To a Few Players, but Really, For Everyone

To: My players
cc: Every player in the world
From: Your GM
Subject: Seriously, come on, guys

I love you guys, I do.  You make me laugh.  You bring my ideas to life.  Without you, none of these adventures I dream up would see anything but the inside of a notebook, or the inside of my head.  But GOD you can be frustrating.

First, roll your dice on the damn table in front of everyone.  If I see you roll your dice, then immediately pick them up again and pour over your character sheet, what do you think I am thinking?  For the love of all that is holy, stop fudging your rolls!  See, failing a roll is not the end of the world.  I will NEVER have you make a roll that says “Succeed, and you save the world, fail and it burns.”  Furthermore, you are disrespecting all the preparation I do for an adventure.  Even if I am improvising a lot of the session, I have drawn up some stats ahead of time, and balanced them for the group to make them challenging, but not certainly lethal, and to do that, I have carefully considered the probabilities of success and failure inherent in the system.  You don’t have to connect with every hit, or block every blow.  If you come through an adventure unscathed, either I have not done my job of creating a challenge for you, you have been lucky beyond reasonable expectations, or you have been cheating.  Stop it.  Furthermore, I might be field-testing a new system, trying to fine-tune it’s balance.  If you fudge even ONE roll, it throws off my entire sense of what I need to change and what’s about where it should be.  Don’t do that to me, please.

And please, please, be a man.  If you take damage, deal with it.  You are NOT invincible, and every warrior worth his salt has scars.  Don’t bitch when enemies attack you.  Don’t bitch if you are suffering penalties.  Don’t bitch if everything didn’t go as you planned.  Don’t sigh heavily or sulk.  Don’t say things like “not like it will matter,” or “well, I’m dead,” after making a roll.  It makes you sound like a whiny little kid.  You don’t know what I rolled, if you’re taking damage, or what is happening next.  Suck it up.

And be ready.  I might be running a game with 7-8 people in it, and with that many people, things get hard for me.  I have 8 people to keep track of, plus all the NPC’s, enemies, and so forth.  I can do it, I’m a highly trained professional, but you need to work with me.  When your turn comes around, be ready to tell me your action, roll your dice, and give me the results.  See, if every player takes about 30 seconds for a combat action, the round takes about 4 minutes, give or take.  If every player takes 2 minutes, the combat round takes 16 minutes.  Now, combat rounds represent a few in-game seconds, so let’s try to make them move along, please.  This isn’t rocket science, it’s basic arithmetic.  If you have questions, you may ask them, but the point is, don’t waste my, and your fellow players’ time.

And don’t destroy the mood.  See, I work hard to maintain the tone that I want out of the game.  That’s not to say there won’t be some comic relief in a serious game, but I swear, if you keep spouting one-liners during combat with untold horrors, or swaggering about cockily while in the depths of hell, I can’t be held accountable for my actions.  If I’m trying to cultivate a feel of desperation or panic, and you’re yelling things like “This is how we do it in my town!” there is very little I can do to bring the tone back down to where I want it.  I don’t want to invent sanity mechanics just to bring you under control, but I’m thinking about it.  I think long and hard about the feel I want my game to have, and I work to bring that to the players, so they can experience the atmosphere I had in my mind when I came up with this adventure.  I promise, if you stop and think for a second, it’s fairly obvious that an adventure that centers around the struggle for survival in a collapsing city is not the time for cocky catchphrases.  So shut up.

And one more thing.  Cut down on the tangents and cross-talk.  You’re welcome to enjoy yourselves, but when I am talking, or when another player is talking, discussing WoW in depth, or quoting the latest internet short is disruptive.  This ties in to the whole “ruining the mood” thing, and the whole “be ready” thing, and if there was only one thing I could get you to remember, it would be this.  You’re here to play a game, not talk about WoW or quote Monty Python.  If that isn’t why you’re here, go away.  I am serious.  If you cannot refrain from inane comments, don’t bother to show up.  So guard your tongues, and play the game.  I am pretty sure, nay, I am certain that you will enjoy a game more than you will enjoy 4 hours of quotes, memes, and MMO theory.

Mati out.

[tags]Role playing games, roleplaying games, advice[/tags]

5 thoughts on “To a Few Players, but Really, For Everyone

Add yours

  1. Its really disrespectful to show to something ( in this case RP) without actually having any intention of actually playing, I for have been very close to just walking out on my players because they just couldn’t bloody focus on the game, and this is a brilliant post that I consider showing my players.

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  2. I know this is meant more as just a session to complain about things but it actually shows some poor DMing skills.

    For one, you blame your players for not getting into the mood. Yes, occasionally you will have a bad apple and you’ll have to ask them to leave, but most of the time it’s up to YOU to create the feeling. If it’s not there you’re the one to blame…learn from your mistakes. In general you should avoid blaming the player.

    As for being afraid to miss a role…I’m not sure if this is you but I have played with DM’s that will let an entire long term mission fail miserably based on a single dice roll. Players become fearful of this because they don’t want their bad luck ruining the game for others…the truth is as DM’s we are trying to tell a story with a fun game mechanic. It’s important to remember that you should build in many back up plans for large story arcs so it would take many bad rolls or extremely stupid behavior to fuck up the main story arcs. All too often I see DM’s letting way too much rely on chance.

    You didn’t mention this, but this happens frequently so I’ll mention it. Another basic mistake a lot of DM’s make is they don’t realize that the job of communicating the situation accurately is up to them. A lot of times players end up feeling confused and do things you, with all your DM knowledge, think is stupid only because they didn’t understand the parameters of the situation. Sometimes you want your players to be in this place, but a lot of DM’s get angry at their players and punish them despite the fact that it’s the DM’s fault for not accurately communicating.

    Nearly all the responsibility for how fun and interesting the game is is on the DM. If players are chatting way too much and interrupting the story more often then not it’s an issue with how the DM is managing the storytelling. Sometimes this happens because the DM focuses too much on one character or another for too long, let’s various things take way too long, and sometimes just isn’t interesting. You may want to create a brooding drama, but that doesn’t mean that’s what will happen. This is not to mention that your players won’t always want to play one, a lot of DMing is reading your players and tailoring your campaigns to their likes (one of the create things about tabletop gaming is that it’s one of the most personalized things out there).

    I’d suggest just relaxing and examining what you might be doing wrong. Maybe even ask some of the players you trust more (not just friends though, friends will generally hold back on the big criticisms). Sometimes what your players need is just some comradery (people don’t just show up for the game, they show up for the social interaction also)…if this is the case in a particular session and everyone is leaning towards this there’s no reason to not just sit back and enjoy it and let that campaign move a bit slower then usual. Watch for when you’re players are interested and active and try to figure out what drew them in. Keep experimenting, but keep the things that interest them in the game as much as possible. Try in every session to have elements that inspire each individual character.

    Also, realize that sometimes the group you have is going to disagree with you on what they want to do. If I’m playing with a hack n’ slash group I make hack n’ slash a big element even though I’m not as big a fan of that. If I’m playing with a roleplay group I make sure to offer many options to allow them to avoid combat if they want. On top of this I try to reward individual players for playing well, maybe most of the group is hack n’ slash and one is roleplay. I’ll make sure that roleplayer can have good impacts on the game with the little bits he gets to do, even in combat I will do in combat rewards for in combat roleplay for those people.

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  3. I’m going to guess that this post was more of a tongue-in-cheek rant than actual words that he wants someone to follow. We’ve all had these things happen from time to time, and it’s good to blow off steam.

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  4. @Notreal
    I appreciate your position, but this is behavior I have observed from both sides of the table. I have seen this from multiple people, in multiple systems, and under multiple GM’s. I’ve played with quite a few groups, and sitting around a table with some dice and having an adventure is craptons of fun. These are things that make it less fun for me, from both the perspectives of a GM and a player. In fact, I decided to write this article following a week in which 3 separate games ran, on 3 separate days, with 3 separate GMs. Although I have observed this behavior from a GMing perspective, I wrote this article after watching two fairly inexperienced GM’s struggle to keep order in the room as all of this was going on.

    The fudging rolls bit is directed almost solely at one player, who is also one of the biggest offenders in the mood-ruining department. I do not build TPK buttons into my games, or magical “end the world” switches. In fact, one of the reasons I enjoy PnP games so much is the human GM who can move the story forward in different directions due to success or failure at crucial junctures, allowing players to deal with the consequences on their, or other’s actions. Some of the most memorable roleplaying experiences I have had are in dealing with crazy situations resulting from failed rolls. Escaping from a building by stolen helicopter after setting off every alarm in the place, shooting through security, and killing an invisible monster is a lot more interesting than having everything go exactly as planned. I will never ask someone to, say, make a roll to diffuse a bomb in an enclosed room, where a single roll determines if the entire group lives or dies.

    The cross-talk bit is almost never the GM’s fault. It’s players being disrespectful of one another. If someone is literally being drowned out by unrelated shit while trying to tell their action, or ask a question, that is plain disrespectful, regardless of if you are bored with the current situation or not.

    Yeah, if it were just me, it would be my fault, but I’ve seen some part of this in every game I have played with the current group, whether I am running it or not. If you don’t have those problems, wonderful, but I’m betting that my group is not the only one who has had things of this nature happen, and I’m betting I’m not the only one a bit annoyed by it.

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  5. I can second that these problems come up sometimes, and it’s not always the GM’s fault. It can be, and it’s certainly worth any GM checking out what they’re doing to make sure, but it’s not a good idea to just blame the GM either.

    With the people I play with, we play have a lot of varied levels of people playing seriously and those playing socially. We’ve simply learned to adapt in a way that works for us, and nights with lots of table talk tend to either end early, or have the focus shifted to the people not involved in the table talk. Everyone wants to play the game enough that when table talk gets too distracting, I just need to call a quick break and when we get back to it, it’s at a manageable level for everyone.

    But, that’s our group, and how we roll. For other groups, this would be an awful solution, so what it comes down to is that all the players and gm have to get on board with the group dynamic, and go with that.

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