View Full Version : As a player (and a DM, not at the same time tho) trying to help my DM...

2013-08-27, 01:11 PM
Hi everyone,

I am currently playing a game with my friends on Monday nights and I love the group and everyone brings a lot to the table...personality wise. But when it actually comes to playing the game, there are only a few of us that actually grasp the concepts well, play our characters well, and know what our characters are and are not capable of.

I know that some of us don't have as much time as others to learn what our PCs are capable of. But, we have been playing with each other for a couple years, and tho most of us have recently changed characters due to completed story arches or deaths, some of the same players still don't know what their PC is capable of. In other words, if I wasn't clear, it's a reoccurring issue.

I want to help my friends out and my DM because I can see how frustrating it is. We are level 14-15 and our DM can't even do "normal" things befitting our level because 4 of our 6 players still play their level 14-15 characters as if they were level 6.

So I have decided to take the lead and make up a questionnaire. One that will give me, as the new leader of the group, a cheat sheet to everyone's strengths and weaknesses so that we will become more efficient. But this isn't just for me to use, it will hopefully be a great tool for my friends to use as well.

Can you help me brainstorm questions I can ask them and write down that will serve this purpose? I already have some, things like,

"What does your character like to do?"
"What 4 skills does your character do best?"
"What are your weaknesses? (i.e. combat, using skills, etc.)"

Obviously the inverted version of these questions will be used if there aren't enough questions to ask, but I would like to keep the questions in the positive as much as possible. I want my friends to be able to look at this sheet and say,

"Rurick is good at intimidating, so I will do my best yell and bare my teeth at them in hopes to shaken them."

TL;DR: I am trying to help my friends by condensing their character sheets by asking simple questions that will highlight their strengths and abilities that they want to use.

And thank you for any and all help you provide me and my friends by contributing to this forum.

2013-08-28, 11:19 PM
I think the questionnaire is a good starting point for the players.
Ask some situational questions to get the character mindset, ie. What would your character do if...?

One of my old DMs gave me somesime similar at character generation to help build background but never for such high level characters.

What classes are the troubled players playing?
How long have they been playing?
What level did the PCs start at and how fast did they level? Could they have leveled to quickly to fully understand what their toons can do?

2013-08-29, 02:18 PM
I think the very first question you need to ask these players is: "are you having a good time playing your character the way it is, even though it could theoretically be more effective?"

2013-08-29, 02:50 PM
I'd agree - if people are having fun, what's the problem?

Beyond that...

First, I'd make sure you understand what problem you're trying to solve. "People aren't playing their characters the way I would" is not a problem.

Not being able to do certain things in the game *may* be a problem, but only if the rest of the party wants to do them as well. If it's just you that wants certain things, then it's again, not necessarily a problem with the other players.

So first, I'd suggest just talking and asking what everybody wants the game to be. If you have expectations, let everyone know what *you* think would be cool, and open their eyes to those possibilities. And accept that those four players may not care for those things that you consider "normal". You know, talk it out like reasonable, mature human beings.

Beyond that, I'd really think about just giving them suggestions of things that would work in play. Approaching it from a positive "hey, you could do this thing that would be really cool!" would get better responses than what they might perceive as some kind of crusade to get them to play "right".

2013-08-29, 02:59 PM
TBH, I have founnd that there are a lot of players out there that have a lot of trouble jumping into a new role in a high-level game, which is what it sounds like has happened. These types of players are fine in games where they've learned to play their characters over a long period of time, but get bewildered and indecisive when thrown a bunch of options that they aren't familiar with.

This gets very frustrating when you've got other players (like you it sounds) who can jump straight into a new role and understand how to play it.

Playing to match where the first group's skills are frustrates the second group, and vice versa. Tread very carefully here - you've got a potential mix for breaking your game up, with some of the players getting frustrated or bored with the game.

There isn't a quick fix for this situation that I've seen (and I've seen it before a couple of times). The DM can try to highlight some characters' capabilities by having encounters where NPCs use some of the abilities that the players have - this seemed to help some. But ultimately, the players have to learn their abilities, and this takes time. Sometimes a lot of time. Anduntil they get it down, you're either facing weak opponents that make for boring games or courting TPKs constantly.

I'd actually strongly advise going to a lower level of characters (perhaps even all the way back to first) and building back up again.

2013-08-29, 03:09 PM
Even a lot of experienced players forget that from levels 13->20, you're not playing LotR, you're playing superheroes. At 16th level you fly around all day, are generally immune/resistant to whole swaths of attacks, and generally defeat monsters by applying your trick, whatever it is. Combat generally consists of setting up your trick, while trying to negate theirs. Now, your trick could be as simple as "Wizard casting" or as complicated as "Charge/jump/pounce/teleport up/battle jump/charge/full attack/belt of battle/full attack/hustle/move away" (just an example, not sure if all thats exactly right), while making sure you have Death ward for energy drain, flying for ground pounders, ray deflection for ray casters, and huge saves for SoD casters. This feels more like Iron Man making sure he has the right laser and shield than Aragorn fighting it out. Learning this takes time.

If you want players to understand their own characters, then questionnaires aren't a bad idea, but remind them that the player and the character aren't seperate and both control each other. If the problem is that they don't understand fundamental truths of high level 3.5, may I recommend that you let them play some one-shot arena fights with mid-op pregen characters? Play them against other parties, more as a wargame than RP, and let them see what high level D&D is really like.

2013-08-31, 03:39 PM
My "trick" to improve familiarity with characters would be a body swap adventure. Suggest the DM to think up a dungeon or a story where the PCs switch character sheets for a day (best to do so in pairs), but make sure there is both some downtime (to talk things out) and a combat encounter or a dungeon challenge (to use their skills/spells) after each switch.

2013-09-01, 02:32 AM
Heavily depending on which system you play and the people you play with, I tend to do the following (both as a DM and as a player):

1) Before any stat/skill/power/whatnot is decided/rolled, I want to know who a character is. That includes basic things as gender, age and height, but also detailed stuff like 'did he/she end up in their current situation by their own volition, or were they forced?' and 'how do they generally react when meeting new people?'. Mind you: I play my own characters very much by feel; I instinctively know what makes them tick, and this makes it very easy to make decisions like these. It's like having the protagonist of a good book or movie living in my head.

2) When playing, I try to reach for rules and dice as little as possible. By doing this, you get players to focus on their characters instead of on their statistics. If it's not important, just don't roll for it. It takes the attention away from the story (where it should be) and focuses on the rules instead (which should only serve to support the story).
Please find an example here (http://forum.chaosforge.org/index.php/topic,6253.msg55982.html#msg55982), to which I'll shamelessly add that I'm still looking for a couple of extra players.

3) Award most of your experience points for roleplaying. An ingenious idea that leads to a spectacular bit of action should not go unrewarded, but these should be exceptional cases. This way you can encourage players to get to know their characters, especially the ones that tend to focus on rules - they are generally also the ones who focus on accumulating experience points as quickly as possible.
I tend to steer away from systems that have a bestiary that lists an experience award for every creature encountered, since it only serves to stimulate mindless hack-n-slash rather than character-play.

I'll restate that this depends heavily on system and peers. To clarify, I've found that the New World of Darkness system works really great for this purpose, so the things I come up with besides Vampire are usually based on that (also see the example linked to above). The people I play with average between 0 and 20 years of personal experience, averaging 10+ at least.