Advice Please: THE THRILL IS GONE (Veteran Gamer Blues)


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Sovereign Court

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This is what I hope will become a very long thread of community input regarding the elephant in the room.

Backstory: As a veteran gamer (since 1982) I've hit a wall that nearly every gamer including you has hit, or will hit at some point--and we (I) need your help!

The Problem: For years, gaming session provided a "gaming buzz" i.e. a happy wholesome high of joy (you know what I mean). However, home games in Pathfinder drag on too long. Campaigns run too long. Players get bored. A few encounters/rooms per week is NOT enough content to reach that gaming thrill (and I don't know what's changed).

Observation: I still observe rare moments when that "feeling" returns: a) new campaign first sessions with new characters b) when we play a 1-shot adventure with all new characters and c) for a few sessions after when we bring in a new player. But that's it.

Caveat about PFS: Let's leave PFS out of this equation without any value judgment of that style of game. Let's just say we're focusing on home games, with homebrew content.

Question: What can be done to re-ignite the flame of these veteran gamer blues?


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Pathfinder Rulebook, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

I've found playing new systems (and learning them) can reignite my passion for tabletop play. Even if only temporarily, I've found it a good way to have a blast with some friends and come up with new ideas for the systems I know and love.

Sovereign Court

I got like that a few years ago.

I was happy to have the option of 4e and I tried to get the group into the FATE Dresden Files.

I grew more unhappy with 4e...and my group didn't take to FATE as much as I hoped we would.

We plugged (IMO) along with PF and I grew happy with the game again. This is as much to do with Paizo as a company as it is with the top notch resources they produce.

So my advice? Move along and try something else. Come back after a while.


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So, one thing we do poorly as a community is end games. We're all great at starting campaigns, but the idea that they'll go on "for infinity" is a bad idea, and makes for poor storytelling.

Think about setting endpoints for your campaigns.

Then, move past thinking about encounters as the be all/end all. The story is where the planning should take place, the encounters are the result.

http://theangrygm.com/what-the-actual-f-is-an-adventure-anyway/

Also consider switching to a new game system for a while. Often, that gives you a new perspective to think about what you like, don't like about the current one.


When I have gotten to this point, changing the style of the game tends to help re-ignite me. Instead of an adventure path, we will start running serial sessions (Like Conan the Barbarian stories). I started feeling this way recently with my weekly game, we changed how we run completely with a series of "Sprinting" adventures - the idea being one session = 1 arc of the story complete with battles and RP.


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My group has multiple characters organized into different parties. Each on their own plotline that helps shape the world as a whole. Thus, we move from group to group advancing each story line which keeps it fresh and fun. They also feel like they're contributing to shaping the world nothing is static.


I would suggest a different approach. Go backwards and reignite your enthusiasm by playing some 1st ed or my go to 2nd ed


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I'm going to have to disagree with Anonymous Visitor. To use wargaming as an example, it's totally legitimate and fun to play a campaign with a running series of battles, turning points, strategic objectives and so forth. It's also equally legit wargaming to get together with a buddy on the weekend, play one contextless battle and call it a day.

The motivations and purpose of Pathfinder are multiple, and vary in strength and proportion from person to person. Encounters, or challenge environment of the dungeon CAN be the be all and end all. Especially if you've designed the dungeon to be extremely challenging and interesting. On the other hand, it can be nothing more than a plot device that players use to tell the story. But it's up to you and your group. I'd point out though that Pathfinder has an extremely complex system compared to those ultra lightweight, indie, narrative-focused games.

Where I'll agree is this: contemplate your motivations. Do you get the new shiny feeling when you've got new mechanics to try out? When your group gets a new player to RP with? When you come up with a new character whose story you want to tell? Is it just the novelty of a fresh start? If you can tell us why you think you get that feeling, you'll likely be able to help yourself feel it more often.

Silver Crusade

Why don't you take a break from playing until you get an itch again?


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Pax Veritas wrote:

This is what I hope will become a very long thread of community input regarding the elephant in the room.

Backstory: As a veteran gamer (since 1982) I've hit a wall that nearly every gamer including you has hit, or will hit at some point--and we (I) need your help!

The Problem: For years, gaming session provided a "gaming buzz" i.e. a happy wholesome high of joy (you know what I mean). However, home games in Pathfinder drag on too long. Campaigns run too long. Players get bored. A few encounters/rooms per week is NOT enough content to reach that gaming thrill (and I don't know what's changed).

Observation: I still observe rare moments when that "feeling" returns: a) new campaign first sessions with new characters b) when we play a 1-shot adventure with all new characters and c) for a few sessions after when we bring in a new player. But that's it.

Caveat about PFS: Let's leave PFS out of this equation without any value judgment of that style of game. Let's just say we're focusing on home games, with homebrew content.

Question: What can be done to re-ignite the flame of these veteran gamer blues?

The answer comes from your observation: The thrill you receive comes from new things (which is actually axiomatic compared to a "Back in my day" approach that I thought this would take). Each example that you show that gives you the thrill involves new campaigns, new characters, and/or new players.

I would highly suggest you play a new (yet similar) system. In fact, this would be the perfect time you pick up the Pathfinder Unchained book and create a campaign based purely on the rules in that book. It'll be new, which means excitement and thrill for you and your other gamer friends.

Dark Archive

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I've been playing for even longer (I started in 1980).

The sort of thing that keeps my interest going is the sort of thing that I write.

(I guess that's not surprising, - otherwise why would I write it? :-) )

So I'm rather shamelessly going to suggest you take a look at my material, in particular Dance Macabre, which I think had a very interesting review, and Holy Island, which I recently released, and which is strong on RP.

Obviously, I'm not the only person trying to write what I think of as "progressive" adventures - i.e. ones which try to explore life a bit, perhaps aimed at someone who is trying to get more out the experience than just killing monsters and taking treasure, and I hope other people will jump in to this thread and provide examples of other adventures which try to do the same.

Richard

Sovereign Court

I like where this is headed. I feel the need to hear more.

Sessions that have a lot of different scenes, progress, and culminate in completing a significant story arc provide the thrill to a degree, except for the knowledge of how rare they are, and once they are done what usually follows is a lot of non-culminating sessions, fragmented pieces of a long, larger story.

That is, remember when we were kids... we would get together and whatever the story was that night would actually finish?!


This happened to me in 2nd ed, but only because I played the same kind of games the entire time, and DM'd almost exclusively. Since then, there have been edition changes, some periods where I didn't actively game, and changes in groups and campaign/adventure style.

So I guess I'm on board with breaking up the routine. Trying a different system or edition could do it, but so could some big changes to the game you play now. That could be from joining a different group, changing membership in your current group, or a GM who really starts focusing on innovation (not reusing familiar game elements can be difficult). You could try figuring out what kind of character you normally play - we all have one - and trying something inherently and truly different. Since you're all old school, try putting away the combat map for a session or two.

I wish you luck.


Back when I could play more frequently and with a regular group. We would set a time frame usually once every three or four sessions to break and try a different game. Some where great (cyberpunk) some sucked (Nam) but regardless of out come the break always paid off.
And on a side note I envy you the opportunity to play often enough to become bored

Sovereign Court

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I play Pathfinder weekly. The group I started GMing for began in 2005. 10 years later, there is still 1 original player. This past year, I brought in 2 younger players (in their 20s) and we've switched campaigns weekly (between 2 different campaigns, run by 2 different GMs - myself and one of the younger guys).

Having a week "off" was very refreshing. after 7-9 years of weekly GMing original content... I appreciate having 2 weeks to come up with a story. The current campaigns are only 1 year old.

Here's what I've observed gets the players excited:

  • When the evening session moves through more than 3-4 "scenes"/scenarios - more content seems to feel like greater accomplishment
  • "gamist" style rewards i.e. cleverly selected treasure - stuff that means something, is useful, or has a rich background
  • NPCs with lots of character, rich appearance/voice, interesting plight
  • Well-placed hand-waiving - whenever the GM waves past the boring bits, there's a split second moment of resistance, but in effect the player group appears to then feel relieved that the story progressed
  • Story-twists happening faster rather than slower; "big reveals" happening weekly rather than monthly or annually. It just feels like modern players need more closure than in the past, more progress than in the past, more content than in the past...
  • Guard-rails off - campaign threats that pose lethal problems i.e. the risk of character death without a lot of pulling punches by the GM. The feel of possibly losing a character gets the heart pumping.


Try a new system, and possibly a new genre. That always helps me when such a dry spell hits - something like the old school World of Darkness stuff, or Shadowrun perhaps.

Another option is just to take a break completely. Play some CCG's or MMO's. Plan a trip with your group to the next gaming Con and see what's out there. It might open some new doors for you or help you gain a greater appreciation for what you've had up to this point.

Everything gets stale for everyone at some point. The only two solutions have ever been to move on to something new or to gain a fresh perspective on what you already have.

I'll add this one caveat - leaving PFS out, seriously consider some of the AP's out there. They provide such a tremendous framework for you to then add to and flush out. Pathfinder AP's have completely invigorated my RPG mindset and I'm actually writing more now than ever because of them.


Pax Veritas wrote:
  • Well-placed hand-waiving - whenever the GM waves past the boring bits, there's a split second moment of resistance, but in effect the player group appears to then feel relieved that the story progressed
  • This entire post is filled with excellent advice, but I'd like to emphasize this point particularly. There are a great many instances where this has helped our game 'move along' in far more enjoyable fashion. A couple for instances:

    They don't search every body for spare coins and keep track of every copper and I in turn presume that they've done so and that that coin goes towards things like meals, room and board, normal clothing, care for their horses, etc. They still search bodies for clues, of course, and they still find treasure but it tends to be in '100 gp' increments. Haggling over buying and selling mundane loot and whatnot often turns a story-driven campaign into an economy driven MMO.

    There are times towards the end of sessions, especially when they've run a bit long, where the big bad boss is defeated, but there's still some 'clearing out' to do and the denouement to take care of... at those times I'll wrap things up and instead of making them go through the motions, I'll send out an email the next day or so telling the conclusion, what they discovered, the journey home, NPC reactions, etc. in narrative form - including setting up some of the mysteries or unresolved points for the next session. Its worked out really well because everyone has it fixed in their head where things 'left off' clean.

    Just a few thoughts.


    systems you dont master are good.
    APs are good too - they are concise and you may choose what speed you go through them. I suggest making no overpowered pcs and keeping to 15pt buys or even lower for challenge.


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    Adventure Path Charter Subscriber

    I don't think there's an elephant in this room. Burnout and methods of recharging are fairly well-discussed topics on various message boards. And this thread has plenty of good advice.

    Since you already have some good info about what seems to get the group excited, my advice is to incorporate those tactics in the game you run - but with some alternative pacing and ideas being worked in to keep from being burned out.

    Being a long-term gamer as well (playing since 1981), I've recognized that variety really helps keep the games I play from going stale. So variations in campaigns, varieties of games, variations in the characters I try to play - all help keep things fresh. I've also recognized that some of the games that interested me in my younger days don't appeal that much to me now but they might in the future as my tastes and preferences change again. I shouldn't pigeon-hole myself into one game or style of play - I'm more complex than that and my understanding of my own gaming preferences is always a moving target.


    We always take a break after a game or two to use a different system. For example, after one of our current games ends, we're going to start up some Mutants and Masterminds for a while, before coming back and starting a new campaign.


    We change systems to when we're board. Role master, or play orintal adventure kind of thing. Might be fun to dust off your first edition dd stuff and play some of that again.


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    Bill Dunn wrote:
    I don't think there's an elephant in this room

    Oh come on!!

    I'm right here!!

    The Exchange

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    I'm in the middle of a slump right now. This is the first time in close to 30 years where I haven't been interested in roleplayinf at all.

    My home group, consisting of close friends, runs Pathfinder. I find it a system I no longer have interest in for various reasons. The group won't swap systems as they still enjoy it and have invested heavily in it. Obviously, I'm not going to push that since I'm the only one feeling the burn out.

    I was playing 5th ed at my LFGS. It was great, but then a weekend game blew up into a huge argument for a bunch of the players. I wasn't there for it, but the next Thursday session I went to you could cut the tension with a nice. Needless to say that isn't fun nor relaxing. It killed my interest in that format of gaming.

    So what am I doing?

    I've stopped gaming for a while. It's actually refreshing. I have nights back for other things. It's opened my mind to explore other hobbies and activities. I'm painting miniatures more now, purely for the relaxation and satisfaction. I'm exercising more heheh.

    It's removed an entire tension from my life that I hadn't realised was there.

    I'm positive I'll get back into roleplay again. It's a common element my friends and I share. However not until I'm ready. I made sure I explained that to my friends too, so they understood it was nothing they had done.

    Cheers


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    Elephant in a Room wrote:
    Bill Dunn wrote:
    I don't think there's an elephant in this room

    Oh come on!!

    I'm right here!!

    I laffed.


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    Jaunt wrote:


    The motivations and purpose of Pathfinder are multiple, and vary in strength and proportion from person to person. Encounters, or challenge environment of the dungeon CAN be the be all and end all. Especially if you've designed the dungeon to be extremely challenging and interesting. On the other hand, it can be nothing more than a plot device that players use to tell the story. But it's up to you and your group. I'd point out though that Pathfinder has an extremely complex system compared to those ultra lightweight, indie, narrative-focused games.

    Where I'll agree is this: contemplate your motivations.

    You know, it actually sounds like we agree. I'm not suggesting any particular length. What I'm suggesting is that 'length of campaign' is something that should be discussed, and shared, just like 'character creation guidelines' or 'what system to use'.

    I find that one one person expects to kick open the doors in a dungeon, and the other wants a plot device to tell stories, that often mediocre games are the result.

    With an established end, whether that's an hour or six years, you add an impetus to use time well, and give the players playing their second favorite game a motivation, since they're going to get to what they want more of later.

    Sovereign Court

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    And this is different than burn out.

    I still want to play. I still want to run a campaign.

    Instead of a candle that's "burning out" due to loss of oil or wax... its like there's something wrong with the light.

    I find myself:

    • Analyzing Jos Whedon shows or other movies and shows to figure out a kind of "formula" that makes for a more compelling evening session
    • Disinterested in the conclusion of my current campaign. I've taken a month off to focus on RL stuff and recharge. Turns out, my charge is still very much on, but I don't get thrilled like I used to, and I notice players in the homebrew are left wanting more, not just from my campaign, but the other as well. Just not as satisfying as it used to be.
    • Looking through my gaming collection for inspiration; I feel like I just want to start a new campaign, with fresh characters, maybe even some new players. OMG! Am I just bored with my current group?
    • Making lists of things I would do differently in my next campaign; opening discussions of alternative playstyles with the other players--asking them how they feel about GM hand-waiving introductions so each week the game takes place in a new interesting venue (mountain, waterfront, island, volcano, forest, under earth, etc,., ; I find myself recalling the early days of gaming when it "just didn't matter how we got there" and "players didn't need to analyze all the stuff in-between modules/adventure arcs" like how they got there or why the location was 1000 miles away from the week before...
    • Looking for that singular thrilling moment that happens when a new campaign begins, new characters are awaiting their first lines, when new players are just first seeing what their new GM can do... ; I long for that excitement of presenting a fresh new situation without a lot of established "baggage" that comes with knowing how players react in certain situations... ***But note: I'm not just talking about starting a new campaign---I'm describing the excitement that used to come each week, and that THRILL IS GONE.

    This is much different that what I'd expect to see on a simple "burn-out" thread. What does this mean? I've got the veteran gamer blues pretty hard.


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    Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Maps, Pathfinder Accessories, Starfinder Accessories, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Maps, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

    I found these comments interesting. Whilst not contradictory, they seem to be pointing in different directions, to me:

    Quote:

    Sessions that have a lot of different scenes, progress, and culminate in completing a significant story arc provide the thrill to a degree, except for the knowledge of how rare they are, and once they are done what usually follows is a lot of non-culminating sessions, fragmented pieces of a long, larger story.

    That is, remember when we were kids... we would get together and whatever the story was that night would actually finish?!

    Quote:
    Story-twists happening faster rather than slower; "big reveals" happening weekly rather than monthly or annually. It just feels like modern players need more closure than in the past, more progress than in the past, more content than in the past...

    I wonder if your newer players now want just what you did as a kid?

    I may be projecting, but perhaps you've slipped into the mindset that long, complicated story arcs or trying to capture grand themes, spanning several sessions is "better" than simple stories which can be told in a few sessions. Those quotes above sound to me that what you're looking to recapture and what your players today enjoy are essentially the same thing - perhaps an overarching story throughout the campaign isnt the best bet and you should rather focus on an episodic, site-based adventure approach, for a while.

    FWIW, we alternate DMs as well and initially adopted the same structure you have, but we found that week-on, week-off really detracted from the experience. Now we play one campaign for a few months, then another for a few months - in our experience, it makes it easier (for the players in both) to keep in character, follow the plot and retain 'clues'. I mention that because, as one of the DMs, I never noticed - but another player-in-both eventually worked out that it had sucked the fun out of both campaigns for him


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    Do you need to experiment more? Bend the rules?

    For example, I ran a session that was in an alternate dimension. So, I described how time flowed differently, and space seemed distorted.

    Then, I wrote everyone's name on a token, and pulled names out of a box for initiative. It changed every round.

    While it might not be what you want every week, it did feel different to the players, and that was achieved.

    Maybe a more episodic thing is what you want. So every session starts with an action scene, and buying equipment is just hand-waved.

    Try new things. What's the worst that could happen, you have an uninspiring night? You have that now.


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    I've found that Sandbox campaigns are a bit easier to work with.

    When the players call the shots as to what is going to come next for them, it's easier for the DM to make stuff up on the fly.

    ---

    One thing a DM can do to help them immensely is to learn how a Hero's Journey story-arc functions:

    ACT ONE - Week 1
    1) Ordinary World - self-explanatory; th
    2) Call of Adventure - adventure "seed"
    3) Refusal of the Call - either the adventurers refuse the adventure or something outwardly impedes them
    4) Meeting the Mentor - an outside force or some kind convinces or allows the players
    5) Crossing the First Threshold - the adventurers set off into the adventure; very often involves them winding up in trouble nearly immediately.

    ACT TWO - Weeks 2 & 3
    Week 2
    6) Tests, Allies, Enemies - the adventurers encounter helpful allies, antagonists, and go through a series of trials (this is the longest part)
    7) Approach the Inmost Cave - the adventurers finally make it to the end of their journey
    Week 3
    8) Ordeal - the adventurers confront the antagonizing force
    9) Reward - the adventurers seemingly defeat the antagonist and claim their reward
    10) The Road Back - just as it seems that the adventurers are in the clear, the antagonist rises from the ashes in some form or another and utterly defeats the adventurers; this is the emotionally-lowest point of a story, when it looks like there's no hope

    ACT THREE - Week 4
    11) Resurrection - The adventurers suffer the consequences of, and resign themselves to, their defeat, until they go through a transformation (either physical, emotional, etc.), or have a revelation, that gives them the power they need to win.
    12) Return With The Elixir - The adventurers enter into a final confrontation with the antagonist, and though the fight is hard, they eventually succeed; the enemy is defeated, and the boon of the adventure (whether it was what they sought or what they really "needed" is up to the narrative) is theirs.
    13) Return to the Ordinary World - the adventure has in some way, changed the world and/or the adventurers permanently, and the lasting effects are explored.

    ---

    Not EVERY series of sessions needs to be this. I've found that a healthy mix of one-shot/one-session adventures interspersed with multi-week story arcs keeps up interest, with a few multi-week adventures back-to-back sometimes helps creates a sense of overarching mythos and extra hype.

    It doesn't even need to be only 4 weeks - an EXTREMELY epic setup can be 8 weeks, 12 weeks, etc.

    The only real thing to know is that Acts 1 and 3 should be 1/4 of the total time, while Act 2 is 1/2 of the time.

    Take your favorite movies:

    In a 120 minute movie, Act 1 is the first 30 minutes of a movie, almost to the SECOND; Act 2 is minutes 31-90; Act 3 is minutes 91-120.

    Hour-long TV Shows, 44 minutes each, have this:

    Teaser - 2 minutes (stuff before the credits - think Gotham)
    (commercials)
    Act 1 - 10 minutes
    (commercials)
    Act 2, part 1 - 10 Minutes
    (commercials)
    Act 2, part 2 - 10 Minutes
    (commercials)
    Act 3 - 10 Minutes
    (commercials)
    Trailer - 2 minutes
    (Credits/commercials)

    Half-hour TV shows, 22 minutes each, follow:

    Teaser - 1 minute (stuff before the credits - think Gotham)
    Act 1 - 5 minutes
    (commercials)
    Act 2 - 10 Minutes
    (commercials)
    Act 3 - 5 Minutes
    Trailer - 1 minutes
    (Credits/commercials)

    ---

    For a more illustrative example of how a Hero's Journey plays out, look at the Matrix:

    Neo is a programmer and secret hacker (Ordinary World)

    Neo meets Trinity, who tells him she knows the secrets of the Matrix (Call to Adventure)

    Neo is attacked by the Agents, and even though Morpheus tries to help him, Neo says "I can't do this" and is thus captured and interrogated by Agent Smith (Refusal of the Call)

    Neo is taken to meet Morpheus, where the probe is removed from Neo, and Morpheus gives him the choice of taking the Red Pill or the Blue Pill (Meeting the Mentor)

    Neo chooses the Red Pill, and is thrown out of the Matrix, where the crew of the Nebuchadnezzar rescues him, gives him physical therapy, and trains him in how to manipulate the Matrix; Neo is taken to meet the Oracle as part of the last bits of training, and on the way back, the crew are betrayed, and Morpheus is captured (Tests, Allies, Enemies)

    Trinity and Neo decide to enter the Matrix alone, and attempt to save Morpheus. (Approach the Inmost Cave)

    While Morpheus is being tortured and interrogated by Smith, Trinity & Neo attack the building where Smith and the two other Agents are holding Morpheus(Ordeal)

    Morpheus is rescued, and he & Trinity manage to make it to safety, pick up a phone, and leave the Matrix (Reward)

    Neo continues to barely hold off Smith, runs, and seemingly reaches a phone, only to be killed by Smith at the last second (The Road Back)

    Trinity, in the real world, talks to Neo's body, telling him it's all in his head, that he needs to fight it, and stand up; Neo subconsciously hears her, wakes up in the Matrix, and has fully awakened to his potential (Resurrection)

    Smith tries to kill Neo, realizing what Neo is, but Neo utterly wipes the floor with Smith; Neo literally can now bend and mold the reality of the Matrix to his will; Neo returns to the remains of the crew of the Nebuchadnezzar, as their new weapon against the machines (Return with the Elixir)

    The last scene we see of Neo is him sending a message to other humans, telling them that they, too, can break free of the shackles of a perceived and false reality (Return to the Ordinary World).


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    For me, my greatest weakness as a GM is that I forget sometimes that the greatest stories are really made up of lots of little stories strung together.

    Starting that new campaign, you have the storyline all laid out in front of you. For an example, let's use the storyline of Lord of the Rings. It's so easy to become so focused on the "Got to get the ring to the mountain" aspect that this becomes the only visible goal, and the moment that goal seems too far away, both the players and the DM tend to get fatigued. Ive seen it happen on the third or fourth session (ow!).

    But LotR is made up of lots of great 'little stories', a fair number of which are incidental at best to the overall plotline. I think the trick to avoiding campaign and player burnout is to put a tighter focus on those smaller stories. That way, every session or two, the players get to accomplish a goal. It doesn't matter whether the goal was directly related to the story or not, it's still a mark in the win column for the players, and gives them a new mini-challenge to focus on while the overarching storyline plays out.

    A lot of people recommend a break for a week or two with boardgames or miniature games, but in my experience all those do is tend to hammer the final nail in the campaign's coffin.

    One trick I have used successfully is to turn the tables on the party. Say they are clearing the countryside of orcs for the benefit of the local lord. Once the players have made significant headway, switch it around. The local Orc chieftain, hard pressed under the human assault, mortgages his future by hiring mercenaries. Have the players take over these characters, be they Goblinoids or members of other races for whom coin is the only motivator. That way, they can fight a desperate battle against incredible odds, perhaps culminating in a last stand in which they fall valiantly under the oppressive blades of the human scourge (the party members having returned to their main characters for the final battle).

    It's good for a one-off, but not the sort of gimmick that you can use often.

    Sovereign Court

    I do think there's something to the structure of the evening, and its context within the campaign, and campaign style that needs improvement.

    As a player, its obvious that I'm with the others who want closure--or some point at which an "adventure" delivers a complete and satisfying game" to borrow the words of Angry GM. (see link posted above)

    And, I've spent the afternoon reviewing these comments, including the story structure posted above by @chbgraphicarts.

    In sum there's:

    • Adventure
    • Encounters
    • Actions
    • Choices

      And these are driven by:

    • Motivation/Resolution

      Encounters are held together by

    • Structure

      As noted above each adventure has a:

    • Beginning, Middle, End


    Sometimes these adventures follow the classic Hero Journey/Campbellian/Jungian/Lucasian outline. Sometimes they do not. Sometimes they follow what I would call the "Jos Whedon Formula" or what is known as the Mr. Rogers/Dora Formula.

    As a casual observer, Sandbox GMs, Improviser GMs, Endless Adventure GMs, are all using a structure. The only difference is they are designing and developing structure very quickly (in the moment).

    I'm starting to see three themes emerge that describes the problem a bit better than my OP does.

    The two main issues I'm seeing emerge:

    • Pathfinder RPG - The rule volume slows play (to a degree--but is very elegant, compelling, and fun in its own way especially due to the tactic-related rules of combat). So, this is not the true issue. This is only listed because rather than 7-8 or 13 encounters per evening, Pathfinder RPG might deliver 3-4 really good detailed encounters (game time is allocated to running the game). I might call these an effect of using a "high-resolution" rule set.

    • Structure - Its possible that since I started working with a 2-GM bi-weekly campaign swap system I've come to taste my own pudding. That is, I've played through a year of weekly gaming sessions in a sandbox setting. This has perhaps (in some Taoist/Buddhist/mirrored way enabled me to see the folly of too much sandbox when it obviously points to missing aspects of good story writing i.e. something I was once brilliant at in college days and other years of yore, but have gotten away from in favor of the "create a big-ass detailed world campaign setting down to the monogram on the silverware and let the players play in it". Caveat: Now, the other GM isn't as detailed as I am, but still I've gotten a years worth of sandbox play and here's what I notice:
      [/b] Generally, players aren't that creative any more. [/b] Adults just don't seem to imagine as much when they get older as they did when they were young. They also have a LOT of issues with congruity/consistency/connectivity of modules and seem to need answers for every little thing in the game, including what I would deem "boring s~$%". Mileage may vary--there are major exceptions to every rule. But on the whole, perhaps what I've become bored with is the lack of imagination on the part of the players to step up to a sandbox world and create their own adventures. So I've become bored with the players, and myself. Maybe what we all want is a little more structure (not a Jacobsian rail-road), but at least the three act play structure or perhaps an "adventure" or module unit completing every 1-3 sessions in the form of resolved story arcs.

    The interesting part... about a month ago I started talking extensively with the other GM to tell him how I felt about this. As a consequence, he hastened the timeline and brought a bunch of story arcs to a resolution session this past week! While it was a great single session... now I've gotten an email from him that says, he needs a break because he put so much work into those arcs and now he doesn't know what to do next.

    INTERESTING, isn't it?

    Kinda the same boat I found myself in prior to my 1 month hiatus recently... I started thinking about bringing the campaign to a close, and actually lost interest in it... instead I want to start a new one.

    So, what's going on my friends? Can you peal back this onion layers of this veteran gamer's blues?


    Well, part of it is that you're not 10 anymore. Yeah, that's obvious, but it also has a bearing on the game.

    1) When you're a kid, you see your school friends ALL THE TIME. Literally, you're together for hours a day. You can talk about gaming at lunch, after school, during quiet moments of math class.

    As an adult, it's likely that you haven't seen your fellow gamers since the last gaming session. So, that has two effects.

    a) there's a need for 'hey, how you doing?' to be built into the schedule.
    b) There's a need for 'what were we doing again?' as well.

    2) I don't know what you do for a living, but it's pretty likely that you have more responsibility than a 10yr old kid. So, more of your time is taken up with life/work/family issues. That has game results too.

    a) creating everything from scratch, you just don't have time.
    b) There's a real push toward simplicity. Tracking encumbrance, memorizing obscure rules, a lot of it just seems 'not worth it' and too much like work.

    l--------------------------------------

    PS: The end of a narrative arc IS the appropriate place to take a hiatus. Your coGM has it right.

    Sovereign Court

    Yes, the coGM has it right--that's a great place for a hiatus.
    The interesting part to me is that in closure comes wanting/needing a break. I'm just saying that as time wears on... I've come to see things don't always get richer better, sometimes as players they just feel like a drag, because of the things you mention--life is pressing and after a time its hard to connect all the dots. (Mileage will vary, because there are some extremely sharp players out there who remember everything.)

    Let me put the original question another way...

    Its commonly known that gamers of all kinds get mini serotonin bursts when things are achieved. Its a principle that works in RL as well as online or video games, and I think applies to tabletop. Naturally, not everyone who does tabletop needs that much of a gaming buzz. That is, some folks just play to be social.

    Could it be, however, that the amount of gaming, or the type/quality of gaming just isn't producing that euphoria/happiness/satisfaction because some distinct elements are missing?

    And so I'm asking what would be those elements given the circumstances described? What would take away these blues based on your advice?


    Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber
    Pax Veritas wrote:
    Question: What can be done to re-ignite the flame of these veteran gamer blues?

    As others have mentioned, burnout is something that often happens. Note that burnout is a condition that can happen with just about any regular activity (work, sports, etc.).

    As with any case of burnout, there are a few options:

    1) Mix things up, if possible. Try new (or break out some old) systems, change to a new setting (possibly with different assumptions as to races, classes, and/or how magic works), switch between playing and GMing, or even go with a "tournament-style" one-shot/mini-series (possibly with pre-generated characters and backstories).

    1a) Try gaming with other people. Sometimes you get to know your "main group" too well, which can kill the sense of wonder.

    2) Do something related. Instead of RPGs, the group could play card or board games like Munchkin, Talisman, etc.

    3) Do something else, but with the same group. Try poker, spades, or even bridge; or maybe have a movie night, instead of a gaming night.

    4) Do something else, but with different people. Play racquetball, softball, volleyball, etc. or join a running club; take up quilting, if it strikes your fancy. Sometimes, you just need to be around different people with a completely different subject base.

    5) Just take a break. Put away the gaming material and just take some time to recharge; take a class (either in person or online), pursue a professional certification, spend quality time with a significant other, start a new exercise routine, or just read some good books.


    Infusing new blood into your gaming group. I have noticed that constant gaming with the same group can dull the game as you start to know the players responses before they do. Or possibly find a new group entirely but this is probably difficult in the age of video games.

    Take a break. I was in the same boat when a geographical relocation forced an extended break on me and know I can't wait to return to gaming

    Grand Lodge

    Dotting for interest and to swing back to input some thoughts.


    I have been playing since around 1983, so I have hit this wall as well. I notice it more with modern game design making every gamer a freaking encyclopedia of pluses and minuses. The games begin "feeling" more like everyone trying to maximize the perfect character. No matter what people state about back-story, the math starts taking us all over, obsessive to some, without even realizing it. How many short spear wielding, gnome paladins are running around? No matter the system I kept focusing on maximizing the build. It just gets redundantly boring.

    I, for better or worse, began randomly selecting my characters. I would count up my playable race options and roll, class options roll, etc. Stats can still be built, but it reignited the fun factor for me. My characters became a heck of a lot more entertaining when I was able to develop an awesome back story to explain what the heck my paper birthed before me. And since the characters have not been fleshed out by the mountain of gamers out there, they always seemed to hold a little more excitement in and out of combat.

    If it is just about "feeling", see if it is about how you look at the numbers on the sheet or the fun of Cheetos and Mountain Dew fermenting in the belly during that last vital hour of game play.

    The Exchange

    1 person marked this as a favorite.

    I find that I hit a slump when higher level combat starts coming around between 8th and 10 level in 3.5 and Pathfinder. A well constructed E6 (or P6 game) worked well to alleviate that feeling for a while but it came back as soon as I went back to normal Pathfinder/3.5 games. I have figured out that as I got older, my tastes are more about description and the adventures than it is about combat and tactics. I tried to find ways to simplify Pathfinder, having abandoned 3.5 totally, and kept hitting walls until I started playing games with simpler systems like Legend of the Five Rings, Castles and Crusades and a few others and I now realize that I like a fun game with simple combat rules and less focus on "crunch".
    I waited to try 4e and judging by some reviews from sources I trusted and scanning through it in the store I decided it wasn't for me.
    5e came out and I waited and heard some good things and some bad things...but the funny thing was that most of the "bad" things sounded like things I wanted in a game. Resting, spells being dialed back at higher levels, magic items not being prolific, etc. all sounded like good things to me. I tried it out at home with the basic boxed set running the boxed adventure for my 2 kids and I have to say I really love the system, combat is fast, neat, and fun while still being a challenge and I feel like I did back with the Basic, Expert and Companion versions of the BECMI version of D&D. The game is fun for me again.

    You need to figure out what is dragging you down in YOUR game and find a game system that solves that issue. If the group doesn't want to change, then you may have to find new people of like mind to your own and make a move. The difference between playing an awesome game and playing a game that doesn't really move you is huge and makes an enormous difference in your quality of life. I walk on air for days after running my 5E campaign or when I am playing in the alternating game of Call of Cthulhu and traipsing around 1920's Tuxedo Park looking for a 3 armed lady's head that made my buddies sink their car into the local lake.
    You have to really, honestly analyze your game and find out what you need to move you. It's worth the change-up.


    Pax Veritas wrote:

    This is what I hope will become a very long thread of community input regarding the elephant in the room.

    Backstory: As a veteran gamer (since 1982) I've hit a wall that nearly every gamer including you has hit, or will hit at some point--and we (I) need your help!

    The Problem: For years, gaming session provided a "gaming buzz" i.e. a happy wholesome high of joy (you know what I mean). However, home games in Pathfinder drag on too long. Campaigns run too long. Players get bored. A few encounters/rooms per week is NOT enough content to reach that gaming thrill (and I don't know what's changed).

    Observation: I still observe rare moments when that "feeling" returns: a) new campaign first sessions with new characters b) when we play a 1-shot adventure with all new characters and c) for a few sessions after when we bring in a new player. But that's it.

    Caveat about PFS: Let's leave PFS out of this equation without any value judgment of that style of game. Let's just say we're focusing on home games, with homebrew content.

    Question: What can be done to re-ignite the flame of these veteran gamer blues?

    I think you have to define your "too long". Personally I prefer a campaign that last not more than a year so I can actually complete it so the group is not broken up due to real life things such as new jobs.

    Also, do your play the same types of games all the time? I don't mean a similar theme. I mean is it some game to save the world, with X% of RP, and Y% of combat? Do the same monsters appear at the table for every campaign? Are they ran with the same basic strategies? etc etc

    This matters because sameness can lead to boredom. As a GM there are monsters I like to use, but I also go out of my way to use monsters I have never tried to give some of them class levels, just to throw the players off guard.
    Another example, is that I am more of a combat oriented GM, but running Carrion Crown, which has a lot of investigation, at least at the beginning was one of the most fun times I have ever had as a GM.

    Basically try something new. You may have to game with new people. I am not saying you have to abandon your old group, but playing with different groups lead to different experiences, and that might be what you need.


    Pax Veritas wrote:

    I like where this is headed. I feel the need to hear more.

    Sessions that have a lot of different scenes, progress, and culminate in completing a significant story arc provide the thrill to a degree, except for the knowledge of how rare they are, and once they are done what usually follows is a lot of non-culminating sessions, fragmented pieces of a long, larger story.

    That is, remember when we were kids... we would get together and whatever the story was that night would actually finish?!

    You might try a more character-centric sandboxy approach? Wherein characters have specific goals and dreams and purpose and explore the world directly for their own aims rather than at the whim of whatever adventure path the GM happens to be brewing [or own in the case of Published Adventure GMs?]

    It's more challenging for the GM, but I know I've never grown bored of it. [Granted I've only had one long term irl group thus far as well, the only other groups I had which held together were online tabletop groups.]


    PF can wear you down. APs especially. Happened to me/ us.
    Been playing rpgs since 1980, with some people since 1985

    Play some non d20. Just escape the battle mat, the 5ft steps, the many mini games and rules, and play something else

    Take a break and try something different. It will help
    -either you will miss playing d20
    -you will enjoy the new thing
    - realise that you are done with rpgs

    Any Cons you can get too?


    If you want to reframe this as a biochemical thing, then I've got the easy explanation for you: you've developed a tolerance to the chemical high. The corresponding easy answer is for you to take a long break (very long, several months if not a whole year) from whatever gives you that high.

    Of course, the actual issue is more complex than that, and it's likely a psychological issue, rather than a biochemical one. It's entirely possible you're going through the gaming equivalent of the seven-year itch, or that this is a symptom of a mid-life crisis.

    In general, dissatisfaction with one's beloved hobbies is very rarely an issue with the hobby itself, but rather with the situation surrounding it. It's possible that gaming is now the sole reminder of your carefree and youthful days, and that as the years go on and it becomes integrated into your stable adult life, it acts as an inevitable point of comparison between your current life and your younger years.

    It's possible that you are seeing in gaming the symptom of a generic dissatisfaction with the predictability and stability of your current life. If gaming is your main socialising activity, it's possible you crave a different form of socialisation. The potential causes are myriad, as are the potential solutions.


    Pax Veritas wrote:
    This is what I hope will become a very long thread of community input regarding the elephant in the room. Question: What can be done to re-ignite the flame of these veteran gamer blues?

    Whenever I begin to feel pangs of boredom I begin to plan campaigns featuring set pieces that I've used in my own literary works. I have this thing that I like to call EDSs or Extremely Dangerous Scenes.

    One example was when the anti-hero protagonist of his tale chased an enemy battlemage from the solar system containing planet Utlundaeus to a deep-strike station two light years away (the villain used short-range portal magic, while the Utluntaean pirate who joined the portagonist used his Xkrasi drive [think warp but makes worm-holes] to pursue the mage) and fought him at the station.

    An Utlundaean Deep-Strike Station is a small black hole with the accretion disk cleared away and an installation built around it like a ring. It launches projectiles near the speed of light at planets with the hopes that such an opposing planet will not be saved from the fate of being hit by a heavy object designed to cause a catastrophic and worldwide extinction on the planet. The Utlundaeers don't have magic, so they tend to make up for it with super-weapons.

    So, our villain, using magic to defend himself from the vacuum of space jumps off the ring towards the black hole and propels himself into orbit. Our protagonist, using similar spells, launches himself out of the pirate's airlock after being informed that his long range scanners are picking up a small army of defense ships heading their direction. The protagonist leaps off the ring and the two battle magi who have made pacts with cosmic and extra-dimensional powers duke it out in low-orbit to the event horizon trying to kill the other before the villain's hired ship can arrive. In the end the artifact the villain is charged with bringing to his cosmic pactor is damaged (A fail state for the villain), yet the villain escapes with his life (A fail state for the hero) and the defense forces arrive in time to take pot shots at the villain whose ship escapes, only to turn their main efforts on the heroes who find the only way to escape is by using the deep-strike station on their ship when it is not designed for (nor is any ship) for such strain and escape by the skin of their teeth from certain death.

    I love creating events where everything seems to boil down to a single roll (even if it doesn't behind the scenes). I've had the Tarrasque march on Andoran as a final set-piece after the players rescue a great wyrm gold dragon who after being freed from his imprisonment at the hands of a powerful wizard in the past teleports the heroes to the front line.
    The Gold Dragon squares off the with the Tarrasque as the players bolster the armies who who trying to help the gold dragon. The wizards (or anyone with Spellcraft, really) work to reactivate an old Azlanti artifact that the magical authority from Absalom thinks is some sort of weapon.
    The Gold Dragon is forced to quit the field leaving the CR 25 monster to reap havoc on the armies as the heroes lead charges, mount defenses and inspire the soldiers who gradually move closer to routing en-masse with each round. Then, finally, the Azlanti artifact activates: a magical cannon that after accumulating around 500 spellcraft points (or 20 rounds of combat) activates dealing 200d6 damage to the already injured Tarrasque. Then, the gold dragon returns to teleport the Tarrasque somewhere unknown to the peoples of Golarion.

    I love these insane and over the top events. Perhaps an imprisoned hound archon, channeling the remaining energy that makes up the very essence of his soul before death, gives the party magical celestial stylized wings so they can fight a Nightwing Nightshade on the Negative Energy Plane where it fled to after deciding to finally kill the hound archon after centuries of torture. There the players are, soaring through 3d space to fight a being of pure darkness as the negative energy plane itself rips at their souls. They cut the monstrosity down, and as it disintegrates before hitting the ground they find themselves falling as the hound archon's essence has finally given out. However, as they fall into certain doom they each find the embrace of a Movanic Angel that planeshifts them back to where the hound archon died, stating that they had heard his final cries before his death.

    I love huge events, I like set-pieces that make the PCs think, "Wow, that was awesome! I felt insignificant, yet vastly important at the same time!"

    If well orchestrated it is great, but it is too easy to mess up on.

    Also, keep in mind that the most awesome and epic things (I like epic if you haven't caught on) are simultaneously the dumbest things. Embrace new styles of play, go for different axioms and, if the system isn't working for you anymore, switch to or implement different systems. House rules exist not only to balance a game in the eyes of the GM, but to make it enjoyable and not tedious for the veterans out there.


    I think you've already answered your own question. Take a break. Play a different system for a bit or play no RPGs at all for a bit. Let someone different run a few games. Back on the day, when we got bored of our long running game, we would play a different genre so we'd go from AD&D to Marvel Superheroes to Star Wars and back again.


    I have been gaming even longer than Pax Veritas.

    I doubt there is any one solution to something getting less thrilling after doing it for a long time. The appeal of most anything will fade with repetition.

    My suggestion is try new systems, settings, people to game with, GMs.

    If that does not work, take a break from gaming and do something else for a while.

    And when, as will probably happen, you start to miss gaming, or your long term favorite RPGs, wait till you really want to play again.


    Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

    I think your comment about imagination deserves a little digging. In my opinion the best fun comes when the players learn to push and shape a scene along with the DM. It can easily become a drag when the players are simply 'along for the ride.' And more and more players are along for the ride, their back stories are wafer thin, their motivation is 'progress the story' and it all sort of is less fun

    I'd suggest taking a session or two to play an RPG that is DMless, something that is a little more improv and a little less rules (Fiasco comes to mind, single shot 'adventures' that are often easy to slip into) and hopefully it will give you a break, and everyone else some ideas of 'hey I could do this in Pathfinder and it could be cool'.


    JW agreed. I find APs become too easy to coast in

    Try an @world game, dragon age or edge empire for a more player driven / narrative game

    Liberty's Edge

    Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Charter Superscriber

    I know the Feeling, when a campaign gets too long.
    There's so much stuff out there I would love to run my players through, but time is a huge problem, with kids and jobs and other responsibilities.

    As I am constantly preparing stuff, having ideas on what to run, writing and reading modules, a Long-running campaign is sometimes too much. Not that I don#t like to run it, but I also want to run and experience NEW STUFF!

    That's why I always wished for shorter APs, for example, which run to a maximum Level of 10 or 12. Three issues for one AP would be great for me. Or modules which can be played together, a series!


    Some more trilogy modules would be good. Cut all the stuff the players have nothing to do.so 3 x 32 pages of pure ' content that pc's can get involved in'.

    Scarab Sages

    1 person marked this as a favorite.

    Sounds like ennui. It's not necessarily a terrible thing, if it drives you to grow or experience new things.

    Every couple years, I'll get this dissatisfaction with some often major part of my life, sometimes its because it really has changed for the worst (my last job) but more often I find that I'm really feeling like I let this or that thing become too big a part of my life, and that now I've suddenly gained some perspective and realized I've neglected some other important areas, putting all my "attention eggs" in one basket as it were. It's then time for some creative change/destruction. When I step back I find what's really bothering me, and I can get back to doing the things I enjoy again, (maybe not with the same gusto, maybe I was working too much or gaming too much to distract me from the problem).

    My suggestion is to take a short break, give yourself a little bit of real life adventure (maybe not with dragons, stabby rogues, and undead), but some thing on your bucket list. Read a book you've always meant to, go to a national park you've always dreamed of going to, go visit those friends from way back who you haven't seen in ages, etc.

    Check something off your bucket list and do so in an enjoyable manner. Come back and tell us all about it, assuming it's PG of course.

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