of your duties too, making them initiative tracker, map maker or mood music manager can ease your DMing burden and give them something to keep them occupied. If you are okay with giving up a little control you could even allow them to control some of the monsters in a combat or let them roleplay out an NPC in a scene their character is not involved with. Also these players can make fantastic DMs because there is always something for them to be doing.

I want to hear from you guys, what do you do outside of the plot to keep the energy blazing? Hold on to your suggestions of story hooks and new villains though, the next edition of “Kicking Up the Energy” is coming soon!

7 thoughts on “How to kick up your game energy: meta-gaming edition”

  1. Heh; the ironic part is that my first featured post on the network was on battle that doesn’t just end in a win or a loss, and I’ve technically written about most of what’s been suggested. I’ve the advantage of running online, so my energy level really doesn’t influence the group’s all that much since they can’t see me–I wonder if half the problem is that I can’t see the group?

  2. @Morten, Ravyn: I believe that the DM has the most tools available to him to raise the energy levels of the group. An enthusiastic player is a great thing but he has an unhill battle when dealing a disinterested DM. Of course if you have some ideas on how a player can help I’d love to hear them, my goal is usually to start a discussion.

    @Ravyn: I’ve found that leader types who can influence the tactics of the whole group spice up combat for me to run. The use of traps and hazards can also make things more interesting. You can also create action situations other than combat, chase scenes, dangerous puzzles and any situation with a ticking clock can be very exciting. Failing that you might find that a different game system is more interesting to run.

  3. @Ravyn: Introduce a new element in combat after 3-4 rounds, something that changes the battlefield or the goals the PCs are trying to achieve. It’ll keep things fresh and create some sweet, sweet chaos.

  4. I have to agree with Nicholas about the importance of food at gaming sessions. Aggro gamers and low blood sugar don’t mix! I try to provide a mix of healthy and unhealthy fare; cookies for the junk food junkies and veggie trays for the diet-conscious. Pot luck events are even better.

    And, yes, removing all shiny objects is a good idea, too. When I get bored, I start spinning the glittery d10’s like tops, and it just goes downhill from there.

  5. I second Morten’s question, and would like to add an additional question: What recommendations do you have for the GM whose players are action-oriented but who loses interest in combat after about three or four rounds, so they’re the only one in the group who doesn’t seem to be having a blast?

  6. Just a quick question: Why is this written with the DM in mind?

    If roleplaying is a collective endeavor, shouldn’t this be something all the players did, rather than having it resting solely on the DM’s shoulders?

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