DM Needs Help Dealing with Frequent changes in Characters


Advice


Ok here is the deal. I am running an adventure path (Serpent Skull) and I am playing with a very diverse group of players. I have my wife and 2 actor friends of mine who are all new to the game. They picked it up pretty fast and they are enjoying the game.

My problem comes from my other two players who have been playing quite a bit over the years (at least 3.5).
So the big problem is that they have asked to switch out their characters a few times and are asking me to kill off their old characters so that they can make new ones. So I do this for them, but at the same time this really put a hamper on the storyline and the overall experience in my opinion as we are not getting a chance to build party connections and really make a "group mentality" with character coming and going every 2 to 3 sessions.

I am getting really tired of the constant switching, and its kind of a pain trying to figure out how to weasel in a new character when the party literally in the middle of no where.

To limit this I have imposed a gold penalty about on par with the cost of raise dead to their new characters.

They seem frustrated with this, but I get the feeling it is because they want to optimize further with gear they have not been able to find or that they have come in contact with. If i just let it slide they are the type of PCs that will just run the table over on me so to speak and make the experience really dull for the other 3 players as the optimize the hell out of everything.

What are some suggestions I can use to make sure everyone comes out of this happy?

(My latest idea is to give the new characters gold in the value of what is party average, and they have to buy their gear as if they were in a town that was a size equal to our last town visited)


Tell then precisely what you said in your second and third paragraphs, then your fifth (your suspicion that they just want to abuse the WBL/pick your own gear rules).

Tell them to pick a character and stick with it.


Thanks for the Advice!

Sovereign Court

Depending on where you are at in the AP you dont have to kill their characters if they want to change. In fact I'd make their previous characters NPCs and do some interesting things with them /muwhahahaha. However, if it keeps happening frequently I'd make sure to tell them its putting a damper on the game.

serpent skull:
This AP leaves the PCs bahhhhhh-roke! I have a level 9 PC still using a masterwork weapon. He has 4k gold, an amulet of natural armor, and a +2 blowgun........ Sounds like you got players wanting to game the WBL system and its sad but this AP encourages it. I would definitely put a clamp down on it so they don't walk around like studs while everybody else is dirt poor.


I agree with Zhayne. Just tell them exactly what you told us.


I understand your frustration. We seem to be having trouble with playing the same characters for more than 5-8 levels. I am tired of the constant switching also, but I am stuck with my group. If I were you I also would tell them what you posted and that it IS hampering the game, especially for the new players. It shows them that they can do whatever and not fear the consequences. I do hope you find an amiable solution because it IS a game we all enjoy. Keep your head up and thanks for DMing.


We have two campaigns going on at the same time, one to try new things and another for serious role-playing/story. In the one where we try new things, we have a rule that says we're allowed to change our characters as much as we want in between sessions. The players don't know what's coming up in the next session, so they can't optimize for the next session in specific. We keep track of the money we've expended in consumables and spells and we can re-spend the rest as often as we want. It keeps people happy, allowing them to try out all sort of things, and they never get bored.

In game the character is just treated as though its always that way, even when it doesn't make sense (the halfling was the only one qualified to squeeze through the hole to get the key but has since changed into a 400 pound orc. He still has the key, and everyone remembers him squeezing through the hole). Character development still occurs because it's really the same character. Friendships hold and enemies remain.

If you don't like the style of this game (it certainly isn't for everyone and all situations, and goes against a lot of the nature of the game) you obviously shouldn't use it.

Another option, which I implement in the more serious campaign, allows characters to rebuild their characters every X levels (we use 5). They must keep track of the amount of gold spent in consumables and spells, and they can't change their race, physical description, back-story, or class. It prevents players from being stuck with terrible decisions, allows new content, and never leads to very many in-game problems. Again, the characters are treated as always having been that way.

Hope one of these helps!


Thanks for all the help guys.

Do you think I am being too restrictive by making a GP cost to making a new character?

That is my biggest fear and the largest point of contention


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Maps, Starfinder Society Subscriber
Dungarees Master wrote:


Do you think I am being too restrictive by making a GP cost to making a new character?

While the wealth by level guidelines are important, it's not expected or needed to follow them precisely 100% of the time. It's perfectly fine to leave them down by a level for a session or 5, though I wouldn't put them at wealth values more than one level lower. I think you've found a good way to discourage rampant character swapping in starting them below normal gear.

I would also tailor some loot for their characters after a few (no less than 3, no more than 10) sessions to bring them closer to par.

I'm not sure whether or not to make this explicit to your players.

On the one hand, you could be straightforward: For instance, telling them that if they stick with a character for once you will drop loot that is good for those characters. You can discuss what kind of items they want with them and see about making a compromise.

On the other hand, being manipulative might really hit the primate gambling instinct we all have HARD:
Drop a really good item... for the character they just abandoned. Tell them you had planned that a session or two back, after they did something impressive, and must have forgotten to remove it from the loot description.

If none of that works, you'll have to put your foot down and tell them flat out to stop swapping characters so much. 2 to 3 sessions is ridiculously too often.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Quote:
Do you think I am being too restrictive by making a GP cost to making a new character?

No, not in the slightest.

WBL is self-correcting, and the temporary pain of reduced wealth is a very appropriate way to discourage players from intentionally dying.


Ultimate Campaign just released rules for rebuilding aspects of a character... feats, skills, spells etc... at a GP cost.

So it *is* possible, but characters who do it will be behind in gold compared to characters who don't. Its a similar concept to yours.

Characters who stick around can get alternative rewards... boon cards, special items for their character, an extra skill point, or class skill...
just make it clear somehow that characters that recycle a lot will miss out on some bennies.

Alternatively, there's a game I'm in now... I came in when the starting characters were 6th level... and I started at 5th. I agreed to it from the beginning, so its fine. There was a "starting" player who constantly whined about his character and kept looking for martyred reasons to die. So the GM let him, and he came back one level behind the rest of the party alongside me.

TL;DR New characters come in a level behind the others.


If you think your players are just trying pick their own gear over and over, this suggestion might not apply, but if they are just the type of people who get bored with builds fairly often then you should consider just letting them redo their build but keep the same character.

"You were a fighter, but have begun to dabble in magic under the party Wizard's tutelage. Now you are that Magus you wanted to make," etc. How much sense this makes in game depends on how drastic the build change and how often it happens, but it could work. I've done it a couple times when what I made just wasn't as much fun as I thought it would be.


I talked to the one player tonight and he agrees. This player has only switch up once in comparison to the other character that is on character 3 before level 7.

Shadow Lodge

I agree the first step is to talk to them honestly about your concerns.

Rebuilding the same character without cost like chaoseffect said is a good option if your players are actually bored with their builds rather than mostly interested in gear.

Your "party average wealth but you might not be able to find all the items you want" idea would also prevent these new characters from getting a wealth advantage.

Another idea might be to give continuous characters advantages through contacts that the new characters don't get. "Sorry, but The Reverend Roderik doesn't get the discount at the blacksmith's that Sir Loftyton gets because Roderik wasn't there when the party saved the blacksmith's son from goblins." Old characters have made an investment in the campaign and NPCs that new ones haven't, so it makes sense that this investment pays off (and replacement characters can't collect). This only works if you've got some NPC continuity, though. I don't know whether Serpent Skull would support it.


One of my fellow players can't stick with a character long, so our DM just started making him have to play story appropriate characters. So lets say you're tired of your wizard and you say "Hey, I want Draziw to die off, I want a new character", as soon as you say that, my DM says "Ok, so since you're in a farming village, you can have your pick of any of the farmers who wants to adventure, you'll be Commoner 3/Expert 1"

Then, Draziw gets killed off and you get your farmer.

This way, new PCs don't need to be shoe horned into a campaign (Yep, there's certainly a fully equipped paladin in the middle of the empty dessert) and since you can only draw from available characters they are hamstrung when it comes to optimizing. Anyone can make a Human Barbarian super lethal, but good luck optimizing a Commoner 4 (at APL of 8).

Or the passive aggressive route, if they ditched their last character (lets make him a sword and board fighter), when they get their new character, like a wizard, they find great loot for the old character, so in this case an adamantium heavy shield. When the wizard PC gets retired for a Ninja, have the party come across a super loaded spell book that would've been great for the wizard, etc...

WBL is sorta maintained (they have the right amount of coin), but it hampers optimization and limits their wishlisting item shopping for the new PC. What good is that adamantium shield if there's no one around to sell it too?


Another thing you can do, is when they change characters, have the new character's wealth be equal to the old character's wealth. If the reason they keep switching is because they want better gear, that should throw some kinks in their plan.


I might indulge a player in this with the undertanding that it is not going to happen again (unless it was years later). I don't know if my attitude on the subject alone helps you though, so I will offer something else.

It has become policy over the years in all campaigns I run or play in to keep all characters the same level. With your situation I would revise that, and any new character that comes in because of player boredom is one level lower than the previous. Characters that die under "normal" circumstances are not penalized.


Ciaran Barnes wrote:

I might indulge a player in this with the undertanding that it is not going to happen again (unless it was years later). I don't know if my attitude on the subject alone helps you though, so I will offer something else.

It has become policy over the years in all campaigns I run or play in to keep all characters the same level. With your situation I would revise that, and any new character that comes in because of player boredom is one level lower than the previous. Characters that die under "normal" circumstances are not penalized.

the issue with that, is that the players will then just not say they are getting bored with the character, and try to push them into scenarios where they will be killed.


"Bob, Dave, you know, D&D is a Game, and Games are supposed to be Fun. This goes for both the players AND the DM. Now it gets hard for me to have continuance if you two are constantly swapping out characters, and that means less Fun for me. OTOH, you guys seem to have fun experimenting with new concepts, etc. Let us come to a compromise. What sort of limitations do you think would be fair on bring in new PC's?"

In other words, sit down and talk to them like adults. Do not impose IC penalties.

Shadow Lodge

Apocalypso wrote:
Ultimate Campaign just released rules for rebuilding aspects of a character... feats, skills, spells etc... at a GP cost.

It's about time. Living Greyhawk had a mechanic like that, and it was immensely popular.


Weirdo wrote:

I agree the first step is to talk to them honestly about your concerns.

Rebuilding the same character without cost like chaoseffect said is a good option if your players are actually bored with their builds rather than mostly interested in gear.

Your "party average wealth but you might not be able to find all the items you want" idea would also prevent these new characters from getting a wealth advantage.

Another idea might be to give continuous characters advantages through contacts that the new characters don't get. "Sorry, but The Reverend Roderik doesn't get the discount at the blacksmith's that Sir Loftyton gets because Roderik wasn't there when the party saved the blacksmith's son from goblins." Old characters have made an investment in the campaign and NPCs that new ones haven't, so it makes sense that this investment pays off (and replacement characters can't collect). This only works if you've got some NPC continuity, though. I don't know whether Serpent Skull would support it.

I like that idea of creating advantages for long running characters

Thank you!


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kikidmonkey wrote:


the issue with that, is that the players will then just not say they are getting bored with the character, and try to push them into scenarios where they will be killed.

Then you'll have to learn how to handle children...


Ciaran Barnes wrote:

I might indulge a player in this with the undertanding that it is not going to happen again (unless it was years later). I don't know if my attitude on the subject alone helps you though, so I will offer something else.

It has become policy over the years in all campaigns I run or play in to keep all characters the same level. With your situation I would revise that, and any new character that comes in because of player boredom is one level lower than the previous. Characters that die under "normal" circumstances are not penalized.

I did indulge his wishes the first time ( mainly cause he made a god awful crafting cleric for the first bit, and was a pain in the ass for the entire party), but now it is the second time that he desired a new character and I did ding him for it.

I did offer him either items or a level cost, but he rather have the items and now he is threatening to quit.

Which does phase me much, even though he is a good friend of mine, he just started a witch and the idea of having to deal with a full optimized witch and the "slumber coup de grace" combo makes me fearful for the integrity of the game.

One other issue is that they played 3.5 before this and it was a system that tended to be loot heavy (in my experience with it at least).

And after doing some research apparently we are running a very loot lite campaign. So that might be irking them a bit too!

Thanks for everyone's advice by the way!


i'll say that the new character have one less lvl thatthe one they leaved. The same if they die, if not thep layer can just rebuild the same character and keep going


DrDeth wrote:

"Bob, Dave, you know, D&D is a Game, and Games are supposed to be Fun. This goes for both the players AND the DM. Now it gets hard for me to have continuance if you two are constantly swapping out characters, and that means less Fun for me. OTOH, you guys seem to have fun experimenting with new concepts, etc. Let us come to a compromise. What sort of limitations do you think would be fair on bring in new PC's?"

In other words, sit down and talk to them like adults. Do not impose IC penalties.

The problem is not only the penalizing of them, its that the average wealth level for a party member in this AP is really low in comparison to other adventure paths, if they come in with 10,000 gold. Not only are the other players that dont want to change characters often penalized as they dont have that extra loot but the enemies who are also "loot-less" become bowling pins for these hyper optimizers.

Some of the top BBEG in this next part of the AP are like level 9 or 10s that only have a few +1 rings and maybe a +1 Dagger, for the most part everyone they are facing is as poorly equip as they are if not more so. At least they all have magic weapons, and most have at least one +2 stat boast item each.

The worst part of all is when I was first asked about him making a new character I said "sure, but you will show up naked" and he said that was fine, better than being a level back... but now he is complaining even after I offered him the average amount of loot everyone one else has.

And I am not trying to complain about my players, I just want to make sure I am fair to all of them equally, especially the newer players that dont know that this is a loot lite style of gameplay they are currently in.

Shadow Lodge

The thing about WBL is that it is a guideline and not an iron-clad guarantee of a certain amount of wealth at a certain level. If you happen to know that your group's wealth significantly deviates from their expected WBL, new characters should start with an amount of wealth comparable to their peers.

Dungarees Master wrote:

I like that idea of creating advantages for long running characters

Thank you!

You're welcome. It tends to happen organically in most games I play as a consequence of RP, and in one game we had specific achievement titles for PCs who did certain things. If you want to build connections but haven't been paying attention to the contacts and friends your PCs would realistically have developed, maybe it's time to start.

Of course, I'd mention that to your players during your adult talk. "I feel like it's hard for characters to develop bonds with each other and with the campaign world if there's no continuity, and while I want to reward characters for their past achievements I won't be able to do that with newer characters who don't have the history to back it up."


They want their old characters to die? Fine, smack them both with Disintegrate Spells/Effect and say that their gear crumbles into dust as well. That should put a crimp in any WBL shenanigans!

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