So last night we did character gen for my new Homebrew. I've talked it up for a couple weeks, even emailed the guys a Player's Guide I wrote for it, so they know there's a theme and all. Here's what eventually shook out and pay close attention to the names:
Human Rogue/Back Stabbeth
Yes, they know it annoys me. Yes, I've had the heart to heart. And yes, I've probably taken the game too seriously when making it. But I'm really annoyed. The vibe at the end of the night was that these were 5 throw away characters. In my heart-to-heart my one request was that they make guys they really are interested in because I have had 2 campaigns in a row self destruct by 5th level and I REALLY want this one to last to level 20.
Please, I'm asking for your experience here. Is there some kind of incentive you guys have seen that works? Should I get the TPK out of the way early so another round of glass jawed throw-aways can come in?
After 20 years of this I have come to realize I need to choose my players closely, not just when GMing, but playing also. Your situation is one of the many reasons I do not like public games like the society. You will not be able to teach these players maturity unfortunatly, attempting too will just frustrate you further. I suggest scrapping this one and finding a group that is more suitable, if you can not then I would see if somone else wanted to GM. If its going to be a cheese game, better to play it than run it. Maybe then when the shoes on the other foot will your players learn a bit of respect.
I've come to realize that the people in your group will consider, and treat you, in one way. For example, I too, cannot ask them to get anything mildly story-driven done whenever I've tried to DM. They disregard obvious hints that a situation is 'dire', requires logical thought, and generally scatters in 5 directions to 'yuck it up' and get their witty acts/conversation in.
Familiarity breeds contempt. The cruel truth is that I get more roleplaying and straight out gaming done in pathfinder society (a recent endeavor) than I did in a year's worth of home group. I've relegated that particular group down my social importance ladder, because it's obvious that I have to get my edification as a person elsewhere. They're still fun to hang out with and relive old stories, but they don't satisfy that part of my hobby, and I have new options to pursue.
Your next heart to heart about the game should probably discuss how this has happened in the previous campaigns. Draw actual correlations of player actions for examples. Let them know that, straight out, you don't want to play that kind of game, you want a serious, involved effort for the most part. If it doesn't look like they'll take you seriously in that discussion, then don't bother, and tell them you're not gm'ing. And stick to it. Nights you get to spend on this hobby are rare and short enough as it is to not enjoy playing the game and enjoy your comrades.
Mark Hoover wrote:
Please, I'm asking for your experience here. Is there some kind of incentive you guys have seen that works? Should I get the TPK out of the way early so another round of glass jawed throw-aways can come in?
One lesson I have learned is that players do not play the game YOU want to play, they play the game that THEY want to play. Compromise with them by giving some of what they want (and it sounds like they do not want to take the game too seriously) and they may deliver what you want. On the flip side, if you are pushing these guys to play, that won't work.
Maybe let someone else DM a while, let them appreciate how hard it is. Or if they just do not want to, then maybe time to find other players.
Just hearing their character names doesn't really make me think they're necessarily bad players. They're making puns and having fun with the character creation.
When faced with a situation what is their playstyle? Do they follow rules, fight tactically, address issues, and try to solve problems, or do they invent what the rules mean, argue with your GMing, have everyone rush into melee, think the go-to social skill is "I punch him in the jaw!" for every situation?
If they play respectfully, let the goofy names slide. When I looked around after being asked what my char name was, I went with Bob, then halfling-ized it to Bobert. Yet when it's playtime, Bobert is the best rogue to grace Sandpoint.
If you had the heart-to-heart and they know this is important to you, that's fine, but give them some playtime and see if they become as into it as you. Personally, hearing that 2 other campaigns ended before 5th level makes me think you and your players aren't meshing very well, and if it's a different group of players every time, maybe look at who you're trying to play with, or what you're approach is.
If you don't mind my asking, what caused the other two games to self-destruct at 5th?
Maybe they are protesting your DM-ing, they are going about it poorly, but protesting nonetheless. Are you the only DM, or do you keep volunteering eager to push your homebrew? Maybe it's their way of telling you they don't want you to DM, hoping you will quit on your own, instead of actually telling you face-to-face.
Maybe it is because of the last two 5th level self-destructs, that they don't take their PC's seriously. They are already expecting a 5th level end, so are just hastening it to get it over with.
Sadly, most of this is something that needs to be discussed with them, as to why they are doing what they do. It could just simply be that they take the game much less seriously than you do, and it just isn't a good match.
Like most advice on dealing with problem players, the key is talking to them, and ironing out what it is that they want and what you want, and how well the two mesh.
I think I'm missing a piece of the puzzle here.
It sounds like you told these guys you want a serious campaign with serious characters. So how did they respond? Was it...
(a) They agreed to make serious characters and then proceeded to not do so?
(b) They didn't agree to make serious characters?
In case (a), it sounds like your players are a bunch of liars. In case (b), it sounds like a case of miscommunication.
could we get some information about these guys. maybe some examples as to there previous play style. i am inclined to agree it may be more than just a player problem. It could just be your group doesn't mesh well player vs dm and that happens sometimes. players who lose interest often times spice things up on there own by trying to throw a handful of monkey wrenches into your campaign.
In my opinion, you should look at this as a challenge. Even if they make characters they think are a joke, turn the joke around and make them attached to their "joke" characters. In depth descriptions, NPC interactions with heavy roleplay, and giving them backstories with intrigue, mystery, or coolness can all help connect them with your story, silly names or no.
Or start the game by making them all members of a secret society who hides their true names and only goes by monikers. This could explain the silly names and give the players a chance to re-cant to a "cooler fantasy type name" at a later date.
IMO, one of the coolest experiences as a GM is getting a silly, messing around player engaged in the game. Its not always possible, since it requires at least some of your supporting cast (gaming group) to focus on story immersion, but its worth it when it happens.
You know, if you've already had the heart-to-heart with them, and they've ignored you, and even thrown it in your face by explicitly doing the OPPOSITE of what you asked them to do (and every single one of them did it), then honestly, I would find a new group of players. I'm sure it's not what you want to hear, and it sucks, but it's not you--it's them. What they've done is demonstrate to you that they have no respect for you as a DM.
We dungeon masters work hard to build a game experience our players will love; in essence our job is to make sure they have a good time. If a player isn't willing to show you enough respect and appreciation to at least meet you in the middle by adhering to the few guidelines you lay out, they're not worth your time.
Honestly, they've shown you already exactly what kind of players they're going to be. This is just the beginning, my friend, and it will only get worse. Better to cut them loose now and find other players before you've invested even more into this group.
If you're really married to these particular players, then I would sit them down as a group and tell them AGAIN what you expect from them. Give them one last chance and make it clear that this is their last chance.
We have a guy who simply can't resist punny names and another one who can't quite match up the crunch on the sheet to the fluff in his head. We have another player who designs weapon systems, character personality being optional. Then there is the player who comes up with an interesting character, knows how to play her effectively, but is still very demure at the table. Our 5th Groover makes an honest effort at the RP and levels his character as he deems appropriate for a leader of men.
My point is, it takes all kinds to play the game. No one is going to be perfect.
To the OP specifically - I get the distinct impression that your group was/is shining you on. They're not going to take the game as seriously as you want them too, just because that's what you want. If I'm wrong in my assessment, fair enough. That's just the impression that I get. Having said that, my advice is to either get a new group or go with what you got.
Spanky the Leprechaun wrote:
Heh - Harm Fulrays (hu-mon Wizard) is pretty awesome too.
I'd go with it. Ghosts who eat Booberry cereal, the whole nine yards.
Start bringing in npc's from Eragon.
A group of npc bandits based on the original Enterprise bridge crew.
Midichlorion detection spells.
F%%~ it; they lay down the gauntlet.
Make them save the princess from Mario Brothers. Fight some evil mushroom men with DR10/jumping on their head.
Oh,....and I forgot.....every third npc they meet "used to be an adventurer, until he took an arrow to the knee."
Except when they say, "I know,....I know,....you used to be an adventurer until you took an arrow to the knee...."
That guy says, "nope. Inguinal hernia."
IMHO, developed over 27 years of GMing:
The intent of the game is for it to be FUN for everyone at the table.
If your players have fun by playing silly named characters then try to roll with it. If your players have fun at the table then they'll be more excited about the sessions and the game will gain a life of its own as you progress through the levels. Let them have the silly names, if the campaign is good enough then the names won't matter.
In all seriousness, though, I think you've encountered a group of people with a playstyle totally different from your own. I've done this a few times in my life; it is an opportunity to learn another way of doing things, see what's good about it, what's bad about it, and incorporate the good into your style. It can be a challenge to learn a different tribe's norms and taboos, but when you're done, you've been running things under a challenge, and your dungeonmaster fu will be all the more awesome, and you might learn that THEIR dojo actually taught some interesting tricks that you weren't hip to following your dojo's ways. I'd do it, man. Play their way, and learn their tricks.
By all of them making goofy names, they are clearly trying to tell you something.
If they don't have the maturity to clearly communicate it to you, then they are not worth your time.
On the other hand, if they have communicated it and you are refusing to see it or haven't passed it on to us, then it's impossible for us to offer any real insight.
Without knowing what it is they are trying to say, it just looks to me like they are griefing you.
There are many different playstyles and all are equally valid. With that said, when you play with a group of people with vastly different playstyles, it's a guarantee that no one is going to have fun.
I don't see the problem lying with them as they all seem to want to play the same kind of game. The problem is that you are playing with them when that's not the kind of game you want to play.
Humorous campaigns are tough to run as everyone finds different things funny. Spanky evidently loves puns and slapstick humor. I had a GM that wanted to run a campaign like that. I made a goblin samurai to play but it still didn't work out as I either didn't understand many of his puns (too inside joke-ish) or didn't think they were funny. In the end, I bowed out and rejoined six months later when the campaign changed again.
I'd look for another game or new players. They clearly don't want to play your campaign and if you've put a lot of effort into it, you deserve players that will take it seriously.
Just like to throw in, our group has a guy like this: Dude wanted to do a polearm trip fighter named "Felldon Cuza'mi".
Lots of people homebrew. I gave up on homebrewing myself. My players were never interested enough in what I was making up for them. In the end it seemed like a crap ton of work which may have just as well been a module or AP anyways.
Time to decide whether the homebrewing is important to you or not. Know your audience. I am going to guess you will end up with nothing but dissatisfaction from this game. These guys may have been part of your past campaigns that fell apart. Possibly they are best friends that you have to game with. If so save your self the time and trouble.
If this homebrew is important to you save it for the right players. In the meantime run something for your friends that is less serious and time consuming on your part. Start looking for players on the net, at PFS, or use meetup.com for the homebrew. Do not start your level 1-20 campaign out of the gun. Run shorter games until you find the right players that fit your desired game. It has taken me years to put together the best fit group. None of my longtime best friends are part of it. Im am finally at the point of considering homebrew again. Hope this helps Mark.
Personally, I think you're the one being unreasonable and selfish. In your group of 6, 5 want to play one way, and 1 (you) wants to play another way. I don't think you should do something to influence them, I think you should either adjust to their playstyle or let one of them GM. I will say that you shouldn't have to put in the work of GM'ing a campaign that you don't want to GM -- if you don't mind the lighthearted campaign, adjust to it, but if you think it's a waste of time, let one of them GM. Or don't play.
Your question is akin to saying, "I want to see an action movie, they want to see a comedy, but it's MY car, so I tell them we're going to see an action movie. Then, when we get to the theater, they just ignore my rule and go see an action movie." Suck it up and see the action movie, or let one of them drive.
The point was also made above, their names don't necessarily reflect how they will play. If they are going to treat everything seriously but their one outlet is the names, well, that's no big deal.
Fun: the game is all about fun. However, the definition of a fun game varies from person to person. For you its more serious than it seems to be for your players. I see it as the GMs job to provide the fun for the players. However, not all GMs and players are compatible. You have to decide for yourself if you can deal with this (assuming they do not want to change their definition of fun). - Gauss
Advice from an old-timer:
Consequences: Be kind, polite, but firm: If they cannot agree to a small request from the GM before the game even begins, nothing good will come of continuing with them. Find a way to get through to them, "Guys, I'm offering to bring a great game experience to you by way of my campaign setting. The people of this world (your characters) would not have names like those. It's important to me and the campaign that the characters be named according to x,y,z style (give some examples). I need for you to create a character name that is in sync with the fabric of the setting, before game day. If you can work with me on your character names, I'm sure we'll have some great game days ahead. If you have any questions, I'm happy to answer them or help you with your character names. Unfortunately, if you're still unwilling, even after I've shared the importance of a good character name, then our game cannot begin."
It comes down to this: if you can't beatem, joinem, and when in Rome, do like the Romans.
It's a good life lesson in general.
And,.....if you need help with punny names for npc's or cornball stuff's, summon me here via pm and tell me what the class is and I'll hook you up.
I'm in search for the pun that kills. I consider it my own 20th level class ability. It's my riddle of steel, Conan.
Pax Veritas wrote:
I hate when everyone defaults to MMO's. There are plenty of MMO players that take the game seriously, and role play their character, even though the genre generally bends toward hack and slash. Similarly, before MMO's even came out, there were pen and paper players who made silly names and didn't take the game too seriously. I know, because I belong to both categories. It has nothing to do with whether you play an MMO. It's a silly straw man argument.
The guys I play with are fine and we all get along. What kaboomed the last 2 campaigns was a conflict in play style w/another gamer who is not part of this game.
I had asked them specifically to make characters 1) bearing in mind a theme of a mix of Ustlav and Grimm's Fairy Tales (I provided a Player's Guide to help detail said theme and give background), 2) that they would enjoy playing through 20th level, and 3) meshed well as a team.
We met last night and things admittedly got silly as they are wont to do at 10pm after a couple beers. It's not the names of the characters but the attitude around it.
Example: I was stressing the desire for building a PC that would make it through the squishy levels when one of the players joked not to worry; paper's cheap and we can always whip off another guy. During the naming session that ended in Back Stabbeth I threw 4 different names on the table that would at least be somewhat thematic and these were ignored for ever more ridiculous puns.
I'm all for having fun/being silly w/the games. I once made an entire campaign around a bunch of sprites with pun names. They were the Dew Sprites; their princess was Honey Dew, her brother and chief enforcer was Mountain Dew, and some of the ones that assisted the characters were Scooby Dew, Doobie Dew, and Dippity Dew.
The game I wrote even starts on a stress reliever; a bunch of mites start messing w/a festival, ending up in a bar fight. People's clothes suddenly soil and emanate foul clothes, a drink floats off a neiboring table and dumps on a guy, termites cause people's stools/chairs to break... hilarity ensues.
But I don't want a COMPLETELY silly game either. I worked really hard on this game. My players said they wanted some epic fights, a linear story that's easy to follow and to keep puzzles/brain teasers to a minimum. I came up with a series of straight forward story arcs, one leading into the next, building upon each other towards the campaign conclusion. the few adventures I've fleshed out so far are combat heavy and have scaling lycanthropes for epicness. I've been transparent w/them from the start about the general feel, monsters they'd encounter and all of that.
Heck, I even did research. One of the things I noticed in the past was that they weren't getting my story clues. Then I read an online article about the 3-clue method and realized I was making the connections too vague and infrequent. The guys've all said they really enjoy Joss Whedon's style. I'd only seen a couple episodes of buffy so I went and found all of Firefly and watched those, the Dr Horrible movie, the Firefly movie, and a few other things of Mr Whedon's, just to get an idea of what they were talking about.
And to answer somemone's comments in here; no, I'm not Super-GM and don't delude myself otherwise. My first campaign I took a lot of cricism on style and shored it up from being monologue intensive to succinct. The second campaign I took a lot of flak for how convoluted the story was; hence all the retooling on this current game. My buddy is GM'ing a 4e game and we're all silly in that one too, but it doesn't dominate the game as it did last night. We at least have FR style names and backgrounds for goodness sake.
Look, maybe I'm jumping the gun. None of the PC's have made a single attack roll yet, so maybe I'm getting ahead of myself. But dang it, it's MY game too! It's OUR game. I only get like 5 hours every month to play a game that's been my major outlet for 30 years in one form or another. I'd like that time to be fun for all of us.
I apologize for this whiny rant. I also apologize if any of my players read this. I look forward to any and all feedback.
Let 'em stick with it. When dealing with people that know their names, they all get penalties to their social skill checks (Bluff, Diplomacy, Intimidate) proportional to how ridiculous their names are. Problem solved.
Edit: Also, there's nothing wrong with using your own name on a forum.
Oh, and some background on the guys; only one generally makes silly named characters (lance uppercut for example), and they're all in I.T. with some serious stress, so we tend to be a little more laid back and fun with the role playing. That being said, usually I have some solid thematically intersting backgrounds for the PC's and they characters are built pretty solidly. I have one min/maxer who likes strategy, one guy that really enjoys trying out lots of different things (he's my usual silly namer) and one guy that's actually said he enjoys story and character as much as fighting; I think he is more about the interpersonal aspect of the game.
All in all they are a really cool bunch of guys. They all like epic fight scenes and all 3 seem to vibe off those when we game. We all like to be silly in both the game and at the table; I use a ton of movie lines, my one player likes silly names,and my other player is often "morally ambiguous" meaning he often flies in the face of the status quo "what do you mean I can't animate the goblin? his corpse is just laying around, not doing anything, and the palading lost her 10' pole. I'm just providing a solution..."
I guess I just got a little upset when it seemed like the ENTIRE character gen session seemed to boil down to who could get the furthest away from the theme as possible.
FYI; I'm probably not quitting the group. I'm already trading GM nights off and on with one of them, maybe I'll just take longer breaks, but I have no idea when I'd find the time to network live and pull together more gamers, especially when I still like hanging with these guys.
Mark Hoover wrote:
Then you will need to learn to compromise. On occasion your players will be silly during serious time. Give it a few sessions and see how it plays out. If it continues to be bad then you have to make a choice. Either keep playing even though its not ideal cause you like these guys, or leave them and find a group that is a closer match to what you are looking for. Dems the breaks.
Huh. And you're surprised?
Human nature is that people generally do what they want to do. Most of us know that about one another. You put in a bunch of effort and hand-crafted a living, breathing world with an intricate and realistic plot that your players can revel in.
You did that because you wanted to. They know that. You know that.
They made chuckle-worthy characters because they wanted to. They know that. You... not so much.
You're being sent a message. My suggestion is - if you can stomach it - is to ditch your glorious homebrew, awesome as it may be, and run them through World's Largest Dungeon or something. That's what they're telling you they want.
Someone's got to give, and they clearly don't intend to take the game as seriously as you. Can you take the game as lightly as they?
We had a Sir Duxshun of the Innocent.
I very much sympathise with the OP though. I hate silly names, and refuse to use Games Workshop paints even when they're the exact right colour for what I want to paint. I played for a year or two with a group who could never stick at one campaign and a couple adventures in one or other would cause a self-destruct or TPK. (It wasn't just my GMing, this happened whoever was running the game). I still play 40K with them, but decided that role playing was too disheartening and went back to my other group which is still going after sixteen years - such that we've now got a second generation player who is being encouraged to develop his role playing over his roll playing and is meshing well but has also influenced us towards a slightly less reverent approach.
Know your audience.
These guys will no doubt be a load of fun for a 'Beer and Pretzels' campaign style. They want the depth and character development of an 80's action film.
If, on the other hand, you have some epic story/campaign in mind filled with deep character, angst, drama, tragedy... well you are destined for a night with a Tom Waits album, a bottle of cheap bourbon, and a huge box of Kleenex.
Know your audience, know them well.
My group actually gamed to Tom Waits albums and cheap bourbon a few times. We usually need band aids instead of Kleenex though once we stop fighting.
Okay, ok. Wasn't meant to slight mmos. The point is that there are other fantasy game channels such as messageboard, mmos, and other games that use goofball names, and these might be the groups first exposure... the message is, be sensitive to that, and then distinguish how you game needs PCs to have naming conventions near to the theme/realm/style of the milieu.
Actually just letting the players go off and pick names is always a good barometer for how seriously they are taking things, and how seriously they are taking their character.
I can insist you take a setting specific type of name, but if you don't pick that on your own initiative then frankly there's little point me insisting as your head is clearly at a different place.
Your question is akin to saying, "I want to see an action movie, they want to see a comedy, but it's MY car, so I tell them we're going to see an action movie. Then, when we get to the theater, they just ignore my rule and go see an action movie."
Out of all the comments in the thread thus far, this is the only one that stood out to me as being way off base. IMO a better analogy [to the scenario described by the OP] would be someone who discusses with his friends where they'd like to go on vacation, handles all the flight and hotel bookings, pays for the whole trip themselves, and upon landing gets left with all the luggage as everyone else takes off in a taxi for the nearest bar.
The game needs to be enjoyable for everyone involved — not just the players, not just the GM... EVERYONE.
If the players are unhappy, they'll make the GM miserable. If the GM is unhappy, it will probably either become adversarial between GM and players, or the GM won't be able to muster the drive to keep the game going.
Mark: My own local group can tend towards silliness a lot of the time too. Most of them are terrible at math, and generally prefer the social aspect of hanging out to making much headway in game. I've personally found that running a PbP scratches my itch for serious roleplaying and lengthy story arcs far better than a local game can.
While this might mean a lot more work, if you base both parties out of the same locale, at least then any work you do for one game may also be able to benefit the other.
If you turn into a bit more of a "yes" DM and let them do things as long as they have resources, a 1/2 way decent reason, and are prepared to face the consequences.
I have a player that every character has been Jack Crow since 2001. I picture a special plane of existence where all the incarnations from Forgotten Realms, Star Wars, Homebrew Sci Fi, 4th Ed, and now Pathfinder all hang out together.
The crucial missing piece of information which would determine which was a valid analogy (or somewhere in between) was how receptive the players were to the kind of campaign that the DM wanted to run. If they agreed to the tone of the campaign he set, and also follow through with actually playing their characters all slapdash-like, then yes, your analogy makes more sense. If instead the serious toned campaign idea was a one way street that he said he wanted when the other players were up front about not wanting to play it, then I maintain that it's on the GM to adjust, either the style of his campaign or his group of players for another.
On the players reaction to the style of game...there was none. Not until I got to the gaming table. I talked it up over email; nothing. I sent out my player's guide to no response. I specifically asked for feedback and got none.
Then I get to the gaming table. I did know from a couple of players that they had ideas of what Character Class they were thinking and these classes had good potential to match the theme: a ranger/robin hood type, an alchemist, a monk.
But as I arrive and sit out of nowhere the wackiness ensued. As I've said in previous responses - I usually only get that level of silly out of one of the players that was at the table. When your player's guide says specifically that gnomes get no love in your homebrew setting and literally out of nowhere all 3 players want their entire group to be gonmes...then you know you've lost the direction you intended to take it.
Now incedentally on the gnome thing - we all had a good laugh and then I asked that they pick something else. Then they asked if one of them could be an illusion specialist wizard. I said I guess though they might not trick a lot of fey w/their spells. Then I asked why. The response was...so that he and the rest of the players could STIL be gnomes, PASSING for humans with dwarfism and opress their opressors.
Hilarious...but ultimately frustrating.
I KNOW they were just pushing my buttons; knew it before I posted this thread. But I suppose my frustration got the better of me. I suppose I should just simply take my medicine and follow the theme that the players have set.
The stuff I've just spent 3 mo's writing will be shelved so that the party can save princess toadstool from a troglodyte named Stinky McFartenstein. In the course of their adventure they will have to contend with rabid monkey butlers and the mind-numbing power of a warrior known only as The Accountant (his deadly 1040 E-Z attack has obliterated whole parties). Finally upon her rescue the princess will give each of them a single copper piece. If they complain she pulls a chain and the ceiling shatters, unleashing a torrent of gold which crushes and suffocates them while the lady teleports to safety.