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  1. - Top - End - #1
    Halfling in the Playground
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    Default How to resolve DM vs. Player interest differences?

    Hello everyone, first post, and I need some advice.

    I'm a returning gamer, who grew up on 2nd edition, that's trying to "get the band back together" by volunteering to DM for some of my old gaming group. I'm trying to become familiar with the 3.5 rules, I looked into 4E and at the risk of offending anyone, I'll just say it's not for me. 3.5 allows for the limitless flexibility I want in a ruleset. I'm also swapping the standard magic system with the True Sorcery / Black Company system for the same reason, it's infinitely flexible.

    We're playing Dark Sun, and I have a "metaplot" that I'm really proud of. (as an aside, is there an appropriate place to post thost kinds of things for feedback and suggestions?) The problem is, I'm admittedly far from the world's best DM, unfortunately I'm the only volunteer.

    With all that as background, here's my situation. We've played a dozen or so short to medium sessions, and I tried to get some feedback from the players as to what they enjoyed the most, and it was nowhere near what I expected. I've put them in a situation where they're working as agents for some big power players, in some very important capacities. What excited me was putting them in contact with what I consider major NPC's in critical roles, I thought the "star power" would be exciting as well as the sense that they're doing something really important. However, the things that were the most entertaining to the players were some "off the cuff" sessions where they ended up captured and forced to work as slaves before trying to organize a breakout (it failed, and much nastiness and torture resulted).

    How do I find a happy medium with the things I'm passionate about, epic scale campaign themes with powerful NPC's and potentially world changing impacts, with the things I find boring but that they find most entertaining which seems to be the typical "save the maiden" type adventure?

  2. - Top - End - #2
    Pixie in the Playground
     
    ClericGuy

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    Default Re: How to resolve DM vs. Player interest differences?

    It's possible that what they enjoyed about the off the cuff sessions was their own influence on the story. Rather than being a lackey of some important NPC, they were in control of their own missions and their own future. They were helping to weave the story with you, meaning they were more invested in it.

    If that is the case, then the answer might be easy. Keep the world shaking plots, but kill off the powerful NPCs - at least the ones allied with the players. Have the PCs step up into the NPC roles, unprepared and out-gunned, and see what they come up with.

  3. - Top - End - #3
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    AssassinGuy

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    Default Re: How to resolve DM vs. Player interest differences?

    As a general rule keep powerful NPCs out of the plot as much as possible. Try to regulate them to quest givers and similar roles. Also while the main quest may necessitate that they go do these NPC's bidding they clearly don't want to do that. So throw a side quest their way. Something that catches their attention but has no high level NPCs involved. Cannot think of an example at the moment but they are great for breaking up the monotony of a campaign. Do your characters have backstories? use on of the details from there and make a side quest.
    "The AI does not hate you, nor does it love you, but you are made out of atoms which it can use for something else" - Eliezer Yudkowsky

  4. - Top - End - #4
    Ettin in the Playground
     
    Kobold

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    Default Re: How to resolve DM vs. Player interest differences?

    The best thing to do is talk about what you're getting into before starting the game. If you invite 5 different players to a D&D game, you'll get 6 different sets of expectation of what the game is all about. It's only fair that you tell the players upfront what your game is about. Not only does it let them select whether or not it's a game they're interested in, it lets them play an appropriate character.

    You mention that interacting with important NPCs is a major feature you're trying to offer. If your players knew that, maybe they'd play social characters, knowing that schmoozing with the important people was important. Or historians who appreciate why these NPCs are important. Or relatives of the NPCs, so they have their own personal ties into the main plot. But if they showed up with Fighter McFighterson they have no character investment in your NPCs.

    That said, try and figure out what your players want. What did they enjoy about the off the cuff improvised session? Hopefully they can help you identify what was cool about that. Then you just have to figure out how to provide that factor, without compromising the parts of the game you're interested in. If you can't do it, you either need to offer a different game or find a group whose goals matches up with your own.
    If you like what I have to say, please check out my GMing Blog where I discuss writing and roleplaying in greater depth.

  5. - Top - End - #5
    Halfling in the Playground
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    Default Re: How to resolve DM vs. Player interest differences?

    Quote Originally Posted by valadil View Post
    The best thing to do is talk about what you're getting into before starting the game. If you invite 5 different players to a D&D game, you'll get 6 different sets of expectation of what the game is all about. It's only fair that you tell the players upfront what your game is about. Not only does it let them select whether or not it's a game they're interested in, it lets them play an appropriate character.

    You mention that interacting with important NPCs is a major feature you're trying to offer. If your players knew that, maybe they'd play social characters, knowing that schmoozing with the important people was important. Or historians who appreciate why these NPCs are important. Or relatives of the NPCs, so they have their own personal ties into the main plot. But if they showed up with Fighter McFighterson they have no character investment in your NPCs.

    That said, try and figure out what your players want. What did they enjoy about the off the cuff improvised session? Hopefully they can help you identify what was cool about that. Then you just have to figure out how to provide that factor, without compromising the parts of the game you're interested in. If you can't do it, you either need to offer a different game or find a group whose goals matches up with your own.
    See, that's the root of the problem I guess. If the players interests and mine don't coincide, it's not going to work. I'm not going to invest my time in creating games that aren't inspiring and exciting to me. At the same time, I don't expect them to sign up as "extras" in my dark sun movie, but I can see how they want to have greater control over the storyline. I think I'm looking for suggestions on finding the happy medium, where I can get my neat epic storyline and they can have their free range playground at the same time.

    Edited to add: I do really appreciate the suggestions, especially about talking to them about what they want. My challenge with that is having that conversation without giving away too much of my future storylines. That's what I was trying to achieve asking them for feedback about what they were enjoying because this is my first really venture into DM'ing anything I've created on my own.
    Last edited by Barmoz; 2012-02-14 at 11:17 PM.

  6. - Top - End - #6
    Ettin in the Playground
     
    Kobold

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    Default Re: How to resolve DM vs. Player interest differences?

    Quote Originally Posted by Barmoz View Post
    See, that's the root of the problem I guess. If the players interests and mine don't coincide, it's not going to work. I'm not going to invest my time in creating games that aren't inspiring and exciting to me. At the same time, I don't expect them to sign up as "extras" in my dark sun movie, but I can see how they want to have greater control over the storyline. I think I'm looking for suggestions on finding the happy medium, where I can get my neat epic storyline and they can have their free range playground at the same time.
    When they made characters did they understand what sort of game you were offering though? I'm a pretty easy going roleplayer. I can play a pure hack and slash game and I can play a freeform social game. I'll have an equal amount of fun in each of them. But if I roll a crafty diplomat and the game turns into a dungeon crawl, I'll be bored and miserable.

    What I'm getting at is, did your players know that a Dark Sun movie would be taking place in the middle of your D&D game? Did they have the chance to carve out major roles for themselves? Or did they roll up characters who had no reason to be in this particular story? If they didn't, would you consider letting them either re-roll their characters or redefine their characters so they can interact with your story better, and end up having more fun within that story? Having a mismatched party isn't always a matter of GM and players not having the same goals, but it can also mean the PCs just don't fit the story. Give them a chance to play characters that fit the story you want to tell.
    Last edited by valadil; 2012-02-14 at 11:17 PM.
    If you like what I have to say, please check out my GMing Blog where I discuss writing and roleplaying in greater depth.

  7. - Top - End - #7
    Halfling in the Playground
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    Default Re: How to resolve DM vs. Player interest differences?

    Quote Originally Posted by valadil View Post
    When they made characters did they understand what sort of game you were offering though? I'm a pretty easy going roleplayer. I can play a pure hack and slash game and I can play a freeform social game. I'll have an equal amount of fun in each of them. But if I roll a crafty diplomat and the game turns into a dungeon crawl, I'll be bored and miserable.

    What I'm getting at is, did your players know that a Dark Sun movie would be taking place in the middle of your D&D game? Did they have the chance to carve out major roles for themselves? Or did they roll up characters who had no reason to be in this particular story? If they didn't, would you consider letting them either re-roll their characters or redefine their characters so they can interact with your story better, and end up having more fun within that story? Having a mismatched party isn't always a matter of GM and players not having the same goals, but it can also mean the PCs just don't fit the story. Give them a chance to play characters that fit the story you want to tell.
    That's a great point, and I guess I don't know the answer, as I put in my edit above, I was reluctant to give too much detail because I didn't want to spoil anything, but maybe I should have been more explicit at least in vague terms about the game I was hoping to run. I feel like I've got great ideas, but I think I'm horrible with implementation. Thanks for the suggestions, and I'll see what I can do to let them take more control of the story, either through character changes to fit my plan, or by adjusting my plan to their characters.

  8. - Top - End - #8
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    Engine's Avatar

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    Default Re: How to resolve DM vs. Player interest differences?

    Quote Originally Posted by Barmoz View Post
    How do I find a happy medium with the things I'm passionate about, epic scale campaign themes with powerful NPC's and potentially world changing impacts, with the things I find boring but that they find most entertaining which seems to be the typical "save the maiden" type adventure?
    NPCs (especially those powerful enough to have the PCs on their payroll) could be really annoying sometimes. Epic story, sure, world changing adventures, why not. But in the end they could be just another boss who tells you what to do.

    I wish to use OotS as a comparison: Lord Shojo was a powerful NPC who hired our heroes, but our heroes had a specific interest in doing Lord Shojo's biddings. They worked for him, but they weren't his errand boys. His quest was their quest, they had a personal interest in doing what Lord Shojo asked them to do.

    If you want your players to enjoy your main plot, you should be sure that they feel their characters have a personal interest in advancing your NPCs' agendas. If they do not feel this link with your NPCs your cool world shattering story will be, for them, just another day at work. You know, "Ok guys, let's do what the old man asked us so we could get some fun after".

    I'll add a personal note. A couple of years ago I played with a new group, I rolled a Paladin and was ready to rock. My character had a cool backstory, I gave it to the DM nad waited for the first sessions.
    Yes, my character had to work for some NPC. No prob, I could live with that.
    My character worked for him with the other PCs. A bit clichèd, but a quick way to start the adventure.
    My character worked for him...
    ...for money. The NPC's goals were not particularly good, nor lawful. Why my character should do what he said? Money? My character was a Paladin, he didn't care so much for money.

    Well, I gave the story a shot nonetheless, but in the end I felt that my character just didn't fit in. He worked for a NPC he had no reason to work for. Well, now I ask *every* DM how the campaign will be, how the start will be, and so on. I want to know what kind of game they will run, so I could play a character that I feel could relate with the story.
    Sometimes a DM just keep everything secret, and I don't play with them. They think I'm a jerk, but I know that the most compelling story could be really boring if I feel my character is just another generic PC.
    Last edited by Engine; 2012-02-15 at 09:24 AM.

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  9. - Top - End - #9
    Barbarian in the Playground
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    Default Re: How to resolve DM vs. Player interest differences?

    You could try to view your game like this:

    Run the Intro to the Story -> this sets the tone of the campaign, and hopefully sets a goal in mind for the PC's i.e. defeat the evil overlord, prevent the war, rescue the princess or make sure the cookies get to the orphans in time etc

    After that give the PC's free reign to work out how best to achieve it themselves (a little guidance at times from powerful npcs can help too).
    Now sure they can do some off-the-wall stuff and thats perfectly fine, and a lotta fun too. But if you can, try to tie their unexpected zaniness back into the main story somehow. Not everything can be of course and thats fine, but I've found it gives (my players at least) great satisfaction that their actions have long term, and sometimes unexpected, repercussions

    In short, dont have a rigid story. Have a start and a finish and keep everything else as flexible and as interconnected as possible.
    Last edited by Parra; 2012-02-15 at 03:33 AM.

  10. - Top - End - #10
    Titan in the Playground
     
    Tyndmyr's Avatar

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    Default Re: How to resolve DM vs. Player interest differences?

    Quote Originally Posted by Barmoz View Post
    With all that as background, here's my situation. We've played a dozen or so short to medium sessions, and I tried to get some feedback from the players as to what they enjoyed the most, and it was nowhere near what I expected. I've put them in a situation where they're working as agents for some big power players, in some very important capacities. What excited me was putting them in contact with what I consider major NPC's in critical roles, I thought the "star power" would be exciting as well as the sense that they're doing something really important. However, the things that were the most entertaining to the players were some "off the cuff" sessions where they ended up captured and forced to work as slaves before trying to organize a breakout (it failed, and much nastiness and torture resulted).

    How do I find a happy medium with the things I'm passionate about, epic scale campaign themes with powerful NPC's and potentially world changing impacts, with the things I find boring but that they find most entertaining which seems to be the typical "save the maiden" type adventure?
    Powerful NPCs are rarely inherently interesting for players. Players want to do things, not see things. "star power" is not really a thing, unless it happens to be a popular char from a novel...and even then, introducing Drizzt to a game is not likely to meet with approval.

    On the plus side, you've gotten feedback, this is good! I'm rather more fortunate in available DMs(though admittedly, I make a fair effort to train them), and my usual group has several people capable of DMing. How we decide on a game usually consists of everyone bsing towards the end of the previous campaign, until someone hits on an idea everyone likes. After all, most of us like multiple things, so there's bound to be overlap.

    The flip side of this is there are things only one of us like. I like spelljammer. Another fellow likes rokugon. Yet another loves Castles and Crusades. All of us are alone in these preferences, so we just don't run those.

    Usually, we sort out what system will be used, what setting, and what, in general, the campaign is about. Nobody has any more say than anyone else, but you need general enthusiasm about a game idea for it to really work.

  11. - Top - End - #11
    Dwarf in the Playground
     
    MindFlayer

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    Default Re: How to resolve DM vs. Player interest differences?

    Quote Originally Posted by RoboHobo View Post
    It's possible that what they enjoyed about the off the cuff sessions was their own influence on the story. Rather than being a lackey of some important NPC, they were in control of their own missions and their own future. They were helping to weave the story with you, meaning they were more invested in it.

    If that is the case, then the answer might be easy. Keep the world shaking plots, but kill off the powerful NPCs - at least the ones allied with the players. Have the PCs step up into the NPC roles, unprepared and out-gunned, and see what they come up with.
    I agree with Hobo. Your players aren't interested in "The Big Reveal". Get rid of the NPCs, tell them exactly what's going on at the macro level, and let them go to town sorting it out.

    Most DMs do all of the wrong preparation. We come up with situations to challenge the PCs, and often include built in solutions. Just worry about the challenging situations part and you're set.

  12. - Top - End - #12
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    MindFlayer

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    Default Re: How to resolve DM vs. Player interest differences?

    Quote Originally Posted by RoboHobo View Post
    It's possible that what they enjoyed about the off the cuff sessions was their own influence on the story. Rather than being a lackey of some important NPC, they were in control of their own missions and their own future. They were helping to weave the story with you, meaning they were more invested in it.

    If that is the case, then the answer might be easy. Keep the world shaking plots, but kill off the powerful NPCs - at least the ones allied with the players. Have the PCs step up into the NPC roles, unprepared and out-gunned, and see what they come up with.
    I agree with Hobo. Your players aren't interested in "The Big Reveal". Get rid of the NPCs, tell them exactly what's going on at the macro level, and let them go to town sorting it out.

    Most DMs do all of the wrong preparation. We come up with situations to challenge the PCs, and often include built in solutions. Just worry about the challenging situations part and you're set.

  13. - Top - End - #13
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    RedWizardGuy

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    Default Re: How to resolve DM vs. Player interest differences?

    Quote Originally Posted by Barmoz View Post
    Hello everyone, first post, and I need some advice.

    How do I find a happy medium with the things I'm passionate about, epic scale campaign themes with powerful NPC's and potentially world changing impacts, with the things I find boring but that they find most entertaining which seems to be the typical "save the maiden" type adventure?
    So the problem is you want to have a big NPC/world ''metaplot'', and the players want to do a 'classic adventure module'?

    Well, that's great! That works out fairly good...I've done this lots of times. The set up is simple, you give the players whatever they (think) they want. Let them stop the goblin bandits, save the princess or whatever. And then have them get a great reward..of whatever.

    BUT, the trick is to show how the rest of the world and the NPC's benefit from this. The PC's kill the evil dragon and get a hoard of treasure....but Lord Doom gets nominated to Overlord for 'getting the PC's to do it'. So the PC's get a little treasure, but Lord Doom gets a life time full of treasure and other things.

    After a couple dozen plots like this, the players will feel they should do more....

  14. - Top - End - #14
    Orc in the Playground
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    Default Re: How to resolve DM vs. Player interest differences?

    Talk to them, find out what it they want. Then give that to them. But frame the story/world so by doing that they are playing a part in your epic story.

    I use a session checklist for each session to make sure I've covered all my bases. The biggest part of it is: something for each person to enjoy and shine with. This will keep you on track with what your players want at a session level, and allow you to build the bridges in your story.

    I know this doesn't directly address your question, but hopefully it can help.

    Spoiler
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    Session Checklist

    -- Previous Sessions --

    Exp Owed Party:
    Wealth Owed Party:

    Party Status:
    Party Hi-jinks:

    -- Future Sessions --


    Foreshadowing:


    Encounters/Places working towards:

    -- Encounters --
    Session Flow:


    Encounter for Player 1:
    *

    Encounter for Player 2:
    *

    Encounter for Player 3:
    *

    Encounter for Player 4:
    *

    Something for the DM(s)(Optional):


    Role playing(Optional but fun):
    *


    Puzzle(Optional):
    *



    -=-=-
    Combat Encounter A
    -- Baddies
    Flee or Fight to death

    -- Motivation

    -- Terrain
    Rough/Difficult(Optional)

    -- Cover (Optional)

    -- Concealment (Optional)

    -- Awesome Flavor (Optional but fun)

    -- Tactics(Optional)

    -- Spells(Optional)

    -- Interactive Mechanic(Optional)

    -=-=-
    Role-playing Encounter B

    Who:
    What:
    Where:
    When:
    Why:

    Relevant Skills
    Diplomacy
    Sense Motive
    Intimidate
    Forgery
    Knowledge
    Spell Craft
    Appraise
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    Troll in the Playground
     
    OldWizardGuy

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    Default Re: How to resolve DM vs. Player interest differences?

    Quote Originally Posted by Barmoz View Post
    With all that as background, here's my situation. We've played a dozen or so short to medium sessions, and I tried to get some feedback from the players as to what they enjoyed the most, and it was nowhere near what I expected. I've put them in a situation where they're working as agents for some big power players, in some very important capacities. What excited me was putting them in contact with what I consider major NPC's in critical roles, I thought the "star power" would be exciting as well as the sense that they're doing something really important. However, the things that were the most entertaining to the players were some "off the cuff" sessions where they ended up captured and forced to work as slaves before trying to organize a breakout (it failed, and much nastiness and torture resulted).
    For many players, this isn't unusual. It's a matter of psychology.

    *You* have a lot invested in your NPCs and metaplot. The *players* have nothing invested in them. Being hired by JoeBob the Awesome means *nothing* to them, as they have no emotional connection to him.

    On the other hand, their plans to get out of slavery are *their* plans, and so they *do* have an emotional investment in them. They got to make the plot, try it, and see what happened. This is called player agency, and most players love it.

    If you want your players to care about your big plot, you've got to get them to invest in it, preferably in subtle ways. Figure out what the players are interested in, then have JoeBob the Awesome get involved in that in some way. Tie their success to his - have them work their way up in his organization for some reward - now, threatening JoeBob means threatening their reward. Have them put the equivalent of JoeBob on a throne as a way of deposing an evil ruler. Have them go into the lands of JoeBob and get happy sunny feelings (yeah, Dark Sun, I know), and then have the other lands be dark and evil. Have JoeBob's minions rescue them, and then have them form relationships with them. Then have those minions slaughtered horribly by the enemies of JoeBob.

    Make the players care. Let them invest in things. Then, threaten those things. It's Aeris in FF7 - one of the big reasons we cared about her death is that we spent HOURS LEVELING THE STUPID CHICK. We don't care about cutscene-only NPC death because WE'VE INVESTED NOTHING IN THEM.

  16. - Top - End - #16
    Titan in the Playground
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    Default Re: How to resolve DM vs. Player interest differences?

    I haven't read the whole thread, but I don't expect anyone to suggest this, and as a DM who suffers the same problem that you do (namely a love of having the players interact with big setting plot stuff and the NPCs that go with it), I think I might have an apt solution:

    What you want is a campaign that focuses on big political events managed by big political people. What your players want is a campaign focused on events that they brought about, on plans they make and their consequences.

    These sound as different as night and day, but they can mesh seamlessly if you just make one connection: what if the PCs were the big political people? I know you want to tell stories about the setting NPCs, but why not start thinking about what sorts of characters the players have made, and what sorts of stories you want to tell about them? Contemplate how they would influence the setting, how their characters might evolve. Make sure you're roughly consistent with how the players conceive of their characters. Then all you have to do is put them in situations where they can be the tipping point, and watch them discover the stories implicit in their decisions. This really does work as a way to get your epic storytelling rocks off (I say this from experience), the only thing it requires is players who enjoy acting on their own initiative. And that sounds like the kinds of players you have.
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