OVERLY CRITICAL: Sucking the joy out of the game.

Pathfinder First Edition General Discussion

I worry sometimes that I'm ruining the game for myself. That by being overly-critical of each and every session, I wind up talking all the fun out of my favorite pastime. It's especially bad when a nervous new GM friend asks, "Did you guys have fun?" Cue the nitpicks, followed by the gut punch of watching my buddy's face fall.

Am I the only one that has this problem? Do any of you guys find yourselves turning into joyless, overly analytical fun-sucks, or do you only acquire that template after you spending too much time on forums? Is there any cure?

Comic for illustrative purposes.

I’ve gotta say I’ve never had this problem in a good group.

In a bad group I have actively not enjoyed the game but that wasn’t my doing.

And I spend a lot of time on forums so I’m not convinced you can blame them in this case,

Are you a nartually cup half empty person?

Nope, and I've overtly stopped inviting people who are like that. I get that some people enjoy hating things, but I'd prefer they do it where I don't need to see it.

Sovereign Court

“Recognizing that you have a problem is the first step to solving it” - I heard that some place.

What (besides coming here for help) have you started doing to “fix this”? (Perhaps I shouldn’t assume you want to change it, but it sounds like you do).

Try coming up with something NICE to say about every game you play at the end of each play session. Then, before anyone else can chime in with a complaint, state what was GOOD abou the game (Even if it was the Cheetos somebody brought). Do this EVERY time. And pretty soon, you’ll find your games are getting better.

In your cartoon illustrating the problem, which of the players do you want to be? Start being that player... put some work into it.

“We live in a world of our own creation...” - some wise dude said once...

This thread is a bit old, so not sure if the OP is still around. I have to ask, "What are you being critical of?" Are you obsessing about the rules or your actions? Are you being critical of the other players or characters?

I don't sit down at many people's tables besides my own; the circles I've run in know my standards are high and not many people want to try and meet them.
With that said, I feel like I can be supportive and appreciative of someone's honest attempt to tell a story, even if they don't have the save level of skill or dedication that I do.
Now, if you canceled last week's session because your one friend couldn't make it, then pushed ahead next week even when I and two other people weren't available, I might not approve.
And if you, say, ran a game using my own campaign setting without asking me, then started trying to mess with things and claim it's somehow "canon"? Yeah, I'll be less than pleased.

Most importantly, though: I don't think GM's should ask their players the ol' "what did you think/did you have fun?"-type questions. It's hard, but I think it is highly beneficial to just wrap up the session, sit back, and let the players talk for a few. You'll get a much better feel for how things went than any attempt to seek validation will provide, and you'll save yourself from being nitpicked to death. Let them come to you later with their praise or their objections. After they've had a bit to mull it over.

The flip side of this: I'm very open to constructive criticism,and know where a lot of weaknesses are, but getting criticism from my players takes effort.

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Starfinder Charter Superscriber

I wrote this for my blog several years (apparently, a decade!) ago:
Several weeks ago I read Five Things You Should Never Say to Your DM, which got me thinking recently about what you should say to your role-playing game director. So without further ado, here's:

Five Things to Say to Your DM

1. Thank you.

It sounds simple, but it's something players often forget. While players simply get to show up and play, with no gaming-related stress between sessions, many DMs spend hours and hours prepping for the games. If combat is too easy or too hard, if the story-line seems cliched or predictable, if personalities clash, it's usually the DM who is stuck with the responsibility of fixing things. A simple thank you is a nice way for the players to acknowledge the DM's sacrifice of time and additional stress.

2. I really liked that NPC/plot twist/game mechanic you came up with.

Some DMs simply run stuff from modules and that can be fun, but the best ones go the extra mile to customize the game for the players by creating interesting and original elements. The best incentive for a DM to keep doing this is for players to notice and compliment him or her on the creations that really add something to the game.

3. If you ever need a break, I'm happy to direct a session.

Believe it or not, DMs are people too and also have family, work, and other stressors to deal with. Sometimes everything happens at once and it's important for the DM to be able to hand off a session occasionally to someone else, who'll take on the task without grumbling. Another advantage of saying this to your DM is that he or she will get a chance to see the campaign from the player's perspective (which can be quite eye-opening) and have a little extra time to prepare the next adventure.

4. What can I do to make the campaign better?

DMs really appreciate it when players are willing to commit a little extra effort in order to make the game more exciting, deeper in background, or simply to run smoother. This is also a great question to ask because it provides the DM with a non-confrontational way to let you know if you're doing something a bit annoying, like dominating role-playing time, min-maxing characters, fudging dice, etc.

5. I was thinking about the campaign between sessions, and I realized . . .

The best way to show your appreciation to the DM is to really engage with the story he or she is trying to tell. If there's a mystery, think about the clues the DM has given you; if there's political intrigue, think about how to manipulate the people involved; if there's an important scene or dramatic event coming up in the next session, prepare how you're going to deal with it.

If you show up to every session barely remembering what happened before, caring little about the setting or NPCs, and trying to hurry or force your way through anything non-combat related, you're making it harder for the DM to have fun too.

"If you want something done right, then do it yourself".

Now, there's no "right" way to do things. There are some ways that are generally better, and some ways that are generally bad, but it all depends on context and execution, and namely who'se at the table, as not everyone's looking for the same kinds of things.

We have multiple GMs at our table. We take turns depending on whose available and has the time/motivation to prep stuff. For example, personally, I tend to prefer lower-powered game worlds and more gritty ambiances, along with more grey and amoral atmosphere.

That's not really the dominating settings at our table, though, with "we are the good guys stopping the bad guys from destroying the world" being the most common questline. Would I /prefer/ something else? Sure, most times. Does it ruin my fun? No, not at all. Do I whine about it? No. At least I don't think so. Because regardless of my preference (I like diversity anyways so I wouldn't want /only/ gritty stuff), I realize how much time and energy it takes to prep a campaign, so whatever others prep, I'm just delighted I didn't need to prep it myself. And when I find the time/energy to prep stuff myself, well we run things my way. Some players don't love my style, but that's fine, we are a large enough table that varies what's playing enough that, as far as I can tell, everything's fine overall.

I have a lot of gripes with many aspects of 3.x/PF, some of which I homebrewed away for my settings, but what should one do when things aren't being run exactly as you'd do them? Just lay back and enjoy the ride anyways. And maybe offer to run things yourself at some point. Sometimes, there's just an itch and having a go at GMing can help you take care of it. And also help put everything else into perspective.

Some DMs simply run stuff from modules and that can be fun, but the best ones go the extra mile to customize the game for the players by creating interesting and original elements.

I feel this can go both ways, especially in certain circumstances like society play. Society in fact calls out “do not make changes that can affect the final outcome” meaning make some dialogue for PCs to interact with and such but with adventure paths and modules, you have extra freedom, yes but unless you are playing rules that your players agreed to and specifically call out changing interactions such as enemy encounters, DO NOT change them. Making changes to these interactions by simply going “Why are they using this armor when they are protecting a chess with better armor? Let’s make them use that.” Does two things.

1) It changes the CR. CR is affected by creature gold assets. What you might think is a minor change (AC from 22 to 25) can be the deciding factor at times. And this could simply be by thinking what would they do in the real world.
2) Changes loot DESIGNED for the PCs to use. Using equipment that is single use only and that ain’t on the enemy’s stat screen is basically saying “I hate you guys so I’m purposely trying to kill you” and how is that fun?

This is also a great question to ask because it provides the DM with a non-confrontational way to let you know if you're doing something a bit annoying, like dominating role-playing time, min-maxing characters, fudging dice, etc

I feel this is a stab at some players you GM for. I understand some players are really into their role play and can end up overpowering less dominant voices players and no one likes fudged dice rolls because that takes the fun out of the game but complaining about min-maxing? I feel any GM who has used an octopus as “attack, grab, constrict, drop, repeat” has no right to complain about min-maxing. If a player resorts to this tactic, maybe you should look at yourself as a GM and gone “What did I do wrong?” Or compliment them on their thinking of that combination but if someone feels the only way they can play is with the most overpowered character they can possibly create with the tools on hand, they ain’t having fun and you need to find out why.

Some of the wonder and joy for tabletop RPGs goes away once a person gets good at the mechanics of it. Not the RULES mind you, but the mechanics.

When I first started PF it was after adopting 3e very late after its release. I didn't understand what trap feats were or how to make a "build" for my PC; if something sounded cool or I wanted a rank in a particular skill, I picked it. Back then the game was about the wonder of possibility.

Then I picked up the mantle of being a GM for Pathfinder in my group. After a few games I was getting sick and tired of putting CR-equivalent monsters against my players and having said monsters get utterly steamrolled. Like, if a CR3 encounter should take away, maybe 20% of the consumable resources of the party, my CR3 encounter was eating up 0%%-5% max.

I came to these forums and learned how to "build" or "reskin" monsters. I started to understand how feat choices really affected the viability of PCs and creatures in the game. My mechanics began to improve. At the same time every PC, NPC and monster in the game began to become a bag of numbers and abilities rather than the actual living (or unliving) thing those builds represented.

So being critical and analytical is an asset when playing this game. Being able to assess threat, percentages of damage taken/given per hit, quantity of resources used etc. is a key skillset to being successful at PF. Unfortunately this kind of mindset, once engaged is difficult to shut off.

I have a player in my regular game who at level 1 got EXTREMELY upset that I gave CR1 level experience when the party defeated a group of kobolds. Said kobolds had tactical placement at the start of the fight with Cover and a fair amount of distance; they were dressed in Masterwork Studded Leather armor; each was armed with a short bow as opposed to a sling. This player layed into me pretty hard about his frustration that the XP didn't justify the threat to the characters these kobolds represented.

When I designed the encounter, I just grabbed a map from a video game and populated it with kobolds. The weapons and armor I upgraded because the players had rolled their stats, putting all of them well above a 25 point buy, and they were all given 150 GP to start with as well as certain advantages to purchase their starting gear. I figured the kobold gear would level-set against those PC gen changes.

The reality of the fight was exactly what a CR1 encounter should do; it ate up one of their level 1 spells and a couple of the numerous scrolls they began the game with. It worked out to roughly 20% of their total consumable resources.

I think my point in all of these anecdotes is this: being analytical is a good thing, but that in and of itself might be sapping some of the wonder you feel in the game. If you're going to address your GM with your analyses, try to take into account both their side and your own contributions. If you still see issues to address, please make your criticism constructive; have some thoughts or ideas on how to improve gameplay going forward.

Nah. So long as you are thorough in your critique and note the things that went well along with what went poorly, there's no reason you can't enjoy a work while still acknowledging (in some cases, even celebrating) its flaws.

Exhibit A: I'm a big fan of the Star Wars sequel trilogy. Yes, all three episodes.

But it's certainly possible to get overly focused on what went "wrong" and miss the fun. So don't do that!

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