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How to Tell a GM You're Not Having Fun?

Retreater

Legend
I'm accustomed to always being the GM, so when a player told me he'd like to run for a bit, I gladly passed the reigns. He was excited about trying a new system he had purchased, found a well-reviewed adventure, and put a lot of time putting it on a VTT so we could play a weekly game.
My group has had numerous lackluster sessions in a row. I was talking to another player to make sure it wasn't just my bias, but he's also not having a great time.
It's slow. We're exploring/uncovering an average of 40 ft. of dungeon per session. We've gained no significant treasure. We've lost more XP from character death than we've gained playing the adventure. In the last session, due to his need for specificity in our actions, we found 2 secret doors in a room - in a 2 hour game. Didn't even get to explore them.
It's difficult. Everywhere we turn there are impossible combats that can't be defeated - at best they can be narrowly escaped. We're trapped in a dungeon with no chance to get supplies as our characters are starving to death. Even when we try to find food, warbands come through and we're lucky to flee with our lives.
We're having no opportunities for roleplaying, character development, etc. It's all about tedious procedural minutiae - even after we've set up things like watch rotations, marching orders, he makes us specify each time. Even after we tell him "can we just get on with the adventure," he is strict about enforcing the procedures. As it turns out in most cases, it wasn't even important - there were no traps in the hallway, there were no random encounters overnight, we had to spend 15 minutes to make sure he understood party formation before going into an empty room, etc.
So how do you bring this up to a GM who is your friend? How do you try to improve the game?
 

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ccs

41st lv DM
Just talk to him.
Tell him what type of games you want to play. Tell him what you don't want in them.

If it's taking two hours to search 40ft/find two secret doors/determine that a hallway is empty? Stop searching.
Just enter rooms, walk down hallways, etc. If it's trapped? Cool, you'll find out. If it's empty? Then you'll cross the room/hall quickly.
 

payn

Hero
I'd tell them exactly what you said here. So far, the game is a slog, bogged down in detail that isnt fun. I'd ask the GM how they imagine or expect this game to proceed. Let them know you have reservations about the game never reaching a good point. You want to encourage this person to GM, but you also want to have fun while playing.
 

TwoSix

Unserious gamer
New DMs tend to cling to tedious, simulationist rules as a security blanket because they're not comfortable riffing or letting their environments speak for themselves.

Just don't try to handle it via in-game play, even though it would be satisfying in the moment. It just leads to hurt feelings. Cool conversation, rooted in the game's meta ("I think the pacing of these sessions has been slower than it needs to be, and we're feeling a little overwhelmed by the difficulty") generally works best.
 

embee

Lawyer by day. Rules lawyer by night.
Also, for players and GMs, conversation is a two-way street.

GMs - ask for notes. A follow-up group text the next day. "Hey guys. Hope you all had a good session. Shoot me a message if you'd like to let me know what you liked or didn't like. What can I do better? What is working for you? What isn't? How's the balance? Let me know sooner than later so I can work it into my prep."

Players - give notes. The GM is doing this for you. For your entertainment (and his/hers too). If you don't like a ton of combat, say so. If you want more RP, say so. The GM is omniscient IN GAME ONLY. Reach out and let him/her know your thoughts.

Also, if you're like me, there's probably a bit of chit-chat, small talk, and bulls**tting before the session starts. This is a great time for GMs to offer some helpful hints or tips & tricks. It's not an adversarial set-up. A GM shouldn't try to defeat the players. Think of it like a load screen and give a nugget of helpful advice. And players, this is a great time for you to ask your GMs to do things like try to give better descriptions or the like.

If either side is unduly afraid to speak up, there may be a deeper issue.

The answer is, as is often the case, to speak up.
 

The most important feedback is honest feedback. If you're not having fun, tell the GM. If you know why, include that.

It all starts with, "Hey, I'm not enjoying this (adventure/game system/playergroup/pace of play)"...
 




If just saying to your DM what you said here isn't adequate, go with plan B (Which kind of agrees with ccs and disagrees with TwoSix).

It might be a good idea to just walk face first - roleplaying your characters but not doing any pixelbitching - into whatever meatgrinder the DM has set, and then do it AGAIN with the next set of characters, and THEN have a conversation with them.

"Well... we're all dead. Again. Is this how you were picturing this going?"

Because if they say "Yeah, that was awesome! Traps go woosh!" then they may be a great friend and a lovely person, but they are not the DM for you.
 

Talk to the GM about the playstyle you enjoy, the things you like to see more of in a game. A GM should always be open to listening to what their players are looking for in a game, but even a good GM may have a hard time with listening to all the stuff people don't like in their games. Taking constructive criticism is a hard skill to develop. So I'd advise trying to start with focusing on the positive. Talk to them about your character, their personality, where you'd like to see them develop, that you'd like to have more opportunities to role play through that with NPCs and other PCs.

But eventually, it may come down to saying "could we quit it with having to scour each 40' dungeon corridor and maybe have some modulation in difficulty," or "we are not enjoying this game," or even just finding another game. I've learned the hard way that good friends do not always make for good people to game with. And sometimes GMs must learn the hard way, if they ever learn at all.
 

Bayushi_seikuro

Adventurer
Agree with most of the advice. My only question that might clarify things is -- how much experience does this player have running games? 'Trying a new system he purchased' sounds kinda scary there, even as an experienced GM. I agree too that retreating into minutae tends to be a signal flare of discomfort in running the game.
 

Retreater

Something occurs to me. Are you starting from a place of assuming that the way your DM is doing it is wrong, and you just need to find a way to show them the error of their ways?

Because...that may not be it. You may have to accept that, from their sincere point of view, the way YOU are doing it is wrong. And you just don't have compatible gaming styles.
 



Retreater

Legend
Agree with most of the advice. My only question that might clarify things is -- how much experience does this player have running games? 'Trying a new system he purchased' sounds kinda scary there, even as an experienced GM. I agree too that retreating into minutae tends to be a signal flare of discomfort in running the game.
He's run a few games over the years, but not traditionally in our group of players. The "new" system is an OSR system, and he expressed a desire to get back to the "original fun" of the game.
 


Retreater

Legend
Retreater

Something occurs to me. Are you starting from a place of assuming that the way your DM is doing it is wrong, and you just need to find a way to show them the error of their ways?

Because...that may not be it. You may have to accept that, from their sincere point of view, the way YOU are doing it is wrong. And you just don't have compatible gaming styles.
I get that, but several of the players are not having fun. So whether we find some way for all of us to have fun with the game (even if it means he just throws us a session every now and then that we enjoy, switch campaigns/systems/GMs, etc), do a video hangout to stay in touch and not play anything, or whatever, I think it's important that we all enjoy our time together.
From what he told me he wanted to do with the game (fast-paced, rules-lite, "the way we used to play,") he isn't accomplishing that.
 


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