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GM's Corner

You Can't Please Everyone

Game Masters unite! This is where those of you who run games can talk about your discoveries, pet peeves, advice for other GMs and anything else related.

You Can't Please Everyone

Postby Le Grognard » Tue Jul 17, 2007 8:39 am

So, in thinking about another topic on this thread I made a point of mentioning an exeprience I had recently in trying to generate a mood of dread and dark forboding.

I was running the new Ravenloft adventure for the group set in the D20 Modern game world. It was a total and utter failure. Much of the blame for this needs to fall on my shoulders, of course.

But I found it increasingly difficult to set the mood effectively so that the players were engaged in the horror/dread aspect of it. I also found it difficult to keep the tone dark and brooding. The players seemed to poke holes in my attempts at every move. They tried to keep things light and fun, almost to the point of parody (have you ever seen "Abbott & Costello meet Frankenstein"?)

Now, I'm not saying the game session shouldn't be fun and light (I believe the exact opposite). But the group had quite strongly mentioned in the past that they preferred dark and brooding games, those filled with angst and dark shadow of the unknown, to games of shining light and glorious deeds.

So, when I try to offer a session that provides this they do everything in their power to NOT engage in this type of campaign.

So, what's a fella to do? I tried listening to my players, and subsequently ended up abandoning a campaign that was - up that point - providing some of my favourite sessions in stretching my creativity into areas where I need the practice.

I tried running a D20 Modern (Past) game set in the pulp genre. Things were going fine until a couple of characters whose concepts didn't quite fit the mould of he party broke the mood of the game (this time by disrupting the players' mood they were creating).

I wanted to test out a game based on the L5R world of Rokugan. Lo and behold, the player that I thought would best take to playing a highly honourable samurai ending up rejecting the game entirely.

Games where you try and present a mystery fall down because the party won't even leave the inn without gathering every last shred of information they can (due to paranoia) before they even step out into the street. What fun is roleplaying sitting huddled in a corner clutching a blanket and softly repeating "Mummy!" over and over again?

There have been games where the GM applies NO guidance in player development or party activity. They have been even more furstrating (in their own way). But the gM is fearful of introducing anything that even one player will find a turn-off.

I feel it's almost as if we need to draw up a contract between players and GM. Or place a cautionary warning on our games like those on TV:

"Caution: Some aspects of this game world may not be to everyone's liking. Portions of this campaign may contain: dark overtones/different cultures/goofy animals/Deus Ex Machina DMPCs/free will/unfamiliar genres/real world decision-making processes/super science/etc..."

Does it have to come to: "If you don't like it, either belt up or go away"?

* end rant *
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Postby SQUAWK » Tue Jul 17, 2007 10:12 am

While I didn't get to play in that campaign I do understand how difficult it can be to run campaigns that are a little different.

I handed my own campaign off for a similar reason that there were a number of complaints over the setting, how money was dealt with, the background, etc. etc.
I couldn't run it like just another D&D campaign to please everyone so someone else will run it. I don't worry about it, but I do understand how you feel.
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Postby Kabucha » Tue Jul 17, 2007 7:25 pm

Sorry I missed out on all your campaigns.

I would have liked to give them a try, a darker mood, how about setting the lights low and having tea lights as your source of light?
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Postby SQUAWK » Tue Jul 17, 2007 10:17 pm

Kabucha wrote:Sorry I missed out on all your campaigns.

I would have liked to give them a try, a darker mood, how about setting the lights low and having tea lights as your source of light?


While it is a good idea, unfortunately that really doesn't work too well with D&D (although possibly with some other systems that are less paper/dice intensive), as then everyone struggles to see their character sheet or dice.
Some of the group just plain can't see in lower light settings.
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Postby Le Grognard » Wed Jul 18, 2007 8:33 am

Kabucha wrote:how about setting the lights low and having tea lights as your source of light?


Actually back in the day (when I first tried running the original Ravenloft module) I did try using low lighting and candlelight.

Completely didn't work. :lol: We thought it funny and odd, too melodramatic I guess.

... Or maybe I just can't run a decent dark or moody game session. :)

SQUAWK wrote:While it is a good idea, unfortunately that really doesn't work too well with D&D (although possibly with some other systems that are less paper/dice intensive), as then everyone struggles to see their character sheet or dice.


Perhaps that's why the White Wolf storyteller games work well in this arena?
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Postby Jodi » Wed Jul 18, 2007 8:53 am

The character sheets in White Wolf are very graphical as apposed to textual - so maybe it *would* be easier to see in dim lighting. ;) But yeah - World of Darkness is pretty much made for that - darkness. It can be silly too, of course. But in general, it's a grim, fatalistic setting that rarely lets up. To get the right mood though, you really need a GM who knows about all the beings that inhabit the setting and knows the world itself very well. Without that, the overall "feel" of it doesn't tend to come through well enough. For instance, if you're playing Vampires, the GM should really know about more than just the vampires themselves. He/she should know about Werewolves, Fae, Wraiths, Mages, other shape changing breeds, etc. - to add the full flavor of the game to those playing - even if they're all only playing vampires. It's kind of like the GM in D&D knowing what kinds of creatures are possible to be encountered, and what other sorts of NPCs inhabit their world (something I know all you GMs do very well!).

Anyway, that said, because the character sheet in White Wolf is mostly dark dots (you have "skills" on a scale of, generally, 1-5 - and the strength of your skill depends on how many "dots" you have in it), it would likely be easier to play in dim lighting - though there's still d10's to roll. ;)

As for the other stuff in discussion here, I certainly appreciate all the work the GMs put into their campaigns. That's why I enjoy playing with this group so much. If I've been guilty of not allowing a certain atmosphere, or breaking the mood myself, I sincerely apologize. I was actually quite enjoying the D20 modern campaign - both outside and inside Ravenloft - though I agree that the darker mood was more difficult to maintain when the play started to lean more towards D&D than D20 modern... I'm not sure Ravenloft works in a more modern setting - especially when D20 modern was doing just fine all on its own. ;) But that's just my impressions after the fact. If you'd asked me while we were playing, I probably would have had some different thoughts on the matter.

And as for L5R - I REALLY hope we end up going back to that at some point. I thought that environment was *awesome* and it was nice to try something different. :)

--Jodi
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Postby Kabucha » Wed Nov 07, 2007 7:44 pm

Darker moods are hard to come by. The writing plays a huge part in setting the mood. It also helps if the the group your role playing with isn't trying to make everyone else in the group break out in laughter, however it also is'nt good if everyone in the group sit around like corpses.

It all comes down to the writing, and I'm not a great writer.

So I will throw out a line and see who bites.
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Postby Le Grognard » Thu Nov 08, 2007 10:36 am

I agree that the writing has a lot to do with setting the mood. But there is also a large onus on the players. I think you alluded to this in the pont yo made about neither trying to make everybody brak up when the mood should be tense, as well as not sitting like lumps when interaction should be encouraged.

Take the situation for "joining the group" ... I know that the standard joke is 'you look like atrustworthy individual', but the players should also not go to the other extreme of making an effort to alienate themselves from the group as a whole.

Thoughts?
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Postby SQUAWK » Fri Nov 09, 2007 9:58 am

I agree there 100%

I know I'm one of the worst for 'jocularity jocularity', but when I see the DM trying to create a mood or we get into more serious moments I do try to keep in the spirit of the game and go along with it (playing a frat boy sorceror with aspirations of arcane godhood it isn't always easy mind you).
I think it also helps when the DM starts off setting a mood for a campaign. Starting off a session with a darker tone can help set a mood for the rest of the session and help the players get into it more either with a description of how desperate the situation is in that upcoming session or just the background "dark cloudy day, thunderstorms and driving rain" to help set the mood I think all help.
In some ways also I think the demeanor of the DM is important, helping to keep the tone for the session is always an important part of running the session - not breaking into jokes or laughing or telling a lot of side stories can help keep the group on the track or mood that you want them on (IF you want them in a particular mood).
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Postby Kabucha » Fri Nov 09, 2007 7:58 pm

not breaking into jokes or laughing or telling a lot of side stories can help keep the group on the track or mood that you want them on


No worries from me on that point, I'm not very funny, and I don't come any where near the knowledge everyone else has.

I would say about 90% of the jokes fly right over my head. So when I'm running no worries from me on the side jokes and comments, cause I don't know any. And because of that I can keep my game on track.
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Postby Le Grognard » Mon Nov 12, 2007 10:37 am

LOL! Don't sell yourself short Kabucha. You do just fine in that department.

True. The GM is the prime to set the tone. And I also find it hard to keep on track with this when everyone else is having a rollicking good tiem as well - one of the reasons I do this IS for the social aspect after all.

I also think that chit-chat that veers the conversation off the track in the middle of a session is one of our group's problems as well. These covnersations are more of the conversational type than a gaming tangent.

Don't get me wrong, during a down point they're fine ... but when the group is ready to get back to it we should be respectful of the others and get back to it. We all need to be aware of this as a group. This is especially true when it's only two of the members who are conversing. If you really can't wait or really feel the need to continue the conversation, why not remove the discussion to the other room or off to the side?

And as a player who may want to share, we need to be respectful of the others as well. Sharing news is one thing and we all want to share in the good fortune of our friends. BUT ... (theer's always a but, isn't there?) ... if the majority of the group is "That's fine. Now let's get on with it" we needn't feel compelled to continue talking. Rememebr that there will be opportunities to share or continue sharing as the day goes on. And thee is always after the game has broken up as a last resort.

Actually, an example of just this situation arose this weekend when one of the players arrived late and missed the conversational lead-in, the dinner break, and took advantage of a "potty break" to begin a conversation that developed into a side conversation between them and one other player, continuing even after the GM was ready to get going again (along with the otehr players present).

Am I saying "don't converse"? Certainly not. I am saying be respectful of the others in the group.
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Postby Le Grognard » Mon Nov 12, 2007 10:57 am

Side conversations within the framework of the game...

I had many successful instances of this occur within our games. Some of the characters would be doing something with another PC that had no great bearing on the game (an example would be Fin and Echaldath smoking on the battlements and having the longest conversation of their lives :lol: ).

But I like to think that they never broke the mood the GM was trying to set.

Side conversations will happen, sure. But we need to be aware of how they affect the communications dynamic of the session we're having at the time, and be respectful of the rest of the group and the sense of disbelief the GM is trying to develop and support.

We've been discussing the second point a lot. But let's look at the first part of my last point.

If we are having a discussion or joking around with the person beside us, that's realtively minor in that it doesn't affect the larger communication going on between the GM and the group. Yes, if it's LOUD it will impact that activity. But if it's kept low it shouldn't. (It's akin to two kids whispering at the back of the class.) However, it should be understood that, like the kids in class, if the players miss soemthing important because they've been kibitzing on the side that's their loss.

Now let's look at a slightly different scenario... What if two players were trying to have the same type of side discussion but sat at kitty-corners of the group layout? Use the example of AJ and me when we game at Kargosh's place. If we were to have a conversation even slightly off topic it would interfere with the communication between Kargosh and the rest of the players because we (tend to) sit at opposing corners of the room. And the room is very close quarters to begin with.

Do AJ and I not have side conversations any more? Of course we do. We were doing it this weekend even ... but it was a few short sentences and much sign language. We were trying to be as respectful as possible of the communication that was going on between everybody else.

Now, what if AJ and I wanted to discuss something non-session related. Examples of such may be teh last weekend's football game, etc. Would that still be kosher? Not so much. Who else cares about that?

But what if the discussion we wanted to have was a rule interpretation or mechanic? Well, that's still game related, but does it have anything to do with what's going on "around the table"? No. Most likely, a ruling has already been made by the GM and we would just be adding white noise to the efforts of everybody else to stay "in the (gaming) zone". Who else would be interested? Not too many in actuality I believe. AJ and I should take our rules discussion out of the picture by moving it to a different area or by waiting until a convenient break in the action.

So, I hope I've added some more for everyone to think about with respect to maintaining the group's gaming verisimilitude. I'd be interested in hearing what everybody else thinks.

(And yes, I too feel I need to control myself in this regard sometimes ... mainly because I am very guilty of it when it especially conerns the rules discussion aspect. Hoepfully I try to keep these discussions short and to the point so as not to disturb the communciation effort too much.)
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Postby Kabucha » Wed Nov 14, 2007 8:01 pm

Now let's look at a slightly different scenario... What if two players were trying to have the same type of side discussion but sat at kitty-corners of the group layout?


If you wanted to have a discussion, then sit closer to each other or trade seats someone for a short while.

There is something else, if you are sitting beside the GM, try not to have a number of side covservation with other players. You may not be speaking very loud, however you may be distractiing the GM with the side conservations.

Please keep something else in mind, for the players who only show up monthly, they want to get in as much playing time as possible, because they are only around once a month. GM please put as much into the sessions as possible, we are getting our monthly fix. 8)
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Postby SQUAWK » Wed Nov 14, 2007 11:41 pm

One thing that gets to me a little is huge amounts of note passing...a couple players spending several minutes passing notes back and forth constantly laughing and commenting over them, but then going right on with the notes while in the middle of the game and the GM's trying to carry on.

I find that can be very distracting...I'm all for notes to make comments, talk, let the GM know you're doing something without necessarily letting everyone know it's a perfect solution, but it can be very annoying if there's too much of it. It can also can lead to the rest of the party feeling that there are a lot of secrets being kept which then leads to trust issues - not that any of our parties EVER have trust issues with characters...oh no not at all...
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Postby Le Grognard » Thu Nov 15, 2007 3:31 pm

So, basically what I'm hearing is that we need to be respectful of the group's needs at all times and with all situations, yes?

We are there to get our gaming fix and must strive to achieve the correct balance of gaming, laughter, social interaction, etc. while not disrupting anyone else's bliss.

(Oh, and I fully plead guilty to the passing notes thing - especially between players. :oops: )
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