Miscellany: Running a "Call of Cthulhu" campaign, part 4
So, all went well with the first session of my CoC game. The heroes survived, the villains were (temporarily) defeated thanks to some plastic explosives, and the door is wide open for further adventures. The players have spent about 6 hours traipsing through the Florida Keys, and they've enjoyed themselves.
Now everyone has to go home and go to bed.
Any game master will be familiar with the problem of downtime. As fun as a role-playing game is, it's secondary to anything that goes on in real life. Getting together four or five people, all with their own lives, is difficult enough. Getting them together on a regular basis, for hours at a time, is nearly impossible.
Downtime also leads to rustiness. Running or playing a tabletop RPG is a skill that can atrophy with the passage of time. It's hard to maintain the enthusiasm and continuity necessary for long dramas when the players have to remember what the heck happened two months ago. The GM is not immune to this, either; as I've mentioned before, good improvisation is necessary for most games, and too much time between sessions can make an adventuring episode feel "flat" or forced.
CoC, unfortunately, is somewhat more susceptible to these problems. Characters in CoC don't have many game mechanics to separate them (everybody can fire a shotgun, for example, unlike in D&D where some classes can't use certain weapons), and character growth is less tangible than a little numerical value going up after every adventure. I'm going to try a number of techniques to minimize the damage. First, a brief recap of the characters, their motives, and what happened last session. Second, recurring villains and themes to reinforce the memories of past exploits. Third, cliffhanger endings whenever possible to drum up tension. I have high hopes, of course, but time is definitely not on our side.