Not to be forgotten, the minor detail of WHERE the game will happen is pretty significant. Whether you will host the game at your own home, or at the home of a friend, or if your game will rotate between venues, there are four areas to consider to the maximum benefit of your game :
Space. Does the game space have enough room for you and all of your players ? You’ll want a table big enough, and with enough seats, that everyone can sit together. Having some players physically separated from the group is not a good idea. If you use miniatures or a “battle board” they will be unable to see it. And it will be impossible to verify their dice rolls. Not to say you will have dishonest players…but years ago we had a guy who’d sit behind the bar in the billiards-room where we play. Well removed from the rest of us, this friend seemed to throw a remarkable number of 20’s when his character really needed them.
Beyond visibility, enough working space for each player is a must. My preference is that each player have room enough that, when seated at the table, he or she could trace an arc on the table before them with their outstretched arm. This permits room enough for a binder or notepad, character sheet(s), open space to roll dice, and a safe spot for a drink. And a bit of elbow room. Actual needs may vary; some players may be happy with a small “footprint” at the table. Others, with a tablet or laptop computer, may want more space (and an AC outlet and your wifi password).
Beyond the physical dimensions, there is the consideration of noise – is this a space where you and your group can carry on for a few hours without disturbing family members, roommates, or neighbours ?
Distractions. Huge huge huge importance. In our game we often have E.G.’s computer running music off his media library, at a volume that isn’t drowning out conversation. Occasionally we might have a hockey game on the sweet-sweet AM of his stereo. And that’s it.
If you’re intending to play in a space that has distractions such as a television, a computer, background noise, a stack of comics or Magic : TG cards, video game console(s), music that players don’t like or is too loud, other people present (observers / railbirds), a space that is too warm or too cold, interruptions from family members or passers-by in the house…all of these will take away from your players’ focus. Remember, they’re here to play your game. Find a space that doesn’t tear their attention away from you and your adventure.
Drinking is another distraction; we used to have a pretty open policy on drinking at our games, and we’d often tithe one beer from our six- or twelve-packs to “the House”. But a combination of factors over the past few years – a friend who has a drinking problem, lower DUI guidelines, players who would show up drunk or get progressively more so – led us to run “dry” D&D games by unspoken agreement. Really give this some thought (same too with recreational drugs), as it can be a big distraction.
Resources. Does your gaming space have everything you need for your chosen gaming system ? Do you have…
- The books you need (physical copy or e-version) ?
- Paper and pens and pencils ?
- A calculator ?
- Enough or extra dice ? Everyone should have their own set, but do you have extras for those massive 15d6 or 10d8 spells someone might cast, or additional d20’s for superstitious players who believe their usual d20 is “rolling like shit tonight” ?
- Access to the Internet for questions or issues that only Google can solve ?
- Props, figures, figurines, tokens, cards, templates and layouts and battle-board grids, if you use any ?
- Food and drink available to keep up the blood-sugar ?
- Do you have smokers in your group and if so, is the house smoke-friendly or is there a close and easily accessible spot for them to step out and light up ?
- And for the love of the gods, is there a bathroom available ????
Availability. Stationary game or rotating between houses, is the gaming space for-sure available and unoccupied when it is needed at scheduled game times ? Is it relatively close to where everyone lives so it isn’t a long drive or transit ride to get there ? Is it easy to get to ? Will your game interfere with the plans of non-players in the house ? Is there a lot of set-up or break-down required before and after games ?
Make a check-list of these points, and assess your gaming space. Always have in mind the comfort and aesthetic needs of your players. Is this a place where your game is the focus of attention ? Does the space offer everything the group may need for supplies ? Can you count on this space to be available when you need it ?
And whether it’s your house or a friend’s, always respect the house and be good guests. Establish or ask the rules for noise, language (as there might be kids or parents/grandparents in earshot who may not appreciate if it gets a bit too I-R-I-S-H in the heat of gaming), curfew, smoking/eating/drinking.