Epic Rescue – They’re not having fun!

“My players are complaining more and more now. We’re level 17 mythic 7 in my Pathfinder game. Almost every week we run into a rules question that turns into a debate. They are focused on their numbers more than they are on the story. The one role playing player I have is ready to leave the group and come back when I start a new game. I don’t know, I love making adventures and all, but it feels like a job now. –Pat

PS: Good luck with the blog.”

First off, thank you. Secondly, sorry it has taken me a bit to start back up. I hope I can be of help. If any of you need help with your role playing adventures, player or game master alike, please write me in the comments below or to adventamp@gmail.com and get yourself featured in future Epic Rescues.

Rules Struggles

The later tiers of a game are never a walk in the park. I’ve carried players to level 20 and beyond many times now, it’s less of a struggle now, but there are always those moments. One thing my players know at the start of the campaign is, all rules questions are to be settled after the game. You can raise the question immediately, but if it devolves into a discussion or debate that pulls away from the game, it’s best saved for after, or in between sessions. The next part of that, is to ask yourself, “Does it harm the game? Is it fun?” For example:

Jake:      My rogue gets an additional +4 bonus here, and I deny a dex bonus to the dude.

Paul:      No, man, you only get a +2 even with that feat. And, you’re not denying dex right there.

Jake:      Yes I am, look here!

You should cut in by now. Is that +4 going to harm your game? Is he trying to hit or kill another player? If so, yes it could hurt the game. Don’t allow it and move on. Is he hitting a boss that you worked hard on? Or something else? If so, it’s not going to hurt your game. Next part of that, is it fun? If he hits his target, heck yes. In either case, make your decision and move on. “It’s okay Paul, I’ll give him the bonus. I’ll look at the rules after the game, thanks for bringing it up.” Or “Sorry Jake, Paul is right, and you’re trying to hit another player so I have to be as fair as possible. I’ll look it up after the game if you still want to try.”

In general, I tend to rule in favor of the players survival. So player versus npc/monster they get the bonus. Player versus player, they won’t get it, because I want the characters to live.

Number Crunching

As a game master, it’s best to have a cheat sheet ready for encounters and random events. I turn to the Pathfinder Page 42 on Gneech when I am in doubt. But, what about your players? They have large numbers to add to their rolls, not to mention circumstantial bonuses applied from this that and the other. I have my players make their own cheat sheet. My fiancé had one for her assassin rogue where she had “Normal turn +X/+Y/+Z”, “Full Round” added more, feats added more, etc… She filled up half a page but when combat came to her turn, she could look down and say I want to make this attack using these, and just go for the dice. No need to add on the spot and waste time. I suggest your players use Google Docs and make a simple spreadsheet to print out and adjust as they level up in the later tiers. Just name the attack and the bonuses. So they can just keep that one sheet out during combat.

Spellcasters have it a bit more rough. But, everyone should be paying attention at these levels and readying their next turn ahead of time. I tell my spell casters to print some cards out of their most used, or prepared spells that way they can just flip through the stack of cards and pull out the spell they want to cast. No need to flip page after page looking for the right answers.

All in all, after level 10, I consider cheat sheets and spell cards the most worthwhile between-game time investment a player can make. It can help cut an hour of combat down to half an hour.

The Lone Role Player

I remember being that guy back in the day. I’m in the game for the role play, the story. I don’t care which side wins as long as I have a fun time getting there. One thing I always had to remember, role playing doesn’t end when a fight begins. A lot of players forget that. Most people make the mistake of, combat = combat, non-combat = role playing. This is so very untrue. Look at Lord of the Rings for example. When Gimli and Legolas are slicing and dicing through orcs, there is humor and fun going on. They make quick remarks and jest at one another. Remind the player that there are skill checks to be made in combat, diplomacy, intimidate…

I played my first paladin in a recent campaign. Normally I play bard or sorcerer. I have to say though, this pally is one of the most bad-ass characters I’ve ever played. Just because I role play him in combat. Warren, Son of Torm, an orphan who grew up in an orphanage that belonged to worshipers of Torm. He aspired to be a knight-guard for the city. Seems Torm had other plans. In any case, one of his first encounters was against evil dwarves known as duergar. They infiltrated a nearby chapel and were sacrificing the clergy. What did Warren do? March in, went all the way to the top and worked his way down. He lead the party into a fight with their leader, first. The leader threatened to kill a priestess he held hostage. “My god can bring her back. He cannot do the same to you.” Warren said. My Game Master’s jaw dropped and the rest of the table readied for combat, rallying behind me as they had in a previous adventure. We made quick work of the leader and saved the girl. We went down to the next floor, they didn’t know of the loss of their leader. Warren let them know by showing them his head… Intimidate may be a standard action, but it’s one of the best non-attack standard actions any character can make.

I’m sure reminding him that the role play doesn’t stop when the dice are picked up will help him remain in this game, especially if you give him the chance to do so. Pull back your enemies and have them taunt and jest. Have them chuck rotten skulls of their allies. Give the player characters a reason to role play and they shall, knowingly or not. A simple “My grandmother swings an axe better than you, and she’s dead!” From a necromancer is great, especially when he points out his grandmother is swinging an axe right over there; and points to a little old skeleton with a double-edged war axe.

On the Job

Even as a seasoned Game Master, it’s tough to feel like I’m not on the job. Remember, not only are you giving your players story, you’re acting out the consequences to their actions. You’re making a world for them to explore, week after week. It’s a lot to handle. I often refer to the players playing an MMO and I’m the server, the game devs, the tech support, and computers. I take their feedback, and work with it. I develop the weekly adventures, and process all of their commands while storing what they’ve done in my databanks. It’s easy to get overheated, bogged down, and tired. I’d check out my other GM time saving articles if I were you, for one. But, what I want you to really do, is focus on what is fun. Ask your players every week if they are having fun, and what they liked or didn’t like about the adventure. This will steer you to the right decision making. You’ll learn what to add and what to not even bother with. Do things you like. When the GM is having fun and engaged, the players often follow. Don’t forget that it’s players versus the story, not players versus you. You’re not the end all evil guy. You also play their allies, and companions. Don’t be so held up on the rules. Don’t worry too much about following a strict guideline. Once the game night starts, you need to break off your worries.

My trick is to go over “Last time …”, and remind everyone of what happened via my notes. This normally gets us all in the mood, and gets everyone listening and ready. It helps me settled down and get ready. You should relax, let things slide in favor of the players, and enjoy your night just as much as them.

Thanks for writing me. I hope I’ve helped. ~Vexar

Once again, if you need help as a player or game master. Comment below or write me at adventamp@gmail.com. I look forward to hearing from you!

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