That One Time


Small God of the Dozens
I've had the same problem running Star Wars. Fighter pilot PC. Every fight on the ground, the pilot is feeling useless . Every starship combat, everyone else is twiddling their thumbs (except the guy flying the beat-up freighter everyone else travels in). I kept trying to have simultaneous starship/ground combats like the end of Return of the Jedi so everyone had something to do, but jeeeez that wore out my GMing ingenuity after a while. Oh, and our scoundrel-type was a slicer and wanted to spend all his time hacking systems too, just to add to the fun for everyone.

Eventually the pilot got sick of it (after one of my more egregious GMing failures, admittedly) and rolled up a Jedi. Pretyy unsatisfying.
All of the satisfying starship combat rules I've ever used are ones where every PC is "manning a station" and involved every turn. I want every one manning a station on the Millennium Falcon, and no Luke riding shotgun in an X-Wing. YMMV.

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James Gasik

I tried that in Starfinder, sadly, it didn't work out so well. It was still pretty boring for everyone but the pilot, as you were basically rolling to see if the pilot got a bonus most of the time. But since everyone has a role outside of ship combat, it's certainly a good idea to do the same IN ship combat.

Even if some characters, like the Noble and the Protocol Droid, don't get to do anything other than gripe while the "hunk of junk" they are riding in comes under fire.


Small God of the Dozens
The rules I wrote for my Sci-Fi trophy hack put almost equal weight on five stations, with each station having a decision point to either perform action X or roll to support other action Y or Z. Not every station can help every other one, and the rolls happen in sequence (players choice) so there's a tactical element to who goes when and what they should do. Only one player rolls to attack (which is how Trophy combat works anyway) and ships are treated essential as large PC or monsters with some slight modifications.

I've had the same issue in sci-fi settings. I've finally gone with what I call the Firefly Solution: the ship is home and transport, unarmed and not combat-worthy. Other than a money sink and the occasional issue with getting parts, it doesn't play any other role.

This strips away part of the sci-fi experience, but I haven't really worked out a way to do otherwise. The Noble Armada maps (wonderful stuff) have a mini-carrier that houses six fighters, and I've thought of trying a campaign with every player running two PCs: a fighter pilot and a ground operator, each used as appropriate. But I've never gotten the spark to pull it into a campaign.

Star Wars is unplayable for me, because inevitably everyone wants to be a Jedi, and I have zero interest in that.


Back in 3.x, my druid had shape-changed into a bird to do some reconnaissance, but I got captured by the villains. So instead of just killing my character or letting me play an NPC (or heck, even telling me to not come to the sessions), the DM had me sit there for more than two 5-hour sessions doing absolutely nothing. And to keep from knowing what was going on with my character (or for my character with them), I had to sit in another room by myself.
You actually did this? And the rest of the players never gave the DM grief? How old were you and the DM at the time?


Hobbit on Quest (he/him)
One would think that designers would've figured out how to handle these disparate elements by now, some 50 years into the hobby. Like maybe you don't want 3/4ths of your group twiddling their thumbs during a prolonged minigame?
Maybe the solution is to not do mass combat with D&D and instead go to Warhammer for those segments? Or for ship-to-ship combat, resolve those scenes with X-Wing miniatures?
I can't engage all players all the time due to the differences in playstyles and situational distractions, but the system shouldn't work against player engagement based on character design.
(I apologize that this is the bourbon talking.)
There's a point where it's the designers - but there's also a point where it's the implementation at the table. In other words, the players and GM. When there are subsystems/minigames involved or substantial differences in specialization/focus (like the X-Wing pilots), maybe a group should opt to conform to engaging with those specialties and not building a broadly mixed group that can't interact with the game in the same way.
Now, it would also be nice if games included more advice on how to handle these sorts of topics...


You actually did this? And the rest of the players never gave the DM grief? How old were you and the DM at the time?
Our group was early/mid-20s. All of us out of college, working full-time, with our own houses/apartments.
Since this was before the age of streamed D&D and a lot of online discussion of proper DM procedures, I guess it didn't seem as bad because we didn't know how D&D was supposed to work. It was a role-playing game, right? Coming from a theatre background at that time, there were many rehearsals where I had limited involvement.
But it was right around that time that I started valuing my hobby time more - because it was getting so limited. I started having issues with sessions like the one I described above. Or when the same DM had us search an empty multi-level tower room-by-room over multiple sessions to find the one room with the one thing we need in it.
This is why I prefer to DM nowadays.

That's great! Generally at cons, I'm only there with my brother, and on the occasions that the game has been badly un-fun, he's been the one talking me out of storming off.

Any time I go to a bad con game, I have a code phrase I use. If I go with a group of friends to play together, this is specifically helpful to gauge if they're having fun.
"Did Jeremiah have a key to the room?"
If they're willing to give it a bit more time, they will say "I don't think so - but we should be back before he is."
But if it's clear that I'm done, I'll say, "Jeremiah has locked himself out of the room." And if they want to leave they'll say, "I'll have to give you a ride."
Last GenCon, there was a game so bad that I got up, reading my phone, "Oh sh*t! Jeremiah was hit by a car. I'm going to have to go to the hospital."
And of course, our friend Jeremiah actually had locked himself out of the room once. And yes, we still use this code even if he's sitting at the table with us.

I think it got better when they integrated the augmented reality and internet of things into the setting, but yeah, it still has so many elements that involve the group sitting there while someone else does the thing.

Also, that there was no real tier system to Shadowrun Missions was incredibly frustrating. It was like showing up with your second level character and someone else is playing a 17th level character. I swear, the one session one PC pretty much did the whole adventure by themselves.

Shadowrun has what I call the hacking problem. In games where it is a completely seperate subsystem there can often be a whole lot of thumb twiddling at the table. Snooze.

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