When Quitting Seems to be the Only Option

I’m the current Gamemaster (referred to as GM for the rest of this post) for my tabletop RPG group. We’re playing a game called Dungeon World, a game I found and was immediately crazy-excited about. I’ve mentioned in the past that I cut my teeth on Mutants and Masterminds – well I was beginning to discover some aspects of the game that frustrated me. So I decided to abandon that ship and change to a game that seemed to brilliantly solve all the problems I have with M&M: Dungeon World.

Dungeon World is a game that’s Powered by the Apocalypse, a really fancy way of saying it’s a modified version of another game called Apocalypse World. It uses a similar engine but has some altered mechanics, a different setting, and ultimately a different goal. I was really attracted to a few particular aspects of the game. First, the idea of failing forward: when you roll badly, you don’t just “miss” or “mess up;” something happens. It keeps the story moving instead of stalling the story whenever someone gets a bad die roll. Second, the idea of bonds. It rewards the players for forming connections between their characters and roleplaying those connections in the story. Third, the alignment system. Rewarding players with experience points when they roleplay their character’s beliefs and worldview encourages players to really act out their characters, not just be themselves in a fantasy world.

We’ve been playing for over a month now, and we’ve already found aspects of Dungeon World that are frustrating and not working for us. Guess what they are? The bonds and the alignment system. Two of the three things I was crazy excited about.

Now in the middle of a campaign, it’s pretty hard to quit. I can’t just go to some other RPG that supposedly perfectly fixes the problems I’m having with Dungeon World. So instead, I have to go through a three step method.

Relax. Evaluate. Adjust.

Relax just means saying “hey, it’s just a game, the fact that these parts aren’t playing quite right isn’t the end of the world.” Evaluate means taking a look at what the real problem is. And adjust means fixing the root of the problem to make the whole experience better.

I’m gonna be honest. The reason I’m writing this is because today (Monday as I’m writing, not Tuesday when you’ll read it), I was pretty ready to not write a blog post. To just let Tabletop Tuesday go by the wayside because I’m SO tired and work was SO annoying and my son is SO grumpy and – you get the picture. But I didn’t give up. I relaxed, evaluated, and adjusted. Turns out yeah, I was pretty frustrated, so I needed to write something real instead of some cheeky post about whatever. Changing topics got my writing machine going again.

A lot of times in life you’ll feel like you should just give up on something. Maybe it’s enjoying your job. Maybe it’s bonding with your kid. Maybe it’s your marriage. Stuff that a lot of people give up on when it doesn’t go exactly how they want it to. But giving up is almost never the right play. Instead, you just need to relax, evaluate, adjust.

Take a break from stress. If you’re extroverted, go play some b-ball with your friends, or go to the movies, or hike up a cliff. If you’re an introvert, chill out in your room with a book, controller, or a nice nap. Whatever suits you. Whatever you need to chill out for a little while.

Then look at the problem. Chances are there’s only a certain aspect of what’s frustrating you that’s actually causing a problem. Zoom in on it, figure out what it is. Identifying the one thing that’s really causing your frustration is cathartic. It’ll help relieve your stress even more, and there’s another advantage: now that you know the problem, you can DO something about it.

So do it. Fix the thing. Easier said than done, I know, but if what you’re thinking about quitting is worth having, then what you have to go through to keep it is worth doing. Need more time with your spouse? Get a babysitter. Have the time. Skip a sporting event or that midnight release of Assassin’s Creed 5000 and invest in your marriage. Can’t bond with your kid? Slow down, see the world from their perspective. Open up your imagination and play their way for awhile. Work got you down? Chances are all you need is a new perspective, a positive attitude. Or maybe there’s something legitimately wrong and you need to talk to your boss about it.

Relax. Evaluate. Adjust.

Not so hard when there’re steps, right?

For those of you who aren’t in a place where you need this message, Adventure Rules will be it’s normal humorous self soon enough.

For those of you who needed this, I’m praying it truly helps you.

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