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Help! my game is grinding to a halt!


D&D 3.5/d20/OGL


As a long time Dm and player (started with 1st edition in the early eighties)i am an eager visitor to these boards.
I've been playing with the same guys off an on for nearly twenty years in a long time campaign.Their characters are 1st edition but in my home brew world i have added lots of 3rd edition goodness.
I use recent Dungeon scenarios as they have great storylines, and adapt them.My players have been through several of the adventures of shaclked city and age of worms.
However recently the game is grinding to a halt.One of the characters is near epic status at 20th level, the rest are high level too with 12th level the lowest and lots of henchmen of around 10th level too.The characters have a multitude of tasty magic items and a great range of spells.However when they go on an adventure the game is slowing to a near standstill as the characters are so cautious they spend hours not attacking the enemy but debating what to do.
Last night was the worst example as they are playing in one of dungeons adventures about the undersea city of Khamyn Dun.THey are taking ages to press their advantage against the sahuagin at the silver forge.The Sahuagin have a high level cleric who has been launching spells at them but as they are high level and make saving throws they still won't go down the tunnels to face her.They have meet the horned devil inside the silver forge that has happily blasted them with fireballs and lightning bolts and have now retreated to cast commune.Even after that they took nearly four hours last night of real time discussing what to do.
After playing with characters for 20 years the players are attached, but its coming to the point of them running away or not pressing their advantage.Players, and myself as DM find myself falling asleep as every time something challenging happens(Which happens a lot at high level) the game goes into shutdown as the characters endlessly debate what to do.
Without endless word of recalls and coming back at full strength how can i get the game moving and stop these boring debates,Its not like i am a killer DM player deaths are rare and raise dead and ressurrection soon solve the problem
Any ideas?

Silver Crusade

I would consider taking a break. Run a one-shot, or something similar, with new characters, just to give the players some new perspective.

Then, when they return to your main campaign, it can be with some renewed enthusiasm to see the campaign unfold.

I am wondering, though, whether any of your players see the current situation as a problem in the way that you do. Certainly, if some or all of them feel that the game is dragging, it is within their power to pick up the pace considerably. Perhaps they are happy with the slow, deliberate pace of the game.


Thanks for such a quick reply Celestial Healer!
yes a one shot break with different characters might make a change!
Also the players are noticing the game is grinding because their xps are minmal.I grant xps for roleplaying so they get a few, but not as much as for monster slaying and trap avoiding.Its taking ages lately for them to go up levels.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Face it... At level twenty, there ain't alot that can challenge the PCs. I suggest starting over, but playing say twenty years in the future, with the present characters used as NPCs (make them kings or legendary wizards). The new characters can even get to meet their old characters at some point. Worked for me...

Ultradan


Ultradan wrote:

Face it... At level twenty, there ain't alot that can challenge the PCs. I suggest starting over, but playing say twenty years in the future, with the present characters used as NPCs (make them kings or legendary wizards). The new characters can even get to meet their old characters at some point. Worked for me...

Ultradan

No Ultradan, the exact opposite, I have a whole host of great monsters and evil Npcs to loose on the players!

Dragotha and his evil horde as well as the dragons versus giants eppisode of the Age of Worms. No my players take too long, are too cautious and would rather avoid any kind of risk.
I long for epic fights where the characters charge in, but the game is at a near standstill as unless the adventures are too easy they will not fully go on the offensive., Low CR makes poor experience points in comparison with fighting creatures comparable to party level.Thus the speed of the game and character advancement is dragging.We play weekly but going up levels is rare as they acheive very little per session.


This Robin Laws article is all about breaking the planning and hesitation logjam.


Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
delveg wrote:
This Robin Laws article is all about breaking the planning and hesitation logjam.

Great article... Thanks Delveg!

As for the original question:
I run into this issue all the time, and it's part of why both of the previous campaigns that I ran with my current group were eventually tabled.

Keeping your spirits as a DM up is very important in this situation. You serve as a bellweather for the group. Just remember that for every session of grinding, dysfunctional, hesitant nebishness, there should (and eventually will) be a session of combat and or RP glory.

Sometimes you just need to shake the PC's up, and while I try to avoid combats they have no choice to avoid, the bad guys are bound to take the fight to them, especially at high levels, when they are getting close to the UBBEG. If you spring an unavoidable fight on them, it doesn't hurt to make it relatively easy (moderately challenging might be a better turn of phrase) and have the bad guys lead some sort of clue that encourages the players to press on in their quest a la: "what? This note says the princess (or other sympathetic NPC) is being held in that castle (dungeon/stronghold/rec-room)! We must save him/her!!!"
Their morale rises and they feel purposeful again.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Tales Subscriber

My preferred option would be to retire the characters, and start over.

However, assuming that's not an option, I present three others:

1) Give the PCs a time limit, and run the game in close to real-time. So, if they spend four hours arguing over what to do, they fail in their mission, and suffer the consequences.

2) Have the NPCs come to them. While the players are debating what to do, have the NPC spellcasters use the scry-buff-teleport tactic so favoured by powergamers everywhere. Hard to avoid combat when the bad guys just keep coming.

3) Give your players a swift kick up the backside. Seriously, tell them that you're bored, and if they're going to spend all that time debating, and no time actually doing, then you have better things to do with your time.

(Actually, a variant of #3 is a good idea in general - the vast majority of problems seen in gaming groups can be solved through the medium of open, honest, and frank communication.)


ZeroCharisma wrote:
delveg wrote:
This Robin Laws article is all about breaking the planning and hesitation logjam.

Great article... Thanks Delveg!

As for the original question:
I run into this issue all the time, and it's part of why both of the previous campaigns that I ran with my current group were eventually tabled.

Keeping your spirits as a DM up is very important in this situation. You serve as a bellweather for the group. Just remember that for every session of grinding, dysfunctional, hesitant nebishness, there should (and eventually will) be a session of combat and or RP glory.

Sometimes you just need to shake the PC's up, and while I try to avoid combats they have no choice to avoid, the bad guys are bound to take the fight to them, especially at high levels, when they are getting close to the UBBEG. If you spring an unavoidable fight on them, it doesn't hurt to make it relatively easy (moderately challenging might be a better turn of phrase) and have the bad guys lead some sort of clue that encourages the players to press on in their quest a la: "what? This note says the princess (or other sympathetic NPC) is being held in that castle (dungeon/stronghold/rec-room)! We must save him/her!!!"
Their morale rises and they feel purposeful again.

Cheers Guys

I must thank all you in the Paizo messageboard community for replying to my post so quickly and thoughtfully.
I look forward to more of this great advice!


Don't let the players sit around. If they don't act in a timely fashion, have them ACTED UPON.

Most PCs are fairly reactive-- they wait for the DM to describe something happening and then act in response. Very rarely will they move quickly when left to their own devices, since doing so often means acting without complete information, a leading cause of PC death. If they are sitting around, give them something to react to-- IMMEDIATELY.


If you present time-sensitive scenarios, as was suggested, they have to act or they fail. That's one way.
Now to play Devil's advocate; What's the hurry? Present the situation, let the debate begin, and go to the head, get a drink, fix a sandwich, whatever. Until the players decide that they are wasting too much time trying to figure things out, they won't want to change. If you force them to hurry and something goes badly, they may feel that you were to blame.
Another option might be to let one of the other players DM for a while. If they see things from the other side of the screen, they may form a different opnion. Probably a short game here, but if they fall back into their old patterns, then maybe they need a longer break and one of them can set up a long-term game.


Scorpionkiss,

The above replies all contain excellent advice for handling the situation you find yourself in, and are all very good ways to address the situation you find yourself in.

My two coppers :
1. Presuming you have been the primary GM for the past two decades, it strikes me as time for one of your players to step behind the screen and GM for a while. Put the current campaign on hold as soon as the play is at a conclusive point (from the several posts of advice above this humble posting), then cut the new screenmonkey loose.
2. When a character is that old, one is very often inclined to strive very hard to keep the character alive at all costs. It is my suspicion that is a primary, if probably subconscious, reason for the "logjam" you face.
3. Rip the primary characters from the world, ala the Mists of Ravenloft or something of similar, unresistable effect (if the party is bordering on Epic, it is readily plausable that a secretive Epic level spellcaster Villain in the game world they've been in has taken steps to remove them permanently from threatening his plans). Have them shlurpped up in thier sleep, which will greatly minimize the uber gear they are fitted with, and dropped into a completely new " Prime Material " plane with no contact with thier patron gawds. In effect, you can institute a version of " the moon falls onto the world, everything dies " without snuffing them outright. The RP you can get from such a drastic change is, in my experience, nothing less than gratifying - unless they are a bunch of whiney pansy chicken gamers. You could even elect to deliver something to the effect of a 1st edition dual-classing effect for them at that time as well. The options are staggering and nearly endless to behold. Ideally, the divine spellcasters sign on with the more ephemeral divine power sources (Philosophies etc) rather than patron gawds and regain thier footing. The languages will be incomprehensible without magic. The preparative arcane spellcasters probably sleep with thier familiars, spellbooks and component pouches no matter what. Critter companions are likewise most likely sleeping on thier feet. Henchmooks and other such followers would be left behind, so the UBBEG can use them as object lessons...
4. Erase the characters' brains, similar to #3, but instead of removing them from the world, you wipe the slate clean of class levels and xp. They keep attributes, race and current maximum hit points. Everything else - for whatever reason - dissappears. (You could certainly make it up for them and tack on 4 or 5 inherent ability score bonus points whereever they wish in exchange for the stuff they lost.) Amnesia and total rethinking of characters might do them some good and liven things up. Or wreck the campaign - this one I'd discuss with them before implementing. You could effectively convert thier xp into inherent ability score bonuses, strip them of all but a small amount of gear and start them all over, at 1st level this way.

Hope this inspire some. <weg>

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