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  1. #1

    Help - I'm DMing and starting to hate it.

    So a bit of background, this is my first time DMing a game. My group (we're all good friends, 5 plus me) are playing Pathfinder. We've done 7 sessions now -2 where we ran through the intro box scenario and the other 5 in Rise of the Runelords. Our sessions typically run 3-5 hours.

    Problem is I'm starting to find I'm really not enjoying myself. One probelm is my players aren't making much effort to learn the game or the rules that apply to their characters, instead constantly relying on me to inform them when some bonus applies, what to roll, etc. I'm having a similar problem with them learning the basics of FG... 8 sessions in (before we played I did a 2 hour "learn Fantasy Grounds" session where I walked them through the program and character creation) and I still have to tell them how to make attack, initiative, save rolls and the like. Nothing major really but I'm finding it gets really tiring during a session.

    That's issue 1.

    Issue 2 is one i need more help with. I'm finding I don't enjoy off-the-cuff improvision. This is a particular problem with my group because they're huge on the roleplay. We just finished "the boar hunt" (100% roleplay, didn't actually do a hunt) and that went really well. They're now convinced Foxglove is a somewhat harmless rich knob who wants to play hero and is trying to get into one of the female character's pants. Many LOLs had all around. My group then decided to spend the rest of our session (about 3 hours) hellbent on trying to capture a Goblin. And I hated every minute of it. They're roleplaying it well and have decent motivations, but I also find they obsess over evey little thing, forcing me to make up details on the spot for *everything*, and they don't let things go (another player went around town knocking on doors trying and asking every single NPC he came across inane unimportant questions). If it gives an idea we're 5 sessions in and just did "Grim news from mosswood", and partially because i subtly forced the issue.

    Unfortunately i now know my next session is going to be them running off to one of the goblin camps trying to capture a goblin, and then obsessing and finding ulterior motivations in everything they do or do not find, and then going around town trying to talk to every NPC they can about it. I like roleplaying too, but when i have something to work off of. Almost all of my last session was improve and i found it way more exhausting than enjoyable.

    Issue 1 I'm hoping will sort itself out and will eventually be less of a problem.

    I know issue #2 above is a problem with me, as GM, not a problem with my players. Simply put I'm not enjoying the kind of gameplay they are, i find it very tiring, and I know in my last session some of that was starting to come through in my GMing, which is bad for everyone.

    If anyone has any ideas or advice or anything on how I might tackle this issue, please let me hear it.
    Last edited by kalnaren; February 21st, 2017 at 17:27.

  2. #2
    Issue 1: My rule is, if you build a character its your job to remember things, I will make sure you dont break rules, but if you don't remember your bonuses why the hell should i? i am running a game, you have it written in front of you. Also stop remembering their bookkeeping and then throw the farm at them, teach them to remember. Or tell them, "This is more than 7 sessions, you can remember you character ****."

    Issue 2: So build yourself roll tables, whenever you need to improvise pull up a table and roll for it, i am sure the internet has thousands you can copy into FG. As a rule, I always start my sessions telling my players what type of session it will be, I tell them it will be x% RP and x%Combat and x%Political intrigue, or whatever. And if they get stuck on something so much that it bothers me, like a long drawn out chase, well I am running the game, all of a sudden enemy messes up and chase is over, 3 hours turned into 45 minutes because I got tired of dealing with it. Also with the knocking on doors, how many more times would they do it if they knock on the wrong door and its a pissed off high level something who attacks? You run the game, dont let them do what you dont like, dont say NO, but through story tell them no.

    Main Issue: tell them that you want a week off, or that you guys need to rotate GM, or that one week one of them is running a one shot just so you get more fun too.

  3. #3
    Hmm..

    For your first issue, as you stated, that will resolve itself in time through sheer repetition. You can expedite that through rote statements such as: "Everyone roll initiative! You can find the button in your character sheet by double clicking your portrait in the lower left, the button is on the lower right of the sheet.." Eventually you'll repeat it enough that your players will be in "Yes Dad..." mode. Subconsciously however they would have committed it to memory. It also helps set a rhythm for GMing players new to the platform for later as you've already established a learning routine.

    Your second issue is bit more tricky to nail as it's not a problem with you. Every GM has a comfort zone when they start and will eventually find their 'voice' as I call it when they hit a certain experience level. Some GMs will be fantastic at improvisation, while others will prefer the safety of preparation with little deviance; but construct masterful scenes.

    What I suggest for your second issue is to basically talk it over with your players and let them know your comfort zone since you're a new GM. You don't want to stifle their freedom, but at the same time you don't want to exhaust yourself. A compromise I suggest is that you let them know that when they're trying to solve an objective, that their role-play should be geared to that. Did that goblin run away? Then they can RP about what to do but if that goblin wasn't essential they don't need to expend resources to track him down. That assumes that the players are safe in their assumption that the goblin was in fact non-essential, what if it was? Is it a catch-22?

    It hinges on your players to know what is considered going off the rails, and what's not. I' guessing you're trying to stay relatively close to the rails which is boring for a set of players, but keeps the GM within a relative safety net of what to expect, and more importantly to prepare for. You still need to account for 'what ifs' such as essential NPCs dying off which many APs put blurbs about, but you can always hand-wave them to 'story death saves'. Your die rolls are secret for a reason after all; and crafting the illusion of choice is one of the keys to staying on the rails but giving your players a perceived notion of freedom.

    Now the above statement basically alluded to 'it's okay to fudge things to make it come together' or 'all roads lead to rome'. This tool will no doubt be detected if not masked well and the masking of it is part of being a good story teller that comes in time. Early on it will be painful for a newer GM to pull this off as the rails become evident to the dismay of the players which is why I personally don't use rails.

    It boils down to what you're comfortable with. Do your players know you're not comfortable with all the improvisation? Do they know and just don't care because it's all about their entertainment? There's only so much you can do in the hand-waving area and so many rabbits in the hat, eventually you're going to just be frank and say "Hey guys, I know you like doing random things, but this is kinda my first AP so could we perhaps stick to the story stuff?". Bounce something like that off them and see what you get, you'll be surprised how accommodating they will be, especially since you're friends with them.

    Cheers,
    - Ken

  4. #4

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    Agree with Ken, the best solution is always first and foremost talk to your players. Communication is key. Make sure they "get" that you're a new GM and all this advanced improv is beyond your current ability. Also, I'm considering doing an AP for my friends too, and one of the main things with Paizo's APs is they're pretty "on rails" so I would run that by them in Session Zero and say "hey, I know in normal games you can do whatever, but for all our sakes, can we just stick to the story for this one?"

  5. #5
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    As have been mentioned, talk to your players. You put together a really good post. Not confrontational, not blaming, but informative and about you. They should be able to read that and understand how you are feeling. And then together you should be able to work it out.

    Good advice above, but you've done the hard work putting together your thoughts. And done so constructively. Now share your thoughts with them

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  6. #6
    I'll agree that you first and foremost need to set expectations with your players. Let them know that you don't want to spend the entire game improvising... and that, if that's really what they want, perhaps one of them would like to take over the GMing duties.

    But, never forget that you have an enormous amount of power when running your game. You don't have to succumb to the demands of your players all the time. They want to find the goblin? Let them...

    NPC: "Aye, my young'un saw one of them there boglins run of inna those woods over yonder!"
    GM: Not 5 minutes hot the the goblin's trail you find him. Problem is it looks like he found a bear trap first.

    Then have them find a scroll on the dead goblin with some clear-cut breadcrumb that will put your players back onto the track you want them on. They found the goblin they wanted so bad and you get them refocused on the story at-hand.


    The players wasting time talking to people they shouldn't? Shut down the sources... gently or with force if need be. Don't want the towns people to talk to a certain character for awhile? Make up a reason they won't...

    GM: As you pass by a home you notice that there is a gathering of about 20 people--an assortment of men, women, and children engaged in animated conversation. When suddenly one of the young boys seems to recognize you, pointing and drawing the attention of the others...

    Boy: "That's him! He's the one who stole Miss Gerbutch's pie and little Katy's knickers!"

    GM: A burly farmer, much furrier than most, steps forward. He's armed only with a strange looking pitchfork (surely more lethal than your average pile of hay would warrant) and seemingly unafraid of you and your friends.

    Farmer: "Y'all best be on your way, fore things get outta hand round here. We don't tolerate kicker-knackers round these parts!"

    From that point on, when the player gets annoying with NPC's, have them shut him down, unwilling to speak to a notorious Pie Bandit or Knicker Knave. Tell them they're probably going to have to do something meaningful to repair their reputation...


    I guess what I'm saying is that you can "improvise" small and redirect your players at any point. You don't have to indulge them with some epic improvisation just because they've taken a fancy to something you believe is unimportant. Take the shine off their misdirection, perhaps even quickly give them what they are looking for with a proverbial dead-end. The less heavy-handed you are in doing that the better... but sometimes, when people don't get the hint, it's ok to be as obvious as you need to be. Better that than be annoyed and waste time.

    There have been times when players have walked into big rooms with lots of stuff to check out. Before getting embroiled in 15 minutes of meaningless search rolls and exposition I would sometimes pick up about 10 dice, stare them directly in the face, roll the dice without looking at the results, and say, "You don't find anything." Even the most dense amoung them got that hint.

  7. #7
    I was going to suggest pretty much along the same lines as Full Bleed (that was before I read his post) - you're in charge, so don't let the Players do what you don't want them to do.

    As Full Bleed said, don't shut them down directly, but let them succeed in their "off the rails" endeavors but make sure that the end results are not what they want ie maybe they capture the goblin but then all his mates arrive and beat the party up pretty badly, or maybe the one asking all the questions gets arrested by the local watch (they don't need a reason, he's a stranger poking his nose into things, so have the watch make up so charges) - then, when they Players butts are in a sling, drop some subtle (or not-so-subtly) clues to get them back on track.

    I once resorted (in a IRL game) to printing out an a piece of paper in large letters "PLOT DEVICE" and then hung that over my GM's Screen whenever the Players started going way off the rails - yes it was a laugh, yes it was about as subtle as a brick in the face, but after about 3-4 sessions I stopped using it because the Players got the hint (& I got better at "railroading" them back on track).

    It sounds to me as if your players (or at least the door knocker) are coming from having playing computer-based rpgs (Neverwinter Nights, etc) where you can and do do just that; ask everyone questions. I've had Players like that, and I found that its best to have a chat with them and remind them that they're not playing a computer rpg.

    As far as player's learning stuff - that's just having lazy players and you spoon-feeding them. Do what's been suggested: tell them it their character and its up to them to remember their bonuses. Don't remind them until after the fight, etc. Players soon learn pretty quickly when they don't get their +2 To Hit and so loose a fight or two.

    Finally, this Blog Post might help.

    Cheers
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  8. #8
    Thanks for the advice all.

    NPC: "Aye, my young'un saw one of them there boglins run of inna those woods over yonder!"
    GM: Not 5 minutes hot the the goblin's trail you find him. Problem is it looks like he found a bear trap first.

    Then have them find a scroll on the dead goblin with some clear-cut breadcrumb that will put your players back onto the track you want them on. They found the goblin they wanted so bad and you get them refocused on the story at-hand.


    The players wasting time talking to people they shouldn't? Shut down the sources... gently or with force if need be. Don't want the towns people to talk to a certain character for awhile? Make up a reason they won't...

    GM: As you pass by a home you notice that there is a gathering of about 20 people--an assortment of men, women, and children engaged in animated conversation. When suddenly one of the young boys seems to recognize you, pointing and drawing the attention of the others...

    Boy: "That's him! He's the one who stole Miss Gerbutch's pie and little Katy's knickers!"

    GM: A burly farmer, much furrier than most, steps forward. He's armed only with a strange looking pitchfork (surely more lethal than your average pile of hay would warrant) and seemingly unafraid of you and your friends.

    Farmer: "Y'all best be on your way, fore things get outta hand round here. We don't tolerate kicker-knackers round these parts!"
    I love those solutions.. the thing is nothing like that would have even occurred to me on the fly. I'm just not good at that kind of on-my-feet thinking (never have been, I'm creative in other ways).


    From reading over these responses it looks like the main place I need to develop some skill is forcing them back on the rails in-context of what's going on and what they're doing so it's as transparent as possible to them. They're all new to roleplaying, too, so short of me blatantly telling them they're going off on an unimportant line, they're not going to realize they're doing it. You've all given me some ideas on how I might handle this though (I think I need to make more use of NPCs leading the PCs around, so to speak, instead of completely leaving the players to their own devices).

    It sounds to me as if your players (or at least the door knocker) are coming from having playing computer-based rpgs (Neverwinter Nights, etc) where you can and do do just that; ask everyone questions
    Pretty much. They all got out of the computer RPG metagaming attitude very quickly to their credit, but I don't think it's occurred to them that I don't have an index of every possible conversation with every one of Sandpoint's 2,500 people on hand :P.

    I think too it will help if I just slow things down, and for a while if it takes me a few minutes to decide what happens, that's Ok. I realize I've actually been trying to be very fast with getting them responses and answers to things they're doing which is probably contributing to the issue. If I slow down a bit maybe they'll slow down with the inane crap lol.
    Last edited by kalnaren; February 22nd, 2017 at 23:47.

  9. #9
    LordEntrails's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kalnaren View Post
    ...
    I think too it will help if I just slow things down, and for a while if it takes me a few minutes to decide what happens, that's Ok. I realize I've actually been trying to be very fast with getting them responses and answers to things they're doing which is probably contributing to the issue. If I slow down a bit maybe they'll slow down with the inane crap lol.
    Actually, this is a really good technique. When players throw you a curve, take a 10 minute break. Tell them all to go get a drink (and bring you one) while you have some things to do. Or take a break yourself and "go to the bathroom" so that you have a few minutes where you can just chill and think (but not stress).

    It's tough to always be "on stage" or "front and center" when you are the DM. You need to realize, and your players if needed, that taking some time out of the spotlight is fine and normal.

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  10. #10
    I may make use of the Mythic GME Fate chart in my next session as well. No idea why it didn't occur to me sooner. I actually did a completely unprepared solo session using it, so it might help me out here.

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