Players complaining they are not epic enough


Advice

Dark Archive

The following thread may contain spoilers for The Mummy's Mask.

I started up the Mummy's Mask with my players a couple months back and things have been... rocky, to say the least. Despite my players claims that they are having fun, they seem generally bored and uninterested. A few of the more vocal players have even complained that they do not feel epic at all.

I tried to remedy this by adding a new encounter to the first book. I felt that the first book didn't give players much of a chance to interact with the Big Bad (who my players have affectionately named Carmen Sandiego and forgotten her real name...) and her team. I added a scene where the players were heading to their second dungeon through the necropolis and run into them. As I predicted, one of the players picked a fight with the other group (as she tends to do) and after a few minutes of RP arguing, the players and the NPCs attracted a bunch of ghouls. The PCs and NPCs had to fight together against a huge number of ghouls and to my surprise, the PCs did better than the higher level NPCs and killed 2/3s of the enemies. I felt the fight had been exciting and would instill them with some kind of Baddassery.

Instead, after the fight, the same vocal players chimed in and said "See! That sucked! I don't feel epic at all!" I was shocked and asked why. The response:
-They had taken damage. (Totaling maybe a dozen between all the players AND NPCs)
-One of the players failed a saving through and caught ghoul fever.
-The ghouls didn't have enough loot.

The non-vocal, 'totally having fun' players agreed. I told them I would think about it and they continued on. While in the next dungeon, the players added two more things to the list:
-"Traps suck! I don't want to find and disable them!" (The Rogue)
-"These dungeons are too big. I hate exploring them." (Vocal player, followed by agreements from everyone else)

So, I am at a total loss. The players continue to claim they are having fun, but seem to hate EVERYTHING about the campaign, including the parts of the campaign that I made them fully aware of. "This campaign has a lot of dungeon crawling and traps in it, some of which are actually kind of ingenious. Is that something you guys would be up for?" Somehow, that was unclear.

So, what should I do?


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From your description, it sounds like what they want isn't Literature Epic, in the sense of just barely overcoming nearly impossible challenges, but Video Game Epic, meaning they can effortlessly win the game.

For the next encounter don't bother to roll dice or play it out at all. Just say, "Okay, you killed sixteen gnolls. What loot do you want them to have been carrying?"


Maybe switch campaigns? WOTR involves a great deal of Epicness. If the players aren't into trap-filled, sprawling dungeons, Mummy's Mask is probably not the right AP for them. (Hint: Shattered Star isn't either.)

However, maybe a reset of player expectations is also in order. I would tell them, "In my games, I don't softball the enemies. Your PCs will get injured in combat. They will fail saves. They will be hit by traps. They will be affected by poison, disease, spells, and other nasty things. You will get loot appropriate for your level, and in fact more than that if you look everywhere." (APs are usually designed with the plan that PCs won't discover everything, so those that do will get more loot than WBL).

I think these two things may be best for your play group. After all, some people find huge, trap-filled dungeons fun, and some don't. Sometimes people don't know whether they will find them fun or not until they play. That's not their fault.

Expecting to never get hit in combat, or never be affected negatively by a status effect, is unreasonable expectations, and they should adjust them.


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Honestly ... just stop running. You'll never make them happy unless you give them 20th level characters up against kobold pups. 'Epic' seems to mean 'no effort involved'.

If you want to be passive-aggressive (I don't recommend it), at the next game, give them what they want. "You track the bad guy to his lair, you kill him, yay you're all epic heroes. Great game, same time next week?"


Definitely not my kind of group (the players I mean), I would get tired of them really fast. That aside, if you want to DM for them, sounds to me like they might have more fun with a mythic campaign. Have them go mythic and also instead of having them dungeon delving, maybe see if the enjoy campaigns that involve more being outside in wilderness areas. You could even try seeing how they like planar environments. If they want to walk all over things, with mythic they are all ready more likely to, but keep things on the low CR side and focus on having lots of enemies that are unlikely to be able to hurt them.

More narrative focused combat can really be fun too (though without the risk of them getting injured or dead much less fun IMO) so you could focus more on that and getting them involved in describing how their mighty hero slays the hordes baddies.

They might just be fussy and the types to always find something to complain about, personally I would take Zhayne's advice (I would stop running games for these guys) and not my own, but maybe you'll have more luck with the sort of campaign I'm describing, who knows.

Sovereign Court

They complained about taking damage? A failed save is likely at early levels. These things seem to be assumed price of admission to me. They do not sound like old school players. What type of experience does this group have? Is this their first TTRPG? Do they typically use other systems?


But this isn't old school.

The ideal is to find unbeatable combos, such that if you win initiative it is an auto win. Literally the goal is to for the opponent to never even have the chance to react. Or to be blunt know what hit them.

And the dm has to cheat or break the rules to say otherwise. That is what gamemastery is, don't you know?

As to how you do this, shrug. It's all over these boards. Do a search for the beastmass threads, those are pretty good.

You might say that is extreme, but look at the optimization threads. There really is no alternative but for it to be rocket tag.


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The inflation of epic strikes again.

People are totally divorced from any sense of actual heroics these days, trough-fed on ridiculously overdone fight choreography while their ability to viscerally imagine dangerous situations shrivels away to nothing. In the old days, when people had a better grasp of the reality of violence, being able to take on two foes at once and win was considered seriously bad-ass. Now it's all about the absurd power-trip fantasy of the surrogate-you hero wading through all who oppose them like they were bowling pins, with a pounding soundtrack just to make sure you understand that it's HARDCORE!!!!!!!. There isn't always much one can do to combat that state of mind, and it sounds like the folks in question have it bad.


-They had taken damage. (Totaling maybe a dozen between all the players AND NPCs)

Sounds like a 'hate to lose' crowd. I cannot understand this complaint. I assumed that taking damage is expected in a game.

-One of the players failed a saving through and caught ghoul fever.

So? What else happens if you get bit by a ghoul. I think this makes things more epic because they defeated some pretty scary monsters that can do some serious harm.

-The ghouls didn't have enough loot.

I guess that's an actual complaint if they're gear-starved for their level. But considering that they're ghouls I'd be surprised if they had any loot at all. Comes off as whiny to me.

-"Traps suck! I don't want to find and disable them!" (The Rogue)

Then why the flip play a rogue in the first place? Now admittedly I get tired when a group needs to check every door and every square for traps before we move on so you could secretly roll perception for the rogue whenever a trap is nearby so that it doesn't become tedious.

-"These dungeons are too big. I hate exploring them." (Vocal player, followed by agreements from everyone else)

Now I understand if there's not much happening in a dungeon so you're bored going through the whole thing, but exploring dungeons is kind of what the game is about like 80% of the time.

Okay, I'd quit at this point but if you want to know what to do with this group my opinion is to set them up with a lot of mooks followed by singular big bads. Singular big bads seem like they are super dangerous but the PC's action economy quickly renders them laughably easy to kill unless they are surrounded by a few mooks. Killing something big and dangerous easily makes players feel 'epic'. Mowing through mooks makes players feel 'badass'.

Anything else should just be Skinner box levels of carrot following. Pick a thing you want them to do and put loot in it. break a trap; there's money in the trap for some reason. Kill a monster, it has money in it for some reason. If need be have an NPC that will pay them per monster body part that they need for some reason. Yes this is basically MMO grinding crap but they sound like the kind of players have fun with it.

NPC: I need anuses from rune bears from the dungeon of Makakith to make rune leather for armor. If you bring me 50 bear anuses I can make you some magic armor.

*two levels later*

NPC: My business is booming, I need 100 more bear anuses. Perhaps there are more rune bears deeper in the dungeon.


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sunbeam wrote:

But this isn't old school.

The ideal is to find unbeatable combos, such that if you win initiative it is an auto win. Literally the goal is to for the opponent to never even have the chance to react. Or to be blunt know what hit them.

And the dm has to cheat or break the rules to say otherwise. That is what gamemastery is, don't you know?

As to how you do this, shrug. It's all over these boards. Do a search for the beastmass threads, those are pretty good.

You might say that is extreme, but look at the optimization threads. There really is no alternative but for it to be rocket tag.

I'm currently wondering whether reacting to bait in order to state that you are aware that it's bait and aren't going to fall for it constitutes failure to properly deal with bait.

S&$! just got meta.

@Koujow
I'm not sure what to advice you to do here. Your players obviously don't like having a hard game.

Do you know if they've played TTRPGs before? Posting this could be really important for how the answer should be.

Anyway, does this mean you should give them an easy game because that's what they want? I'm not sure. What they want to play and what you give them doesn't align.

Try to insert a few easier fights. See what they say about it.

Then try to insert some easier fights that you describe as if they're supposed to be very hard. Waves upon waves of powerful creatures, except you use the stats of goblin warriors with five times as much hp or whatever.

See if that's something they like. Then decide if that's something you're willing to run, if they like it.

Also, what Malwing said about boss fights, is sound advice.


The Dragon wrote:


I'm currently wondering whether reacting to bait in order to state that you are aware that it's bait and aren't going to fall for it constitutes failure to properly deal with bait.

S**! just got meta.

Before you start saying things like that, why don't you read over the optimization threads. I suggested the beastmass threads.

When you've done that, then let's talk.


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Wow, and my players have complained that most campaigns are too easy. We switched to playing Rappan Athuk and they are loving the fact that there have been PC fatalities in Rappan Athuk (before they hit level 2!).

Beating a CR7 encounter at level 1 by the skin of your teeth and the loss of only one party member is epic. :)


Maybe your players would rather RPG My Little Ponies and talk about how pretty their characters are, rather than face a very minor challenge. They sound like a bunch of whinny care bears. Feel free to quote me on that.

I don't think you are going to be able to make these players happy. Let someone else GM, and roll up your own elite character.


Also, not DMing is an option, but you may want to find a way to make it work.

You could have a discussion with your players about narrative, how going through crappy times makes it more awesome to win, and facing down beasts and getting away by the skin of your teeth make for awesome rpgs.

Pull up lord of the rings as an example, the fellowship spent most of their time getting their ass handed to them and running away.

Or just make it easier. Talking is good, though. Explain where you're coming from. It might bring some people over to your viewpoint.

I'm 75% sure that there's more fun to be had from that viewpoint than theirs. But you never know.


Ask what, exactly, they want.

That might be the best option before anything else. The Mummy's Mask doesn't seem like the right fit for them, but that doesn't mean that fit doesn't exist.


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This is a fairly common problem amongst game players, be they of the table-top variety, board variety, card variety or the video variety. It sounds like the players at your table have a different idea of what "epic" is than you do. It might help, first, by defining your terms with your players. That way, there is no confusion as to your expectations versus the expectations of your players.

Epic
adjective

  • telling a story about a hero or about exciting events or adventures
  • very great or large and usually difficult or impressive
noun
  • a long poem that tells the story of a hero's adventures
  • a long book, movie, etc., that usually tells a story about exciting events or adventures

Based upon what you're describing of your players, this does not fit with the common terminology regarding "epic". It seems to fit in line with the abused and misunderstood concept of what some players believe the "rule of cool" is and how it works; i.e. "If it's cool, it should happen." That is little more than intellectual masturbation, and the reward is not a satisfying climax, but rather, a limp caricature of an adventure with an unsatisfying and "not happy" ending.

You could give them absolutely everything that they want on a silver platter. No traps, quick dungeons, paper-tiger foes with tons of "phat lootz"... And when the novelty of it all wears off, they're going to complain that the fights are too easy, that the loot is meaningless, and that they're just not having fun.

I don't buy into the "I just demolished everything! I'm so epic!" tales or role-playing. I am more a fan of the, "We lost Corwyn, Jastlyn and Master Zebediah, and Jorise barely survived the quest, but we've finally found the Archsphere of Cosmic Transcendence and cast the nether-fiend, Karybdosea, back into the depths of the Plane of Ataxia and saved the known universe! I can't believe that we've finally won! That was so hard, I feel proud of just having lived to the end, let alone defeated our foe! I can't wait to create a new character and play in your next game!" type of play.

I like for my players to work hard for their "win", and when I'm playing, I want to work hard for mine. I don't mind playing in games that are explicitly "meat grinders", because character death is something that I feel should explicitly be allowed. In the Odyssey, Agamemnon dies, his party dies, Odysseus' crew, Ajax the Lesser, Odysseus' mother, and many others. Enkidu dies in the epic of Gilgamesh. Roland, Olivier, Turpin and Ganelon die in the Song of Roland. Their tales are about their heroism and nobility, not their ability to make it through their battles unscathed.

Those kinds of tales are not for everyone to play. If that's not what your group wants, then either give them what they want, play a different game, or suggest that they find someone else to run their games.


Instead of them telling you what they dont want, ask them what they would like to see more of and in what manner.

Make them come up with descriptions of how they define "epic" by stating what they want to face.


Can we get off of the Gygaxian warpath and discuss how game design changes may help?

I think that I would suggest a customized campaign kingdom builder like kingmaker. The players want their actions to actually matter and be treated specially because they know that they are statistically more advanced than the average commoner. If you give them more control of their environment it helps take away stress from you as well. Loot is not something to withhold from players as long as they are built with a 15 point buy.

Also make sure encounters aren't just a bunch of clones that want to kill the party. By what you described that encounter was very bland and did nothing to advance plot or challenge them in a meaningful sense. It also may help to have less traps and instead add Hazards into encounters so the battlefield is interesting and the rogue cannot complain.

As a last resort it may help to secretly try and make a new group by recruiting online and leaving your players if it pans out.

Dark Archive

To answer a few questions:

Their experience
Two of the players have been in my campaigns for nearly a decade now. Three have been gaming for about 2 years and one is brand new. (I think the brand new player is actually having a ton of fun, but starts to feel down whenever a others keep telling her how little fun she should be having).

What they want
I spoke to one of the players today and while they can't speak for everyone, they gave me their view of what the game should be. To be blunt, Dynasty Warriors. This player wanted to be able to single handedly take on huge armies without fear. When I suggested we play a new Exalted campaign (a game DESIGNED to do these things), the player said Exalted was too complicated... Just to be clear, and so no one thinks I am exaggerating, they literally said "I hate low levels. You don't get good until level 10. Then you can fight armies of guys and not care. You are awesome!"

It makes me kind of sad and I really wonder where we went wrong. My two long term players and I used to be super into RPGs. We had characters with depth and we were invested in the story. We would enjoy sessions that had very little, sometimes even zero combat, and it was great! Now a days, I can barely get a player to give me any kind of backstory or remember her name isn't Carmen F#$%ING SANDIEGO!!


Try WOTR, Mythic tiers make characters truly amazing in terms of power. Kingmaker also is a great AP to add mythic to, and there are guides on how to do it in the Kingmaker forum.


Whoah whoah whoah. Exhalted is too complicated? Now I haven't had too many problems with Pathfinder being complicated but most of White Wolf's stuff is several steps below Pathfinder on the complexity scale.

Number 2, Exalted is a great idea. Too bad it wasn't taken. They have the right to want to play god mode no matter that the idea makes me roll my eyes, and Exalted would let them do that a little easier. But if you are not having fun with this general attitude then I would quit.

Although why don't they just munchkin out? By level 6 you can certainly break the game.

Also as mentioned above you can get some mythic tiers in there.

But the bigger problem is that no matter how powerful they get by how their feelings are described they won't be happy until everything but the big bad are essentially mooks.


In video game epic, it certainly doesn't mean 'easy'.

Just go ask the top end Guilds in Everquest about what it means to be epic - and it involves a lot of struggle, a lot of toil, and the feeling of triumph when you manage to overcome ridiculous odds (and you wear your TPK's like a badge of honour).

These guys just sound boring as dirt tbh.


Koujow wrote:

The following thread may contain spoilers for The Mummy's Mask.

I started up the Mummy's Mask with my players a couple months back and things have been... rocky, to say the least. Despite my players claims that they are having fun, they seem generally bored and uninterested. A few of the more vocal players have even complained that they do not feel epic at all.

I tried to remedy this by adding a new encounter to the first book. I felt that the first book didn't give players much of a chance to interact with the Big Bad (who my players have affectionately named Carmen Sandiego and forgotten her real name...) and her team. I added a scene where the players were heading to their second dungeon through the necropolis and run into them. As I predicted, one of the players picked a fight with the other group (as she tends to do) and after a few minutes of RP arguing, the players and the NPCs attracted a bunch of ghouls. The PCs and NPCs had to fight together against a huge number of ghouls and to my surprise, the PCs did better than the higher level NPCs and killed 2/3s of the enemies. I felt the fight had been exciting and would instill them with some kind of Baddassery.

Instead, after the fight, the same vocal players chimed in and said "See! That sucked! I don't feel epic at all!" I was shocked and asked why. The response:
-They had taken damage. (Totaling maybe a dozen between all the players AND NPCs)
-One of the players failed a saving through and caught ghoul fever.
-The ghouls didn't have enough loot.

The non-vocal, 'totally having fun' players agreed. I told them I would think about it and they continued on. While in the next dungeon, the players added two more things to the list:
-"Traps suck! I don't want to find and disable them!" (The Rogue)
-"These dungeons are too big. I hate exploring them." (Vocal player, followed by agreements from everyone else)

So, I am at a total loss. The players continue to claim they are having fun, but seem to hate EVERYTHING about the campaign,...

It seems like they want to play on easy mode and get a lot of loot. I have had a group like that, and one of their previous GM's allowed it. It is not bad, but your style of play may not be compatible if you want to give them a challenge. Maybe you can come to a compromise.


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Koujow wrote:

Instead, after the fight [with the ghouls], the same vocal players chimed in and said "See! That sucked! I don't feel epic at all!" I was shocked and asked why. The response:

-They had taken damage. (Totaling maybe a dozen between all the players AND NPCs)
-One of the players failed a saving through and caught ghoul fever.
-The ghouls didn't have enough loot.

The non-vocal, 'totally having fun' players agreed. I told them I would think about it and they continued on. While in the next dungeon, the players added two more things to the list:
-"Traps suck! I don't want to find and disable them!" (The Rogue)
-"These dungeons are too big. I hate exploring them." (Vocal player, followed by agreements from everyone else)

Rule 1: players are stupid and have no idea what they want.

Rule 2: See rule 1.

Just leave The Mummy's Mask behind. It sucks, but the reality of Paizo adventure paths is that they present a steady intensity throughout the entire work. This is good for players who realize their characters kind-of-sort-of don't want to face something impossible all the time so they can be alive tomorrow. The pacing of the APs are also designed, as far as I can tell, to present enough action to facilitate player engagement with roleplay between key-scenes, e.g. when the tower in Second Darkness tumbles off the cliff with the players trapped inside it.

For players who want to go EPIC throw them into something larger than life.

Instead ignore APs and create a story that takes place across Golarion or even the planes that has bloated personalities and idiotic speeches. Remember, players hate and love nothing more than characters who seem bigger and more ridiculous than themselves.

Always include:
The Ace, that guy who is just better than everyone at everything and effectively a level 20 fighter, cleric, and Wizard all rolled into one. He is just better than the players, but he has a flaw: the players are the heroes of the story.

The B.ig B.ad E.vil G.uy, this dude is big, he is bad, is he evil, and he is something that starts with a G be it girl or guy. His cloak bellows in the wind as he proclaims his villainous plan to the heavens as lightning illuminates him from behind. He's also a complete immoral prick who keeps gnolls because they are smart enough to understand that he is kicking them just because he thinks it is funny to listen to them whimper.

The ACE acts as the basic call to adventure and supernatural aid—bonus points if he can conceal that fact—while also aiding the players in their path towards the BBEG. If your players need to feel epic, while not ensuring that they feel epic on their own, you need to instill that feeling on them.

The problem with d20 systems is that players get so trapped in their class that it is hard to see beyond this. Instead allows players to take on different non-class roles that are skill or choice dependent. Instead of just controlling themselves allow them to control a company of goons for a city and hand-wave or roll d6s to decide how many of what die in battles each round.

Basically, if your players need an injection of EPIC then you're going to need to work on the fringes of Pathfinder and ignore stuff.

Worrying about "balance" is less important to the overall experience as a player so long as each character is amazing at something. Allow PCs to add BAB to anything that requires an attack roll and allow casters to gain early access to spells if they have bonus slots in those areas.
The player who was bored while playing a level 2 wizard was suddenly not bored at all when he realized he could cast level 6 spells at level 1 because of his intelligence being 22 (he was an old man). The fighters didn't need much of a boost since they were all 2-h characters.

The Game Mat is also a huge waste of time if the players have problems feeling epic. Throw the game into the "theater of the mind" and just let player agency overrun the rules of the system. The very first rule presented in the CORE basically states that if some part or ANY part of the gaming system is not conducive to your party's enjoyment of the session that you can—and should—throw it out.

Rules are just suggestions, anyway—well, if you're the GM. It is like when people bring up Paladins. The alignment restriction is a guideline, not a rule as it has no function beyond trying to ensure players who play Paladins act like Gawain instead of Mordred. However, if the GM wants to throw out the Paladin's Code he can. Typically for reasons of the current scenario moving beyond the scope of the Paladin's Code's intention.

So, Big personalities, Big, flamboyant and obnoxious characters that drive the story forward (both helpers and hindrances) and the world as the players playgrounds.

Typically if you give the players around 12 options they choose what they like the most. So have the equivalent of Tar-Baphon coming back with 11 other amazing and crazy things to choose from. Tell them that you will build a campaign based on the -—~ONE~—- choice they make: No take backsies!

Now, proceed to make it as outrageous and big as possible. Have them travel to different worlds and planes.

Be BIG, be STUPID, be INCREDULOUS and be UNREALISTIC—by far the most important. Have characters ham it up—bonus points to eating a ham and cheese sandwich while hamming out characters overly dramatic lines—and be idiotically dramatic with everything the ACE, BBEG or any other mildly important character says.

Another point is that the players should always feel like they are "winning" in whatever they do. You want them to feel badass and invincible as if they can take on the world. Of course, it could turn out that the BBEG has just been tempering the players to join him in defeating the GREATER EVIL. Throw out level ups like they're candy. Typically each time they defeat or are "Spared" by the BBEG.

I think the biggest thing to remember is that it is hard to be Completely EPIC and be cunning or witty. They two just don't work together very well unless someone is being the Trickster. Don't worry about building up to the EPIC, but instead start at the epic and don't ever let it simmer. You want the tension of the game to be boiling over in scenes. You want the players with 32,000 knights from Andoran to overtake the BBEG and his fiendish army with cheesy lines shouted by the knights as they drive a vanguard through the ranks to get the players into a direct fight with the BBEG. Army VS Army and Heroes VS Villains.

At the end of the day the players will always claim responsibility for what happened, and since the Knights are NPCs they don't get a say, therefore, from the players perspective, they took down that army of 30,000 fiends while driving the BBEG off. It is big, stupid, incredulous and completely unrealistic, which is why the players will love it.

RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 16

Epic can also sometimes mean cinematic, which might mean another system like Exalted or Legend.

Else you could adapt 4e's minion rules (monsters with level appropriate AC and to hit/dmg, but only 1 hp).

But these things add work on your part, which takes away the point of running a pre-made AP in my opinion. I'd tell them that they can step up to bat as GM.

Liberty's Edge

Give them Mythic powers and do NOT change the encounters, except for a few BBEGs here and there.

This should be enough to give them this feeling of near-omnipotence early on. And the fights again the BBEGs will be all the more memorable.

Actually, the way most APs are structured, plowing effortlessly through combat will give your group far more time to role-play, especially at higher levels.

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