Not sure I want to be DM, but...

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Not sure I want to be DM, but...

Post  Legendary Star King on Mon Oct 19, 2015 9:22 am

For the last several months, I've been running a Living Legends campaign with some friends. It's been rocky, with lots of assumptions being made unprovoked, mostly concerning plot details and NPC interactions. One of my players has taken to throwing silent fits over Skype, refusing to say anything even when his character is directly addressed. Another treats everything like an annoying side quest that's distracting from the "main" quest, even though I haven't given a definitive primary plot yet.

I've dropped plenty of hints about a certain location, and they recently learned some things about my overall plot, but even that's treated as side material
I put my foot down about this particular matter, since it gets tiresome being told to "get on with the story and give us some info on it" in the middle of doing exactly that. At least one player has agreed to chill out on that front and focus on one thing at a time.

With the amount of frustration this is all causing, I've started seeing my DM duties as something of a chore. Every session is starting to be the same thing, and it's just not fun at the moment. However, this town doesn't exactly have much of a tabletop gaming community. In fact, I'm fairly certain that I know at least 75% of the community here, and there are only 8 of us I know of. So, getting a new DM is pretty much out of the question, since nobody we know has the organisational skills or motivation to take over my campaign and keep it going the way it's meant to.

I enjoy the idea of running the game, but right now, I'm not satisfied with the experience, and would really like to just be a player for at least a little while. The only thing stopping me is the lack of a replacement DM, so until I can find one, I'm stuck doing it myself. Has anyone got any advice for this kind of thing?
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Re: Not sure I want to be DM, but...

Post  Stairc -Dan Felder on Mon Oct 19, 2015 9:51 am

I enjoy DMing far more than playing. A good group does wonders of course, but there is a lot a good GM can do to enjoy things. Here are a few quick tips.

1) Look for the "bright spots". Times when it was fun for both you and the players. Try to replicate those moments. You're responsible for your own fun.

2) Figure out what the players are motivated to do, then build your adventure around that. If your players already have motivations that they want to pursue, build the plot around THAT. If a player is interested in an NPC, make that NPC important. If a player wants to impress npcs, give them an NPC that scorns them and allow an adventure to change that NPC's mind.

3) It sounds like your players ARE interested in what's going on - but their motivations aren't lining up with what you're intending. Your goal as a GM isn't to present a static adventure, but rather to give your players a positive experience. Try experimenting to figure out what is causing players to feel like things aren't happening, and how you can address that (even if things are happening). Figure out what players want, and don't just GIVE it to them but use that motivation as a tool to make them want to pursue your adventure. If a player is frustrated about something, make solving it the goal of the adventure. Let the player solve his or her own problems.

4) Read Chris Perkins' "The Dungeon Master Experience" articles for inspiration.

5) Try to mimic different styles from different genres until you find one you like. Setting up a survival horror adventure to mimic the feeling of being inside the movie Alien is completely different than an adventure based on replicating being in the small council in Game of Thrones, which is complete different than an adventure that replicates the feeling of being inside the mines of moria.

6) Build adventures around your players' characters. Make their backstories relevant. Make the players feel like they have big choices in how things play out. Players should not feel they're at the mercy of the GM to find out what the story is - but rather that it's THEIR characters' actions that determine what they find out and when and what happens in the story.

7) Ask your problem players, like the silent one, what's going on. If they don't want to play, or the way they want to play is undermining what you want to do, ask them to leave. Better to have a game with just 2 players you mesh with than draining your energy with people you don't.

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Re: Not sure I want to be DM, but...

Post  Legendary Star King on Mon Oct 19, 2015 10:38 am

The odd thing is, I've been letting them uncover the story at their own pace, for the most part. I've been trying to tie their backstories into the overall plot and make it all fit together, especially the silent guy. He's just prone to random fits about being left out while people actively attempt to include him. That behavior extends beyond the game, but it drags down the game for everyone else. I'm honestly thinking of cutting him like you suggest.

The bright spots tend to revolve around combat, but even that has some issues. One player, the one who questions things preemptively, loves combat. The others seem fine during fights, too. The problem comes up when his character reaches low health, even if it's just from one of two lucky attacks. He gets moody and dwells on the damage, acting like I'm specifically singling him out, regardless of how injured the other player characters are.

I can adjust the role-playing and story aspects without much fuss, since I made a pretty broadly written plot. I'm less confident about combat, though, because of that player's odd behavior. I try encouraging him to focus on hanging back and healing, but neither of his characters heals quickly enough for him to keep from getting impatient.
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Re: Not sure I want to be DM, but...

Post  Stairc -Dan Felder on Mon Oct 19, 2015 11:03 am

For combat, it's clear that this guy doesn't like feeling vulnerable. Neither do I in games. I like feeling invincible, like I'm able to laugh at my enemies, and I design my characters accordingly.

To address this, consider building encounters that allow his character to feel awesome as a counterpoint to the dangerous ones. Consider allowing the group to discover awesome items, or specifically hand him one through a roleplaying situation if he can plausibly earn some important figure's favor, that gives him an incredible boost to defense. Just make sure it feels fair to the other players - and that he doesn't even suspect you're somehow rewarding his whining.

As for combat itself, the principles are simple. Here are the basics of designing an awesome encounter. I referred to these even while working on the mission for the kayn somos expansion I designed at Fantasy Flight Games.

Here's an excerpt from a guide I wrote that details the core. Follow these rules and you're on great footing.

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1XlWXytUJDYKj0vJQ0efNCFiM0DjWMpfzIKTW9EK_tls/edit


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Re: Not sure I want to be DM, but...

Post  Legendary Star King on Mon Oct 19, 2015 12:32 pm

Thanks for the advice, Stairc! I'll be sure to spice up the battles a bit and make them more dynamic. Hopefully, it's enough to keep the contrarians satisfied. If not, I'll just change my approach again.
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Re: Not sure I want to be DM, but...

Post  Stairc -Dan Felder on Mon Oct 19, 2015 1:05 pm

Happy to help whenever you want. Smile

And bear in mind, while there's totally stuff you can do to make any group's experience better - ultimately the players do bear responsibility too. So even if it doesn't work out, don't feel too bad. Do the best with what you can and make sure you're having fun whenever possible.

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Re: Not sure I want to be DM, but...

Post  Legendary Star King on Thu Oct 22, 2015 11:52 pm

As of last night, I've removed the problem player from the group. It wasn't received well, though; The question-happy player was moody with me throughout most of the session, and shouted at me in an unrelated conversation afterward.

I gave an in-story reason for the cut player's character leaving, of course. He exchanged his memories of his time with the party as the price for having the setting's top sorcerer help them with their current quest. I actually toned it down quite a bit from my first idea. Originally, he would have simply been killed off. Then, I was going to have him trade his soul, which got reduced to being turned into a normal human. After some complaints about that, I put my foot down and settled on simple memory loss.

I feel like I handled it as well as I could, considering, but I'm a bit concerned about how well this will be handled by the others in the long run.
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Re: Not sure I want to be DM, but...

Post  Stairc -Dan Felder on Fri Oct 23, 2015 1:30 pm

Hope it works out. Remember, each campaign is just practice for the next one.

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