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General OVERLY CRITICAL: Sucking the joy out of the game.

Fauchard1520

Explorer
I worry sometimes that I'm ruining the game for myself. That by being overly-critical of each and every session, I wind up talking all the fun out of my favorite pastime. It's especially bad when a nervous new GM friend asks, "Did you guys have fun?" Cue the nitpicks, followed by the gut punch of watching my buddy's face fall.

Am I the only one that has this problem? Do any of you guys find yourselves turning into joyless, overly analytical fun-sucks, or do you only acquire that template after you spending too much time on forums? Is there any cure?

Comic for illustrative purposes.
 

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Jd Smith1

Explorer
No. But I choose my players carefully, and when a player starts complaining too much we help him get past it through copious verbal abuse.

This won't work in all cases. YRMV.
 

Learn to give compliments to your DM (and if you're the DM, don't forget to compliment players).

If your D&D experience is one long string of moments that were pretty good but lacked something every time, and that sucked the joy out of it for you as a player, and you want to vent that frustration by explaining that to the DM, then just don't. Listing the individual mistakes (or potential improvements) don't help the DM. Try instead to see if there is any overarching theme to these mistakes (i.e. all NPCs really seem robotic or all the traps are too easy). Then open up with a compliment, then state that there is one aspect that bothers you, and explain it.

And don't hesitate to go back to another session zero, to check if everybody's expectations of the game are still the same.
 

mortwatcher

Explorer
I always tell them I had fun even if I didn't enjoy 100% of the things
especially if it's minor stuff and nitpicks, keep that to yourself
if it's some big rules thing, we discuss it during session, make a quick ruling and then have a conversation about if afterwards online and see where we end up

there should be no reason to be impolite to a new GM and dry to make them do everything as you see fit, let them have their style
 

Jd Smith1

Explorer
Learn to give compliments to your DM (and if you're the DM, don't forget to compliment players).

If your D&D experience is one long string of moments that were pretty good but lacked something every time, and that sucked the joy out of it for you as a player, and you want to vent that frustration by explaining that to the DM, then just don't. Listing the individual mistakes (or potential improvements) don't help the DM. Try instead to see if there is any overarching theme to these mistakes (i.e. all NPCs really seem robotic or all the traps are too easy). Then open up with a compliment, then state that there is one aspect that bothers you, and explain it.

And don't hesitate to go back to another session zero, to check if everybody's expectations of the game are still the same.
While this is a viable approach, IMO too much interaction is bad.

As a GM, accept that players vote with their feet, so if they're showing up each week, you doing good. Next, always watch and listen: besides using their paranoid speculation against them, focus on what they talk about among themselves. Note what they praise, and most especially what they don't talk about, because that is what failed.

As a player, and this is really hard, accept that no GM is going to get it completely the way you want it or would run it.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
I'm very easy to please as a player. If the game is funny, I like it. If the game is productive, I like it. If it's both, then that's a good game in my view. I don't really care about getting the rules right when someone else is DMing unless it's just completely inconsistent to the point of not being able to make reasonably informed decisions.

If the game is neither funny nor productive, I'm going to say something in an effort to help. It may not always be what the DM wants to hear, but we don't do our friends any favors when we remain silent.
 

cmad1977

Adventurer
I usually wait until after the ‘adventure/campaign’, whatever to ask for feedback. Then I take the feedback and apply it to the next campaign, if applicable.
 

dnd4vr

Tactical Studies Rules - The Original Game Wizards
I worry sometimes that I'm ruining the game for myself. That by being overly-critical of each and every session, I wind up talking all the fun out of my favorite pastime. It's especially bad when a nervous new GM friend asks, "Did you guys have fun?" Cue the nitpicks, followed by the gut punch of watching my buddy's face fall.

Am I the only one that has this problem? Do any of you guys find yourselves turning into joyless, overly analytical fun-sucks, or do you only acquire that template after you spending too much time on forums? Is there any cure?

Comic for illustrative purposes.
What are you being overly-critical about?

We have a new player (only 6 months of experience) who recently ran a CoS spin-off two-session adventure. He's a great guy, friendly and such, and apologetic by nature. After each session he asked how it went. Myself and our regular DM are the only ones with DMing experience, so we gave him some little tips and such, but since every DM has their own style, we weren't overly-critical of him. Sure, he made some mistakes as far as rules, but even then we emphasized that he's DMing, so if he wants to run some rule a bit differently, that is his prerogative.

Now he is prepping his next CoS adventure, and we are all really looking forward to it.

Sometimes we get caught up in the rules-interpreting or analytics, but we try to put those aside for after the game and just go with it until the session is over.
 

Yeah, I can be like that sometimes. I try not to be, and sometimes I just bite my tongue, but there are other times when something just didn't work or wasn't fun.

Usually it isn't a major problem, most of my DM's are people I DM'd for first, and they know I am equally hard on myself and highly-critical of my own games. So, they don't take anything personally.

I do feel bad about a time in an online game a newer DM (first campaign, but we were a year or two into by this point) pulled a really heavy handed dues ex machina that kind of ruined an entire session for me. He asked how we liked the game after, and I pointed out how the heavy handed move and his obvious reluctance to let the villains fully unload on us kind of ruined the fight for me, because I knew we were in a hopeless situation and we weren't saved by anything we did, we were saved because he wanted the entire fight to be hopeless and then us be saved by plot. I think I hurt his feelings a little, and I told him even then that I loved the campaign, it was just this one session wasn't fun.

But, I think one thing that really matters is the place the criticism comes from and how nitpicky it is. "Why didn't the villains use this more tactical sound plan in battle" is just being a jerk IMO, "Wait, what even is the villain's motivation in this campaign, and why are we supposed to just allow this to happen" can be more of a trying to improve the story.
 

ad_hoc

Hero
I would start by answering the question asked.

"Did you guys have fun?"

If the answer is no then there really is a problem.

If the answer is yes then say so.

There is a fine line in there. I like to ask the table after a session if they had a good time. I don't want something to bug someone and have them eventually quit the game because it never changes. Better to hear about it now and see if we can change things to make it more fun for them.

So I guess the question you need to ask yourself is, if your complaints aren't being addressed will you quit over it? Is the game not fun because of these things? If the answer is no you should probably let it go.

There is also room in there for constructive feedback about DM skills. I think these should be broad and not about any specific thing.

Here is an example of a real conversation:

Friend: How was my DMing?
Me: I had a lot of fun. I think something you're much better at than me is getting into the role of the NPCs and having great dialogue with us.
Friend: Oh great.
Me: I think one thing I'm really good at is pacing. Knowing when to narrate the end of a scene and the beginning of a new one to keep things going. I think getting a feeling for that just happens in time.

So it's not a thing my friend did wrong, just an area where they could find the most improvement.
 

Hawk Diesel

Adventurer
@ad_hoc has the right idea. Part of it is contextual. If you have a person who is new to DM'ing, you need to inspire confidence first and foremost. If you are too critical, that will discourage this person from wanting to DM. Being a DM, just like any skill, requires practice, and no one is good right from the get go. It takes time to nurture that skill and learn how to juggle interpreting rules, creating fun challenges, sharing the spotlight, valuing player input, and creating and interesting narrative while also managing all the enemies and NPCs.

Feedback is important, but if you are providing feedback, you need a few things. You need to find examples of things the DM did very well. Then you need to narrow down the critique to just one or maybe two really important pieces of feedback. Then when you communicate them, frame them in a way that focuses not on how the DM did things wrong, but rather how you might do it differently or how it could be done to make it more fun. This way it is not a knock on the DM, but rather advice on how a slight tweak can enhance the game. It's also important to use concrete examples whenever possible.
 

DM's are a bunch of masochists. We slave over every aspect of making our game perfect... then berate ourselves for what goes wrong. After most sessions I try to ask the players how it was. I want honest criticism, because I want to get better at DMing for them (I'm immodest enough to believe I'm a great DM overall). Sometimes the ego gets a little crushed, but sometimes that's the price for exposing your creativity to people.

As a player... if you're not having fun, get out. I'm not kidding. I've had to boot players from my games because they were dragging everyone down with them (as per the comic). No D&D is better than bad D&D, and with various styles of play, ruining a group that enjoys the game differently is a dick move. Just move on and find another game.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
I would start by answering the question asked.

"Did you guys have fun?"

If the answer is no then there really is a problem.

If the answer is yes then say so.
This is the important thing, not just for giving feedback, but just for yourself, both during and after the session.

If you are constantly focused on things that might be less than perfect, that means those things are taking up your attention. If your attention is taken up, then you are not paying attention to the good things in the session. This leads to a sort of confirmation bias - you don't see the good things, because you are so focused on other stuff, so of course the result seems bad to you.

Mind you, there are things of sufficient power and scope that you don't ignore them. Like, a toxic person at the table - no amount of "look past that" will serve you well there. But a whole lot of our nitpicks are not themselves game-killers if we don't set them up to be so.
 


Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
As a player... if you're not having fun, get out.
I'd say: As a player... if you're not having fun, talk to the GM. Establish with the GM what's missing, or what's going wrong, before just walking out. There's a ton of reasons why your fun may not be present that are fixable, and some reasons that are not. Make sure you know which you are dealing with.
 

Sorry Fauchard, I don’t have this issue. After seeking the ever elusive legendary Dungeon Master for decades, I now make a point of finding the fun in every game I play.

The Dungeon Master prepares a stage that we all play upon. I believe that Players make the game fun not just the Dungeon Master. There is a myth that playing this game means sitting around a great storyteller to be fascinated. Hogwash! This is a cooperative storytelling experience, if we aren’t having fun then the fault is often just a s much ours as it is the Dungeon Master’s.

I have come to understand that Players have a job to do, and that job is to drive the narrative forward. Without that, the game languishes and becomes something of a railroad as we relinquish control forcing the Dungeon Master to drive.

Now this all does not mean the Dungeon Master can’t do a bad job, but good Players will look for the stage the Dungeon Master has prepared for them and play along with it. If instead we use our energy to counter the Dungeon Master's plans and complain about the bad job they're doing, then we're doing a bad job too.
 

TwoSix

The hero you deserve
Supporter
So you had a nervous new GM, you criticized his running of the game, and you’re worried that you’re sucking the fun out of the game for you?

Possibly you might get a larger enjoyment out of things if you learn a bit of empathy.
 

I guess I'm very bad at determining when my players are having fun and when they're frustrated. And most of them are too nice (aka not confrontational) enough to tell me. So they flake out, find other games and drop out, etc.
So what I see as "one bad session away" from having a gaming group fall apart - it's actually more accurate to see it as a death by a thousand cuts, which I'm unaware that I'm dealing.
 

Hawk Diesel

Adventurer
I guess I'm very bad at determining when my players are having fun and when they're frustrated. And most of them are too nice (aka not confrontational) enough to tell me. So they flake out, find other games and drop out, etc.
So what I see as "one bad session away" from having a gaming group fall apart - it's actually more accurate to see it as a death by a thousand cuts, which I'm unaware that I'm dealing.
I've had this experience as well. I'm always asking for feedback after the sessions I run, asking what could have gone better or how others might have done things differently. But I found that often I was only hearing from some players and not others. So I started encouraging those players to email me. Sometimes people need time to process the session to evaluate it. Others aren't comfortable making those kinds of statements in public. And still others express their opinions and feelings better through type than with words. So email can be a great way to help get feedback from those that wouldn't otherwise provide it.
 

Sometimes I think the game is better in the telling.

What I mean by that is while we're playing the game we often get frustrated and things are often tense. These are real emotions that we as Players feel, and they're not fun emotions.

We get frustrated when the Dungeon Master challenges us, when the dice won't cooperate, and by our general inability to glean information from the situation. Things get tense when our Characters' lives are on the line, when the dice won't cooperate; and, when we're surprised, put on our back foot, despite all our plans.

However, later, when the emotions have had time to pass, we relive the encounters, remembering only the good stuff. We tell ourselves and eachother embellished tales of our great adventures.

Fauchard describes himself as a joyless fun-suck, but also describes the game as his favorite pastime. I think it is because the game is better in the telling due to the real emotions we're feeling while we play it.

I think it might be a good move to take some time during the game to recount past deeds.
 

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