• The VOIDRUNNER'S CODEX is coming! Explore new worlds, fight oppressive empires, fend off fearsome aliens, and wield deadly psionics with this comprehensive boxed set expansion for 5E and A5E!

Keys to have good PuG sessions for TTRPG's?


If we select quick match in a video game lobby, we can expect a different experience than if we join a private lobby with friends. And while joining any TTRPG game is a slower process, I have found it is true that playing a TTRPG with strangers is also a different experience than playing with friends, either virtually or in person. But unlike a video game, there's now sometimes a cost beyond our time for a paid DM, which is precious enough on its own. So I am wondering, especially for paid virtual TTRPG play, what are the keys to improving our average experiences with PuGs for TTRPG's?

Let's start with the common problems with PuGs: there can be a wide experience gap between players; players can be more prone to not playing the game in the traditional sense (anything from trolling to not paying attention/not engaging); they may not have basic equipment (no mic, for example, or maybe no access to specific VTT/digital tools like DDB or Foundry); etiquette or unwritten rules of play might vary a lot between players; it's "just a quick game" - there are lower expectations, so less time/effort/seriousness/attention is given (gaming under the influence can be a thing, too); people drop out of a PuG more easily both before and during a session.

There is no "kick vote" (that I know of) and unless a paying player is violating posted rules, they aren't likely going to get kicked out during the session, and there's no vote to change the DM if the players decide it's a lame experience. There's no drop in/drop out in the middle of a session. There's no selecting a preferred role with some randomness on if you will be the DM or a player or what character type - everything is intentional and fixed for paid virtual TTRPG play, outside of quitting from the session. And there's no AI replacing a dropped player. But there's not really a consequence for dropping from a game, at least as a player, while a DM might get hit with negative reviews and perhaps a system would force a refund. Overall, I think this arrangement should be able to be leveraged into a strength for TTRPG's - but what are the keys to matching up expectations between all players?

There is usually some kind of game ad - rules, links, basically substituting for a session 0. But these vary wildly from game to game in content and quality, from "combat heavy. beginners welcome. Me do this long time." to "Come, adventurers, check out my custom item list and lore for my world and house rules and fill out these forms for safety tools and players on their first time with me will get a pregen character sheet as a trial and..." I think this is a key element. This game ad is everything. I would love it if it was more of a standard form rather than a text box. But what expectations should we have (and here I am thinking more about one-shots rather than a campaign)? For me, a one-shot that is a recruitment session for a campaign can be a little frustrating, likewise when it is an adventure that the DM has run a dozen times before, and I suppose there's overlap there. I also get disappointed when rp is nonexistent in a "combat heavy" session. I guess I am thinking if there were a ton of tags that could be used, I could get a better sense of what to expect from a game, or better attract likeminded players when hosting. There's nothing wrong with a game that is little more than a few tactical combats strung together but I am looking for to a better way to know what to expect. I may be oblivious to some codification already in place.

A big problem is that in a timed session, a certain amount of roleplay might be unwelcome, assuming the goal is to get to the end of the adventure to reach a conclusion within the time limit. It's not expected to get a follow-up session for a paid one-shot, and running over is usually planned for to some extent, but seems generally frowned upon. Likewise, things might be more prone to being fudged to keep players from dying until the end, which can feel unsatisfactory. What are they keys to time management for a PuG, as a DM and as a player, to satisfy competing player wants?

log in or register to remove this ad

Remove ads