Gaming Group Struggles

Zhaleskra

Explorer
I made sure to read most of the posts and skim the remainder before responding. Why do you need specific niches filled if it's political intrigue over combat? Is there more combat than anticipated? Class as niche isn't what I think's causing the problem here, it's "niche as tactics" as I see it. You can have a party without roles filled, it just requires different tactics. Which circles me back to my questions.
 

Retreater

Adventurer
I made sure to read most of the posts and skim the remainder before responding. Why do you need specific niches filled if it's political intrigue over combat? Is there more combat than anticipated? Class as niche isn't what I think's causing the problem here, it's "niche as tactics" as I see it. You can have a party without roles filled, it just requires different tactics. Which circles me back to my questions.
It's been both issues.
First, we have been missing out on key personalities involved in the intrigue. For example a player created an elaborate backstory about his brother leaving the family and siding with the enemy kingdom. The session they were going to visit the brother, the player didn't come. He was going to miss the climax of an entire arc.
Of course we have combats, and the ones we do have are usually elaborate and well planned (and important to the story). And then trying to play without the healer. Or without the fighter. Or sometimes you don't have enough people to do any combat. Like the dragon encounter you planned for 5 players now has to be done by three people, without any access to healing, without high AC or damage potential.
 

Doc_Klueless

Doors and Corners
Okay, dude, let it go. That post was not about you, so stop trying to take it personal. I don't even know who the hell you are and wouldn't waste my time calling you anything, implied or otherwise.
Groovy. So just chill out.

You posted something on a public forum that I took issue with. You don't want people commenting on what you post, don't post it. I addressed it and I moved on.

Someone then quoted me and I, um, addressed that. That post was not talking to you. I was obviously addressing someone who quoted... um... me, ya know?

So the only one taking it personal is apparently you.
And that right there is what make us the fracking ⭐Elite⭐.
:cautious:

Uh, sure, dude. Whatever.

Seems to me, from the multitude of threads that are about sucky GMs around here and other boards, that, while only "1-in-20 players may have the skills to be a halfway decent GM', only about 1-in-20 GMs have the skills to be a halfway decent GM.

I could, quite possibly, be one of those 19 sucky GMs. So there is that.

You're welcome to keep yelling "King Kong ain't got nothing on me!" at me and pounding on your chest, if it'll make you feel better. But I'm done listening to someone yell at me because I dared to take issue/disagree with a point they made about a game of make believe.

That's not elite. That's just irritating.
 

Doc_Klueless

Doors and Corners
Anyway, to address the thread, I run/ran an online game using FG from time to time. Less now than before, but I hope that'll change. What I've done is get a fairly large stable of players (last group was about 8) and just run one-shots that are loosely tied together into an overall plot.

In fact, I advertised the game as for "Working Adults who can't commit to a regular gaming schedule!" I actually had to turn down players. I also seldom had more than 4 or 5 show up to each game session.

In addition, I ran it the same night (Wednesday) every other week at the exact same time. If it fell on a holiday or during a vacation or some such, we'd just skip the week but NOT adjust the calendar of when it was going to take place. I had a google calendar set up to populate the day every two weeks. This allowed the players to sort of plan their gaming/lives together as much as possible.

Then I just ran my one-shots. At the next session, I gave a brief summary of what happened and then let whoever was there that time go on. It might have been, and probably was, a bit disjointed, but the players stated that they appreciated the fact that they didn't have to be at every game session to see the campaign progress.

It was sort of like a lot of episodic television shows that are stand-alones but still advance the plot of the series. Like Supernatural, ST:TNG and Firefly did.

(I did have a rule that if you missed more than you made that you'd be dropped from the group.)

It did mean, though, that I had to be fairly fast and loose with adventure creation. Basically having a location, bad-guy and goal in mind, but keeping everything else very fluid, which may not be at all to your liking.
 

Doc_Klueless

Doors and Corners
It's been both issues.
First, we have been missing out on key personalities involved in the intrigue.
Ugh. Ok. I can see where that would be a real problem.
For example a player created an elaborate backstory about his brother leaving the family and siding with the enemy kingdom. The session they were going to visit the brother, the player didn't come. He was going to miss the climax of an entire arc.
Is it possible for you to "play" the character so that the plot continues, but becomes more focused on the other player characters? Sort of a GoT thing when the Hound and Arya were on screen instead of Daenerys and John?

Hmm. That may be a bit more work than you'd want though.
Of course we have combats, and the ones we do have are usually elaborate and well planned (and important to the story). And then trying to play without the healer. Or without the fighter. Or sometimes you don't have enough people to do any combat. Like the dragon encounter you planned for 5 players now has to be done by three people, without any access to healing, without high AC or damage potential.
Yeah, I could see where that would also be a problem. Do you think you could adjust future adventures in a way that they become more appropriate to the group on hand? Such as taking that dragon and changing it from (for example) an ancient Black Dragon to a young Black Dragon or some such? So, same basic adventure just the DC of it is reduced.
 

aramis erak

Explorer
Okay, dude, let it go. That post was not about you, so stop trying to take it personal. I don't even know who the hell you are and wouldn't waste my time calling you anything,

Barley 1 in 20 players ever gets the skills to be a halfway decent GM. Fewer than 1 in 1000 ever master it. And that right there is what make us the fracking ⭐Elite⭐.

That is what the Players at my table expect from me, and they in return give me the respect that I have earned from them. And any Casual that doesn't like it can go play Hello Kitty Online for all I care, because he's got no business sitting in the company of real Players.
I'd say considerably more than 1 in 20. And I'd put the "halfway decent" as generating an enjoyable game.

Good GM's aren't elite, they're just skilled. There are great GM's. They are rare... but hardly 1 in 1000. Maybe 1 in 100...

Further, hyperbole of the type you've done discourages players from trying... It's not good for the hobby.
 

Zhaleskra

Explorer
So, there's more than one way to take on a dragon. To take a lesson from HARP, if the players come up with a good plan, let that plan play out. Sure, it's not as exciting as a pitched battle, but it rewards the players for their ingenuity if it works and provides interesting complications if it doesn't.
 

Imaculata

Adventurer
It's been both issues.
First, we have been missing out on key personalities involved in the intrigue. For example a player created an elaborate backstory about his brother leaving the family and siding with the enemy kingdom. The session they were going to visit the brother, the player didn't come. He was going to miss the climax of an entire arc.
If you run into these sorts of complications, then a political intrigue campaign might not be the right fit for your group. It may be better to run more simple one-off adventures that are not connected to the backstories of the characters, and don't rely on specific characters to be present.

Of course we have combats, and the ones we do have are usually elaborate and well planned (and important to the story). And then trying to play without the healer. Or without the fighter. Or sometimes you don't have enough people to do any combat. Like the dragon encounter you planned for 5 players now has to be done by three people, without any access to healing, without high AC or damage potential.
I think combat difficulty does not have to be quite as much of a problem. You can send an npc healer along to provide support, or tone down the encounter by a few minions, or reduce the HP of the enemies. As for a big boss battle, you can always provide alternate means for the party to defeat the dragon. For example, some sort of artifact or powerful weapon that the dragon is guarding. This would make the encounter focus less on DPS and more on stealth and cunning.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Elitist? Damn right it is. Let me tell you something you already know = A player runs one character. He reacts to situations and improvises his way through. And when he gets stumped or is just having a bad night, the other players can take up his slack.

But the GM runs the entire universe and everything and everyone in it, even down to how the laws of nature work. He has to run dozens, sometimes hundreds of NPC's that are above the level of movie-extra quality. And he's got to have a plan to deal with every squirrely thing that the players will come up with to overcome the days or weeks of planning he's sunk into a single game session. Improvisation only gets you so far, so a GM better have a dozen backups ready to go. GM's aren't allowed an off-night or to get stumped, and there is no one to pick up his slack. A GM is expected to be on time and on target from beginning to end. And he has to do all that in such a way that he can work with the players to help them tell a heroic story of derring-do.

Barley 1 in 20 players ever gets the skills to be a halfway decent GM. Fewer than 1 in 1000 ever master it. And that right there is what make us the fracking ⭐Elite⭐.

That is what the Players at my table expect from me, and they in return give me the respect that I have earned from them. And any Casual that doesn't like it can go play Hello Kitty Online for all I care, because he's got no business sitting in the company of real Players.
Why does this post make me think of the band Manowar? :)

And if but 1 in 20000 who ever play D&D have what it takes to be a good DM then we're in bigger trouble than I thought. But we're not, as IMO the ratio is more like 1 in 20 or even lower; with about 1 in 5 meeting the 'halfway decent' threshold.
 
This is not a problem about D&D. If you can run an RPG under these conditions, you can run D&D. Make it more episodic. Work with players to give their character responsibilities that takes them away, or make them part of a larger organization that picks groups and the same people aren't always available.
Those are good ideas in terms of story flow and rationalization. I recall one D&D group I heard about, "The Band of the Red Band" who were under a curse, and individuals would vanish and re-appear unpredictably. And, that does work for any game to make a more episodic story that bends to the realities of getting a group of busy people together.

But as far as the system goes, yes, D&D is not nearly as flexible as it's sometimes given credit for, if you're not willing to just toss it out the window and run on fiat - and the insistence of some of the players on playing D&D, specifically, seems to suggest that might not go over well.

D&D has classes that are each very different, somewhat specialized, and bring different levels of power & flexibility to the table (some editions more extreme or formal than others, that way). 5e is one of the less formal, and not exactly the least extreme. A scenario that might be a speedbump for a Wizard, Warlock, Cleric, Rogue, & Fighter, for the Fighter & Rogue, alone, might prove impossible. Another, for the Wizard, Warlock & Rogue, by themselves suddenly much stealthier & more mobile, might be a cakewalk.

It's been both issues.
First, we have been missing out on key personalities involved in the intrigue. For example a player created an elaborate backstory about his brother leaving the family and siding with the enemy kingdom. The session they were going to visit the brother, the player didn't come. He was going to miss the climax of an entire arc.
Of course we have combats, and the ones we do have are usually elaborate and well planned (and important to the story). And then trying to play without the healer. Or without the fighter. Or sometimes you don't have enough people to do any combat. Like the dragon encounter you planned for 5 players now has to be done by three people, without any access to healing, without high AC or damage potential.
One option is to have a stable cast of characters, even if the cast of players isn't stable. For each character have an alternate, simplified, henchman-style version available for someone else to run secondary to their own character (or you to run as an NPC). 1e had orange half-sheets for that purpose. 4e had Companion Characters.

Don't worry about radically re-balancing a challenge because one player showed up instead of another.

For character-specific events, just don't set them up in one session and finish them in another. Take the advice you've gotten several times in this thread and run in a more episodic style: keep such development complete w/in episodes where the appropriate player is in attendance.
 
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Lanefan

Victoria Rules
For character-specific events, just don't set them up in one session and finish them in another. Take the advice you've gotten several times in this thread and run in a more episodic style: keep such development complete w/in episodes where the appropriate player is in attendance.
Two things here:

First, I've learned (and re-learned!) the hard way to avoid character-specific plotlines like the plague, because as soon as a plot comes to depend on a specific character it's inevitable that that character will perma-die at the next possible opportunity.

Second, running 'episodic style' is far easier said than done*, particularly if you want to run anything bigger than a 3-room dungeon or a 4-encounter city adventure and even more so if the PCs are high-ish level. Hell, one major combat can easily chew up an entire session** (in any edition!).

* - unless your sessions are 12 hours long and your players are very efficient at getting stuff done.
** - my last session consisted of one major combat and the mopping-up (and ship repairs) afterwards.
 

gepetto

Villager
The simplest answer might be to just sit down with the players who dont want to play anything but D&D and find out why. If you guys have been playing together a while and they generally like how you run games you should be able to get them to at least TRY a session or two of another system that would be easier on you.

If that doesnt work, screw em. Either run D&D and dont plan for any party at all. Just create scenarios and then its their problem to figure out how to solve them, not yours. Or run something else and find a few new players to replace the ones that dropped. Players leave sometimes, its not the end of the world. Especially when their players who cant show up consistently anyway.
 

DMMike

Game Masticator
Or sometimes you don't have enough people to do any combat. Like the dragon encounter you planned for 5 players now has to be done by three people, without any access to healing, without high AC or damage potential.
Well, you could turn your dragon into a puzzle instead of a fight. At least it wouldn't be doing damage and TPKing that way. Branch out the options, and call for some checks if things get dull:

Retreater said:
The dragon lands on the tip of the tower, dislodging several weaker stones from the structure. Do you want to get reinforcements while dodging dragon fire, attempt to hide under the straw roof of the stable, or run for the tower and try to safely dislodge more stones?
Healing won't be a problem once the PCs find the Wand of Cure in the charred hand of that dead cleric over there.
High AC won't be a problem if the PCs loot the dead cleric's tank friend.
Damage potential won't be a problem once the PCs "notice" the scale-free scar along the dragon's hind leg.

And if but 1 in 20000 who ever play D&D have what it takes to be a good DM then we're in bigger trouble than I thought. But we're not, as IMO the ratio is more like 1 in 20 or even lower; with about 1 in 5 meeting the 'halfway decent' threshold.
There's only one Deborah Ann Woll. So, it's not a good ratio. We could double that by getting Wil Wheaton to play some (more) D&D though.
 
Well, so far we all seem to be agreed that we all have very different ideas about what makes a good GM. At least we're in the same book, if not on the same page.

Further, hyperbole of the type you've done discourages players from trying... It's not good for the hobby.
I'm interested to know how. Please explain.
 
First, I've learned (and re-learned!) the hard way to avoid character-specific plotlines like the plague, because as soon as a plot comes to depend on a specific character it's inevitable that that character will perma-die at the next possible opportunity.
Over-arching plotlines, sure. Keep the character-driven stories contained.

Second, running 'episodic style' is far easier said than done*, particularly if you want to run anything bigger than a 3-room dungeon or a 4-encounter city adventure and even more so if the PCs are high-ish level. Hell, one major combat can easily chew up an entire session** (in any edition!).
Running a full on J Michael Straczynski plot-arc is easier said* than done, too. But it's easier done if you have players that always show up. If you don't, episodic's the easier way to go, even if it's just marginally less unmanageable. ;)

But, as I said before commending the episodic approach, also make the characters available, via henchmen-style versions, every session, even when the players aren't. So you can have continuity from one session to another, with all the same characters in the same place & time in the same adventure as last week, but keep the emphasis in that episode of the PCs with players actually present.

Y'know how in episodic shows, some characters hog one episode, then fade into the background in another? That kinda thing.

It may require a bit of legerdemain, now and then. Maybe you're in the middle of an elaborate combat with one PC's arch-nemesis when someone pulls the fire alarm at the FLGS, and next week, Murphy's Law intervenes and that PC's player is absent. A litle DM fiat, and the nemesis flees the battle or turns out to be a simulacrum, leaving an opportunity for another PC to step up and be the center of that episode.






* OK, maybe not /that/ easily said.
 

aramis erak

Explorer
Well, so far we all seem to be agreed that we all have very different ideas about what makes a good GM. At least we're in the same book, if not on the same page.



I'm interested to know how. Please explain.
Because it creates the mental preconception that they're expected to fail unless they're a natural. The worst thing you can tell a new potential GM is, "GMing is hard, and good GMs are rare" - becuase you're setting up an expectation of failure.

It causes the types of reactions that a young lady, just about to go off to college, had had just over a month ago. She needed to be convinced were lies before she was brave enough to try DMing D&D. She tried, she succeeded, and players are sad she's gone. Her table, during her short (1 month) tenure as DM, was constanly excited and having fun.

Most people smart enough to play mid-level D&D 5 are smart enough to GM low level D&D 5 to an enjoyable level. Same for almost all other D&D editions, including Pathfinder.

Whether or not it's appropriate, people tend to put more faith in the written experiences of others than they should. And if you want gaming to continue, DBAD near other gamers, and don't tell people that good GMing is rare, even if your personal definition of good is some absurdly high bar.

Likewise, saying good GMing is easy is also a disservice, because it's not easy. It's within reach of most players, but it's not effortless, it's not readily done spur of the moment.
 

S'mon

Legend
GMing good enough to be fun is not hard or uncommon at all, certainly with 5e D&D. There are some systems make it harder. Also, I see little if any correlation between GMing experience and running a fun game. The worst GMs I've experienced tend to be the ones who've been GMing a long time and think they're Master Dungeonmasters. The most fun are often novices. (Of course some veterans are excellent too.)
 

S'mon

Legend
And he's got to have a plan to deal with every squirrely thing that the players will come up with to overcome the days or weeks of planning he's sunk into a single game session.
To me this spiel from my prospective GM would ring warning bells that he may be over-planning and may either have controlling tendencies, or risk burn out trying to prep for every possible eventuality.
 

Campbell

Relaxed Intensity
To me this spiel from my prospective GM would ring warning bells that he may be over-planning and may either have controlling tendencies, or risk burn out trying to prep for every possible eventuality.
Yeah. This idea that to be a GM you have to always have a handle on everything, never have an off night, perfectly manage the game, and never get stuck just does not jive with my experience of gaming or any other human endeavor. Game Masters are human. As humans we all have times where we do not bring our A Games. We all make mistakes and are occasionally stuck.

Running a game is a skill that we all develop over time. Sometimes we will have good nights and sometimes we will have bad nights. We learn from both and try to do better next time.

We also are not wholly responsible for the quality of any game session. We are just one player out of many. Sure we have different responsibilities than the other players, but it is up to them to bring their A Games as well. Gaming is all about the relationships we build with our players over time and how well we are all able to work together to have an enjoyable experience.

Finally this idea that the other players at the table are obstacles to a quality game session rather than like the part that makes this thing we do worthwhile seems crazy to me. That part where a player does something unexpected that completely alters the direction of the game - that is the fun part! It's the part where we get to collaborate and find out what happens! This is the entire reason I play these games.

I find that when you respect and value the contributions everyone brings to the table you do not have to be in this alone and it alright to not be perfect all the time. If you are stuck you can own up to it and the group can work it out together. If you are having an off night the other players can definitely step up in a big way. If you need a couple minutes or need to call things early you can just say that.
 

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