I've noticed this recently. When I am surprised by a plot twist, those decisions a character sometimes has to make: "save my loved one or save the world", I will get a knot in my stomach or get a little queasy to the point of wanting to leave the table at times. Now, logically I realize that sometimes these moments are good story structure, they can be exciting to a lot of people. But it's left a lot of recent sessions ending on sour notes for me and I'm getting tired of it.
What do I do? I am really at a loss here. I enjoy gaming, but I find myself thinking of ways that, for instance, my witch can use her prehensile hair to wrangle her twin boys into line, not how she can strangle a demon with it. I find myself wanting that moment my paladin is finally holding his long lost love, not how many badass strikes he gets against the dragon keeping her prisoner.
How do I get past this? No one I've talked to so far seems to have an answer. :-(:-(
Yeah, I get this, but not to the extent that I think you do. In a way it's a good sign - we are emotionally invested in the plot.
When you notice it, take a moment to just breathe and feel the coolness of the breath as it comes in through your nose and down to your lungs. You'll probably feel the knot slip looser. I think that the key thing is to develop a coping strategy that works for you so that you can continue to enjoy your game.
From para 2 it seems like your in the mood for a different style of gaming. See if there is somehow/somewhere you can scratch that itch. A less save-the-world style of gaming. I had a campaign where folks went undercover by taking over a pub to keep an eye on evil folks in the town. The group decided that they wanted to spend a few sessions doing nothing more or less than running the pub. It was a fun 'break'.
Final recommendation is moderate consumption of alcohol.
Yeah, last night was just a sensory overload:
Most would think that was amazing and fun to play. I was just like " dang it, we have to fight Cthulu now" sounding a bit whiny.
Hopefully game can tone down now. We're playing our own kids next time.
I do get that feeling sometimes too. It's the same feeling I get when I'm emotionally engaged with a book I'm reading or movie/TV show I'm watching. When you're engaged emotionally in the storytelling, then your body sometimes reacts in a visceral manner. ("Visceral" from the Latin word for "guts"). Sometimes, it feels like a punch in the gut.
A visceral reaction can be a good sign-- it means you're emotionally engaged in the plot.
However, if the plot is getting too gritty, or if the GM is piling sorrow upon sorrow on you, you might want to have a chat out-of-character to see if s/he can lighten the mood for a bit. It sounds like there's a good amoutn of plot-related tension in your game that needs to be released, at least partially. Can the heroes have an unambiguous victory or two? (Even if they're small victories.)
I remember one such time I was almost trembling during the final encounter in a 3.5 game. We were on a platform suspended above a rift into the Abyss that was sealed on the other side, keeping the demons out of the world. My character was a demon hunter, and the BBEG was about to sacrifice an Elven child on a dark altar as the final part of the ritual that would open the gate, releasing the uncountable hordes of the Abyss into an unsuspecting world. Looking into the rift, we couild see scores, if not hundreds of demons clawing up at the barred gate on their side of the rift.
I decided what the character needed to do. With my voice almost cracking, I told the GM, "I activate my boots of speed, charge Lord Valthak, and attempt a bull rush to push him away from the child."
GM: "He'll get an AOO on you with the unholy dagger."
Me: "I know. I'll take that risk-- or the hit." [Rolls] "19, +15 to hit, for an AC of 34."
GM: "Okay, he stabs you in the gut, but you push him back ten feet. Um, you know he's only five feet from the edge of the platform, and there's no railing."
Me: "I know. I intend to push him off the edge."
GM: "You'll need to make a Reflex save to avoid going over, but he'll get a chance to grab the edge if you succeed."
Me: "I make no attempt to save. In fact, I grab his arms and let our momentum take us as far from the edge of the platform as possible."
GM: [Stared bankly at me. You could have heard a pin drop in the room.] "...Wow. OK, the rest of you see Joanna run at unnatural speed toward Lord Valthak, slamming into him. He stabs her in the gut with the Dagger of Darkness, and black energy crackles over her body, but her momentum carries the both of them over the edge, and they plummet fifty feet into the rift. As the pass through the gate, its face ripples like a pool of thick water, and you now see them on the other side. A pack of demons are on them both, holding them before the gate, ripping them limb from limb. You're thankful that sound does not pass through the barrier, which remainst intact. As the Ritual of Opening did not complete, the crackling energies around the platform subside, and the clouds part, revealing the bright sun shining on a world not overrun by demons."
I'd always wanted to have a character sacrifice him/herself to save the world in a game, but I was physically shaking and had a large lump in my throat.
I have gotten strong moments of nervous energy--usually, as you say, when something very important to my character is going on. Alternately, when my character is about to take a huge risk. Sometimes it's just feeling a little nervous, sometimes it's quite intense, like a mini panic attack, full of shaking and heartpoundingness.
If the latter happens and I think it's a disproportionate reaction to what's going on, I'll ask to take a break. Often I just get very excited, and even though it can be overwhelming, it can be part of the fun.
BUT, importantly, if it's because I feel manipulated or like something unfair is happening to my character in a way that is not or would not ever happen to something else... sometimes roleplaying games can cross over into a realm of mindf@@~ery, especially if you're playing a game with horrific elements. I played in a sci-fi game once where my clairsentient character got trapped in a situation where she was being deeply emotionally manipulated by the bad guy in a scene where mechanically I had no chance of doing anything about the situation, and this thing ONLY happened to her, none of the other players/character got into this creepy mental scenario (they were all playing essentially a different game where it was just fun sci fi-alien hunters). And I did definitely feel ILL -- triggered, actually, into some legit anxiety issues I have.
I talked to the GM about it. I said that I felt that things had gone too far, I felt like my character had been mentally raped, and that this was a scenario I was not prepared to happen (it's one thing if we go into a game with certain expectations of what horrific things we might face, it's another when what was being played as largely a fun space adventure while I was stuck in some kind of lovecraftian mind maze). Also that I wish I had asked him to stop about halfway through. I noted it was also unfair that I was stuck, by myself, in a scene where mechanically I had no choice to do anything but sit back and watch.
My GM listened to me. He can be a kind of manipulative person who gets caught up in his own stories, but he is also capable of a lot of empathy and the last thing he wants is a friend to be upset, and as a GM he does not want his players not to be having fun. He agreed on retrospect it had gone too far, and apologized to me for creeping me out. With agreement with me and the rest of the players, we deemed the scene a vision my character had of a possible future, but something that didn't really happen. While "and then you wake up" is a cheesy solution, I appreciated the GM listening to me and doing this. I still didn't like roleplaying out that scene, and remembering it still makes me feel squicky, but I still feel better to think that it didn't really happen to my character. Sure, it's all fictional to begin with, but when we get invested in our characters, it's easy to take things very personally. And I'm really glad I talked to my GM -- I think it was good for me to assert my concerns and it was good for him to hear them. He was more careful about making sure not crossing player trigger lines--he likes to go into horrific arenas, and that in itself CAN be fine, again as long as people are on board and know what they're going into. So I think that ended very well for everyone.
The point of this long winded thing is to pay attention to what triggers these feelings. If it's just a bit of feeling overwhelmed which passes, and you are still having fun, that's one thing. If it's something that is BOTHERING you, it might be worth both examining and talking to your GM about. If a lot of really awful things are happening to your character, for example, it could feel really disheartening in the long run. And if the fun stops, then the game isn't really doing what gaming what is supposed to do.
The other trick is of course to sit back, breathe, and chant, "Pretendy funtime games," over and over again.
While that doesn't help alleviate deeper issues that need to be discussed, it does help rebalance the occasional moment of simply feeling overwhelmed.
Some of it is overwhelming, especially Monday game due to the GM's epic style. He just can't seem to stay away from it.
Most of it is surprise/shock when unexpected turns happen in the plot. Two weeks ago was the biggest knot. Our paladin's ward is telling him to kill her before the bbeg can extract information as to the location of the god said bbeg was trying to kill. Only the ward had this info and the bbeg was draining it from her mind. Any strikes on the bbeg hurt the ward. The choice was kill the ward or let the bbeg find where Saranae was resting.
The paladin ended up not killing her, thus resulting in us having to stop both cthulu and dagon from getting to saranae's resting place last night. Even though my character was not there and it was not my decision, I still got the knot and had to step outside to smoke.
Last night, while playing sunlord thalachos for the epic battle, the gm hands me a note saying I would tell the humans to run. I got a little upset. I thought he was telling me the sunlord thought there was no hope. That saranae was going to die. That wasn't the case, for just as we were fighting the last guy, Pelor comes down, grabs Saranae, and whisks her away so the can get freaky, sungod style. No one else seemed to mind, but I was really gonna be POed if after all that she died.
I know I'm too emotional over this, maybe...I don't know...
Yeah I have had moments...
Once when playing a Star Trek/Star Wars crossover in college the battle sequence in the final fight was SO intense for my tactical officer that I sprained my foot due to clenching my toes tightly for too long.
I also had a bad experience with a player playing mind games with my character that had me upset enough to walk away from the table. He was playing a psionic character and I had no defenses against his mind control. So he would make me do things I didn't want to do. It got kinda bad to the point of me taking any chance I could to get killed just to end it. I talked to the player but he said he was having too much fun to stop... I never did talk to the GM over it, I guess I probably should have rather than trying to just die. I certainly wasn't having fun.
It's good you're invested, but it sound like you might be getting a little too invested. Try to maintain some objective distance. Appreciate the story for its structure, take a moment to praise your GM's cleverness. Essentially take a second to break immersion a little. There's nothing wrong with taking a few minutes away from the table, to collect yourself and calm your nerves.
This might be too personal so feel free not to engage with this part. Do you suffer from anxiety attacks, or high anxiety in other parts of your life? I have had players who have similar experiences to what you describe and it's part and parcel of a larger anxiety issue that they see doctors and medicate to handle and treat. If you often feel uncontrolled anxiety see a doctor and discuss treatment options. :-)
Okay, that sounds psychotic. That player was clearly a grade-A jerk and should have been kicked from the game for that kind of behaviour. I hope you never played with him again.
I do feel that my investment level is part of it, and I do suffer from anxiety. I also feel that I game to get away from crummy decisions. Why are we having to make such crummy decisions?
So you're invested in your character, the world, and the story. This is the way I'd love to have every game happen--real investment, some true immersive feel to it.
But immersion can be difficult, too.
Folks saying basically "it's just a game, so detach a little" come off as a teensy bit callous. Some of us have emotional range that goes a LOT past ten. Sometimes it takes trying out different techniques that may help.
Literally some of the techniques I've seen used in gaming groups have been:
Any way this campaign can be put on-hold for a session or two while you guys play something else? Maybe goblins?
We can have emotions disproportionate to things that are happening, but that doesn't make the emotions you are feeling wrong, and it is certainly not wrong to be emotional. It means stuff is going on that your brain wants you to pay attention to--how much attention and to what is always the bigger issue, and that's something you need to work out yourself.
Sounds like a really intense campaign, and that definitely is going to amp up anxiety, especially if you play with a GM who isn't going to guarantee a rosy sunset at the end of a game (or an all too rosy sunset ;) ).
The big question is: ARE YOU HAVING FUN?
It sounds like no, but it's hard to tell (and sometimes we enjoy a little tension if it passes). IF the answer is no, I'd chat with your GM about scaling it back, and also being gentle with you if you need a few breaks. I'd also suggest trying not to be afraid to ask the GM for clarifications--if he passes you a note that terrifies you, say so and ask him does it mean what you think it does?
If you have the opportunity, I'd also suggest organizing or seeking out another brief gaming opportunity. Don't quit this one if you're enjoying it, this is a SEPARATE thing. But sitting down at table with a group who just wants to loot the dungeon and kill the monsters for a one-shot might be just the tension reliever you need after fighting Cthulhu and his minions. Maybe see at your FLGS if they have a game you could sit in on for a session or something, or ask another friend to run a quick one-shot (maybe a "holiday special" or something). A board game night could also be a possibility (I don't suggest Arkham Horror :) ). Something that reminds your brain that gaming does not have to be stressful--it can then help keep things in perspective when you get back to cleansing the taint of the Old Ones.
Yeah this was a new group meeting for the first time... and after that adventure we never got together again. It wasn't just me who quit... so did the GM.
I am having fun in this game, most of the time. Its just these moments can practically ruin an individual session. I will admit I had a lot more fun before our characters started meeting gods and carrying multiple artifacts around. My main character is pseudo-retired. That's the witch. She runs a potion shop, a tavern, the Wizard's Tower, and is a mother of two small boys. She doesn't have time to adventure. My backup is pure comic relief: a vanara alchemist based on curious George. She got an artifact known as the staff of kings. She gave it away.
Your characters sound awesome, Nepherti.
Well, I'd say you're not alone in the intense character relation thing. If you're still looking for advice, then I'd just take note of when it does hit you overly hard and pay attention to what's going on when that happens, maybe you can figure out what gets to you and go unraveling it from there.
High Level/Epic adventures can take a toll. There's a reason 5-8 is called "the sweet spot". Even the types of stories being told are a little more grounded. If you fail maybe a town is ruined. Tragic, but the world will recover. By level 15+ every decision means the fate of the world, or a kingdom. It can be mentally exhausting.
Well dudemeister, we are only 11, and our characters have met the demigods Twist, Poe, and Lovecraft, as well as the actual gods Asmodeus, Pelor, and Pharasma, and caught a glimpse of Saranae. Its pretty crazy in this game.
Yikes! That's a very different sense of scale than baseline assumption. No judgement. Just a big shift from the assumed norm.
I mean where do you go? If the volume's already at 11, at a certain point you don't get any benefit from scaling the risk.
My group had been playing Amber Diceless Role Playing for several years. In that game, you play characters of near-godlike power that have the ability to step between infinite alternate dimensions at will. Obviously, that game quickly goes to places of high cosmic weirdness. I once played a charcter who ran an experiment that accidentally collapsed one of the dimensions, instantly snuffing out the lives of billions of people that lived there. Not long after that, we put that campaign on hold and went back to D&D 3.5 because it was getting hard dealing with cosmic powers and working with forces that control the fate of countless of trillions of lives in infinite dimensions.
We decided we wanted to play a low-level, low-magic D&D game, where we could be adventurers that meet in a bar and go kick some orc butt.
Nepherti, your campaign sounds fascinating, but I'd suggest that after you come to the conclusion, your next campaign should have lower stakes, to save the players' sanity.
It happened again two nights ago in our 20's Gangsters with Magic game. When I started to feel upset was when another PC had my character knocked unconcious, tied to a chair, with all her equipment locked in another room (which included two rare magic items). He was questioning my character as to why she was rifling through his trash (none of the PCs had met each other yet, this was the second session). I began to shake and had to leave the room. I ended up staying away for the remaining half hour of game.
Before people get on me about this being simply in character stuff and to get over it you whiney baby, I did contemplate this factor. And I decided that it goes deeper than that. I have discovered that my characters are extensions of my personality, and that sometimes a character can become like my version of "Power Pig" to Orson from Garfield and friends, or my "Quailman" from Doug. Branwynn, Nepherti, and more recently Armand have become extensions of me, their actions being closely related to what I would have actually done given the situation. These characters represent what follows:
Right now, two incarnations of Nepherti are being played. One a vigalante gunslinger in the 20's game, the other the original version: the leader of a revolution to free her country from a sadistic Pharoah in a Hellenized Egyptian setting. Since I am playing her in two games at the same time, I had to revamp the Ancient backstory to fit the flavor of a 20's game.
This whole thing has had me thinking for the past few days. I do get very in character. It's to the point of when a situation presents itself in real life that I can't find the answer to, I will talk to the characters about it. When I was upset in real life about the stand-stilled nature of my my relationship, I had Branwynn get married in game. It just so happened that her IC husband is my real life man. In fact, every time I feel my biological clock tick in real life, one of my characters will have a baby.
I like being close to my characters. There's so much stuff I come up with that they do that we never play through. They keep me company when I feel so alone. But I do realize that it takes a toll on my psyche as well as it being a pain to play with. But I guess I can sum up what happens with this:
Outside factors: Tired, pain, hunger, all these things affect my mood. If I am any of these things, I run the risk needing to leave the table.
In conclusion, I hope this post doesn't cause me more grief. I have been trying to sort out what is happenning with these episodes, and I feel that a gamer's mind will understand my mentality better than....well, sometimes even a therapist because they don't know what RPG's are half the time. I know I am the problem here, not the other players. I know I'm the one who has to calm down. In fact, it's prbably quite rare to see someone as close to their characters as me. It probably seems scary to some. It scares me sometimes too. I have found that I can remain this much in character and have fun, as long as the outside factors aren't overwhelming me. At least that may be something...
I started running some scenarios at conventions. I personally don't have a lot of boundaries as far as content that I find offensive or disturbing, but I am aware that other people do. For example, just describing certain animals, insects or other common-phobia creatures can set people off. Since I am gaming with people I don't know, I tell them up front something along the lines of:
"If I or someone else uses language you are uncomfortable with, or we have a topic is a trigger for you, please let us know when if it comes up."
[I then point to a 3x5 index card with a large X written with a marker]
"If you feel uncomfortable saying something, you can point at this card, or pick it up and we'll stop. We might need clarification if you can, or we'll just move on to another scene if you're visibly uncomfortable."
I was a sailor, so I have some bad verbal habits, but it's part of my default excited mode, so I engage it to help psych myself up for a game. I tell people that I will not be offended if they don't appreciate it and ask me to tone it down.
There's a supplement for the game Sorcerer, Sorcery and Sex. Sorcerer is a pretty intense game, you literally deal with your inner demon as it gives you power. One of the very generally applicable concepts Ron Edwards introduced in the game was Lines and Veils.
Lines are thing that you as a person can't cross. They're triggers or too disturbing to even think about in general terms. You want to avoid them. So if something makes you extremely uncomfortable, it's good to put a line there.
Veils are less strict. You're willing to accept the existence of something in a game, but you don't want to go into a lot of detail about it. Something like sex, we know it exists in a game world, but we don't want to sit around the table writing letters to Penthouse, so we drop a veil over the scene. We all "know" what happened, but we don't need to go into the details, it all happens off screen.
Hopefully some of these ideas can help you manage the issue so you can still game.
I admit I only feel this in a few online game and I did once in my RL DM's group, but now since he can't handle high level groups it's gotten silly with what he homebrews to hurl at us.
I havn't found many games online I feel that though, I end up joining games that seem to have a short lifespan. However, as a DM I get that feeling, more so in my KM campaign because of how the group deal with the problems they come across, how their characters interact with eachother and the NPCs. Because of this I'll be adding one or two things into the campaing especially for the different characters backstories and the possible shock and horror of what happened to those people they betrayed or left in the past before entering the Stolen Lands.
just read that link and it's very interesting. Certainly would be a interesting pick up...
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