Saturday, July 24, 2010

Sleeping at Sessions

I consider a player falling asleep during a rpg'ing session to be one of the classic events / tropes of our hobby, a sign that your campaign is running well.  As has been discussed by far wiser souls than me, old-school rpg'ing in particular involves a great deal of "slogging" through dungeon levels, searching through rooms that turn out to be empty, spending time looking for secret doors and traps, sneaking around, resting, praying for spells, and (at the metagame level) brainstorming tactical plans and hatching strategic schemes.  So it is NOT all action-oriented, hack-and-slash, nor necessarily fast-paced.  But this, of course, is part of the fun, since it is often during the exploration phases of an adventure that the more subtle nuances of the campaign setting and the characters' responses to it really come to the fore (see, for example, the stuff about the "Followers of Korath" from my previous session report).  In short, I think story points and character development happen more so in the "downtime" between epic battles, rather than during them.

Yet I understand the thirst for ACTION and the lust for battle in the game.  Hell, every time I play D&D (as a player), I always portray violent, sociopathic, bloodthirsty fighters.  I LOVE combat.  But one of my goals in picking up Labyrinth Lord last year and starting this campaign has been to (pardon the pun) delve back into a more old-school style of play -- perhaps even more old-school than the way I played Holmes / AD&D in the early 1980s.   My most common play experience back then was usually single-module based, including an occasional linked set of "campaign modules" such as G1-2-3, D1-2-3, and Q1.  Players would keep our same characters across many modules, thereby qualifying this as a "campaign" of sorts, but I rarely if ever played in a coherent campaign world with returning NPCs and villains, nor did I ever set foot in a megadungeon.

So with this current Labyrinth Lord campaign, I wanted megadungeon-crawl style play, with lots of mundane slogging and shifting of loads of treasure and worrying about mules and tracking elapsed turns and rolling for wandering monsters etc.  With the help of Michael Curtis' brilliant Stonehell megadungeon, I am accomplishing just that.  What this means, however, is that there are plenty of stretches of time during sessions when, from a neophyte player's point of view, or a bloodthirsty fighter's player's point of view, not much is happening.  And thus things can get boring for that player.

The reason I bring this up is that we had a player fall asleep for about an hour of last Tuesday night's session.  Part of the explanation for this is that this particular player is (in "real" life) moving this coming weekend, so she was up incredibly late the night before (and very early the morning of) our session packing her stuff, moving boxes around, negotiating with a moving truck company, etc.  In short, she was exhausted when she arrived for our 8pm Tuesday session.  Beyond this, however, she is playing Hazel, the group's fighter, and as Innominus' player's comments of 4/12 and 4/14 reveal, Hazel really likes killing and fighting and can get a bit antsy when no combat is taking place.  So during the long middle stretch of last session, when the party was mostly rooting around and searching for loot in an abandoned chapel, Hazel's player was (not only tired but) bored.  So she checked out and slept for awhile, then roused in time for the lizardfolk battles at the end of the session.

And this is how it should be.  For as long as I can remember, having some player or another fall asleep during a late-night RPG'ing session is just part of the territory, something that inevitably happens every few sessions or so.  Life happens, some people miss some sleep or drink too much beer or simply have very little to do during certain portions of the campaign and check out for awhile to get the rest they need.  For some reason, this phenomenon has never bothered me -- I just let 'em sleep unless some crucial event involving their character occurs.  It worked well for us the other night and it gave me a warmly nostalgic feeling for all those gaming sessions of yore when the odd player or two caught some winks as game play in general slogged forward.


  1. In my previous gaming group we had a player who would fall asleep EVERY game - and we played during the day, not at night. That got a bit annoying.

  2. It's when the DM falls asleep you have to worry; though with the time it takes some of my players to plan a complex manoeuvre it has been tempting! Especially when I know the bard will suddenly change his mind at the first opportunity and scupper the well laid plans.

  3. @Alan: Yes, I have certainly drifted into my own thinking / planning / daydreaming as a DM, especially when the party is busy over-thinking or over-debating some scheme -- but I've never fallen asleep either. I wonder if that has ever happened on the DM side?