Running a Roleplaying Game at Work

I have a confession to make. For the past 2 years I have been playing role-playing games at work. It all started rather unexpectedly. I was heading to lunch when I noticed that someone who I vaguely knew reading a fantasy novel which happened to have been used as a setting in a roleplaying game. While making small talk I mentioned this fact to him. Lo and behold, it just turns out he is a passionate role-player. For months afterwards we had awkward conversations about our weekend games and the genres we both enjoy. We often closed these conversations with “You know, we really should put together a game here at work.” Now, for me, this was one of those “Yeah, might be fun, but I’m not sure I really want to do it” sort of things. But suddenly this acquaintance of mine announces that he has spoken with several other people and they’re all keen.

“How about you GM for us next Wednesday?”

Well, it was put up or shut up time. I had been concerned that it could be awkward, strange or much worse. Mixing work and a hobby was something I had never done before and I wasn’t sure how it would play out. Ultimately I decided “What the hell.” To my surprise it has been enormous fun and not weird in the slightest. The word has got out a little bit and we even have a number of people who have expressed an interest in joining us should there be a reasonable “sense break” in the story.

I have found gaming at work is quite different to a more normal, out-of-hours or weekend game. I shall go through a few and provide some advice where I can.


It’s difficult to get everyone’s schedules to meet up. This has been our experience, although different work place cultures may have more or less difficulty. Our group comprises of team members from across our organisation, including backup people, administrative people and front facing customer service types as well as some members from middle management. So getting everyone’s schedules to match up can be difficult. Therefore, when we can schedule time, we do. Some weeks we have gamed 3 times a week, some weeks we have had to miss completely.

If your group has trouble organising schedules you may need to run a campaign or game where a character missing the odd session is not out of place.

Session Length

For most people, lunch time consists of an hour – for many people less than that. I would suggest that, if you have less than 45 minutes for lunch, you’re not going to get much gaming done. Go for a different sort of lunchtime entertainment. However, it is possible to get some good gaming fun in in an hour. There are a few differences to the style of play which comes about with just 1 hour to game though. You will need to cut down to the chase in terms of story setup and session start.

No time for Preamble

In a normal game people tend to wander in, have a bit of a chat, perhaps 15-20 minutes of nattering about the week and random other pop culture stuff. Now, it has proven impossible – probably even undesirable – to quit all chatter prior to game time. A little bit of light conversation sets the genial mood and allows everyone to relax into the game. But when you only have an hour, and some of that is usually taken up with people warming up their food and eating it, there is precious little time left to waste. Pre-game conversation is therefore kept to a minimum.


In a normal game session there is room for the GM to let go of the reins a bit if some wonderful character interaction starts up. Whereas this can still occur to a certain extent, if 2 characters take up half the session discussing the price of Wompa pelts in-character, the pacing will suffer. The players, and the GM, feel the need to progress the story, and there’s only an hour to do it. Getting Stuff Done tends to get prioritised.

Abrupt Endings

You have to be ok to say “Okay, I’m on shift now, I have to go” in the middle of an interaction or a combat. There is no room to wait for a sense break in the game to call it quits, you have an hour and that’s it. Sometimes its impossible to fit narrative chunks easily into that time so that you aren’t forced to cut bits up.

Out of Game Time Interaction

It’s really easy to send an email to your GM to narrate a small choice or action, and they can email back just as easily the result. Doing this has several benefits. First, it makes up a bit for the short session lengths and the inherent loss of characterisation which tends to occur with the quicker pacing mandated. Another benefit is that it breaks up your work day!

All in all, gaming at work has been a wonderful experience. Not only is it something which every member of the group looks forward to in their work day and week, but it has brought a bunch of people from across my place of business together in the name of fun, and created friends out of colleagues. I would encourage others to give it a go.

About Paul

Cuchulain (otherwise known as Paul) has been playing roleplaying games since he was 10 years old. Although he'll play any game under the sun, he prefers characterisation and plot over tactics and mechanics. He is never happier than when playing in or mastering a horror campaign - preferably with heavy Cthulhu Mythos overtones or theme.
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