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Surviving RPG withdrawal

’Tis the season! We’re mid-holiday — as well as mid-flu and covid season — which means that people are busy and or sick. And that means more game cancellations than usual. If you’re like me, then you may be going slightly crazy without role-playing, so let’s talk about some things you can do to fill the void until the family visits and sneezing fits are over.

Game is more than playing

Sitting at the table to role-play and throw dice is just part of an RPG. There are a lot of things surrounding the game that you don’t need the whole group to do and which can give you a little fix of gaming to get you through lean times.

Who hasn’t spent an afternoon just rolling up characters that you’ll probably never play? Maybe dream up some new concept and run yourself through the character creation process. It’s one of the most exciting parts of an RPG, after all, when a character is fresh and full of potential. When they haven’t been played yet and exist as nothing but daydreams about how awesome they’re going to be. But it’s also good practice for making characters, both in being familiar with the process and in coming up with concepts and backstories. Later on, your Storyteller will thank you for being able to whip up a character quickly and easily.

On the other side, you can work on some game outlines to run. If you’re a Storyteller, you can take this time to set up your next few scenes, create battle maps, dream up new quandaries to throw at your player characters and so on. If you’re not a Storyteller, just dreaming up ideas for a one-shot, mini-arc, or campaign can be good practice for one day taking your place at the head of the table.

Even if you never play the characters that you made or run the campaigns you put together, you’ve succeeded in bringing a little game back to your life when circumstances don’t allow you to join a session.

Image: The silhouette of someone leaping from one ledge to another against a backdrop of brith neon city lights. A black cat has landed just in front of them.

Other hobbies

Erica and I are writers, so when we can’t game, we often write about it. You can type out backstories for those characters you rolled up, or a lore document for the campaign that you’re tinkering with. You can go all out and write actual prose, making up stories in your game world just so that you can visit it in writing when you can’t do it at the gaming table.

Writing’s not the only crafting hobby that you can add a dash of game to, though. If you’re an artist — or even if you’re not, but just like drawing — sketch some pictures of your character, the party, or your favorite villain. If you knit, create some dolls of the characters, or the hat that one of them wears. Print or paint some minis if that’s your thing; maybe they’ll even get used when the group gets back together. If you like costuming or prop-making, you can whip up a whole outfit to cosplay as your own character!

If you can’t do, watch

We are blessed by the dice gods to live in a time when we have a wealth of genre fiction and when role-playing is the closest it’s ever been to mainstream. If you don’t have your usual game, you can binge the Lord of the Rings trilogy or The Expanse. There’s fantasy shows and sci-fi series, and a ton of vampire stuff to watch; whatever RPG you play, we probably have a franchise right now to give you a little hit.

And there’s also live-play. If your gaming group is taking the holidays off, or schedules just can’t line up due to illness or activities, then kick back and watch some other people role-play. It’s our sport. Natural 20s are our touchdowns and DMs are our referees. You can at least enjoy shouting at the screen when someone forgets their abilities, or cheer when your favorite player makes a brilliant move.

For me, nothing can take the place of actual RPGs. It’s a hobby like no other, but at least there are some things that I can do to get a little taste of role-playing, even during a dry spell.



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