Videogamer Syndrome, how do you deal?


Advice

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Ok, so as a DM I love making an immersive world and giving detail that encourages the mindset that the PCs are important in the grand scheme of things only after a certain point. Just like there are npcs that are weaker than them, there are greater characters than them as well that they cannot yet compete with. Just like there are some encounters that are super easy there are others where they really should have considered running. But my Players often have none of that.

More than once several of them have told me explicitly that this is a power fantasy for them, they are the heroes, and if they are not the ones solving the problem or if there is an encounter too big for them that it is my fault for not presenting a level-appropriate encounter. Long-story-short, they want an action movie. The stakes are high and if they are not the movers and shakers, why are they not instead playing the movers and shakers? I feel like I'm playing a game about a complex layered world of which they are only one small part, their influence growing larger with time, roleplay, and levels, and they are playing a video game where they are the chosen ones, or at least the epic heroes, and everyone else is there to support them, reward them, ply them with plot hooks, or be defeated by them. They even use video game terms like "optimized strategy", "dps", and "fetch-quest" to refer to actual named story references. I hate this feeling, but these are my friends and I want to continue playing with them. Has anyone here successfully handled this before?

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

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I'm sorry, but I agree with your players. They should be the stars of the game they are playing. The NPCs aren't playing the game, your players are. If you want a complex world with many levels of movers and shakers, write a novel. The role of the GM is to present a game that is fun for the players. The GM should also have fun, obviously, so hopefully you and your players can come to a happy medium.

Just remember, if there are higher level movers and shakers doing the moving and shaking, it puts the players in the position of observers instead of participants. Watching the GM run an encounter between two groups of NPCs is usually not as fun as having the players participate in an encounter with a group of NPCs. It's basically watching the GM talk to himself.

I know GMs put a lot of work and effort into running their games, designing encounters and NPCs and custom monsters, and coming up with lots of campaign world details. But players are often really emotionally attached to their characters. They want to play those characters. They don't want their characters to just sit there and watch NPCs do all the moving and shaking. PCs are heroic characters. They're supposed to do the moving and shaking.

EDIT:

It is OK, and I would say encouraged, do have different levels of difficulty of encounters. Some should be easy, some should be challenging, and some should be really challenging.

The PCs only care about the small part of the world they're in; the "complex layered world" beyond their experience is beyond their experience; they aren't involved in it, so they don't know or care it is going on.


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Why is this "Videogamer syndrome"? Stories about chosen heroes existed long before video games ever did and there are more than a number of video games where you either start as or play the whole game as an unimportant character.

Though you should correct them, given that Pathfinder is a turn based game the correct term is DPR, not DPS.


by level 3 i generally make sure my pcs know that there are things in my world that if they fight they will die i would link the monster i typically have them have a run in with but its on my labtop and its kinda not working very good any more, it generally ignores the party as they literally cant do anything to it at the level they are when they cross its path, it was a creature i designed for the sole purpose of beating that lesson into my players(no pcs were harmed in the teaching of this lesson) teaching the lesson also opens up other options for encounters other then just the party walks up to the bad guy and beats the crap out of them and then takes their stuff and leaves

Sovereign Court

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Sure, at the beginning the PCs are the small fish in the big pool. But they can also be the big fish in the smaller pool. They might not be important on the kingdom or world level of the campaign, but they can still be the powerful heroes of their own village.

If from the beginning your stories are about the big picture and the PCs are insignificant specks in that big picture... well, expect the players to look for the fast-forward button. But what if at the beginning your stories are 70% focused on the local village and 30% on the big picture?

Make sure to put a "human element" in the quests. A distraught mother asks the PCs for help finding her son who hasn't come back from playing in the normally safe woods, and it's getting dark. The PCs go after the kid, spend a while searching for tracks, evading kobold traps and eventually find the kobolds tying him to a tree and begin some sort of summoning ritual. Your players rush in and slay the kobolds, saving him, and the ritual doesn't do anything, but they loot some gold ritual paraphernalia. They bring the kid back, the mother is grateful and they'll always have a place to crash and get a hot meal. A while later the baron comes calling; he's heard they're resourceful and good people and he wants to hire them for something his regular guards don't have the tools for.

A bit later the PCs disrupt some local cult who's also handling golden ritual objects, which look much the same. Aha, there's something going on here. Slowly it emerges that several of the small-scale enemies the PCs have been clashing against are the minions of a bigger threat that's been lurking in the shadows so far. As the PCs become higher level they uncover more about the conspiracy, but also get emotionally invested in "being the guys who deal with this".

At each point it's clear there's bigger stuff going on in the world, but at the same time in their local pool the PCs are big fish; while they're in the village it's clear that they're more suited to mounting a rescue in the woods than a group of 1st level commoners and experts. By the time they're third level the local baron may still have a bigger army, but the PCs have a full party with magic, healing, DPS and skills that can succeed at quests that a hundred L2 warriors won't.


videogame syndrome...
powergamer syndrome
hates weighted point buy and thinks rollstat is no better syndrome
thinks drop stat is pointless syndrome
wants guns in every fantasy videogame to attract gammers form wow adn waht not syndrome
minmax syndrome
did I miss any?

ok
well if you played neverwinter online , its underdark expansion's demogorgon event has you fighting alongside drizzt, bruenor and regis against demogorgon. right at the begining demogorgon knocks drizzt and company out and leaves the group of adventurers to take on demogorgon and his minions for the first 2 rounds and round 3( where you deal with demogorgon, not his greater demon or his portals in the first 2 rounds) and assists in taking out the demonprince.

so in pnp if you have a group demanding to be the bigshot?
take the time and make it so that you have a second group of higher lvl adventurers( must me npcs) along with the table's pcs. have the advanced npcs go off and do behind the scene larger than what the pcs can handle at their level. this npc group you never see throughout your adventure path, but you so hear about them from the town crier as well as the pc party's exploits.
you do not see the npc adventurers until the end right before you hit the last boss( they were detained from their last mission) and their leader approaches your group and says" so you're so and so, I've heard about you from the town crier and that they are impressed on what they have heard and to see that you made it that far. and they go on to share what they have learned about the bbeg from their travels from doing their behind the scene adventures, namely that the bbeg is too big to be handled by either group on their own.
said final boss though better be that powerful...

one thing is of note, the final death blow against the bbeg must come from a pc and not from npc adventurer.


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Dont lame video games this has been around at least as long as pong


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SmiloDan wrote:
I'm sorry, but I agree with your players. They should be the stars of the game they are playing. The NPCs aren't playing the game, your players are. If you want a complex world with many levels of movers and shakers, write a novel. The role of the GM is to present a game that is fun for the players. The GM should also have fun, obviously, so hopefully you and your players can come to a happy medium.

I agree with this... with some reserve: The problem of this DM is that people complain they have encounter that are too strong for them, and take for granted that the game should be designed for each encounter match their current level (like a video game)

While the sentence "The role of the GM is to present a game that is fun for the players" is the true key of the heart of table-top RPGs, I'll point out that sometimes the funniest way for a story to build is not to restrict every encounter to the CR matching the PC party: Having a grand goal, i.e. a nemesis far too strong for them to handle at start, but that they will struggle during many sessions to close gap with, is a valid way of doing things.

My feeling here is the problem is more a problem of narration: When you put the "heroes" in front of someone far too strong for them, you have to make sure they grasp the fact quickly and have a way to exit.

... like a video game, in fact.
Video games are not something that we should always look down: certainly, they are poor exemple for true RP, but they are not always poor exemples for narrative.
Some professional people spend a lot of time to find a way to introduce overpowered super-vilains (OSV, for short) that would normaly utterly destroy the PC without screwing the fun of the player handling the character.

When, in a video game, you land against an OSV, the situation have several well-known tricks to make the situation clear for the PC:

1- The OSV aspect is revealed by either:
- Not even allowing the PC to fight at all. It's a cutscene. The narrative goes on in one straight and direct go, where the OSV deadly ubberness is displayed as a show, and ending when the OSV is gone.
- Being totaly indifferent to agression: all attack fails against him or barely scratch it, and he barely make an effort to retaliate, as the PCs are nothing but ants for him. You don't enter frenzy because some ants nibble your leg, you just brush them off.
- Toying with the PC: the OSV just start as a normal encounter, then when it reach some point, goes "ok, fun is over, let me show you how pathetic you are in front of me" and blow the PC in one, spectacular, counter-attack revealing his true power

2- the PC are given a way to survive the OSV by either:
- the OSV leaving due to his own circumstances, or sheer disinterest for their fate, before he completly achieve the players
- kill or almost kill the players, that will be saved by some third party which will bring them from back the (verge of) death
- completly shift the paradigm: the OSV spare them because, in fact, he's on the good side, and tell them they have been tricked by their former "allies"... or some unknown force resurect them as undead/vampire/spirits/cyborgs/whatever is a state of after-life doom ans grief, triggering a sentiment of ultimate hatred over that OSV... or the OSV just kill the most lovable NPC around in front of their eyes, then let all the PC live to grieve on the fact ("Aeris!!! Noooooo!!!" or "OMG Dark Vador killed Obi Wan!")... or <insert your favorite plot twist here>

3- the story will after that come to a point where it hints by itself for the next step to take to come with a plan that will allow to overcome that OSV someday

What you shouldn't do as a DM is to let players enter an encounter they cannot win just handling it with the D20 system, then telling them they should have realized by themselves it was too strong, and run.

PC are heroes. If they run, it's because it's planned by the scenario for them to run.
Because, you know, if the players see clearly that it's planned for them to lose here, they feels reassured that the scenario also plan for some payback time later... so they will, at the very end, still be the main characters/heroes/saviors of the story, even if they started small and weak.


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RedDarius wrote:
I feel like I'm playing a game about a complex layered world of which they are only one small part, their influence growing larger with time, roleplay, and levels, and they are playing a video game where they are the chosen ones, or at least the epic heroes, and everyone else is there to support them, reward them, ply them with plot hooks, or be defeated by them.

Well, you can actually have both. Just show them only a small part of your complex world at a given moment, and they can live their power fantasies.

When it comes to NPC power, the best is probably a pyramid structure: There are many NPCs weaker than the PCs (like the local baker), some are at their power level (such as competing adventurers) and a few are far above them. It's important to make the more powerful NPCs quite passive - a king sitting on his throne and giving quest is accepted, a unbeatable jester making fun of them all the time is not. The current BBEG will be more active than the average high powered NPC, but only to advance the story and provide challenges, not otherwise.


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i would like to take some time to point out not every encounter is designed to be fought, stealth/escape and diplomacy/bluff are also ways to go about an encounter and some encounters are designed to only be won by means other then combat


Hi tall folk, nice to see you here.

I totally agree with you, however, this is not a simple "problem" since the game itself tends to reward those who play like this.

I also love when my players get that feeling of "i'm a small part in a huge world that changes and mutates every week", but that kind of feeling is hard to get when they can think in terms of experience, balanced encounters, treasure per level...

This is what i do to avoid that kind of "mindset" and it works pretty well. I hope it can help you to make your game more similar to something you really like.

1- Tell my players beforehand about the world dynamics, the possible consecuences of their actions and most important, about the enemys they will face. Some of them can crush the entire team with one spell, and that's not me killing them, is just how the world goes, if you run into a shark mouth, then you are ****ed.

2- The world is big, you are small, you can grow and turn into a big bad sexy fish, but there's a long road ahead, you better dont get cocky or you will be killed.

3- Experience, perception, stealth, diplomacy and a few more are skills and things i roll in secret. My team dont know how many experience they have, or how good was the perception check, this usually made them think twice before acting or valuing a fight.

4- Forget everything you know about the bestiarys, in my world, even a goblin can be good aligned. (this has been a huge card for me to play)

and most important...RULES FOR MYSELF.

1- I'm not here to KILL THE PC'S i'm here to make them have fun, if they defeat a strong enemy because they are lucky, THATS AWSOME TOO

2- My PC'S will need some gold and levels, i have to reward them for doing things right, even if they are not good aligned!!!

3- Playing like this is my game style, but my players need feedback so then they can know that, they cant read my mind. TALK TO MY FRIENDS IS THE BEST WAY TO HAVE FUN.

4- My players want to be heroes, and i have to make them believe being a hero is HARD but NOT IMPOSSIBLE. Sometimes they deserve to be the brightest star in the sky.

And thats all, i hope it helped man!


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I'm totally with RedDarius here from a GM perspective. I'm not saying the players should lose every second fight, but I think a campaign where no one is afraid is boring.

It leads to metagaming, knowing that the GM makes only balanced encounters and makes sure everyone survives. Players don't prepare for combat, they don't use their wide array of skills and abilities and head into every dungeon without risk of failure. Furthermore, they just battle every antagonist, even if they are intended to be the final boss of the campaign and not some random encounter.

I made the mistake to make an important villain too weak, they knocked him over and were like "no one messes with us, we are the best". Next session I had them be defeated and arrested by the local authority. Some found it very hard to cope with, but other players later told me they really liked that experience to feel that there are superior forces somewhere.


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This is only a problem since you don't like it. There's nothing inherently wrong with video games or the feel of them.

Quote:
Long-story-short, they want an action movie.

If that's what they want, then the DM (you) should provide it for them. You can't make them play a game they don't want to play, then they'll just stop coming to your sessions.

However:

Quote:
if there is an encounter too big for them that it is my fault for not presenting a level-appropriate encounter

This is a very narrow mind-set on their part IF the don't let you work around it.

They should be aware that seeking out the ancient wyvern means a not-level appropriate combat encounter. This does not mean that you have to baby-secure the world and remove all high-level dragons and NPCs. But you should not just present the players with an ancient wyvern without making it clear that the encounter is a chase encounter and not a combat encounter. Such an encounter can still be level appropriate.

If they're not fine with that, baby-sit them.


So time to throw in my anecdotal story.

My first DM and the one I had for the longest made sure we knew we were just tiny little cogs in the machine. Every town no matter how small we did a job for would end up with some terrifying monster at the end or so many NPC's that we never could have one. But its okay because some retired epic level hero or a dragon disguised as a barkeep would be there to swoop in and save us, thank us for being bait, and send us to the next town to help his old wizard buddy or some other bored dragon.


oI-0-4
Yeah, okay, that doesn't look as neat as I thought: "dot" it is.


Prof. Löwenzahn wrote:

I'm totally with RedDarius here from a GM perspective. I'm not saying the players should lose every second fight, but I think a campaign where no one is afraid is boring.

It leads to metagaming, knowing that the GM makes only balanced encounters and makes sure everyone survives. Players don't prepare for combat, they don't use their wide array of skills and abilities and head into every dungeon without risk of failure. Furthermore, they just battle every antagonist, even if they are intended to be the final boss of the campaign and not some random encounter.

I made the mistake to make an important villain too weak, they knocked him over and were like "no one messes with us, we are the best". Next session I had them be defeated and arrested by the local authority. Some found it very hard to cope with, but other players later told me they really liked that experience to feel that there are superior forces somewhere.

Interestingly, I avoid this problem by increasing the gameplay to story focus ratio. One of the first players I ever had was very clear: don't take away lethality. I don't care how much you get attached to that character, if you want them to survive, you're going to have to play well.

So yes, I judge PF narratives the way I judge video game narratives: do not remove essential abilities without warning, avoid scripted battles (in either direction) whenever possible.

Dark Archive

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I tend to view some of it as maturity. I enjoy the crunchy bits of the game, but as a player I also like the more authentic challenge of figuring out the story and participating. I have no need to rule the world. Part of the 'cure' though was doing that campaign. 2E referred to this as a Monty Haul campaign. you get everything you want and more. Having played that once it was fun and gave some great memories, but I have no desire to play in anything like that again. So maybe try going that route and let them blow the doors off everything...


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Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
RedDarius wrote:
More than once several of them have told me explicitly that this is a power fantasy for them, they are the heroes, and if they are not the ones solving the problem or if there is an encounter too big for them that it is my fault for not presenting a level-appropriate encounter.

It sounds to me like your players are communicating the game they want to play and you are not willing to run that type of game. Perhaps someone else should be GM.


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RedDarius wrote:

and if they are not the ones solving the problem...

it is my fault for not presenting a level-appropriate encounter...

The stakes are high and if they are not the movers and shakers, why are they not instead playing the movers and shakers?

These seem like valid concerns. If they're not the ones solving the problem, then you're reducing them from protagonists to witnesses in a story you're telling.

"I'll let you do cool stuff in about twenty sessions time when you're high level enough to have some narrative agency," is not an appealing offer.

(Without knowing more details, I can't tell if this is a fair perception or the situation or not.)


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Quote:
the PCs are important in the grand scheme of things only after a certain point. Just like there are npcs that are weaker than them, there are greater characters than them as well that they cannot yet compete with. Just like there are some encounters that are super easy there are others where they really should have considered running.

I am in agreement with most people here: the game is about the PC's, not the NPC's. If there is some overarching plot and the PC's are small potatoes right now that's fine, but they are still the big potatoes in their corner of the field.

The answer to the question, "If XYZ villain is so dangerous, why isn't someone more powerful dealing with them?" is "Because no one else is available." The low-level PC's are confronting XYZ's minions because the high-level NPC's are off somewhere else, dealing with Karzoug, or Bab Yaga's daughters, or whatever other world-ending threats happen to be in play at the same time. The PC's are important in the story because they are the ones that stepped up to this challenge.

Shadow Lodge

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RedDarius wrote:
Has anyone here successfully handled this before?

Yes, by understanding that I want different things from the rest of the group and excusing myself to find a group that wants the same things.


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SmiloDan wrote:
I'm sorry, but I agree with your players. They should be the stars of the game they are playing. The NPCs aren't playing the game, your players are. If you want a complex world with many levels of movers and shakers, write a novel. The role of the GM is to present a game that is fun for the players. The GM should also have fun, obviously, so hopefully you and your players can come to a happy medium.

This. SO much this.

The PCs are the protagonists. They are the main characters. Everybody else, in some way or another, is a supporting character whether friendly NPC, antagonistic NPC, or enemy NPC.

Eberron taught me a lot about this. In my games, characters with PC class levels are only slightly less rare than hen's teeth. "If villain X is such trouble, why hasn't someone more powerful than us taken care of him?" Because there isn't anybody more powerful than you (in terms of personal abilities) in a hundred miles.

As far as challenges go, it is, IMNPHO, the GM's job to provide appropriately challenging encounters for the PCs. Defeat should be a possibility, sure, but not a certainty. If you're putting something in front of the PCs that they absolutely cannot beat in the normal fashion, make that obvious as soon as possible. I like to do the occasional 'Achilles Heel' encounter, where an opponent is invincible unless his weakness is found. I do my best to make it absolutely clear that a direct assault is pointless.


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There are 2 types of game desires here. You wanting a rich world that the PC's happen to be in (I'd love to play in this kind of game and wish I could) and view 2 of Action movie and we're the stars(very common and what most want)

So the issue is that since all your players are view 2, you really should be giving them a view 2 game.


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BigNorseWolf wrote:
Dont lame video games this has been around at least as long as pong

Seriously, right? I mean, come on. THERE ARE OTHER PADDLES! It's not just all about those two. I've got a 450-page loose-leaf binder full of Non-Player Paddles and lore... but noooo... they boot up Pong and it's "wonk wonk wonk" back and forth with just those two.

Feh.


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If anything "You are small and unimportant, but will be present for important events and will eventually come into power and be an important figure in the world of the game" is a narrative pattern I see in a *lot* of video games.


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On a random note, 'defeat' and 'death' should not be synonymous as a lot of people seem to think they are.


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Adventure Path Charter Subscriber
RedDarius wrote:


More than once several of them have told me explicitly that this is a power fantasy for them, they are the heroes, and if they are not the ones solving the problem or if there is an encounter too big for them that it is my fault for not presenting a level-appropriate encounter.

One thing you might consider, even if giving them substantially what they want as the game's protagonists, is underscoring that video games constrain a character's options in ways that an RPG doesn't. Everything, including every possible character action or statement, has to be constructed and kept to the development budget, so the options are necessarily limited. RPGs include much broader options to pick from, including deviating from the expected story in ways that are impossible in video games. As a result, even if you try to give them level-appropriate encounters, the choices they make may take them to an encounter they aren't ready for or make enemies they can't immediately defeat.


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RedDarius wrote:
if there is an encounter too big for them that it is my fault for not presenting a level-appropriate encounter.

In nearly every game I run, there is going to be that moment when "I run away" is the correct answer.

Players that fail to recognize when they are in over their heads don't typically have their characters survive that moment.

If the dungeon happens to be named "Rappan Athuk" these moments may occur more frequently.


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"What is the most interesting part of you world's story? If you are not telling that story, you better have a good reason for it." - Someone

It sounds like the narrative you are giving your players is not interesting to them. They are guessing they are bored because they don't feel important because being important would make them more interested.

Is their story the most interesting part of your world? If not, then that is a problem. Unless you are a professional story writer, I would always give my players the best story of my world not lesser stories because I'm not confident anything short of my best is satisfactory.

Also your instinct to blame their lack of appreciation on video games shows a certain level of crassness. You aren't appreciating the game aspect of rpg and are probably not putting in the effort to keep the GAME fun.


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Video games take you to level-appropriate encounters by linearity, world design / gating, or the fact that if you go somewhere that you shouldn't at level 1, you'll get killed and have to reload a save.

Tabletop RPGs don't have save & load, so unless they are totally stuck to a rail for whatever reason, players have to steer themselves towards level-appropriate encounters. For a low-level party, infiltrating the castle to rescue a prisoner might be a viable strategy, but assaulting it should lead to their defeat (by death, capture, or rout) by overwhelming numbers of competent soldiers in a strong defensive position.

Players are the protagonists of the story, but they can't start leaning on their plot armor to protect them when they pick fights far above their pay grade. That degrades the story whatever its medium happens to be.


Athaleon wrote:
Video games take you to level-appropriate encounters by linearity, world design / gating, or the fact that if you go somewhere that you shouldn't at level 1, you'll get killed and have to reload a save.

Good old Everquest.

Plenty of high level monsters randomly roaming the newbie zones, just to make sure you keep your head on a swivel.


Davor Firetusk wrote:
I tend to view some of it as maturity. I enjoy the crunchy bits of the game, but as a player I also like the more authentic challenge of figuring out the story and participating. I have no need to rule the world. Part of the 'cure' though was doing that campaign. 2E referred to this as a Monty Haul campaign. you get everything you want and more. Having played that once it was fun and gave some great memories, but I have no desire to play in anything like that again. So maybe try going that route and let them blow the doors off everything...

In 1st Edition, it was called "Hack and Slash". Whatever name you give it, it's been around since the first days of roleplaying. Most new players start with this mentality: charge into the room, kill everything in sight, take the loot. Repeat ad nauseum.

The thing is, after a while people begin to think, "is this it?". That's when they start looking for other things; roleplay opportunities, world immersion, etc.

Probably the most memorable campaign I ever ran was a low magic one where the pcs only had 1 or 2 magic items, but they were powerful world-immersing items (like the one ring, but not as powerful); after years of Hack and Slash/Monty Haul/Videogamer play, the pcs were ready for a world where every Magic Item was precious and the story behind those magic items was as important as the items themselves. They became immersed in a world entirely different from anything they had encountered before, where other things are going on but their actions could be world changing. They still talk about that campaign today.

The point is, they were ready. They wanted something a bit more than endless rounds of more of the same; until your players are there you just have to put up with videogamer syndrome until they are there.

One way to move them along is to give them responsibility. Make one of them a local Sherriff; ask him how does he go about enforcing the law in the region? it gets peoples mind sets off of finding the next encounter and onto more wordly things. They still feel they are accomplishing stuff, but its no longer Videogamer Syndrome.

Or how about forcing them into diplomacy? ask them to babysit a gathering of two warring factions seeking peace. Have them running backwards and forwards trying to placate both sides and bring them to agreement.

How about an investigation? Someone is found dead (or has gone missing), and they have to figure out who did it and stop them.

The point is, there are lots of ways to get them off that mentality and onto a world immersing one, would they go for any of these?


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To me, I think that neither the players nor the GM are inherently right or wrong.

Contrary to some people's belief, it isn't the GM's "job" (unless he/she is being paid) to create something the players like. The play group is just that: A group. The group needs to discuss ahead of time what kind of play style is expected and preferred. If the GM has an idea for an adventure, he/she should be very forthcoming up front about what the world and campaign are going to be like. If the players have expectations about what sort of world and campaign they prefer, the players should present this, too. Everyone should discuss what kind of power level is expected and/or preferred.

Everyone needs to be on the same page (or at least pretty close), both the GM and all the players. The GM shouldn't be forced to run a campaign that he/she finds boring and un-fun just to entertain some players. The players shouldn't be forced to deal with a campaign world that they find boring and un-fun. No single player should be forced to play is such a situation, even if all the other players and GM agree with each other.

The entire group needs to work together to create a game experience that everyone enjoys.

And, unfortunately, due to the nature of differing personalities, not every group can achieve this without changing the group's membership.


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Firstly, I partially agree with SmiloDan. I don't agree that what he's describing is the way the game should always be played--I, too, enjoy running games where the PCs' relevance in the grand scheme of things starts small and increases over time.* However, your players have described the kind of game they want to play. If that's not the kind of game you're willing to run, then you oughtn't run that game--otherwise, it's a significant waste of time for someone.

Secondly, none of this has anything to do whatsoever with video games.

* That being said, the players should feel that their PCs are relevant at some level. Even the actions of novice adventures ought to make some kind of difference, even if it's just to the adventurers themselves.

Silver Crusade

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So I've heard plenty of stories (and had players who thought) that "if I see it, therefore, I should be able to kill it" mentality. Sometimes, even in action movies, there is something too big and the characters have to high-tail it. Even in movies, sometimes even in video games, not all encounters are going to to be "level appropriate."

Like in Big Hero six.

Late but relevent:
They run from the big bad once, nearly get killed by him once and are only able to do something on the third try.

Or in Thor Ragnarok

Another Exmaple:
Thor and Loki get their asses handed to them round one,
followed by the massive slaughter at Asgard.

My husband tells a story of describing the local look of the land to his players. Said scenery includes an orc war party off in the far distance. The players decided "because it is present I must be able to kill it" and go off course to pick a fight with the orcs. There was a TPK as a result. And this was designed to be a difficult but winnable fight too. However, they refused to run away when things turned sour and all died.

I have another friend who GMs and had his players with the mentality "if it is there I should be able to kill it" So they attacked a knight of the order of justice. This was after they were told in the setting these knights were pretty much like "ye olde judge Dredd". Then he warned again with a "are you sure?". They did indeed attack and died.

I myself have run into this myself. Had some players see a bunch of baby dragons and decided to kill them. They won against the newly hatched lot of dragons. They were about level 3 at the time. I didn't think they would go out of their way to kill a newly hatched clutch of dragons, but they did. Then mom and dad showed up. The size of the clutch had indicated (and they had made their checks) to be able to tell that these dragons were at least adults and were red dragons. There were indications that they were likely much older than adults. Things went rather poorly for the party.

I've also had smart players who knew to leave s*~~ alone. Like picking a fight with a pair of dire swans when you are at level 1 is not smart.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens Subscriber

The game is about having fun. The players AND the GM having fun. The GM presents a story, does most (if not all) of the work, the players get to enjoy it.

Sure they are the protagonists, and EVENTUALLY they'll become big shots, possibly the biggest shots around on the face of the planet, but they are not all that from the beginning. They've got to EARN that position, they've got to EARN the power and tehy have got to EARN the respect (or infamy).

YOU as the GM tell the story. If the players expect you to always allow them to easily win and you are not ok with it because you don't have fun that way, tell them. If they insist the game exists solely for their enjoyment they can always go searching for another GM.


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If you want a solution other than "You both should just find different groups", one piece of advice I can offer is to drop terms like 'syndrome'.

Calling it a syndrome implies that your players have a problem and that's a pretty lame way to approach what really amounts to differing stylistic preferences.


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Rogar Valertis wrote:

They've got to EARN that position, they've got to EARN the power and tehy have got to EARN the respect (or infamy).

YOU as the GM tell the story. If the players expect you to always allow them to easily win and you are not ok with it because you don't have fun that way, tell them. If they insist the game exists solely for their enjoyment they can always go searching for another GM.

The last sentence shouldn't be a throw-away quip, but rather the primary message. It's something every would-be DM needs to take seriously.

As DM, people won't love you or your stories just because of the title. You have to EARN their respect and admiration. You have to EARN their commitment to keep coming back, even with a lot of other demands on their time. You have to EARN the right to keep the chair that could just as easily go to almost anyone in the group, and also any number of people outside of it.

I say this, BTW, as a successful DM in a city full of qualified DMs.


Wrote a long post but it can really be boiled down to this: Switch GMs. Have someone else in your group GM a while. Preferably several people.

After that, you will be in a position to discuss how the person who's the GM has to have fun as well. It should be at least as fun to GM as it is to play, or the campaign will die.


Yep, you and your players really need a good heart to heart.
If you are not having fun running a game you don't want to run the game will die.
If your players are not having fun because they don't want to play the game you want to run the game will die.

You need to talk and, if you can, find a game you want to run and your players want to play - or let someone else GM a game they want to run and you all want to play and maybe you will have a game that can live.

Also what Squiggit said - not a syndrome.


I'm going to echo that the players are the protagonists of the story and should be made to feel like they are, but also that if they're 2nd level, talking with a Gargantuan Gold Dragon NPC, decide "LET'S KILL HIM AND LOOT HIS HOARD!", and are soundly defeated/die horribly, they have nobody to blame but themselves.


Ascalaphus wrote:
Sure, at the beginning the PCs are the small fish in the big pool. But they can also be the big fish in the smaller pool. They might not be important on the kingdom or world level of the campaign, but they can still be the powerful heroes of their own village.

This.

"BBEG and BBGG and their armies are deadlocked in an epic battle a hundred miles to the north, so in the meantime most of BBGG's soldiers are away and no one's defending the rural villages from orcs" is a fine start to a campaign.

"Go join the epic battle between BBGG and BBEG as a nameless foot soldier, play several encounters against impossible odds that you survive only with the help of vastly stronger NPCs" is not.

Establish the big movers and shakers. Show how they affect the world. But also show how the PCs affect the world and matter despite still being the little guys so far. Don't degrade their accomplishments. Give the PCs their own little pond and don't make it all "awww, isn't that cute, you got an A on your science test? That's nice, did you know the grown-ups are busy working on curing cancer and traveling to Mars?"

EDIT: also, I agree on it not being solely a video game thing. The protagonist of a story, any story, is not necessarily the most powerful or influential force. Often they're just the one who accomplishes one key task in the end. But the story as narrated still focuses on them.


RedDarius wrote:

Ok, so as a DM I love making an immersive world and giving detail that encourages the mindset that the PCs are important in the grand scheme of things only after a certain point. Just like there are npcs that are weaker than them, there are greater characters than them as well that they cannot yet compete with. Just like there are some encounters that are super easy there are others where they really should have considered running. But my Players often have none of that.

More than once several of them have told me explicitly that this is a power fantasy for them, they are the heroes, and if they are not the ones solving the problem or if there is an encounter too big for them that it is my fault for not presenting a level-appropriate encounter. Long-story-short, they want an action movie. The stakes are high and if they are not the movers and shakers, why are they not instead playing the movers and shakers? I feel like I'm playing a game about a complex layered world of which they are only one small part, their influence growing larger with time, roleplay, and levels, and they are playing a video game where they are the chosen ones, or at least the epic heroes, and everyone else is there to support them, reward them, ply them with plot hooks, or be defeated by them. They even use video game terms like "optimized strategy", "dps", and "fetch-quest" to refer to actual named story references. I hate this feeling, but these are my friends and I want to continue playing with them. Has anyone here successfully handled this before?

I feel you. You want immersion. You want verisimilitude. You want your characters to be movers and shakers, but you want them to earn it, to feel it, to BELIEVE it. These players don't get that yet. All you can do is teach them slowly. Make them earn every copper. Make them feel the fear. Make them feel the exhilaration of success. Make them understand that they are as real people in this world as the fantasy world is real. They'll come around. After all, roleplaying games where you can truly influence the world put MMOGs (no such thing as MMORPGs as of 2017) to shame.

If your players don't believe that, they're better off investing their time in WoW which they can play 24x7, not once a week.


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I have the players that RedDarius wants. GMing for such players is more work than GMing for action-hero players, but the stories they create are worth the extra work.

An action-hero story where the PCs are the center of events leaves less room for roleplaying a complicated personality with deeply personal interests. Important heroes have to save the world, and they don't have time to drink ale with friends.

The gunslinger in my Iron Gods campaign is a dwarf nerd, almost gnomish (some of her friends are gnomes) in her obsession with high technology. The skald in my party is a musician. She holds concerts not only during downtime, but also in the middle of an adventure. The magus is a brooding loner and would rather not have to be a hero. The fighter wants to win, and he prefers small battles where the odds favor him. The bloodrager NPC is along to hang around with her friends.

The town of Torch sent them on the secret mission in Fires of Creation because they were too ordinary to attract the suspicions of the Technic League. The final boss looked at them and said, "You are not Technic League. You are not mercenariy adventurers. You are only townsfolk. This is beyond you. Go home." Then they kicked her butt. Following up in Lords of Rust, to gain prestige among the gangs of Scrapwall, they held a free concert. The beer served there was not free, but it was cheap. They had plenty of time to mingle, because they were not bound by the grand scheme of things. In The Choking Tower they entered the isolationist town of Iadenveigh as legitimate water-purification experts trained in Torch, and cleaning up the polluted water in Iadenveigh was their main job. Okay, in Valley of the Brain Collectors, they had to save the world. For Palace of Fallen Stars they were more interested in touring the big city than the adventure, so I sought advice by posting Inconspicuous PCs Unmotivated in Palace of Fallen Stars. They were so far off plot in The Divinity Drive that I rewrote the insane killer robot Bastion as a sane security robot and they became good friends. The introverted magus also befriended the dragon Becrux around a common interest in physics.

How did I achieve this? A few good players influenced the others. The focus of the games became not to play an adventure that they would remember for years. Instead, it was to play characters that they would remember for years. Such characters need room to develop, so I kept the pressure low. And they turned the adventure into a meaningful story about people.

John Mechalas wrote:
The answer to the question, "If XYZ villain is so dangerous, why isn't someone more powerful dealing with them?" is "Because no one else is available." The low-level PC's are confronting XYZ's minions because the high-level NPC's are off somewhere else, dealing with Karzoug, or Bab Yaga's daughters, or whatever other world-ending threats happen to be in play at the same time. The PC's are important in the story because they are the ones that stepped up to this challenge.

Haha, that was exactly the premise of my Jade Regent campaign. I moved back the timeline so it overlapped the Rise of the Runelords campaign that the players had finished. The 17th-level heroes of Sandpoint who had defeated Karzoug were heading off to Irrisen for The Witchwar Legacy rivalry between Baba Yaga's daughters and granddaughters, so a new group of heroes had to deal with a local goblin raid.

Six months later, when the new heroes were 15th-level movers and shakers in Minkai on the other side of the world, and two armies of 150 oni each decided to annihilate them and their allies, they called their Rise of the Runelords friends via Sending to deal with the second army.


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The DM of wrote:


I feel you. You want immersion. You want verisimilitude. You want your characters to be movers and shakers, but you want them to earn it, to feel it, to BELIEVE it. These players don't get that yet. All you can do is teach them slowly. Make them earn every copper. Make them feel the fear. Make them feel the exhilaration of success. Make them understand that they are as real people in this world as the fantasy world is real. They'll come around. After all, roleplaying games where you can truly influence the world put MMOGs (no such thing as MMORPGs as of 2017) to shame.

If your players don't believe that, they're better off investing their time in WoW which they can play 24x7, not once a week.

Wow, way to get all holier-than-thou. You realize there's a middle ground between "hack-and-slash campaign" and "you start as a dirt farmer and you need to scrape together your party's entire life savings and haggle in character for three hours to get a sword", right?

Also, making the players miserable is a good way to not have friends anymore.

Grand Lodge

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Bloodrealm wrote:
The DM of wrote:


I feel you. You want immersion. You want verisimilitude. You want your characters to be movers and shakers, but you want them to earn it, to feel it, to BELIEVE it. These players don't get that yet. All you can do is teach them slowly. Make them earn every copper. Make them feel the fear. Make them feel the exhilaration of success. Make them understand that they are as real people in this world as the fantasy world is real. They'll come around. After all, roleplaying games where you can truly influence the world put MMOGs (no such thing as MMORPGs as of 2017) to shame.

If your players don't believe that, they're better off investing their time in WoW which they can play 24x7, not once a week.

Wow, way to get all holier-than-thou. You realize there's a middle ground between "hack-and-slash campaign" and "you start as a dirt farmer and you need to scrape together your party's entire life savings and haggle in character for three hours to get a sword", right?

Also, making the players miserable is a good way to not have friends anymore.

Seconded. This is for making some RP fanatacism which does not help the case. And it's not surprising that thereafter, lots of onlookers see a group of freaks rather than prospecting to join ? The perfect warning of how to badly extreme against an extreme. Opposing two categories of players is only making the two sides silly rather than making the RPGs being inclusive as they should be.


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The DM of wrote:
If your players don't believe that, they're better off investing their time in WoW which they can play 24x7, not once a week.

WoW is the epitome of games where you don't get to feel like the protagonist and there are lots of enemies and allies around who are more powerful than you. WoW is exactly what they don't want.


Matthew Downie wrote:
The DM of wrote:
If your players don't believe that, they're better off investing their time in WoW which they can play 24x7, not once a week.
WoW is the epitome of games where you don't get to feel like the protagonist and there are lots of enemies and allies around who are more powerful than you. WoW is exactly what they don't want.

the legion expansion would like a word with you


Your group sounds like they might enjoy Wrath of the Righteous -- the PCs become key players in a conflict with implications for the whole of Golarion pretty early in that AP.


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Believe it or not, the inventors and developers of table-top role-playing, the grandfathers of us all, as you might say, have written several books addressing this very topic. Many of them are entitled "Dungeon Master's Guide," or something similar. You might be surprised how often the advice "Know your players" appears.

If it's true that "these are my friends and I want to continue playing with them," try talking to them like you were their friend.

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