Ran my first session as GM...


Advice


...and boy was it frustrating. I was expecting three players, they were supposed to show up at 1PM. One showed up on time (my golden boy PC, who as far as I can tell, is actually really interested in playing), with the other two calling me fifteen minutes late to tell me they were up late drinking and overslept, then told me they were leaving in 10 minutes and would arrive in 20...

An hour and a half later, THREE people walk in my door. Yes, one of my players invited a person, brought them to my house, without asking me. Well, I said, okay, I guess... it was his brother and I understand he wants to get him involved in things... but understand I had already gone over character creation with my three expected players.

Now my game is starting late because my players arrived late, and starting even later because I have to now help this newcomer (who is entirely unfamiliar with the rules) create a character. Well, he wanted to play a knight type character, so I set him up with a paladin, and his rolls sucked, so I fudged his numbers a bit... Overall, I feel like I shorthanded him because we rushed through his character creation since we were already running late. So there's that.

Now, I have been doing my research. I've been lurking on these boards, posting here and there, I've read the CRB cover to cover, read through most of the GMG, and have read through much of the APG, as well.

I have spent many dollars and many hours preparing for this. I even dished out for the Pathfinder printable minis and spent several hours cramping up my hands cutting those little guys out of cardstock and taping them together.

I just don't feel like my players appreciate my efforts (except the one PC who arrived on time, he and I are great friends and he's seen the troubles I've gone through). I'm not really asking for any specific advice... I'm sure many GMs have dealt with what I'm dealing with. I just needed a place to vent since yesterday's experience was so frustrating.

We play again this Saturday. I've written some notes and I've prepared a pre-game talk that I intend on having with my players so I understand where they stand and what my goals as GM are. I'm also going to ask of them what they expect, and see if we can reconcile our differences.

Problem is, we've been playing P&P games for years... we used to have regular games of VTM, and one of my players would run the campaign. His opinion is, he used to have to deal with trouble players so now it's my turn to deal with them. That's not how I see it, nor was I ever a trouble player. I actually enjoy plotlines and roleplaying -- I am the antithesis of a power gamer or a troublemaker PC.

I guess I'm just frustrated... if you took the time to read this... you're a better person than I.

TL;DR:

Wahwah.


Congratulations on joining the pathfinder GMs.

I hope your experience improves, and that your players and you will have many joyous hours of play ahead of you.

if not, oh well, c'est la vie.

-Nearyn


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"Problem is, we've been playing P&P games for years... we used to have regular games of VTM, and one of my players would run the campaign. His opinion is, he used to have to deal with trouble players so now it's my turn to deal with them. That's not how I see it, nor was I ever a trouble player. I actually enjoy plotlines and roleplaying -- I am the antithesis of a power gamer or a troublemaker PC. "

Sounds more like a people problem. If the people you're playing with simply don't care, then you really can't do anything about it.

Although since you're friends with them and you used to play with them (and you have the one guy who actually cares) you must have some reason to be friends with them. In which case, it's probably lack of understanding.

The guys who were late, are they the kind of people who are usually late? Do they know what it takes to be DM and prepare everything and host?

If they were treating your meeting as just another meeting like "normal" then their actions aren't necessarily saying they don't appreciate what you're doing unless they actually know what you're doing. If they do know and don't care, then they're jerks.

Although, that one guy just sounds like a jerk regardless and I have no idea why you're playing with him unless you can't find a fourth person. "People used to be jerks to me, so it is my right to be a jerk to you".... yeah, okay. Even a child could tell you that's bull.

------------

I say give it one more try and play it cool. If the problem persists then replace the jerks.


Ditch the narcissistic jerks. DMs are hard to come by, DMs who prep well and plan ahead are even more rare. Put an ad up on pen and paper games or your local meetup and find some players who are willing to appreciate your efforts.


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Best to let it just roll off if you can.

It's hard to be a good GM when you're angry at the players, so it becomes a vicious cycle — you're mad so your games not as good, so the players care even less and make you even more mad. Break that cycle early.

And just keep running! Rein in your expectations a bit, and you'll find satisfaction in what you do get done. Over time, if the players are enjoying themselves, they'll make the effort. And if they don't, then it's time to find someone who will.

Liberty's Edge

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Do not put too much time and effort in anything if your only reward is the appreciation of others, because that may just never come.

Adjust your effort so that YOU feel good about how things are going.

This is after all only a game, with the goal of being fun for everyone, and especially for you ;-)

As long as you are having fun, motivation to keep on GMing will not be hard to find. If it becomes unfun, it will be hard for you to feel motivated and this will start a downward spiral.

BTW : exactly what kind of fun do you expect to have while GMing ?

If you are clear about this, then you are already in the best position to ensure that you find it in this game AND you can explain it to your players so that they can integrate it in their behaviour.

Liberty's Edge

Mythic Evil Lincoln wrote:

Best to let it just roll off if you can.

It's hard to be a good GM when you're angry at the players, so it becomes a vicious cycle — you're mad so your games not as good, so the players care even less and make you even more mad. Break that cycle early.

And just keep running! Rein in your expectations a bit, and you'll find satisfaction in what you do get done. Over time, if the players are enjoying themselves, they'll make the effort. And if they don't, then it's time to find someone who will.

I especially agree with this. It doesn't sound like your players are maliciously trying to undermine your efforts; they just don't seem to fully understand and appreciate them. I think this is what a lot of GMs feel like (I especially do, too).

Lowering your expectations of them is probably a good first step. It avoids the vicious cycle that Evil Lincoln mentioned, and prevents you from overworking yourself.

I'll admit that I've lowered my effort into the game. Part of being a good GM is improvisation, and I've started to work more on that. It seems to be going well, and while my gaming group isn't ideal, they're all close friends whose company I enjoy and ultimately we're all having fun. It's a stable balance -- I hope you can find the same!


Welcome to the club! The next time you meet a lady you are interested in you can tell her you're DM/GM... or not. ;)

So you've seen the grass just on the other side of the fence and its time for the next step. Make the process of creating, organizing, preparing, and running its own reward. Do it for yourself and the game, not for the players (unless they're good players). Do not assume you will be appreciated. Better to be affected by the gratitude of a good player than the ingratitude of a bad one. In time you will meet good, responsible, respectful players you have fun with and then piece together a good, solid group. Be warned: it might take years to do so.


Thanks for the encouraging words, everyone. I had a talk with my most problematic player yesterday. When we spoke, he explained, in his words, "It's not my job to make it easy for you," which I pointed out to him was the kind of statement a selfish jerk might make. I then went on to explain that I'm not the enemy and I'm not trying to kill anyone, my goal is to run a smooth game and make sure everyone is enjoying themselves (including me).

I explained that I was trying to have fun and yes, that might be how he likes to have fun but it wasn't helping me derive any enjoyment and was generally bringing me down, in addition to being disruptive to the game in general -- his behavior was affecting at least one other player as well.

After a little bit of heat between us (he and I have known each other for a long time; we're like brothers in that we can punch each other in the face one moment and then be best friends the next (though that's only happened once)), he agreed he was laying it on a little thick and told me he would tone it down from here on out. There's one success, right there.

I talked to the other tardy player, and made it clear to both of them (we three work for the same company, so cheers to making scheduling games easy) that I wouldn't tolerate another session starting an hour and a half late.

On my part, I have lowered my expectations from my players but will continue to make an effort to provide an awesome gaming experience. As others have pointed out to me in this thread, I can only get out of the game what I put in. My hope is that my players will take the cue, realize how much time and effort I've put into this, and will put a little bit more of their own effort in.

My next challenge is this: controlling the table and making sure no one is speaking out of turn or over each other and also making sure everyone is paying attention when I'm speaking -- we have a few ADD players so this could be a bit challenging, too.


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My advice is: Never dip the quality of your game. Eventually the players who don't care will leave from their boredom; you may pick up a player, who knows? If the quality of the game you are giving them is good, the ones who recognize that will change their tune and respond to that.

Grand Lodge

My two cents...

Lose the jerk. If the players cant be bothered showing up on time, bugger them too. 10 minutes, fair enough. 90 minutes, too bad, go home.
Cant be bothered to at least ring and ask if its ok to bring extras, too bad, go home.
Respect goes both ways.
Besides, post on here for players wanted. Unless you live in Australia, New Zealand, or Sub Sahara, you should get inundated with players seeking a game run by a DM who actually seems to care.


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Welcome to the world of running a game! Some tips I might offer you based on my earlier experiences with running for a group of 20-somethings include the following:

1. Set a realistic start time and end time. If 1:00 pm is too early for your friends who drink on Friday nights, set it at 2:00. You can still get together with your friend(s) at 1:00 to hang out and catch up if you like.

2. Realize that gamers will never fully appreciate your efforts as DM. They may appreciate you on occasion, but you are also responsible for harming their precious PC, or not giving out enough xp, or enough treasure, or...

3. Always try to talk it out. Sounds like you are already doing this so job well done. This is also probably the hardest.

Good luck with your efforts!


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el cuervo wrote:
Thanks for the encouraging words, everyone. I had a talk with my most problematic player yesterday. When we spoke, he explained, in his words, "It's not my job to make it easy for you," which I pointed out to him was the kind of statement a selfish jerk might make. I then went on to explain that I'm not the enemy and I'm not trying to kill anyone, my goal is to run a smooth game and make sure everyone is enjoying themselves (including me).

You've already caught on to Step One: opening the lines of communication. It sounds to me like you're very determined to get this to be successful, which is the most important thing. It sounds to me like dumping these players isn't an option, them being long-time friends and all.

I think letting them know that expectations are on them as well is the key for now. Sure, the GM bears a disproportionate share of the burden, but this is a SOCIAL game after all, and the attitude that "I don't have any obligations to my friends" is a selfish, unproductive one.

My only other suggestion would be to involve them a bit in the "brainstorming" of the campaign. It sounds like you have big ideas in store, and perhaps getting them to give more input on what kind of campaign and storylines (campaign, and personal stories) they want can get them more invested, as well as give them more of a sense of how much work YOU are doing to prepare for every session.


Well it sounds like you did a good job talking to your players about picking up their act and calling them on their behaviour. Just be aware that it's not that easy for people to change and it's possible for them to slide back into their old behaviours, so don't be afraid to kick them from the group to improve the experience for the people who want to play.

One of the worst things about organising events is trying to accommodate the ones who's involvement only causes trouble for the good of the whole group, better off without them.


Players making honest mistakes, acting like jerks from time to time due to misunderstandings, or shooting off at the mouth on occasion can be managed. Players refusing to admit and change bad behavior or falling into an abusive/disruptive/disrespectful pattern are unacceptable. The former is bound to happen. As for the latter, I just tend to ask such players not to show up for the next session.

You put hard work into games. Time and effort on your part creates immersion in the game environment and results in a more lively/believable fantasy gaming experience. Your players should appreciate this and do what they can to help you out. Part of this is players facilitating your schedule and doing their best to make it easy for you to run and organize games. The other part is taking an active (not passive) role in your world/setting. You can encourage this by inviting participation and player story telling, by asking players to research/develop/provide information on campaign aspects related to their characters or by even providing assistance with setting up.

Let players know that gaming is more cooperative than competitive. Everyone is working together to create an enjoyable and compelling story, to develop characters in ways that are fun and believable, and to solve problems and challenges as they are presented. Let them know that, though it is your job to present them with difficulties and challenges, that it is also your job to give their characters a chance to shine, develop and grow into heroes. GM plays the role of muse, counselor, story teller. He is not a dark lord, though many inhabit his worlds.

Let the players know you are giving them the gift of adventure. Of cooperative storytelling. Those who do not appreciate such gifts need not return to torture you and themselves.

The Exchange

Ciaran Barnes wrote:
...The next time you meet a lady you are interested in you can tell her you're DM/GM...

Once again, a heartfelt thanks to the guys at Paizo for changing the name of the role. 'Game Master' may be nerdy but at least conveys a sense that you're in a responsible administrative position. 'Dungeon Master' is the most female-repelling phrase I can think of to use in introducing yourself to a woman, with the possible exception of 'typhus-carrier deadbeat-dad terrorist.'

And to the original poster: Stay the course. In a way getting one more player than you counted on can be useful, provided you can convince the new guy that "we start at 6" means "we start at 6". Advance notice that they were going to be very late would have been more considerate, and you should express hope that it won't be a habit, but odds are things will get better once they start looking at your campaign as a regular thing they do...


Can I just GM for you guys (and girls) instead? :P


el cuervo wrote:
Can I just GM for you guys (and girls) instead? :P

Cuervo, I just realized you're the same poster from the other thread about the viper familiar.

My response in that thread is related to this one.

You need to break yourself of the adversarial role and focus on being an awesome, impartial GM. Impartiality is the best trait a GM can have.


Mythic Evil Lincoln wrote:
el cuervo wrote:
Can I just GM for you guys (and girls) instead? :P

Cuervo, I just realized you're the same poster from the other thread about the viper familiar.

My response in that thread is related to this one.

You need to break yourself of the adversarial role and focus on being an awesome, impartial GM. Impartiality is the best trait a GM can have.

This. I thought I was being an impartial GM, but your reply in the other thread helped me to realize there were certain times where I was telling them "No!" when I should have been saying, "Okay!"

I guess the problem really lies with me and the players not doing what I hope/expect them to do. I'm running RotRL, and they keep passing up on the hints and opportunities I'm giving them, and it's frustrating to dangle that carrot and they don't even see the carrot hanging in front of them. I realize this is one of the biggest issues GMs have to deal with, but I guess I'm just going to have to learn that the only way I can: the hard way.

On that note, any tips on getting them more involved in Sandpoint and the NPCs in Sandpoint? I've tried a few things but no one seems too interested in getting to know any of them. It just feels like they aren't taking the setting seriously.


Do their characters have any ties to Sandpoint? Or are they wandering hobos in town for a festival and a campaign breaks out? Work with the players to see if you can find a tie for them, individually, into the setting. Are the characters tied to each other in any way?

What were their character back stories like? Did they give you anything to work with or were they generic "soldier turned adventurer" backgrounds? They did give you back stories, right? ;)

Good luck!


el cuervo wrote:

This. I thought I was being an impartial GM, but your reply in the other thread helped me to realize there were certain times where I was telling them "No!" when I should have been saying, "Okay!"

I guess the problem really lies with me and the players not doing what I hope/expect them to do. I'm running RotRL, and they keep passing up on the hints and opportunities I'm giving them, and it's frustrating to dangle that carrot and they don't even see the carrot hanging in front of them. I realize this is one of the biggest issues GMs have to deal with, but I guess I'm just going to have to learn that the only way I can: the hard way.

Oh good, I thought I was being a little harsh assuming all that from your posts. It sounds like you're well on the right path though.

A helpful rule I picked up from Burning Wheel (which came from somewhere else): As GM, say yes or roll the dice. If it doesn't matter to the overall story, always say yes. If it DOES matter, like it's a point of dramatic tension, roll the dice. But keep it fair. Don't set impossible DCs (except for truly impossible things) just to keep the game on the track you want. Learn to celebrate being pulled off track. After all, the GM is playing too, not just lording over the players. Getting the occasional curveball from the players is actually a great source of entertainment for the veteran GM.

el cuervo wrote:
On that note, any tips on getting them more involved in Sandpoint and the NPCs in Sandpoint? I've tried a few things but no one seems too interested in getting to know any of them. It just feels like they aren't taking the setting seriously.

It's tricky. All of my players are resistant to NPCs too. Usually, it's just that they're genre savvy enough not to get close to anyone. They know that any proper author will exploit those connections.

Basically, just keep bombarding them with NPCs. Don't try and sell them on making new friends, or caring at all. Just keep them around, giving the players the stuff they need... gear, info, etc. They'll latch on to someone eventually, and when they do, resist the urge to exploit that right away. Think long and hard before pulling the trigger on all your hard work.

Sandpoint can be especially overwhelming. Hold their hand through it for a few sessions and don't rush. It's a subtle thing, but the first meeting they won't care. The second meeting they won't care. The third meeting they will start to care, but they won't be aware of it and they will show no outward signs.

What will happen is you will eventually get to the later books and cash in on those connections. Events will take place in sandpoint and you'll use the geography and the NPC cast to add detail to what would otherwise be a bland encounter. It doesn't all have to be bad "oh, and then X dies!" stuff. It can also be little triumphs of the Sandpoint people, stuff that makes the players feel like maybe these folks can get by on their own.

But don't be a salesman. Just add details about the NPCs in passing, and keep doing it, and do it consistently. Player affections will follow. Even if the players deny it to their last breath, it'll be there.


el cuervo wrote:
...and boy was it frustrating. I was expecting three players, they were supposed to show up at 1PM. One showed up on time (my golden boy PC, who as far as I can tell, is actually really interested in playing), with the other two calling me fifteen minutes late to tell me they were up late drinking and overslept, then told me they were leaving in 10 minutes and would arrive in 20...

My group is supposed to play from 12-6 but almost no one shows up until 1 PM, including the most enthusiastic people. That's something I can just roll with.

Quote:

An hour and a half later, THREE people walk in my door. Yes, one of my players invited a person, brought them to my house, without asking me. Well, I said, okay, I guess... it was his brother and I understand he wants to get him involved in things... but understand I had already gone over character creation with my three expected players.

Now my game is starting late because my players arrived late, and starting even later because I have to now help this newcomer (who is entirely unfamiliar with the rules) create a character. Well, he wanted to play a knight type character, so I set him up with a paladin, and his rolls sucked, so I fudged his numbers a bit... Overall, I feel like I shorthanded him because we rushed through his character creation since we were already running late. So there's that.

I hope he's interested. My group ran what was supposed to be a campaign for All Flesh Must Be Eaten, and one player brought in a friend with him. (The circumstances make inviting new people not as bad as in your case.) However the new player was utterly uninterested in the campaign. Worse, we had the usual problem where a DM wants to run a player-driven campaign and the players don't. Said PC spent all of his time "concentrating drugs" and trying to seduce every male PC his PC encountered. (Given the statistics, not that they would be known in 1800s Scotland, this was a poor and possibly dangerous strategy.)

I would also never use stat rolls. Please don't do that. It's too difficult to explain why you shouldn't, but you will be happier in the future with point buy.

Quote:

Now, I have been doing my research. I've been lurking on these boards, posting here and there, I've read the CRB cover to cover, read through most of the GMG, and have read through much of the APG, as well.

I have spent many dollars and many hours preparing for this. I even dished out for the Pathfinder printable minis and spent several hours cramping up my hands cutting those little guys out of cardstock and taping them together.

I just don't feel like my players appreciate my efforts (except the one PC who arrived on time, he and I are great friends and he's seen the troubles I've gone through). I'm not really asking for any specific advice... I'm sure many GMs have dealt with what I'm dealing with. I just needed a place to vent since yesterday's experience was so frustrating.

If there's any good news, the work wasn't for naught. Plenty of people would love to play Pathfinder and the work you put into "cutting those little guys out of cardstock" will not go to waste. You might have to drop some of these players, and just keep the "golden boy" and anyone else who seems really interested.

Quote:
We play again this Saturday. I've written some notes and I've prepared a pre-game talk that I intend on having with my players so I understand where they stand and what my goals as GM are. I'm also going to ask of them what they expect, and see if we can reconcile our differences.

Handle at least some of this by email. It's in vogue to say all communications should be done face-to-face, but you want the players onside before they even show up. (And if they're not on-side, you're still better off canceling the game rather than going through another frustrating session.)

This is something I learned the hard way. After leaving an old group due to graduating from high school and going to another group and eventually becoming a DM, I assumed that everyone knew how to play RPGs. So working together and so forth. I was wrong. A d20 Modern campaign I tried to run fell apart because the PCs split into two groups that refused to associate with each other. Since then I've always insisted my PCs know and trust each other before a campaign starts, and told the players that via email. Naturally other problems sometimes cropped up in various campaigns (unheroic PCs, PCs not interested in hooks that don't involve being showered with gold, etc), so those got added to the "standard list". Also, email lets various players bounce ideas off each other. It even helps (somewhat) resolving game roles.

There's another DM in the group who has never learned this lesson, despite me trying to teach him, and ... that previous All Flesh Must Be Eaten campaign I mentioned above was just the latest example. Our PCs didn't cooperate and we never even did the adventure (since we weren't given clues).


Also... Work on getting some real interaction with the players. One standpoint character might work as a good info resource, providing bonuses to knowledge local checks (you can up the difficulty of some checks to make this NPC a useful resource on sticky matters). Another might be a source for good jobs/leads. Another might know all the best places to meet people and start trying to introduce characters to notable locals. One might have a crush on a PC and leave little 'secret admirer gifts.' One might know the PCs parents and make constant calls asking for annoying favors (if the pcs don't comply, they get mean and embarrassing letters from home, some rigged with very loud and obnoxious magic mouth spells). One might seem to follow the PCs, perhaps an accidental stalker. Or perhaps something more nefarious. One might offer to be a patron to the PCs in exchange for services rendered. One might be a master of a particular skill or art the PC requires to advance in level (make this NPC aloof and hard to approach, requiring a skill challenge that demonstrates the pcs worthiness as a student.)

Goods, guilt, glory, gifts, info, intrigue, romance, revenge, rescue, family, greed, hatred, friendly rivalry, gambling games, needed help, mentorship, unwanted help, and NPC storytelling (truth, rumors and misdirection) all make some great hooks, use them mercilessly. If you don't think the standpoint npcs work as written, tweek them until you're satisfied they'll draw your pcs in.

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