Tag Archives: volunteer

Giving Up the DM Chair

3 Feb

After two years, I finally decided to give up the dungeon master’s role in our Monday night group and just be a player. Although I had been burned out for quite some time, I still feel sad letting it go. Why?

For those of you who’ve never played Dungeons & Dragons, it’s a role playing game (the original RPG) where everyone takes a character and pretends to be them while walking around fantasy universes. The difference is that you’re telling a story–not showing them one. You have maps and miniatures, but in the end, it happens all in your mind. And the one who makes it happen is the dungeon master.

Two years ago, when my son Asher was 11, he got SUPER into D&D. So I figured the only way to slack his thirst was to actually go to someone else’s table and experience the game as a not-family activity. So the local game store had Adventurers’ League going (a system that allows folks to come in or out with characters and not dedicate themselves to a single campaign) and we sat down at a table.

Asher had a lot of fun for a couple weeks. The problem was–there got to be WAY too many people at the time and we needed several folks to break off and form a new table. Which meant, someone needed to run it, and I volunteered. In the end, it was a good move, because I enjoy running a game far more than I do playing a game. There’s too much downtime, whereas the DM never has any; always engaged.

I was able to build up a following of dedicated players at the game store and frequently had eight people around the table (about the max I could handle). A few came and left, but over time, there was about four or five core people I could count on. Then COVID happened last year (about this time) and I offered to move the game online to Roll20. We kept it going–lost three players, gained two more–but that was to be expected. Online is simply not the same as tabletop in person and it takes a different perspective.

But I was fading in my joy of this and I knew it. Part of me just wanted to keep the group going until the game store reopened–then the store decided it wasn’t going to stay open–at least, not with a gaming area. But I loved hanging with these folks, so I didn’t want to lose that. I just didn’t love running the game anymore. So I offered the DM’s chair to someone else and decided to simply play. True, it’s not as engaging, but I get to still hang out with my gaming friends, and I can simply enjoy being there… instead of dreading it until I actually get there. I might get the chair back at some time, but I should simply enjoy not having to do the prep work.

So it’s the right decision, but I don’t feel great about it. Have you had this situation? You keep something going even though your heart isn’t in it anymore? Share with me on the comments below!

Living in Fictional Universes

18 Dec

I’ve lost track of how many fandoms I’ve signed up for. They are wild, wonderful worlds full of interesting people in the real world. However, the reason we are fans also becomes the reason why many of these fandom decline or die.

For those not familiar with the term, “fandom” just means the world of (usually) sci-fi/fantasy fans. It can also used in plural to refer to a particular fan base, such as Star Trek fans, Star Wars fans, et al. Myself, I am primarily involved with The Royal Manticoran Navy, a David Weber fan group. After that, I’m in the Colonial Ministry of Defense, which is a Battlestar Galactica fan group, and I’ve recently become inactive in STARFLEET International, a Star Trek fan club. I also signed up for The Mercenary Guild, which is a Four Horseman fan group, but I just watch the FB posts for that. I used to be in the Society for Creative Anachronisms, but not because I don’t like the Middle Ages any more, just a lack of time.

Look at that smiling idiot with the shades and all that bling–that was me after I finally gave up my ship command and became a commodore. I had run the local chapter (our “ship”) of TRMN for three and a half years and was glad to turn that responsibility to someone else… specifically the two folks in white hats to my left.

You’d think, “Why would you give up being the captain? That sounds pretty cool.” And it is cool–I liked the title, I like the bling, I liked setting the meetings. At the same time, you have to deal with problems with your members. Which gets back to the point I started with–the reason a lot of these organizations decline is because of the kind of people you attract. People are fans of science fiction because this world does not appeal to them.

That applies to me as well. We’re all socially awkward, occasionally successful, fans who wish they could be in a different universe where their talents would be respected and adored. Who wants to be an instructional designer with a mortgage when you can be an admiral leading ships into battle against a devious foe?

However, now you combine people who are socially awkward and throw them together in an organization. By the time I was done with being a captain, I had a couple members who drove me crazy. I didn’t enjoy hanging out with them, they lived too far away, and they were driving away members that I liked to hang out with. So when I got the chance at a promotion, I took advantage of it, and let the local chapter slowly die.

Not proud of that last part, but because I didn’t exclude those problem children, it was inevitable. Of course, having had experience being in a veteran’s organization, this may be a problem with any volunteer group. You join, you get really excited, and you have a personality conflict with one of the members. That either gets resolved or one of you leaves. When the conflict gets really bad, you break off and form a new chapter. My post/bar is only a mile away from another post/bar. Why? Because the members of one couldn’t STAND the members of the other.

That doesn’t mean I don’t participate, but certainly the gleam has dulled from fandom for me, so I don’t participate as much as I used to… even before COVID. Am I right? Is this a problem with any volunteer group? Or is it specific to fandom? Let me know in the comments below!

Blood is Spiritual Currency

10 Dec

I’m the guy that blood banks love; on the plump side, rare blood type, willing to come in monthly. However, as the years go on from when I started donating blood, then platelets, my patience with blood donation has gotten thin.

I started donating blood in college, and did it enough to earn my first 1 gallon pin from the Red Cross. I was very proud of that–I still have that pin. Then I went overseas for a while, came back, went back, came back and wasn’t in a situation to give regularly. Then I started work at a hospital and that changed. The local blood bank held a blood drive and because I have… not the rarest blood type (AB+), but pretty scarce, they asked me to donate platelets.

On the surface, this can be a real pain-in-the-end. You offer to be plugged into a machine for an hour plus, they sort through your blood, and they take out the platelets and plasma. Platelets are used to help cancer patients, and they usually have to extract them from whole blood bags, which means losing most of that valuable fluid to do it. So providing them separately is very useful.

…and you can do it once a week. You can actually only do it every other week, since there’s a limit on how many times they can puncture your veins in a year, but it can be rather useful. I started earning t-shirts, pins, and of course, snacks. I had a wonderful phlebotomist that had the same last name as me and we got along great. I did that consistently for almost two years.

Then little things happened. The blood bank changed the shape of the pins from these cute little things you can put on your lanyard to big bulky ones… not as fun. I had a bike accident which broke my hand, so I was out for a while. Then we moved to a different city. There the phlebotomists were not that friendly and it was a different blood bank so my “gallon credits” had to be reset at zero. Then I had a job that had me leaving town every week, and “wasting” my time at home at the blood bank became less and less appealing.

I didn’t go back for years. Eventually, I became consistent once I was working from home, but… I’m getting older. My platelet count can’t reach the desired amount more than once a month. And then COVID hit and… okay, we wear the masks thing, but I swear they have a lot less personnel. Which leads to my main gripe. I’m used to sitting in the chair hooked to the machine for an hour and a half–I’m NOT used to waiting to get to the chair for an hour. So a 12:30 pm appointment means I don’t get in the chair until 1:15-30. Which means when I have to leave at 3 pm to pick up my daughter from school, I’m barely finishing up!

So now, I’m just donating whole blood. It only takes 15 minutes in the chair and they can’t bug me for six weeks. I don’t care if it’s not as useful, they’ve made it more difficult to be a donor, and it was already a pain-in-the-end. So you’re stuck with what I’m willing to give you, rather than what I -can- give you, because you decided to streamline your staffing. Oh well.

Do you have this problem? Would you like to give but the blood bank makes it a hurdle too high? Let me know in the comments below!

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