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Cliff Sedge
2019-03-24, 10:53 PM
(The most difficult question, of course, is How do I get a group of people together to play in the first place?)

[TL;DR version: My group of D&D players don't want to go on adventures, they don't engage with the setting or any NPCs, and they do whatever it takes to not bite onto plot hooks. Basically, their play style is How do we break the game and break the DM, so that he doesn't want to play anymore? Do I continue playing with them and not have fun myself, or do I find a different play group?]

Long Story (i.e. rant) Version:

How do I deal with bad players?

Well, they aren't exactly "bad players." They know how to play, they know the rules well, and they aren't "bad people." They are actually all very nice, polite, friendly, generous, etc. - as people and as friends, especially...

How do I deal with frustrating players?

There are many ways for players to be frustrating: they show up late all the time, they are distracted or distracting all the time, they meta-game, etc. . . .

Okay, I'll get on with what I want to talk about --

I guess the type of frustration I am talking about is closest to meta-gaming in quality. (And, before anyone chimes in with the obvious, the advice of talk out-of-game with the players has already been tried.)

I've been playing with a particular group for a long time (2-3 years). We play once or twice a week, most weeks of the year, but sometimes go a month or two between sessions 'cause ya know, life... So, we've probably logged about 400-500 hours of play time in the same campaign. The campaign was one I put together by linking together at least three published modules with a big ladle-full of homebrew sauce. [The published material is a mix of AD&D 2nd ed. and D&D 3/3.5 ed. Our agreed-upon core system is d20-3.5 SRD.]

I selected only the first three sections of the first module, and I heavily cut down on sections two and three to more quickly segue into the other modules I wanted to include. That first adventure's intro recommends that the first section should take PCs from level 1 to level 2 or 3, the second section, lev. 2/3 to 4/5, etc.

I let the players start their characters at level 3, because I wanted them to get through the first section quickly and get into the more interesting stuff without too much risk of TPK. After 2-3 years of real-world time and over 100 game sessions played, we have only just recently completed the first section of the first adventure. After briefly attempting the second section's quest, they gave up because they thought it would be too difficult.

[The average character level of the party is now 6-7. The PCs include a level-8 wizard, a level-8 ranger/rogue/sorcerer, a level-7 wizard/rogue, a level-6 rogue/sorcerer, and depending on if other players show up - a level-6 fighter/bard, a level-6 barbarian, and a level-6 cleric/monk.]

The quest that they quit is intended for a party of four level-3s or -4s . . .

Now, a big reason for the slow progress through the intended adventure plot is that I like to offer a lot of side-quest options for a more "sandboxy" and less "railroady" game. But, as I came to realize more and more, is that this group of players (who had all played together regularly before I joined as a "relief GM" to give their regular GM a break to play more often) only choose to go on quests that have minimal significance and avoid anything that smells like I planned the encounter or quest in advance to connect to a wider story line.

I am an experienced D&D player. I have been designing and running adventures for close to 30 years. I know how to improvise, make up new encounters on the fly, and conduct an adventure in different directions based on the inevitable unexpected player choices. I actually don't mind so much that the story plots, NPCs, quests, and encounters that I spend hours working on each week never get experienced by others; I enjoy that process regardless. But I still think that what I have planned will be more interesting and exciting for the players than random encounters and hastily thrown-together settings - if only they would choose to engage with it.

I think that I would have more fun if the players engaged with anything at all. They never ask questions about the setting. They don't talk to NPCs unless spoken to first, and only enough to end the encounter without anything interesting happening. If I give a clue about something important that they should investigate, they ignore it and go in the opposite direction.

If you think that it's only my imagination that these players are doing this deliberately, or that maybe they just don't like any of the dozens of different adventure plots I've suggested for them to follow - I've heard most of them, at one time or another, talk about other games they've played in, and each explicitly and excitedly talks about how much fun it was to "break the game" / "break the DM." That is their version of fun, apparently.

I don't think that any of them don't like me, or why would they keep inviting me over to play in their games and run my games for them?

I definitely intend to remain friends with these otherwise good people, but playing RPGs with them is not satisfying to me. Do I continue to put up with the frustration, because these are the only people I know who like to play D&D regularly, or do I say, "Sorry, I love you guys, but I have to find a different group to play with"?

.
.
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Kyrell1978
2019-03-24, 11:04 PM
It sounds like you have tried a lot of reasonable ways to alleviate this problem to no avail. If you still want to run for this group I'd suggest switching your strategy in DMing since it seems that they have no intention of switching their style of play. Run a west marches campaign. If that type of thing doesn't interest you then you might have to cut your losses or just say that you'd rather play than DM for a while.

Kaptin Keen
2019-03-25, 12:06 AM
[TL;DR version: My group of D&D players don't want to go on adventures, they don't engage with the setting or any NPCs, and they do whatever it takes to not bite onto plot hooks. Basically, their play style is How do we break the game and break the DM, so that he doesn't want to play anymore? Do I continue playing with them and not have fun myself, or do I find a different play group?]

Sounds like fatigue. It happens. Try playing another campaign, or another system, or swap out the GM. Or all three.

Koo Rehtorb
2019-03-25, 12:30 AM
Stop using plot hooks and start using plot grenades. Which is to say, throw situations at them which demand to be dealt with, right now. A very basic example is "You're ambushed by a pack of goblins. What do you do?" They can fight the goblins, they can run from the goblins, they can try to negotiate with the goblins. But what they can't do is "nothing", because then the goblins will kill them.

Luccan
2019-03-25, 01:28 AM
It sounds like you have tried a lot of reasonable ways to alleviate this problem to no avail. If you still want to run for this group I'd suggest switching your strategy in DMing since it seems that they have no intention of switching their style of play. Run a west marches campaign. If that type of thing doesn't interest you then you might have to cut your losses or just say that you'd rather play than DM for a while.

This. If they want to do busywork, give them busywork. More so than even most west marches games, avoid any drawn-out plots they could get themselves into. I wouldn't give them anything longer than a standard dungeon. Though honestly, if talking to them didn't work, it sounds like you have bad players. Maybe they are nice people outside the game. But if they spit on your every attempt to run the game for them, I'd tell them to find a new DM. DMing isn't easy and fewer people will DM than play. If your DM is legitimately trying* and you refuse to work with them, you're just a jerk and don't deserve the DMs time.

*Talking to players and attempting to adapt, trying to improve as they go, that sort of thing. There are of course exceptions. There are those who, try as they might, won't make very good DMs for any number of reasons. I am not responsible for whatever terrible time you had with an earnest, but terrible, DM.

Bastian Weaver
2019-03-25, 02:46 AM
What if you make them think that in order to break the game, they actually have to play the game?
Or, or let them have a series of seemingly non-related adventures, only to throw a plot grenade at them later, revealing that it was all part of a malevolent plan!
Or yeah, just tell them "okay, guys, you want to break the game, and that's kind of not what I'm looking for. So I think we should meet other people. No offence".

Pelle
2019-03-25, 05:19 AM
You just have to accept that the players don't want to play the same type of game as you do.

If continuing to GM, let the players know that in order for it to be sustainable for you, you will stop preparing anything and just improvise at the sessions. If the players aren't happy about that, they need to start engaging with what you actually have prepped, but it sounds like they will prefer it anyways.

And if you want to prep, prep to improvise. For example, decide on major actors and interesting people in the area, their motivations and what kind of resources they have access to, and just prep some generic statblocks you can whip out when needed.

some guy
2019-03-25, 07:03 AM
First off, quit the group. There's a big division what they want out of a game and what you want. You've tried talking. If you continue, you'll end up burned out on roleplaying, if you aren't already. Nowadays, I only do shorter campaign and switch up my roleplaying systems and player groups. Not only keeps it everything fresh and exciting, I now have a group who plan their own sessions, which is such a breath of relief.

Second off:



I've been playing with a particular group for a long time (2-3 years). We play once or twice a week, most weeks of the year, but sometimes go a month or two between sessions 'cause ya know, life... So, we've probably logged about 400-500 hours of play time in the same campaign.

[snip]

I am an experienced D&D player. I have been designing and running adventures for close to 30 years. I know how to improv, make up new encounters on the fly, and conduct an adventure in different directions based on the inevitable unexpected player choices. I actually don't mind so much that the story plots, NPCs, quests, and encounters that I spend hours working on each week never get experienced by others. I enjoy that process regardless. But I still think that what I have planned will be more interesting and exciting for the players than random encounters and hastily thrown-together settings - if only they would choose to engage with it.

If you spend hours preparing every week, even if you don't play that week, you prepare too much. Yes, preparing can be fun, but without an appreciative group it has no pay-off. Without pay-off dm-burn out is around the corner. I now prepare 1 hour for about 4 hours of play (I prepare more in the beginning of a campaign and less near the end).
IF you continue with your current game-group, stop preparing so much, the group might (might) work with a beer-and-pretzels-game.

Edit: yeah, what Pelle said, above this post.

OverLordOcelot
2019-03-25, 09:42 AM
What makes running this specific RPG as it currently stands more fun than playing a video game, watching a new series on TV/netflix/etc, getting people together to play board games or just hang out? It doesn't sound like playing this game is actually a better option than the alternative.

Thrawn4
2019-03-25, 10:06 AM
Just improvise everything, no preparation. It's just not worth it.

If that's not an option, you should leave the group at this point.


Also, I consider your group a bunch of unpleasant people for spitting on your efforts.

The Kool
2019-03-25, 10:22 AM
A lot of people say you should quit this group. They are not after the same goals you are. I second this, but I suggest one more try before you go there, and see if things click.

Sandbox world. You can have fun statting and prepping things, place them in the world around the players, and let them run off after whatever inane thing they choose. Have a couple slow-moving grand plots they can discover and get involved with but don't expect them to. Let them murderhobo it up for a bit. If you still enjoy playing like this, building the world around the players and letting them run free... If they enjoy playing a game like this... Then after a while you ask yourself: "Is this fun now? Have my concerns been addressed?" If so, sweet. If not, time to move on.

Morgaln
2019-03-25, 11:13 AM
I would agree with the advice you already got, if it wasn't for this section of your post:




If you think that it's only my imagination that these players are doing this deliberately, or that maybe they just don't like any of the dozens of different adventure plots I've suggested for them to follow - I've heard most of them, at one time or another, talk about other games they've played in, and each explicitly and excitedly talks about how much fun it was to "break the game" / "break the DM." That is their version of fun, apparently.



This very much sounds like they are deliberately disruptive, or in netspeak, trolling you. They don't seem to be interested in letting you enjoy the game. If you'll try to change things to accomodate them, they'll find a new way to break things. If they don't care for your enjoyment, why should you go out of your way to increase theirs? So my advice is, end this here and now. Find someone who's interested in playing with you instead.

Faily
2019-03-25, 11:39 AM
I'd give it one last chance before quitting the group. I echo the others on quitting them - sometimes that's just the way it goes sometimes. Personally I had to take a break from a group I had played with for a while because the adventure and current style of the GM was just not jiving with me and I was not looking forward to sessions at all anymore as a player. And it's still possible to be friends even if you're not gaming together anymore. :smallsmile:


Anyway, two things:

- Have the group said anything about what they actually want to play? Might not hurt to have a session that is just "what would you like to play?" and just brainstorm ideas. You said you have tried talking to them, but I don't know what that involved.

- Change the dynamic of the game. Anectodal story: usually one of my groups just play published adventure paths and campaigns because we find that to be a nice change of pace from other things we play and we have fun with it. We did change it up once, which was what we called the Evil Campaign. For once, we were gonna be the evil cultists. So the GM provided us with a setting; a frontier-town in the north. The town was to be our goal - infiltrate society, establish solid covers (we spent several sessions working with just our butcher-shop and making sure that was running well), and begin to do evil schemes. It was a whole different way of playing, as when we're the protagonists, we're usually reacting to things and events. As the antagonists, we were the ones spending time plotting, planning, preparing, investing, researching, etc... it was fun to approach the D&D-feel from the other side, so to speak.
So, with that anectode, maybe try something similar? Set them in situations where they as players and PCs have to be the active ones otherwise nothing gets done.

martixy
2019-03-25, 02:10 PM
This thread is a delightful, and somewhat unsettling mix of personal gaming philosophies, so I'll add mine to the mix, based on my personal perception of the situation.

It rather neatly aligns with this:

Stop using plot hooks and start using plot grenades. Which is to say, throw situations at them which demand to be dealt with, right now. A very basic example is "You're ambushed by a pack of goblins. What do you do?" They can fight the goblins, they can run from the goblins, they can try to negotiate with the goblins. But what they can't do is "nothing", because then the goblins will kill them.

More specifically: Force the issue.

If they refuse to engage, force engagement.

This will have one of two outcomes:
1. Your game will improve. You win.
2. They will start whining. At which point you can explain that it's either-or. Either they engage with you, or you engage them.

If they keep whining quit the group. By following the algorithm above you have unequivocally proven that your group is too dysfunctional to play together, therefore the only rational course of action remaining is to not play together.

LankyOgre
2019-03-25, 03:29 PM
I still feel like we are in the realm of "deal with OOC problems OOC." Straight up tell the players that you feel like they are purposefully avoiding quests and breaking the game. If they deny it, then ask for clarification. If they admit to it, then discuss it as adults. If necessary, bow out as GM. Based on what you presented, I'm not sure any amount of IC acrobatics are going to salvage this mess.

Or.... you find the old 3.5 Diablo supplement that is entirely randomly rolled dungeons, loot, and monsters. Dispense with anything resembling a story, grab a giant, never-ending dungeon, the ground opens up beneath them, and go.

Man_Over_Game
2019-03-25, 03:35 PM
You just have to accept that the players don't want to play the same type of game as you do.

I guess the question is to determine WHAT they want to play in the first place. It doesn't sound like OP has trouble making stuff up, he just has a hard time making anything meaningful or relevant with how the players are acting. I'd just talk with them and see what it is they're looking for. Likely, they don't have a clue what they're doing. Or maybe they have a preference towards non-combat events that the OP is thinking are trivial. Just gotta talk with them.

Grod_The_Giant
2019-03-25, 03:56 PM
I still feel like we are in the realm of "deal with OOC problems OOC." Straight up tell the players that you feel like they are purposefully avoiding quests and breaking the game. If they deny it, then ask for clarification. If they admit to it, then discuss it as adults. If necessary, bow out as GM. Based on what you presented, I'm not sure any amount of IC acrobatics are going to salvage this mess.
Very much agreed with this. It sounds like the situation has been deteriorating for a while; time to have a point-blank conversation. Moving away from the D&D paradigm might help, but if you guys want fundamentally different things out of an RPG, it's time to say screw it and switch to a board game night.

zlefin
2019-03-25, 04:08 PM
I generally concur with the other advice; the main thing I'd add is to get one of them to DM a few session, and observe how that goes. It might provide useful insights.

FabulousFizban
2019-03-25, 05:54 PM
IMPORTANT QUESTION!: what DO they do when you play? are they still playing the game but refusing any plot hooks, or is everyone just hanging out at a table and shooting the sh!t, looking at phones, etc?

have you asked them what they want from your weekly meetups?

Pippa the Pixie
2019-03-25, 06:43 PM
This is very much the wrong group for you. You should just leave.

Every game or social activity has people that just like to 'break' or 'ruin' it: it is fun to them. You just have to learn how to spot them and avoid them.

Matuka
2019-03-27, 10:16 PM
I still feel like we are in the realm of "deal with OOC problems OOC." Straight up tell the players that you feel like they are purposefully avoiding quests and breaking the game. If they deny it, then ask for clarification. If they admit to it, then discuss it as adults. If necessary, bow out as GM. Based on what you presented, I'm not sure any amount of IC acrobatics are going to salvage this mess.

Or.... you find the old 3.5 Diablo supplement that is entirely randomly rolled dungeons, loot, and monsters. Dispense with anything resembling a story, grab a giant, never-ending dungeon, the ground opens up beneath them, and go.

Basically turn it into a game of Munchkins.

Matuka
2019-03-27, 10:19 PM
Make a villain, purposely give him story. When your players ignore him, let him grow in power. Same with any other villains or stories they've ignored. Punish them for letting evil grow unchallenged. Let the stories unfold how they would without player intervention. If the players whine, let them, they deserve it.

Mr Beer
2019-03-28, 12:28 AM
I still feel like we are in the realm of "deal with OOC problems OOC." Straight up tell the players that you feel like they are purposefully avoiding quests and breaking the game. If they deny it, then ask for clarification. If they admit to it, then discuss it as adults. If necessary, bow out as GM. Based on what you presented, I'm not sure any amount of IC acrobatics are going to salvage this mess.

Or.... you find the old 3.5 Diablo supplement that is entirely randomly rolled dungeons, loot, and monsters. Dispense with anything resembling a story, grab a giant, never-ending dungeon, the ground opens up beneath them, and go.

Yeah this. Force the issue or change to a dungeon crawl if you think that would be fun for you. Should be a lot less prep TBH.

Either way take a break though. Let someone else get messed with for a few sessions while you chill out.

Pleh
2019-03-28, 04:36 AM
Stop using plot hooks and start using plot grenades. Which is to say, throw situations at them which demand to be dealt with, right now. A very basic example is "You're ambushed by a pack of goblins. What do you do?" They can fight the goblins, they can run from the goblins, they can try to negotiate with the goblins. But what they can't do is "nothing", because then the goblins will kill them.

A slight and more underhanded variant: you lace their unimportant busywork with plot relevant hooks. You make the adventure come to them.

Like Bilbo finding the Ring completely by accident (and instantly failing his will save to leave it behind).

Naturally, there's a good chance they'll smell the trap and escape the plot hook.

But that's the real bite of the trap. Choosing not to engage IS still engaging with the adventure. You advance the plot, but with the assumption the players have neglected their role in the adventure.

They continue their busywork, only to find increasingly their world is changing out of their control, and not for the better.

"You're ambushed by a pack of goblins." The module says they defeat the goblins, but they decide to run away when they see a pack leader with a given name.

The pack beats them back to town and burns it down. They now have a grueling trek to the next town and must camp outdoors with only whatever supplies they currently have and whatever they can find in the wild. They keep getting ambushed by goblins (but no named leaders this time, they have to pursue the plot to get their vengeance) who mock these cowardly heroes who fear the might of the goblins.

If they continue to resist the plot, start advancing the Goblins in level to raise their threat level, then raze the next town and repeat until it's clear there won't be busywork if they leave the main quest unattended.

Gallowglass
2019-03-28, 10:38 AM
I've been playing with a particular group for a long time (2-3 years). We play once or twice a week, most weeks of the year, but sometimes go a month or two between sessions 'cause ya know, life... So, we've probably logged about 400-500 hours of play time in the same campaign.

...After 2-3 years of real-world time and over 100 game sessions played, we have only just recently completed the first section of the first adventure. After briefly attempting the second section's quest, they gave up because they thought it would be too difficult.

[The average character level of the party is now 6-7...

Bearing in mind that we are only gifted your side of the argument here, I'm going to suggest that maybe the problem is this. I mean, if I had played 100 sessions of a game, 500 hours of gameplay and only advanced 3 levels, well I'd be bored and checked out as well.

For players, being able to advance their character to get cool new powers and abilities is an attractive lure. Its what -they- get to build while you are building everything else. I've never ever seem advancement this slow. Its ludicrous.

Maybe that's on the players for being lazy, maybe that's on you for not adapting to what was obviously a different player-style than what you are used to.

For the life of me I can't imagine what you have done for the 500 hours of gameplay? Four hours of talking about that week's Naruto episode and one hour of reminding themselves what's on their character sheet? I mean, that's ridiculous.

So, here's my advice. And this is being discussed in another thread right now as we speak.

Sometimes, railroading isn't bad.

Some players like to be led from adventure hook to adventure hook so they can concentrate on the story and roll the dice and grow their character.

So have the adventure come to them. Force the action. Sweep them up rather than waiting for them to bite the hook. Be as hamhanded and overt as you can and make a joke about it. Start the next session with...

DM: "Okay, so Brad, as your character is walking down the street in Overmount heading for breakfast, you round a corner and are nearly knocked off your feet as some oaf in an expensive outfit runs into you. They fall into the mud."

Brad: "Uh... should I roll init or..."

DM: "As you stand there dumbfounded, two impressive looking armed guards leap between you and the well-dressed man. Another one helps him to his feet. He seems angry, his face is red. He starts screaming 'Do you have any idea who I am? I am lord Fancypantis of house Powerfulenemius and you have offended me! I will have you in chains for this good sir! In chains! I demand satisfaction!"

Brad: "Uh... I guess I roll init..."

DM: "Seeing you tense and slightly reach for your sword, lord Fancypantis shreiks and falls back. 'Oh my God! He's goign to attack me! Guards! Guards!'"

DM: "As for the rest of you, you are already at the breakfast spot when you start hearing a commotion from around the corner. Someone yelling for the guards. And you see five husky guardsmen running that way."

And move on from there. Don't GIVE Them the option to take the hook. MAKE them take the hook.

Not all railroading is bad. Sometimes its what you have to do to make the adventure go. And in your case, that's my best advice I can give you.

But seriously man... 500 hours? 2 years? 3 levels? Loosen the **** up, man.

Vulsutyr
2019-03-28, 11:53 AM
I agree with the leveling part. If you guys have an agreement, ok, but maybe they donít know why they are unhappy and itís the lack of advancement. Change that, and talk OOC and try a session of railroading.

Cygnia
2019-03-28, 12:10 PM
Are these folks people you actually consider friends in any way outside of the game? 'Cause right now I'm leaning towards the "dump their ungrateful butts!" camp.

kyoryu
2019-03-28, 12:10 PM
[TL;DR version: My group of D&D players don't want to go on adventures, they don't engage with the setting or any NPCs, and they do whatever it takes to not bite onto plot hooks. Basically, their play style is How do we break the game and break the DM, so that he doesn't want to play anymore? Do I continue playing with them and not have fun myself, or do I find a different play group?]

...

I guess the type of frustration I am talking about is closest to meta-gaming in quality. (And, before anyone chimes in with the obvious, the advice of talk out-of-game with the players has already been tried.)

That's still the advice. But it's only part of the advice. The actual talk needs to be of the (abbreviated) format: "I like you guys. This isn't fun for me. What kind of game do you guys actually want to play? Let's see if we can figure something out, or I'm not going to keep running this."

And be willing to follow through on that. If you're not, then just accept that it will be what it will be.

That may be figuring out what they want the game to be about, rather than what you've prepped. It may be a different style of game. It may just be that they want something (breaking the GM) that you have no interest in. Figure out what they want, figure out what you want. If you can reach a compromise, do so. If you can't, then do something else.


Stop using plot hooks and start using plot grenades. Which is to say, throw situations at them which demand to be dealt with, right now. A very basic example is "You're ambushed by a pack of goblins. What do you do?" They can fight the goblins, they can run from the goblins, they can try to negotiate with the goblins. But what they can't do is "nothing", because then the goblins will kill them.

I will always, always, always approve of plot grenades.

The Kool
2019-03-28, 12:20 PM
The problem with plot grenades in the form of something like an ambush is that as soon as the players have fended off the ambush, they will ignore whatever was supposed to follow and go back to doing their own thing. There's a reason for the old trope of chasms opening under players' feet. If your players are thrown into a situation that will take multiple sessions to work their way out of, you will have plenty of time to bait them in with some plot, and set up some blatant hard-to-derail segue at the exit of the scenario to funnel it right along. Like, once you've escaped the dungeon, there's guards waiting for you to take you prisoner, leading to the question of who wants them in jail and why, etc etc.

Tinkerer
2019-03-28, 12:30 PM
Yeah, plot grenades are often a temporary band-aid which don't address the underlying problem.

Sounds like the group just isn't working out. I have a similar player who doesn't get anything out of gaming unless they feel like they're hoodwinking the system and/or GM. With just one of them I can often just skirt around them and toss them the occasional bone (and he is a fantastic guy IRL so I don't want to cut them out altogether) but it sounds like you have a table full of them and... you might just have to abandon it. Tough to say especially when there is nothing wrong with the people but it's much better than you just burning out.

RifleAvenger
2019-03-28, 12:47 PM
I mean, the whole snickering about breaking GM's and ruining their games? They're clearly adversarial to you, and are doing so purposefully as they apparently have to previous GM's.

No, they're not nice people. They're not asking you back because they like or respect you, they're asking you back because you are their entertainment. Not your game, YOU, and they're not laughing with you. That's not worth further attempts at reconciliation in my opinion, and any such attempts will fail if their chief goal is to troll GM's.

I'd say you leave, which they'll count as a "win," but so what? Or, if you're a vindictive soul, you take the advice of a poster above and drops hints about a villain growing in power. If they follow procedure and just ignore that, even as you rapidly amp it up over a few sessions, TPK their asses. They'll probably still count that as a win in the "tee hee, GM is mad, we 1337 trolls!" manner, but if you're choosing that option it's because you care about getting a "win" yourself.

Tinkerer
2019-03-28, 12:50 PM
Of course immediately after I posted that I remembered one scenario when a group like this can actually work out really well.

Published adventures.

Normally I'm not a huge fan, but in terms of catering to players who want to break the campaign these can be wonderful tools. It combines the two things that you want for an "adversarial campaign".

1. Very little prep work required (so you don't feel like they're poo-pooing your hard work)
2. The groups opposition comes from a third party so it lubricates things between the GM and the party.

I've used this before to fairly good result, might be worth a try.

RifleAvenger
2019-03-28, 12:55 PM
Of course immediately after I posted that I remembered one scenario when a group like this can actually work out really well.

Published adventures.


The campaign was one I put together by linking together at least three published modules with a big ladle-full of homebrew sauce. [The published material is a mix of AD&D 2nd ed. and D&D 3/3.5 ed. Our agreed-upon core system is d20-3.5 SRD.]

I selected only the first three sections of the first module, and I heavily cut down on sections two and three to more quickly segue into the other modules I wanted to include. That first adventure's intro recommends that the first section should take PCs from level 1 to level 2 or 3, the second section, lev. 2/3 to 4/5, etc.

I let the players start their characters at level 3, because I wanted them to get through the first section quickly and get into the more interesting stuff without too much risk of TPK. After 2-3 years of real-world time and over 100 game sessions played, we have only just recently completed the first section of the first adventure.Sounds like published adventures are already being used, albeit with modification. I guess your suggestion is that the OP stop doing any modification and just run the modules, but if these players are obstinate to the point of just puttering off to go elsewhere I don't see how modules help. Either the OP has to try to railroad them back into the module, and the game becomes a competition to avoid doing so (which seems to be the players' goal anyways), or the OP has to go right back to improvising stuff that the party won't follow up on in any way afterwards.

The Kool
2019-03-28, 01:06 PM
The issue I see here is that the OP is struggling with players running away from anything that has the barest semblance of being planned. So, you get about a page into the module if you're lucky before they're just... leaving.

Cliff Sedge
2019-03-28, 08:42 PM
Thank you all for the many good replies.

I will reply back to some of them soon, but for now I'll say that I am in the process of looking for a new gaming group. I might continue to play with the others, but probably only in the form of one-shot adventures; so this way continuity is not important, and the players either do the planned quest, or I could just roll up random encounters.

And if they're happy just killing random monsters and taking their treasure, I'm cool with that too.

geppetto
2019-03-28, 09:26 PM
If you dont want to leave theres another option.

I'm in sales, sometimes we do a thing called the takeaway close with people who cant commit.

Give them the take away GMing. Sit down like usual, recap what happened last time, just the bullet points and ask them what they are doing. Dont give them anything else. No plot hooks, no NPCs asking questions, no action at all.

If they dont pick something just sit there and stare at them quietly until they get uncomfortable.

Eventually one of them will ask you whats up.

Then you just say that since they refuse to engage any plots you have ever prepared you decided not to prepare anything at all. Its up to them to run the game. You'll play the monsters, the weather, be the impartial GM. But they will tell you what they want to do, where they want to go, what they hope to achieve, who they want to talk to. Literally everything you usually prepare for a session is now up to them.

Watch them squirm for a minute and then start begging you to run. Or they'll decide to do something other then game, because they really dont care about being there anyway. Either way you have you have solved your problem.

The Kool
2019-03-28, 09:37 PM
I feel like the players would chalk that up as a win ("Yeah, broke another DM!")

RifleAvenger
2019-03-28, 09:56 PM
I feel like the players would chalk that up as a win ("Yeah, broke another DM!")I mean, there's pretty much no way to "win" this GM side, at least not using the terms the players have defined. You'd have to either succeed, or convincingly bluff that you succeeded, on having their contrarian play-style fall into a plot anyways "just as planned."

But, as I said before, who cares if they "win"? They're horrible people taking advantage of the fact GM's have to invest a lot more time and effort into a game. Let them play their little games until they find no one wants to run for them any longer, and even if that never happens at least OP doesn't have to deal with them anymore.

Walk away. If OP wants to spite them on his/her own terms, then sure go for a TPK or a takeaway close. But don't worry for a moment about whether they think they've won, because the only way for the GM to win this "game" is not to play in the first place.

Rynjin
2019-03-29, 02:29 AM
I feel like the players would chalk that up as a win ("Yeah, broke another DM!")

Which is a de facto win for OP. If that is their reaction, it takes the ambiguity out of it.

I'd personally go a step farther than leaving and do my best to get a group like this blackballed in an area. If they like trolling, they should appreciate your counter trolling by making sure they can't find any new games after yours.

But if that level of concentrated pettiness isn't your speed, just leaving works too.

Koo Rehtorb
2019-03-29, 03:21 AM
These are some pretty extreme reactions for a group that seems to be guilty of... being kind of bad at RPGs, and playing the game at a more sedate pace than the DM would prefer.

Maelynn
2019-03-29, 07:21 AM
Normally, there's a lot of things you can try when it feels like the DM and the players aren't on the same page. Many of these things have already been advised here, which would normally be a good way to try and get all the people involved back to enjoying the game again.

However.


I've heard most of them, at one time or another, talk about other games they've played in, and each explicitly and excitedly talks about how much fun it was to "break the game" / "break the DM." That is their version of fun, apparently.

This is a massive red flag. They're like kids who can't enjoy a toy normally, and laugh only when they manage to break it. They have no respect for the game, your creativity, of even your effort.

They might be nice enough to you as a person, but you do not want to be in their crosshairs as the DM. Because then you're no longer the person, but the thing they need to break.

I saw you're already on the lookout for a new group of players. Good! From my experience, it's easy to find players when you're the DM, rather than the opposite of having to find a DM. And you can easily rehash some of the stuff you have lying around that the others were so busy avoiding.

geppetto
2019-03-29, 03:05 PM
I feel like the players would chalk that up as a win ("Yeah, broke another DM!")

thats where you start playing your phone game and casually explain "pyrric victory" to them.

Matuka
2019-03-29, 06:10 PM
Which is a de facto win for OP. If that is their reaction, it takes the ambiguity out of it.

I'd personally go a step farther than leaving and do my best to get a group like this blackballed in an area. If they like trolling, they should appreciate your counter trolling by making sure they can't find any new games after yours.

But if that level of concentrated pettiness isn't your speed, just leaving works too.

I agree with all of this except the last part. Just leaving and not warning other DMs would just set the stage for the same thing to happen again to a different DM.

Segev
2019-03-29, 07:14 PM
Talekeal, have you thought of trying something like Gloomhaven? You could all play (well, four of you could) together without need for a GM, and itís a dungeon-crawl-focused campaign.

Saintheart
2019-03-30, 12:42 AM
Allowing for the fact OP indicates he's looking for another group anyway, I think there's two ways you can look at this: objective and subjective.

Objective: we have a situation where the linchpin of the campaign, i.e. the DM, is not having any fun. And the reason for this seems to be either that there's a mismatch between the sort of fun the DM wants and the sort of fun the players want. If the players are rocking up late, avoiding clear stuff that seems to be headed down the path of a plot, and are not advancing very fast, that sounds to me like they are not invested in the game, i.e. they are indifferent as to whether one of their characters lives or dies. The promise of winning, of advancement, doesn't move them, and neither does the promise of engagement with a narrative. That's a difficult combination for a DM to handle, because at the end of the day that's really about all D&D can offer. The result of this seems to me that the game has to stop because of the mismatch.

Subjective, and ranty: this sounds like a bunch of jerks who are taking advantage of a guy who came in to perform a public service.

OP came in as a relief so the guy who does DM can play more. That's a first red flag in my book. OP was an outsider to a group of people who have certain norms and ways of playing, and worse still their former DM is now sitting in the game. It creates a certain dynamic that needs to be worked over.

OP describes players showing up late, distracted all the time, metagaming, and deliberately run in the opposite direction if they see anything resembling a plot marker. This is a red flag with the dimensions of a king-size bed blanket. It says to me the players have no investment in the world the DM sets up, but nobody has the guts or can overcome their bone-idle laziness to actually pick up a DMG and change things for themselves. The metagaming element is more equivocal; personally I am less worried about it thanks to personal philosophy, but if as I suspect the metagaming is taking a passive-aggressive form, e.g. "Oh, but I'm sure he's set up archers on the wall because this encounter has been too easy so far" then that's not players utilising game circumstances to keep their characters alive, that's a bunch of socially maladjusted people who have no guts to tell the DM they don't like the adventures he makes. The lack of curiosity about the setting they demonstrate sounds to me like a pack of jaded jerks: they think engaging with the NPCs won't lead to any advantages to them, and they think the setting is basically just a big cardboard cut-out against the mechanics that in the end doesn't matter at all. The fact they won't go on adventures that sound too difficult for them says to me they're afraid of losing their characters for whatever damn reason - do you have some rule that if a character's killed, the person stays mute rest of the session or something by any chance? If not, then it's something else and something I think is more pernicious.


I don't think that any of them don't like me, or why would they keep inviting me over to play in their games and run my games for them?

Because they're too bone-idle lazy to get off their glutes and suggest or do anything different, and why would they? They've got free entertainment in the guy who keeps bringing them games and indulges their whims, because he very competently improvises whenever they decide they want to go Full Postmodernist and deliberately avoid any narrative direction for the game. This to me is a group of people who can't afford or can't be bothering paying for group-based entertainment, so they let the latecomer dude provide it to them for free, and then have the goddamn hide to passively-aggressively joke about how they break other DM's games while the DM is right there.

They might be good people. They might be out donating time to the Little Sisters of Screaming Merciless Retribution in their spare time. But in this respect they are careless people, as F. Scott Fitzgerald put it.

And yeah, I'll admit I'm probably a lot more hot under the collar than OP probably is about the whole thing, But the reason I'm like that is because I've seen this sort of garbage a lot. I don't pretend that I or every DM is SilverClawShift or can generate scenarios, worlds, and settings that will leave you spellbound, but D&D and its players generally give way too little support, thought, or regard to DMs, seeing them inconsistently as either some positive enemy to be defeated or at best some sort of slightly more creative umpire who should just sit there and take it when the players say "Your setting sucks, LtP" or whine when you invoke Rule Zero against their technical and mathematical strategem that involves a good six or seven splatbooks and a Webster's dictionary. And maybe it's my age, but I'm reaching the point where I'm more inclined to say 'Up with this manure I will not put.'

Nah, under the subjective heading as well this game has got to end. This sounds to me like borderline if not right over the border abuse of a DM's resources, time, and creativity.

Cliff Sedge
2020-06-13, 03:40 AM
[Pardon the necro-thread-mancy, but I figured I should put a formal close on this issue after all this time.]

I've been gone a long time, but I'm back from the dead to conclude this tale. (It's long, and I don't care if anyone reads it or if the mods delete it; I just need to vent.)

I ultimately quit that group, and determined that they might otherwise be nice people elsewhere but not to me qua gaming group member. Shortly after my last post in this thread (March/ April of last year) there were a couple last straws: The day of our scheduled game night that week, I sent a text to the other GM of the group (let's pretend his name is "Kevin") as usual to confirm that we're playing. He hosts the game at his house, so I want to check that it's still cool to come over, ask if he knows who else is coming, etc. like I regularly do.

He says, "Yeah, come on over; a couple others are already here. Which campaign do you want to do?" (We alternate games each week, and it was my week to run, but we always ask to check if someone needs to take a break or otherwise wants to do something different.)

I say, "It's my week, and I'm good to go with my campaign. I'm always down to be a player, though, so if you have something really cool planned, I'll take the week off."

"Nah, I don't feel like DMing tonight; let's do yours," says Kevin. So I tell him I just need to get my books and notes in the car and I'll be on my way. It's a 45-minute drive to his place, so I have plenty of time to recap the last session in my head, wonder about what weird ideas they'll come up with this time, and get psyched up for running my adventure - or at least as little of it as they'll participate in.

I get to the spot, haul in my bags of books, battle map, minis, and dice. I ask if I can help clear off the table so I can get set up. "No," Kevin says, "[This Other Person] is GM tonight. She has a Vampire game she wanted to run." [The second to the last straw is placed on the back...]

I'm dumbstruck for a bit. I'm standing there with my bags of game materials in my hands. The rest of the group looks like they already have their characters ready and were waiting on me. "But I thought you said we were doing my campaign tonight." - I put my things down and start to pull out my phone to double check the last text message Kevin sent me...

K: "Yeah, but she has never been a GM before, and she's really excited to run her own adventure."

(Yep, the last message he sent was the one confirming that I would be DM.)

Me: "This is really short notice, don't you think? I brought all my stuff, and we ended on a cliffhanger last time. I don't even know how to play Vampire."

K: "Oh, it's easy - [blah blah blah] - I think you'll like it - [blah..." He hands me the rule book and a character sheet. Everyone else is just staring at me, and I'm still shook and trying to hide my irritation, so I start reading the rule book...

I really didn't want to start any drama, and I drove all that way for game night, so I agree to play. I make a character whose backstory is that he is paranoid and spends a lot of time walking the streets alone at night. He has a hard time making friends, but is willing to if they are accepting of his dark nature. (In Vampire, you're supposed to be an 'edgelord,' apparently.)

Fine. I might as well try to have fun, despite the 'bait-and-switch.' The other players let me go first, and the GM says, "It's midnight. You're walking down the street like you usually do. What do you want to do?"

I figure I'm supposed to meet the other player-characters somehow, so I ask if I can look around and see anyone else on the street.

GM: "You see two people up ahead; they are walking towards you."

Me, acting paranoid: "Do they look friendly?"

GM: "You can't tell, but they start walking towards you more quickly."

I ask if I have any weapons on me, "just in case." Kevin opens up the rule book to the starting weapons page for me. I see a .45-caliber handgun on the list and select that one. "We don't bother tracking ammo, so you have infinite bullets." (Convenient.)

I am not ready for a confrontation yet, so I play up the paranoia some more: "Is there an alley I can hide in, or can I turn a corner real quick to get away from these guys?" GM says I turn the corner and the two people walk past without seeing me. The other players are smiling at me, probably impressed with my roleplaying or how easily I'm getting into this new game, I thought.

GM: "It's almost morning, and you can see the Sun starting to come up."

Me: "Didn't you just say it was midnight? I'm a vampire. Sunlight could kill me - there's no way I would stay outside this long! How far am I from home?"

GM: "Pretty far. Anyway, the Sun is coming up; you should get inside that building before taking damage."

I'm starting to feel railroaded at this point, but she's an inexperienced GM who I don't want to discourage, so I say, "Fine, what kind of building is it? How do I get inside?"

GM: "It looks like an abandoned clothing store. It's mostly empty inside. And the door is locked."

Me: "I'm about to burn up out here, so I'm going to break a window and jump inside." I succeed.

GM: "There is a big glowing rock in the middle of the floor. You go over and touch it." (It wasn't a question.)

Me: "What?! No, I don't. I didn't even want to go in this building. I should be at home .. in my coffin or whatever. There's no way I'm going to touch some strange glowing rock." (It feels really easy to act paranoid at this point, so I'm really getting into character now.)

GM: "You touch the glowing rock." - Me: "Fine." - GM: "There is a bright flash of light, and you are teleported somewhere else. It looks like a dungeon. You can see the other players' characters are there too." - Okay, so she wanted to run a dungeon crawl, and didn't want to waste much time getting right to it. I could understand, but I was still feeling increasingly pissed off about how things were going. - "Alright, Kevin, it's your turn."

K: "I'll walk up and talk to [my character]." - and Kevin just smiles at me.

That's when I went full 'Mazes and Monsters.'

I had had it with these people. I WAS my character. The paranoia was real. Real-world real.

I jumped out of my chair and mimed pulling out my .45, pointing my finger-gun at Kevin's chest. I screamed - loudly - "WHERE AM I? WHAT THE **** IS THIS PLACE?! WHO ARE YOU PEOPLE?!!" I swept my imaginary handgun across the room, pointing at the other players. I was scaring myself. I did not like what I was doing. I remember thinking, 'Whoa, I'm overdoing it; I need to reel this in.' But all the frustration was coming out. I was fuming. I couldn't hold it in anymore. I was a madman. I was really screaming at these people. It was cathartic.

Most of us had been playing together for 2, 3, almost 4 years by now. We trusted each other. We were experienced role players. They thought I was acting - I thought I was really holding a gun.

And I was terrified. I noticed the GM looked scared too. Everyone else was loving it. I was entertaining the hell out of these *******s.

The GM was a newer member of the group, but we had played together in Kevin's campaign a few times, and our characters in that game became good friends, because we were both the quirky ones who always got ourselves in trouble and weren't liked well by the rest of the party, who were always so serious all the time (or at least tried to be, in-character).

I felt sorry for the kid. (She's an adult, but still like half my age ..) I looked at her desperately. I didn't know what to do. I needed a GM's intervention.

She took the cue and said, "Uh, so . . . what happens next is . . . [my character] is clubbed on the back of the head and falls unconscious." (Crude, but effective.) I slumped back down into my chair, shaking, panting, coming back to my senses. I calmed down. I think the GM might have said that all the other PCs were knocked unconscious too, but my ears were still ringing from how loudly I screamed, so I don't know.

I felt, more than heard, that it was my turn again. I was myself again. I was a player. I wasn't really this paranoid vampire who screams and points guns at people. Catharsis. My mind was clear. "So, what happens next?" I asked, "Is my character awake yet?"

GM: "Yes. You open your eyes, but it is very dark. You can't see any of the other characters."

Me: "Am I still in the dungeon?"

GM: "Yes. You can feel the cold stone on your back. Your arms are chained to the wall. You can't move."

Oh. She didn't mean D&D jargon 'dungeon.' She meant a literal prisoners' dungeon. 'I get it,' I thought, 'she's doing the "You Join Together as a Team, Because You Were All Prisoners Together" trope.' - Basic, but brand-new GM, and besides I like tropes.

Me: "Okay, . . . I don't suppose I still have my gun, do I?"

GM: "No. You are completely naked. You hear what sounds like a blade being drawn and evil laughter."

I could tell from her voice and her face, that she felt sorry for me, but this was the story she wrote(?) - yikes - or was just reading from the adventure module. (It was a horror genre game after all . . .)

I was completely done. I sighed, "My character is going to be tortured now, isn't he?"

GM, sheepishly: "Just a little . . ."

Me: "I don't like this. I don't want to do this anymore."

I want to be clear that I really had no problem with the idea of my character being naked, chained to a wall, and about to be tortured. And that all this was being narrated by a cute girl* half my age. I was just tired of being railroaded all night and having no character agency. It's just fantasy to me, and - except for that one scary moment where I lost my mind for a minute - I can keep fiction and reality separate.

(* Sorry, _woman._ I've always considered anyone younger than myself, children. Heck, I call people older than me "kids" sometimes, if that's how their acting. Anyway . . .)

GM: "But . . . Okay." - I felt bad. I probably ruined her first time being a game master. She worked hard on this game. She was excited about it. She wanted everyone to have fun, and I didn't have fun.

I got up and picked up my things. 'Kevin' said, "That's too bad, man; sorry you didn't enjoy it. See you next week?" - like nothing at all that happened that night was a big deal. I didn't say anything. I left, and never spoke to any of them again.**

(** "Kevin" did try to get in touch with me again just a couple months ago through social media. He said he missed us playing together. Besides telling him that I felt bad and that I had quit playing D&D for good, I had nothing else to say.)


I felt devastated by my decision, but it had to be done. Years of friendship I threw away, because I didn't have fun.

I thought I would never play D&D or another RPG again. I was burnt out. A couple weeks later, I was feeling better - defiant: I wasn't going to give up. I love this stupid game too much. I've been playing Dungeons and Dragons for thirty years; why stop now?

I had been already posting looking-for-game messages for a couple months, just to maybe have a second group to play with on another day of the week: get some fresh perspective. I checked in on those and found a few guys willing to try my campaign.

I'm not going to go into a lot of detail on this one (I could. A lot of it was really cool), but just cut right to the important bit -

Basically, this new group seemed really cool. One guy got on my nerves a little, because he was a bit _too_ extroverted for my tastes. I think he worked in sales - you know the type. Anyway, Mr. extroverted sales guy had the best place to meet, so he hosted all but one or two of our sessions.

(I would actually like to host at my place once in a while, but my apartment is tiny and I barely have any furniture. Also, at the time, a new roommate had just moved in, and the place was a mess of boxes and furniture pushed all together in a pile . . . Sorry, still rambling.)

So most everything was fine with this new group, until our gracious and enthusiastic host asked if it was okay if we allowed alcohol at our games. I didn't have a problem with it. I would sometimes have just one, one and a half beers before or during a game to help loosen up a little, but that's it. Any more and I would lose too much focus - especially bad if I'm the DM. We did a game or two with a six pack to share in a cooler.

Mr. "Hey, can we do some drunkens'n'dragons?" wasn't satisfied with one or two beers. He would down an entire bottle of whiskey - like, how did you not die? amount of whiskey - in a single 2- to 3-hour game session. He turned into super-duper obnoxious guy. The first time, I was like "okay, he got carried away, but damn he is really ruining the game for everyone - especially me."

The next time, even worse. Again, he was going to pull down a full bottle of whiskey by himself in a couple hours. Or he would, if the session didn't end one hour in. He was talking over everyone, yelling, had his character do silly things while bossing the other players around about how to play their characters. (By the way, he was the least-experienced gamer out of all of us. He had played in a one-shot with one of the other players and was suddenly a D&D fiend.)

I had enough. We had regularly-scheduled breaks each hour, and during the first break I called him out on how disruptive he was. I felt bad for the other players; they had awesome backstories and personal character story arcs they wanted to pursue, and this gas bag over here thought he could get away with ****ing around because he was the host and if we didn't like it, we could go back to "that other guy's disgusting house in the ghetto." - referring to another potential player who agreed to host once or twice. He decided not to stay on after the second time.

And this drunk did have a really nice condo with a huge club house to play in... As soon as I finished explaining that we all wanted to have fun and that he was making it hard for any of us to play the game the way we wanted to, he got really quiet. Then he folded up his character sheet, closed his books, and said "I don't want to play anymore; I quit. You all have to leave now."

I probably could have recovered what was left of the campaign and continue with the other old-timer at the table. He was really cool and had been playing D&D since the 1st ed. days. The third regular player was sick of it, though, and said he was going to try going back to his old gaming group. I was sick of it too. This really was it for me. I fell into a deep depression. It felt like my best friend died. I had lost two gaming groups in the span of a few months. This was April/May of last year, and I overloaded myself with work over the summer to stay busy and keep my mind off that drama.

I ended up over-stressing myself to the point of needing to go to the hospital for chest pains. That's another story that has nothing to do with this bull****, though.

So, uh . . . TLDR version?

--> Pay attention for 'red flag' warnings in a gaming group. Trust your gut and bail out before it's too late. It's just a game; don't take it too seriously.

It's been a year since I last played a game of - anything - and I want to get back into the hobby. I'm raising myself and my love of the game back from the dead.

Wish me luck.

flat_footed
2020-06-13, 08:34 AM
The Fullmetal Mod: Thread necromancy is a forbidden art.