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Letting Them Down Easy

January 6, 2009

There have been a few situations now where I have found myself needing to let my GM know that I am bored or unhappy with the game he is running, and after talking to the other players the decision was made to move on to something else. Most times you would think that this would be a simple case of saying “Hey Ricky, we were talking and we’d like to put this game on hold and do something else for a while.” And, most times, this would probably work. My experiences in the past, however, have made me realize that this isn’t always the case.

Situation One
My gaming group started running an Eberron campaign and we were all very excited to try this new setting. The flavour of it appealed to many of us, and thoughts of flying on airships and riding lightning rails sounded very exciting. The guy running the game was really excited as well, and let us have free reign in creating our characters. For the sake of argument, let’s call that “Mistake Number One”. What ended up happening is that the group consisted of at least two min-maxed PCs, and at least two overpowered PCs (there may have been some crossover there, too). The rest of the party were decently generated, balanced characters. The combination of these elements spells doom for a game, and it’s unfortunate we didn’t see this right away.

Starting the game in earnest, we quickly found out that while this was set in the Eberron campaign world, it was going to turn into a simple dungeon crawl. Mistake Number Two. The players had expressed excitement over the cool elements of Eberron, and they were bound for a game that could have been pulled off in any published setting or one of the DM’s own creation. There was nothing specifically “Eberron-esque” of the game.

Going back to Mistake Number One, the DM found that to balance the powerful characters in the group he had to make the encounters more and more difficult. Unfortunately that meant that the less powerful PCs were at a loss and needed to hang back through many combat encounters. The ease at which the party cut through some major combats was fun for the party, but frustrating for the DM. Eventually the group encountered the “rocks fall, you die” trap, and the whole thing fell apart. Frustrated players, frustrated DM, and nobody did what they should have done, which was talk about the issues the game was having.

What happened then was a short, tension-filled break between the players and the DM. Eventually the air cleared and we started gaming together again, but the Eberron game is never spoken of in polite conversation.

Situation Two
For several years now I have been playing in a campaign in a setting of the DM’s own creation. The DM’s job takes him out of the country for several months at a time, so we’re lucky to get a game in twice a year. This has caused the game to run extraordinarily long, and after five years we have probably only had about nine or ten sessions. A dozen at most. This is balanced by rapid leveling and quick story progression in each session. In general the DM is handling it very well.

What’s happening though, is the players are growing tired of the campaign. After all, even though it’s been less than a dozen sessions, the game has been going on for maybe five years. We’re ready for something else. Unfortunately the DM has put a tonne of work into the game, and has seen the story line through to the end in his head, and he wants to get us there. After five years we’ve finally gotten some answers behind the mystery that started the campaign to begin with, but even that isn’t enough to make us really excited to keep going. The player’s investment in the game is dwindling, but the DM’s is not.

So how do we, the players, handle the situation? We’re not sure. Do we just say “You know, let’s try something else”? This is countered by the DM’s “But we’re so far into it, can’t we just finish?” Nobody wants to hurt anybody’s feelings or make anybody feel dejected, and I know how I would feel if I sunk a lot of time into preparation and game development only to have the carpet pulled out from under me.

It’s a conundrum!

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One Comment
  1. Ah too bad–Eberron is a great setting if it’s run in an Eberrony way. I found that when the party “set up” in a town–for us it was Darguun–we really spent time digging on the flavor of the place, we interacted with local officals, had a favorite bar, were asked to speak at the explorer’s league dinner, dealt with crime bosses, etc. and it felt far less like a crawl and more like home 🙂

    Re: situation two … Does he read your blog?! 😀
    Seriously, is your DM the only one on your group that DMs? Maybe someone else could volunteer to run a short game–maybe a “one-off” in a new setting–Star Wars, Dark Heresy, Pathfinder, Modern–that people would be interested in dabbling in–just get the group reinvogorated a little. One-offs can be really fun. You’re not breaking off the DMs epic campaign, just playing a fun one where the stakes are lower, characters can branch out, or you can try new classes, and maybe whatever you guys discover in this new setting will also influence and reinvigorate your DM’s ongoing, epic campaign! Good luck!

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