Don’t Whine. Be Grateful.
For thirty years, I’d been complaining about players, just like every Game Master. At every opportunity, be it a convention or a reunion, we would eventually end up whining about how terrible and ungrateful our players were. We tried our best, sweated blood for them, were ready to do everything for them, and paid attention to every little detail. And they would still just show up at the session, stuff themselves with crisps, collect PD, and go home, without even as much as “thank you,” “you’re the best,” or at least cleaning those damn potato crisps after themselves.
I mean, preparing such a session takes dozens of hours. It’s like a full-time job. And afterward, you don’t even get a “thank you”.
I pull all-nighters to write all these police files my players are supposed to encounter during the session to help them draw conclusions and advance the plot. I search the web for photographs of post-war Berlin, trying to find specific locations. I download and print them—on a special paper, of course, to make them look as authentic as possible. I learn how to use InDesign, I write articles, and then, like a 5-year-old attempting to learn new software, I create a front page for the fictional newspaper Berliner Zeitung so that players can read about current events in Berlin during the session. I visit AI sites and turn texts into audio to create messages from fictional radio stations. And, of course, somewhere in between all that, I devise the plot, write down every scene and location description, look at them from every angle, and wonder how to introduce them to make them as compelling and original as possible. I think, revise, and look for the best versions.
A 3-hour session takes four times as much to prepare. For the last three decades, I was whining that I didn’t even get a “thank you” afterwards.
In 2023, I stopped whining. In 2023, it was me who started saying “thank you.”
Dear Game Masters! Stop! I know you don’t prepare all these handouts for your players. You don’t devise the plot for the players. You don’t do all that hard work for the players!
You do it for yourselves. You do it because you love it. You do it because you’re creative madmen buzzing with ideas. You have to draw, scribble, and type something constantly. Otherwise, your brains won’t let you rest. If it wasn’t fun for you, you wouldn’t do it. If you didn’t get excited every time you create another amazing plot twist for your campaign, you wouldn’t be Game Masters. If you didn’t love impersonating your NPCs, you wouldn’t run RPG sessions.
Stop lying to yourselves that you’re doing this for the players! You… I mean, we are doing this for ourselves! No one needs to thank us. Maybe we should thank the players. Thank them for being a perfect excuse to do all this crazy work.
Last Wednesday, I ran a final session of a 10-month-long epic campaign based on the Cold City system. I poured sweat and blood into this campaign, and I don’t even know how much time it took to prepare everything. Even if it was approximately 10 hours per session, it’s still more than 100 hours for the whole campaign. I had my hands full. And I enjoyed every minute of it.
At the end of the campaign, I thanked my players. I thanked them for showing up, enjoying the plot I devised, reading all the handouts, and letting me have the time of my life for an entire year!