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Managing My Expectations? (+)

Retreater

Legend
Bit of a red flag if the story is so complex that you need your players to take notes. Each session ideally would be the beginning and end of a self contained story that doesn't require a scribe.
Yeah, but they tell me they want mysteries, world-building, interesting NPCs, etc. When we were doing a simple dungeon crawl, they weren't invested in that either.
Age is a big factor, when you get past 22 life is going to start to take over as a priority for gaming.
I totally understand that, even if I'm at the stage in life now where I have more free time due to my career but less people to spend it with because they've all got different priorities.
Honestly, work and gaming are the only social outlets I have. No friends besides gaming friends (and the co-workers I pester).
 

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innerdude

Legend
I've been in this situation before, and can commiserate.

For me, I basically decided that if the players couldn't be bothered to be engaged, that I couldn't be bothered to participate. If the group was to continue, that change was needed.

I can be pretty blunt when the situation suits. I really, really hate lack of transparency and disingenuousness when I interact with people. When I detect those things, my psychological makeup simply won't tolerate it, and at that point I have very little fear of calling out the "elephants in the room," so to speak.

"So, I'm going to be honest, the current dynamic of the group isn't working for me. There's a lack of engagement, and it doesn't feel like we're collectively getting what we want out of this.

"I want this to change, because all of our time is valuable. If you're only coming to these sessions out of a sense of obligation, that's not going to work. Obviously engagement will vary over time, it's not like I'm expecting you come to every session like it's a World Cup soccer match. But overall, there's a general level of engagement that's needed for this activity to really succeed and be what we want it to be.

"And look, if this really isn't your cup of tea, that's okay! No one's going to be offended if you leave, or decide to spend your time in other ways. It's your life. The number of hours in a day and week are limited.

"So --- what do we really want?"

And then really talk about it. Is it system? Is it the types of content being presented to them as the GM? Is it pacing? Lack of combat? Too much combat? They want more mystery? More player control? More narrative driven?

And the thing of it is, seeing how they react to this kind of conversation is just as much a litmus test as what they actually say. If they perk up and become engaged in talking through these things, then you know your group has a chance. If the conversation is little more than some hemming and hawing and a few vague generalities, then you know that it's probably time to move on. If they can't even bother to talk about what they'd like out of their RPG play, then you know it's not important enough for them to even care about what they care about.

The other thing about having this kind of a conversation is, you have to be fully willing to accept ANY outcome. It's entirely possible your group will get a new lease on life.

It's also entirely possible that the group will disband, or you'll end up walking away---which is what I ended up doing, and I have zero regrets to this day about doing so.

But choosing to NOT hold this conversation generally leads to the group disbanding anyway, but after a protracted stint of unenjoyable, unsatisfying gaming. So why not just skip the unenjoyable, unsatisfying gaming and get right to the result, good or bad?
 

Retreater

Legend
Unfortunately, it was only a couple weeks ago that we had the discussion that led to last night's Session 0 to start a new campaign with a new system. Maybe it will pick up?
 

payn

He'll flip ya...Flip ya for real...
Yeah, but they tell me they want mysteries, world-building, interesting NPCs, etc. When we were doing a simple dungeon crawl, they weren't invested in that either.
I'd ask for examples of what they think these things are. As in, game examples that they would find interesting and engage with. After their responses, I'd point out missed opportunities and ask why they didnt hook the players.

Unfortunately, it was only a couple weeks ago that we had the discussion that led to last night's Session 0 to start a new campaign with a new system. Maybe it will pick up?
Now is probably the best time to have the discussion, part II.
 

Retreater

Legend
I'd ask for examples of what they think these things are. As in, game examples that they would find interesting and engage with. After their responses, I'd point out missed opportunities and ask why they didnt hook the players.
When I've done this in the past, they usually respond with "we forgot about that guy" or "we had too many options for what to do" or "I didn't want to talk to THAT character because it would reveal too much of our plan."

Now is probably the best time to have the discussion, part II.
Yeah, we were going to be starting with Session 1 next week, but I'm guessing we'll be having Session 0.5 (since two of the four players didn't finish their characters anyway).
 

innerdude

Legend
You mentioned a couple of months ago that you're also primarily running games online.


I have to say, online gaming is HARD. I've found you kind of have to limit the timeframe to be much shorter. 2-2.5 hour sessions versus 4, 5, or 6 hour sessions. They have to be TIGHT, they have to be FOCUSED, and the material has to be pretty well pre-defined. It's really, really hard to "wing it" online with a "trad" system.

My current group tried online gaming over the pandemic, and it was just never really satisfying, UNTIL we tried Ironsworn. Abandoning the need for battle maps, and highly tactical combat play, and using a system that let us do much more freeform narrative --- THAT made it feel much more like we were connecting on a creative level, and engagement was high. Ironsworn was the only system we've played online where the players said afterwards, "Man, that was almost as good as gaming in person."
 

ruemere

Adventurer
[...]

So what should I do? Limit what I put into the games? (And what should I cut out to save time?) Take a break from the hobby altogether (which I'm afraid would leave me with nothing to do)?
I have ran into similar issues, and this is what worked for me:

1. The person who snoozes - made sure they got less sugar/food. Seriously.

2. Start a game with 5 slides of Google Slides.

For a session 0 it was about basics of mechanics and settings.

For session #+1, just a slide with What has gone before.

3. Start with a bang and a simple premise. Iron/retcon stuff if necessary later. Just so that no one needs to study.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Supporter
Bit of a red flag if the story is so complex that you need your players to take notes. Each session ideally would be the beginning and end of a self contained story that doesn't require a scribe.

Unless no future session is going to reference the current one, you ought to have notes. Otherwise, later it is, "Who is this Dr. J. McVillain, and why is he trying to kill us?"
 

beancounter

(I/Me/Mine)
For that particular night, I'm assuming so. And I understand it when you work all day, you have young kids, etc. But on top of it his enthusiasm has greatly diminished over the past 6 months or so and he barely participates at all in regular circumstances.
And yeah, there might be circumstances for that change as well. I ask, but everyone in the group says they're fine. I can't do anything if they won't tell me.
I understand your frustration. It's obvious they're disengaged, but they won't admitt it. Maybe they are concerned they'll hurt your feelings? Maybe they are hanging on hoping it will get better.

Without an open and honest conversation (from them), that's going to be rough.

Maybe try a "scorched earth" approach and announce that your closing the game down, and see how they react. Maybe that will get them talking.

And if they act like stopping the game is no big deal, it's time to form a new group.
 

payn

He'll flip ya...Flip ya for real...
I understand your frustration. It's obvious they're disengaged, but they won't admitt it. Maybe they are concerned they'll hurt your feelings? Maybe they are hanging on hoping it will get better.

Without an open and honest conversation (from them), that's going to be rough.

Maybe try a "scorched earth" approach and announce that your closing the game down, and see how they react. Maybe that will get them talking.

And if they act like stopping the game is no big deal, it's time to form a new group.
They also might just be hanging on because they want to play but nobody wants to step up and run a game. I've had these sort of Friday Kinights as I like to call them. Just there for the jokes, the dice, and the beers.

Could be the online format too. Its a hard adjustment and some old dogs just don't like new tricks.
 

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