B/X Known World
It's not just about grinding. But that's part of it. I think the comparison is nearly perfect. Gamers are gamers. It doesn't matter what game they play or what platform it's on. Tabletop RPGs or MMOs. Most gamers are still out to win, and almost laser focused on finding the shortest, most efficient path to win.Yeah, sorry. I found the comparison exasperating. There’s a different dynamic between video games and tabletop RPGs. The latter isn’t dependent on an upstream developer to provide content or constrained to do just a prescribed list of things. It would be terrible to put the kind of grinding players tend to optimize around in MMOs into a tabletop RPG.
And grinding is in D&D. Look at XP for monsters and all the small, pointless, and barely resource draining fights packed into most dungeons and adventures. That's pure grinding. The CR system and the adventuring day and the balance of player resources. The devs designed the game around the assumption that parties would have between 6-8 medium combat encounters per day...and balanced PC resources for that. Actually hitting that mark is grinding.
And there's the thousand "little" ways players push for efficiency. The five-minute workday. Focusing fire...but screaming if they're targeted by focused fire. Focusing on the enemy leaders and casters...but screaming if their leaders or casters are focused on. The way combat almost always devolves into static, unmoving blocks of PCs and monsters. The way descriptions in combat almost always fade into a dry recitation of numbers. Players trying to just call out a skill and make a check instead of describing what they're doing in the fiction. If forced to take some kind of flaw, find the one that is least likely to ever come up. If it's a point-buy system, find the flaw with the biggest yield of points that will have the least impact on play. On and on. Some of these the tabletop RPG community recognizes as problematic, others are seen as simply smart. And DM's who push back labeled bad.
It's also why most actual play streams generally make terrible viewing and gamers generally make for terrible storytellers. Good stories are about emotion and drama, gamers tend to be laser-focused on winning and efficiency. All the things that make for good drama are dismissed out of hand as "stupid" by most gamers. Which is why the best and most popular actual play streams and podcasts are by professional storytellers who happen to be gamers. And there are no "gamer first" streams or podcasts that are widely popular.
You also see this in gamer analysis of other media. Like, "Why didn't they use the eagles to fly the ring to Mount Doom?" Because the point is the emotional and drama-filled story that results from them not using the eagles. The point isn't the quickest, most efficient path to victory. Like optimizers seemingly not grokking why someone wouldn't optimize.
As one data point, I present my current 5E West Marches game. I've had 43 players in that game over its short life (almost nine months now). The current active roster is 16. Of those 43, 2 have not tried to game the system. Neither of which are currently active because life got in the way. Most of the rest who quit, the other 25, are no longer playing because of various problems such as egregious metagaming, rage quitting when caught cheating (where did that extra 500gp come from?), one rage quit because I wasn't giving them enough XP (at the time they had the most XP in the game), one rage quit over my mentioning the centaur climbing problem, another rage quit because the mold earth cantrip wasn't full-on earth bending, one rage quit because they took one damage (literally one point of damage), etc.Unless you’re doing open table or public play, surely you’re able to filter players over time until you end up with a group that aligns with what you want to do?
The problem is it puts the DM and the rest of the group in a bind. Either the DM lets the optimized characters just stomp everything, rendering the game non-challenging and no fun (literally optimizing the fun out of the game), or the DM ups the difficulty of the game to match the optimized characters...which will then slaughter the non-optimized characters. So the players who don't want to optimize are either forced to optimize, lose dozens of characters in a horror-show of a game, or quit. Or the DM has to some how have two sets of monsters running constantly, one set for the optimized and one set for the non-optimized...keep them straight and never let them cross over lest there be another slaughter. How about ask the players to not optimize? Sure. You're then labeled a bad DM because all playstyles and preferences are valid. Or so I've been told.I’ve built and played optimized characters. It’s pretty fun. I would guess many of the people you decry are also having fun. That’s why I don’t care all that much about optimized characters. The players are still usually engaging with the rest of the game, especially since mine aren’t just about overcoming mechanical challenges, so it only becomes a problem in certain cases (e.g., when one specialist is way better than another at the same thing, which is highly system-dependent).
Sure. I expect much the same. I'm perpetually disappointed though. When starting my West Marches game I was very upfront that it was going to be old-school with food and water tracking, light sources, variant encumbrance, wilderness survival, exploration focused, etc. Really wanted to play up the old-school feel and make it grounded in the world and make resource management an important part of the game. So...of course...about 75% of the initial character concepts were Outlanders for the free food and water, druids with goodberry, rangers who never get lost, every caster with light, most picked races with darkvision and/or powerful build...completely obviating the entire stated focus of the game. I said "I want these things to matter" to which the players collectively said "nah." But importantly, they didn't opt not to play...they opted to play, but opted to render the focus of the game moot. So I had to ban things and house rule stuff to reiterate that no, really, this stuff is going to matter. And the players that stuck around complain about that to this day.Games are about something. In mine, the players pick what they want to do for the campaign (“loot the fallen capital” in my current game), and then we play to find out what happens. That’s the premise. I expect players to engage with what the game is about and not be disruptive to that end.
Sure. I think there's a level of disruption that's missed here. There's a spectrum between shows up five-minutes late and knifes the DM. I have no patience for people who are properly disruptive or destroy games. I'd rather not play than babysit adults. But players can still be disruptive without destroying games. Going against the premise of the game, insisting on playing the odd-man-out, loner edgelords, passive characters, roleplay terrorists, on and on. I deal with the minorly disruptive players because, in my experience, that's just gamers being gamers. Exhausting though it is. Which is not helped at all by the broader community having this toxic positivity of everything's okay and DMs who don't put up with disruptive behavior are bad. If I only got to play with people who weren't disruptive at all, I'd never get to play.I played in a group that had a player who was notorious for being disruptive. After he got his character exiled in the first hour of play in L5R, they told a story of how he got the party TPK’d after offending a bunch of NPCs. Why would you invite back a player who disrupts and destroys games habitually?
I’ve been playing only a couple of decades, but my experience has been that the number of really problematic players has been in the low single digits. Not questioning your experience, just saying how mine differs.
Pretty much.That sucks.