Managing My Expectations? (+)

Not bad, but if it's D&D, that's like saying, "hey all, try to look interested while Steve looks up all of his 3rd level spell options,  again, and your character stands around like a punching bag for ten minutes until your next turn starts."
I read this in Elrond voice thanks to your avatar and it was surprisingly plausible!

I thought at one point I'd need to do a no screens at the table rule, but ironically, technology progressed and it's no longer an issue because people have their game-related app/character sheet open, generally speaking, and so it perversely speeds things up because Steve was staring at his phone but was actually staring at his 3rd level spell options during your turn!

Facebook was a big damn problem in, like, 2010, because people were on it a lot and distracted by it, but by 2015 people were totally "over" it. We do have one player whose phone is a problem, but solely because he has a very controlling/needy spouse who is prone to inventing/inflating crises he needs to deal with. And that's been a problem since before smartphones. Since Facebook there's been no app that distracts players routinely.
 

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UngainlyTitan

Legend
Supporter
@Retreater I have been following your post mortems and this confirms, to me, that there is a mismatch between your expectations and your players. I was going to suggest that since they seemed to be a bit passive to rail road them hard or a classic dungeon crawl but it seems you have tried that.
Not sure what I can add over and above the suggestions made already but I would consider telling them that you need a break and are burned out DM'ing before you actually burn out.
See if anyone steps up, or perhaps find another groups to play in as a player or DM.
 

BookTenTiger

He / Him
@Retreater I have been following your post mortems and this confirms, to me, that there is a mismatch between your expectations and your players. I was going to suggest that since they seemed to be a bit passive to rail road them hard or a classic dungeon crawl but it seems you have tried that.
Not sure what I can add over and above the suggestions made already but I would consider telling them that you need a break and are burned out DM'ing before you actually burn out.
See if anyone steps up, or perhaps find another groups to play in as a player or DM.
Yeah, if you've tried different modes of play, if you've talked with the players about what they want, if you've had a Session 0, and it's still not working...

Then maybe it's the group, not the DM! I vote for ending this weekly game, joining another group as a player, or starting up a new group with more engaged players.
 

TheSword

Legend
Yeah. Speaking at least for myself, I have been getting a little tired of 5e, so we went first to WFRP and then to PF2.

I did offer to run this one for the group, but it didn't appeal to them.

We ended up completing the first book in the series, ending the mystery in Bogenhafen. It was largely hand-held to get them to the final showdown, but at least that one was well planned. Essentially, they failed the mystery but their planning and clever takedown of the enemies saved the day.
So they wouldn't interview any of the council members. I even got it down to "probably one of these two guys." Flat out told them. And they couldn't be bothered to remember the names of the two suspects from session to session. Or do anything to try to stop them. Even after they were given a very strict time table "the f'ing end of the world is coming in two days" they spent their time shopping and bickering over prices to stable their horses. Finally I had an NPC flat-out tell them "it's this guy. this is when and where he is going to do it. For the love of Sigmar, go there or everyone in the town will die. And then they barely went, almost as an after thought.
It sounds like they would prefer to play a board game. There are great roleplayers out there. I suggest go back to the drawing board and get a new party.

Offer to DM, as you clearly have a lot of experience, but as you play online with strangers, audition your players: Ask people who want to game to produce something that requires some engagement. Something like WFRPs ten questions. Then do a ten minute online chat about their expectations and experience.

Then start of with something you know is a really good quality module and build things from there. Bump anyone who won’t engage. Better to have three good roleplayers than four good roleplayers and two really bad ones. Then ask the good people to help you find more good people based on their experiences if you want to expand the group. It may sound harsh but being upfront about what you expect is the key to happiness.

The Ten Questions: Inspiration not a novella backstory
Where are you from?
What is your family like?
What was your childhood like?
Why did you leave home?
Who are your friends?
What is your greatest desire?
What are your best and worst memories?
What are your religious beliefs?
To whom, or what, are you loyal?
Why are you adventuring?
 

Retreater

Legend
@Retreater I have been following your post mortems and this confirms, to me, that there is a mismatch between your expectations and your players. I was going to suggest that since they seemed to be a bit passive to rail road them hard or a classic dungeon crawl but it seems you have tried that.
Not sure what I can add over and above the suggestions made already but I would consider telling them that you need a break and are burned out DM'ing before you actually burn out.
See if anyone steps up, or perhaps find another groups to play in as a player or DM.
Not all my post-mortems have been with this group, but yes, I've tried a variety of game styles. Most of them for these players have been sandboxes - Rime, The Enemy Within. The best experience since going online was Curse of Strahd - which is a limited sandbox but was also an excellent adventure I had experience running from previous editions as well as the first we played. There could be an exhaustion in online play coming through?
I do have another group I DM online - which is less committed (but also not a weekly game). I am in another game as a player already - and it's nice to have a break from GMing, but I need to find a way to be a better player since I don't often wear that hat (and the game is a bit out of my comfort zone).
 


TheSword

Legend
Incidentally I think this is the best article I’ve seen to explain what I need from a player.


Here’s one snippet… probably the most applicable to your difficulties, but all the advice is good.

INTERROGATE THE FICTION

At the table, each Player’s main job is to interrogate the situation — the Fiction — as presented by the GM. Whilst the GM’s job is to present situations and challenges for your Characters to overcome, a GM can’t be expected to think of everything — and nor should that be the case! Your job is to ask questions, build on the answers, and come up with exciting and dramatic solutions.

The GM describes a dusty library through which the street urchins fled. Olivia — Orion’s Player — asks the GM if her Character sees any footprints in the dust that might indicate where they’ve gone. The GM replies that there are none, other than those Orion and Gwen have just made. Orion points this detail out to Gwen, and Gus — Gwen’s Player — asks the GM if Gwen knows of any levitation spells that the urchins might have access to. The GM responds that it’s possible, but such magic is jealously guarded by the wizard guilds… which has curious connotations for who the urchins really are, if they do in fact possess such power.

Think outside the box, ask the unexpected, and don’t be afraid to ask leading questions. The GM, and the other Players at the table, are playing the game to be surprised, and to find out what happens just as much as you are!
 

TwoSix

Uncomfortably diegetic
Yeah, if you've tried different modes of play, if you've talked with the players about what they want, if you've had a Session 0, and it's still not working...

Then maybe it's the group, not the DM! I vote for ending this weekly game, joining another group as a player, or starting up a new group with more engaged players.
Yea, if you've tried open communication, new systems and new settings, and nobody still seems to get on board, you're pretty much in the "staying together for the sake of the kids" stage of that gaming group.
 

payn

He'll flip ya...Flip ya for real...
Incidentally I think this is the best article I’ve seen to explain what I need from a player.


Here’s one snippet… probably the most applicable to your difficulties, but all the advice is good.

INTERROGATE THE FICTION

At the table, each Player’s main job is to interrogate the situation — the Fiction — as presented by the GM. Whilst the GM’s job is to present situations and challenges for your Characters to overcome, a GM can’t be expected to think of everything — and nor should that be the case! Your job is to ask questions, build on the answers, and come up with exciting and dramatic solutions.

The GM describes a dusty library through which the street urchins fled. Olivia — Orion’s Player — asks the GM if her Character sees any footprints in the dust that might indicate where they’ve gone. The GM replies that there are none, other than those Orion and Gwen have just made. Orion points this detail out to Gwen, and Gus — Gwen’s Player — asks the GM if Gwen knows of any levitation spells that the urchins might have access to. The GM responds that it’s possible, but such magic is jealously guarded by the wizard guilds… which has curious connotations for who the urchins really are, if they do in fact possess such power.

Think outside the box, ask the unexpected, and don’t be afraid to ask leading questions. The GM, and the other Players at the table, are playing the game to be surprised, and to find out what happens just as much as you are!
Very nice stuff here. I think the Paizo AP style players guides aid greatly in this effort. If the adventure you are running doesn't have one, or are making up your own adventure, I strongly suggest putting a little time into making one.
 

TheSword

Legend
Another tip I’ve found to keep things interesting is to use this structure.


I frequently use this with pre-written modules, particularly those from Paizo and 3e (and earlier) If modules have areas that are much bigger than this then I will usually pare them down. Take out some fluff encounters and filler, and get to the action quicker. If it’s a particularly important area I might split the dungeon into multiple 5 room dungeons with some form of bridging area.
 

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