The Simple Pleasures

Last night we did character creation for the Shadowrun game I’m starting (Anniversary Edition, of course) and I was thrilled when one of the new players at the table said to me, “you are absurdly organized” as we prepared to play. I had several hand-outs I had prepared to try and simplify character creation, a worksheet to help streamline working through the process, and a cheat sheet of NPCs that I already know are going to be in my version of Seattle along with ideas and assistance for creating contacts of their own.

They were also thrilled when I offered to make them each a spiffy custom character sheet that will keep all their game information front and center for them so they don’t have to constantly reference a million things during play.

It’s a lot of work. It’s not really necessary. And as I read what I wrote up there, it sounds a little too self-congratulatory for my tastes. But here’s the thing. I don’t do all these things just to make game run smoother or to make life easier for my players. Those are by-products of the process. I do this because it’s fun for me. I love making documents and handouts and play-aids. I created a fancy-looking reference card for D&D Attack Wing that I gave to the local store I play at so that it could help speed up game play. I make packets for my players in ACKS with relevant character info so that they can enjoy character creation (and I do the same for Amber DRPG).

But I’m kind of a paper nerd? I like making stuff. Tangible stuff that gets used at the table. I like the challenge of organizing a character sheet so that it gets everything a player needs on the front of one page and looks nice. I like making NPC references, and calendars, and menus for the restaurants the players shop at. It’s all just fun for me and it really keeps my enthusiasm level up as a GM. When I know that I can hit send on my laptop and have stuff pop up on players smartphones and tablets during play as their PCs encounter these things, it’s just a little shot of joy for me. Doesn’t matter to me if the players enjoy it, are indifferent, or if they are just humoring me (well, it does – I want them to be having fun at the table). You get the idea though, this level of engagement is what works for me and I’ve found ways to make it work in time frames that don’t ruin the rest of my life.

It’s a small thing but it keeps me happy as the GM and helps me to stave off burnout. As long as I can create for a game and think about it away from the table, I’ll stay even more engaged at the table. Doesn’t work for everyone, but it works for me. And when players do appreciate it and say so, well, that’s just icing on the cake.

Thanks for reading.

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3 responses

  1. I love doing this sort of thing. I usually do my best to create a 2-3 page (depending on the game) rules summary for my players. When we were playing Dresden Files and the player was struggling with playing a Wizard, I did a flow chart/process guide for Thaumaturgy and spell casting.

    How did you do the custom character sheets? I’m horrible at visual creation, so I’m curious whether you are using some sort of specialized program, or you just have enough skill to do that in something like InDesign/Illustrator.

  2. Honestly, I tend to rough out designs for character sheets in Word (a surprisingly useful program if you learn what it can do) and then convert them into PDF and move over into an adobe product – or rebuild them in InDesign – for tinkering that Word can’t handle.

    I find that with character sheets I’m mainly looking for a very clean presentation that manages information well without being overwhelming. Shadowrun is a tougher game for that than some others, but it’s not the worst. Some of my early efforts on these sheets were awful – and I just thought they were good. I’ve improved but it took some doing.

  3. […] Mastering (The Rhetorical Gamer) The Simple Pleasures — “It’s a lot of work. It’s not really necessary. And as I read what I wrote up […]

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