So, I wanted to bring up my experience with finding a game because I think it’s a good example of the challenges of getting to a table with the right group. Not long after getting back into the hobby, I realized I really wanted to play Curse of Strahd (CoS). I’m a horror nut, so it was my kind of game. I searched Roll20 Looking for Group for weeks – every day … many times a day.
There was never a game at the days/times I knew I would be available.
Since I was so restrictive, I had a hell of a time finding a game.
In the end, I decided that the only way to get this game going was to run it myself. Either that or wait weeks, or months, searching for a game. I didn’t want any flakes so I posted a long, detailed ad on Roll20 with a bunch of details about what kind of game I was looking to run. Here’s just a small portion of the ad:
Who am I looking for?
- Reliability is probably the number one determinant. I have a busy life. I set aside time for a couple of games per week and I really don’t like missing one. That said, I know there will be times when we can’t play. If there’s a conflict on my end, I will give you plenty of notice. I expect the same consideration from the players.
- I’d really like to get through the full campaign. It is a long-term commitment. If you know that you are not going to be available at this time slot in the near future, please don’t apply.
- I prefer a fairly heavy role play (RP) campaign. I am looking for players that are comfortable with RP. From my perspective, RP is fun in the context of creating a dynamic, interesting character AND figuring out the mystery of this game. Who are you? Why are you here? What are you supposed to do? Who are the main villains? Why do you need to stop them? Who can help you? How does this story change you?
Character Creation Rules:
- Races, classes, subclasses and feats are restricted to the Player’s Handbook (PHB).
- No min-maxer/OP players. If your goal is to max out a certain race/class so you can blast huge damage, then it’s best to look for another game … or better yet, buy a PS4. It’s just more work for me. Also, it typically leaves other players frustrated at their characters who will be less powerful.
- No Rules As Written (RAW) lawyers. I want to have fun, not calculate & argue. I prefer story over mechanics. I try to follow RAW, but don’t want to break the flow of the game to argue rules or calculate stats. If I’m not sure, I’ll just make a decision based on Rules As Interpreted (RAI) or Rules As Cool (RAC) and move on. I agree to research it afterward and make a decision for future scenarios.
- No Chaotic Evil players or Murderhobos. They’re not fun.
I had over 150 views of the ad and about a dozen apply. I then did an interview with each player and asked them straight up about dedication, roleplay, etc (some of the same stuff above). I chose 5 players that fit the bill. I then had a session 0 and reiterated all the stuff I basically posted, just in case someone was just excited to play and didn’t bother reading anything.
We played every week for 9 months. I think we only missed one game because we all agreed to bail. If one person missed, we just played without them. I think the fear of missing out helped keep the game weekly. One guy called in from a plane while still on the tarmac. We finished the campaign after 9 months – every Monday at 8:30 PM MST.
Now, I’m looking to play in Tomb of Annihilation (ToA). I have the same restriction on time of day, so it’s tough to find a game. I’ve opened it up to pay-to-play because it gives me more options, but it’s still tough to find a game. I’m currently in one potential game where the DM is charging $10/session (cheaper than a movie), but finding players is slow. I have a feeling that the only way I’m going to get into a game of ToA at the time I want, with the right kinds of players, is to run it myself. I guess this is how we become forever DMs.
I have had a few experiences where players pleaded with me to work on the campaign between sessions. We all figured it would help to create a more immersive and rich world for the characters. But just as @Eric_Salzwedel stated, most were gung-ho about it in the beginning and the excitement faded fast. Maybe I was doing it wrong or maybe I wasn’t clear about how it was going to work. This idea came up recently for my Star Wars campaign and I’m hesitant about doing it. I even created a Discord server for the game to keep it organized instead of using a group text. Two weeks have gone by and still 2 of the 5 players have not accepted the invite.
Maybe they feel it’s too much work or are too busy. It’s hard to believe those statements considering I know how often they are posting and reposting to twitter and facebook or the hours they have logged on their latest video game. I’m not trying to bitch about it, but it’s the players coming to ME for more content. I guess this is where we get back to Serious or Dedicated. They are definitely dedicated to the game sessions. They show up, know their characters, and level them up when necessary before the next session.
I am open for any suggestions on how to get campaign participation for the between session downtime. I’m also prepared for a slap in the face wake up call from the BSer’s saying that most players only really want immersion at the table and enjoy that there is a start and end time to the game each day.
Sorry, needed to get that out.
Feelin Good about being Serious and Dedicated
Player feedback can be rough. When I wrapped up my longest 3rd/3.5 campaign with everyone at 13th level, we had a massive 8 hour session to wrap things up, and one of my players said “let’s never do that again, I wanted to kill myself it was dragging on so long.”
For what it’s worth, the other players said they enjoyed the session, and really wanted it to feel epic since it was the end of the campaign, and we had a few players that had moved away come back just for this campaign wrap up.
When I’m a player, I try to touch base to make sure I’m not the asshole. For example, when I was playing a Gand and referring to myself in the third person, one of the other players made a comment about it, and I wanted to make sure I clarified that it was in character, and I wasn’t annoying the table with that mannerism.
It can definitely feel uncomfortable to tell a player they are doing something that’s a problem when you are the DM. It also dovetails with another issue that comes up, in that the GM is suddenly the group counselor, even though everyone should be willing to talk to everyone else about their problems with the game or one another.
That doesn’t mean I haven’t had any heart-to-heart conversations with other people. I’ve had to tell people that their playstyle doesn’t match the rest of the group and that some of the character’s jokes are off-putting to other people at the table.
I’ve also had players come to me first to say they were going to talk to another player about problems with their character concept, to make sure I was okay with it, just to keep me in the loop.
I’ll be honest, a lot of my discussions like this are via email because I’m way better at spelling out what I mean in writing than dealing with potential conflict face to face.
I’ve had a hard time running over Discord without video. I’ve done it, but it’s exhausting for me because I can’t see facial expressions, so I don’t get any feedback that I can read, so as soon as I hear dead air, I worry that nobody cares about the session and they are all checking out.
I think player homework, in general, would be a good topic. What’s reasonable, how willing should people be to do it, what does it bring to the table?
First let me say I appreciate the shoutout and I want to be clear that while I may listen to you to drown out the noise of children (something that’s been tough through the pandemic) you are so much more than “white noise.”
Unless that White Noise mans “diamonds” because that’s the value your podcast has to me. Kids have kept me from gaming as much as I’d like to and thus your banter feels like a lifeline to my people and to keep me feeling connected to the culture, the people and my beloved hobby. Plus it makes menial chores feel like I’m not toiling all alone but chatting with good folks while I work.
Secondly, I want to say this episode was by far one of my favorite. It was so introspective and deeper. I’m not sure if it was the engaging questioning/interviewing Brett did, the mental space Sean was in (maybe you need to be in a bad mood before recording more often), or if you just were really thinking about these elements.
I would love to hear more depth and engagement in the topics like this.
Keep up the great work!
Hermeticgamer aka The Doctor