How do you cope with the realization that after having run somewhere between 100 and 200 sessions across your GMing career, you still receive plenty complaints from players after every session, and you might just be a naturally inept GM who will never improve with experience?
After every session, I have a discussion with my players. Sometimes, these discussions go for hours on end and even continue on to the next day.
I ask what I did wrong. The players tell me what I did wrong. I ask for advice. I try to take that advice and apply it in future games.
Yet, without fail, I always wind up doing something wrong anyway, often enough to bring sessions to a grinding halt. After the discussion, the cycle repeats itself.
One thing I have proven utterly incapable of doing is thinking from the perspective of my players and figuring out what they would enjoy. Even when I ask them to tell me what they would like, I somehow manage to misinterpret it entirely and generate a gargantuan mismatch in expectations.
Is there an easier way to understand what any given player would actually enjoy?
The inevitability of the game is that you are people, playing with other people. And people are shit covered shit with bastard on top, sometimes.
No matter how good something is, some PERSON will find something to complain about, if they aim to complain.
>Complaints every session
Unless you're denying players agency within the game, or forcing your own into the game over theirs, that's pretty bullshit. If they're so demanding, then they should take a shot at it.
what do they complain about?
give me a rundown of your typical gaming session
Bear in mind that I only really have two constant players. I do not GM for anyone else.
A prime example is that I have an awful tendency to take a request to "have less X, insert more Y" in the extreme direction, and am never, *ever* able to strike a good balance.
A request for "less open-endedness, more direction" leads to an aimless sandbox quest.
A request for "less direction, more open-endedness" results in a railroad.
A request for "more straightforward information" results in there being no mystery whatsoever as I wind up giving out everything there is to know.
A request for "more of a mystery" winds up with me presenting obtuse information that nobody can comprehend.
I have been trying to find the ability to strike a proper balance across an untold number of sessions, yet I seem wholly incapable of applying something in moderation.
Thus, in addition to being unable to figure out what my two players would enjoy even after interrogating them on exactly such a topic, I can never strike a proper balance of *anything*.
How can I mend this state of affairs?
Look, I'll listen to what players have to say, but in the end, if they don't like how I do things, they're free to give it a try. I don't mind taking a break for a month or so and playing instead of DMing so someone else can try. Oddly enough I've only been taken up on this once, and never again.
It's easy to bitch about shit DMs. It's harder to nut up and be the DM you'd want to play with.
the best thing I've ever learned as a GM is, do less
read "the lazy dungeon master", pic related
don't plan everything about your sessions
come up with an antagonist, something bad that he's done, a few places your player might explore, a few characters they might meed
two lines about each of these things, tops
you come up with the problems, let your players find solutions
>A request for "more straightforward information" results in there being no mystery whatsoever as I wind up giving out everything there is to know.
>A request for "more of a mystery" winds up with me presenting obtuse information that nobody can comprehend.
try not having a solution, then
you come up with the situation, you give out clues
they interpret the clues and guess what? if it makes sense, they just wrote the story for you
Are you ABSOLUTELY, POSITIVELY certain you are doing these things in an extreme? Because there's the possibility your two players are just bitching and whining that your didn't quite strike the balance THEY had in mind.
There comes a point where you should regard your players as a nagging wife/girlfriend who is eternally passive aggressive with you but will never clearly communicate what she's pissed about.
I give some examples here >>44686317, but perhaps the one thing I receive the most consistent complaints on is my (in)ability to communicate complex information clearly.
My players consistently praise me on my locations, my NPCs, my plots, and similar things... when taken in a metaphorical vacuum. My players say that they are really quite brilliant.
My folly comes about when I try to actually present them in a session. These are rather complex set pieces. I have so many ideas in my head, and it seems that I am appallingly clumsy at actually conveying complex information.
Without fail, my players misunderstand something, fail to pick up on something, or draw completely incorrect conclusions. I promise to be clearer next time, but then, one of two things happens:
A. I am still poor at conveying complex information.
B. I oversimplify things too much to the point wherein the information is unsatisfyingly dumbed-down, and there is nothing to truly uncover.
The cycle repeats itself.
There has to be an issue on my end, because I have no way of telling whether or not my players will be able to understand something the way I present it to them, and it is not as though I could "test run" every one of my quests by showing things to someone else beforehand.
I plan about 20% of my sessions. Trust me: your advice is nothing new to me. I am fully capable of improvising scenarios.
The problem is that things are *still* practically impossible for players to understand, because my ability to convey complex information is practically nil.
How can I learn to better convey complex information?
I know you've been asked this before, but: could you give us a concrete example of how you're failing to convey complex information? Like, tell us about a session or an adventure or a scene where you tried to convey complex info but failed to do so properly.
Nailed it my man. It's inevitable that we all become bitter cunts after GMing long enough isn't it? There is always going to be the "talk shit, get hit" moment when you lay it down that they can either deal with it or do it themselves. And usually after giving the whole trying it themselves thing a go, their complaints go out the fucking window.
I do, in fact, consistently play in games run by one of the players. I do not find much wrong with them.
>Fail to pick up, draw wrong conclusions
This sounds like the fault of players more than anything else. Although I'm assuming that you adapt events for when they do get things completely wrong.
Are you sure you aren't just playing with the mentally impaired?
I will get to this in a moment. For context, I run a Planescape game.
When I brought in a third party to look over what I had written, they had agreed that I had presented information in a vague and indecipherable manner during the session itself, so the issue *has* to be on my end.
I've gone from being an excellent GMing to a bad one, despite the fact that I'm confident my technique has improved in many ways. The difference? My players have become jaded and whiny. The guy who used to be my best player, who was enthusiastic and engaged, now sulks whenever he gets a bad roll and obsesses over any little thing that doesn't go the way he likes. And the problem is that it is hard to predict what will rub him the wrong way. Like, he can have a movie ruined for him by some small detail that happened in an unimportant scene that doesn't really impact anything else, because he just can't let it go. But I digress... It's quite possible that your players are nitpicky, unappreciative and generally shitty.
People often don't know exactly what they want, or they want mutually exclusive things. What about giving them some kind of fate points which they can use to influence the nature of the story/reality? This basically gives them some narrative power to make things the way they want them to be. So railroad them, but let them spend a point of fate to go off the rails whenever and however they want. And I mean shit here like: "Could we have that guy be working for the cultists and me discover it by seeing a tattoo on his arm or something?" "Sure, spend a point of fate."
It's not really a universal solution, but you could have handouts for some things. Sketches, diagrams, pictures you found online that you can tell them look similar to what you're talking about, even written descriptions.
Other than that, what about going with a co-GM? Somebody you can bounce ideas off of and who can help you run your game? The Riker to your Picard, who can yell "shields up! red alert!" so you can take the time to contemplate things without giving the Romulans an opening to blow your ship up.
It occurs to me only now that it might be futile to actually explain things from an "omniscient" perspective, because of course everything makes sense from such a perspective.
Conveying things to players as they actually explore, on the other hand, is another matter entirely.
It is funny that you mention fate points, because we are, in fact, playing Fate.
The issue is that much of the time, they *misunderstand* whatever it is I am trying to convey. I am fairly confident that the issue lies with me; even bringing in a third party to look over my GMing style can confirm that.
My players actually like the setting, even though I have been having great difficulty explaining its more nuanced aspects.
I had tried to create a series of "Planescape General" threads in the past in order to explain the setting using my nigh-encyclopedic knowledge of it, but those threads had never proven popular:
Such a "co-GM" is the third party I mentioned bringing in. Actually, I had been running *all* of my ideas through this third party in the past, but only today did they realize that I was doing so in a futile manner, because the way I explain things to them (from an "omniscient" perspective) makes perfect sense, yet is vastly separated from how I actually explain things in-game.
>Without fail, my players misunderstand something, fail to pick up on something, or draw completely incorrect conclusions.
You do realize that's the experience of very DM ever right? That's not a bug, that's a feature. You have to love it. Embrace it.
>It occurs to me only now that it might be futile to actually explain things from an "omniscient" perspective, because of course everything makes sense from such a perspective.
Well, that's fair, but now it's difficult for us to offer you detailed advice on how to improve your information conveyance because we only have a vague "my players misunderstand what I try to convey" to go off of. How exactly are the misunderstanding the information? How are you portraying the information and how much of it are you trying to convey, versus what the players are expected to know?
Without a more detailed, concrete example to analyze and dissect, it's difficult for us to tell you exactly what to do.
>My players actually like the setting, even though I have been having great difficulty explaining its more nuanced aspects.
In other words, your players only like the surface bits of the setting, since they clearly don't understand the finer details.
Try switching places. Have someone else be the GM while you become a player. Keep playing until you get a handle on how players think and perceive the game. Then, once you return to being the GM, you can use your experiences to give the players the information they need.
OP might want to try running the thread through a faux-session. Take a situation you plan on running your group through and try to run it out in the thread- then we can all see how misleading it might be.
Have you considered bringing a more collaborative philosophy to your game method.
If your players are talking to you for hours about how you can fix the experience for them, they aren't participants in the process.
Games are messy, flawed things played by humans. The GM has to work for the players.
But it can go the other direction. If players work together, work with the GM to play their characters better, to deal with GM areas of weakness, and generally engage in some self critique, not only does the game get better, but the players take on some responsibility for the wellbeing of the game and don't feel like their happiness is dependent on how perfectly the GM calibrated the experience for them.
On the topic of you getting better the sad, hard truth is - practice. Focussed practice with an observer - run fake games with someone and get feedback during the moment.
Do it in a mirror.
Again and again.
There are no shortcuts when it comes to developing communication skills.
Pianists have to play day after day for years and years to master their craft.
Running a few hundred sessions as GM is great experience, but that is absolutely not true that you can't improve beyond that, especially if you have not been explicitly practicing the problem area (worldbuilding from a non-omniscient perspective, anticipating player perspective)
>The players tell me what I did wrong.
Players can't deduce / explain / know what they want. You are just chasing a shadow of their expositions.
Run something in a spectrum of whatever You feel comfortable with, and make a note of what they seem to enjoy during the play.
If nothing works let someone else DM for a while or find new players.
I run a Planescape game. Well, multiple, in fact, but with the same players.
The last two-session-long quest one of my games brought the party to the Prime Material Plane, in the crystal sphere (solar system) of Herdspace. This technically is not Planescape material. It is Spelljammer material, yet Planescape encompasses Spelljammer. Even so, Herdspace has very few details on it even in the Spelljammer novels it originated from, so I had to improvise most of the details. Thus, this is not so mu
Imagine an entire solar system as big as ours. Now, encapsulate it within a hollow crystal sphere, and remove everything inside except for the sun in the middle. Cover the "inner lining" of the sphere with endless plains, rolling hills, and savannas, and populate them with world-sized (sometimes even Jupiter-sized) behemoths, many of which roam the sphere in herds. There are no true "sky" or clouds; there is only an eternal expanse of green unclouded by particles, with a golden sun floating in the dead center that sheds light in all directions, then fades into a silvery moon at night. You have Herdspace, or at least my vision of it.
This adventure featured two behemoths, each one larger than our own planet Earth. Let us call them Behemoth A and Behemoth B.
Behemoth A is populated by docile sheep-people. They are actually all half-celestials (half-sibyllic-guardian-archon, specifically, and thus unable to fly), having been born from an ancient lineage.
Behemoth B is populated by wild, courtless, and chaotic fae. They are ruled by a Mystaran great wyrm jade dragon ascendant, an immigrant quasi-deity, who keeps them in line. It was previously ruled by a master of the Wild Hunt, a very powerful faerie.
Before the dragon ascendant came into power, the master of the Wild Hunt held a tradition of using Behemoth B's avatar to speak to all its people, and then convince them to steer Behemoth B towards whichever behemoth the huntmaster felt like killing. The master of the Wild Hunt would then use the magic circle to slay the other behemoth... so that the faeries could swoop in and devour its corpse. Yes, a behemoth may be world-sized, but these faeries can be *very* ravenous, and their long lives certainly allow them to literally devour a world-sized creature after some time. The rub is that they had always avoided inhabited behemoths previously; the faerie inhabitants were not *that* evil, but the master of the Wild Hunt just did not find any special interest in hunting those behemoths.
After the dragon ascendant came into power, she placed a ban on hunting behemoths (even though they were uninhabited), because that was simply against her principles. However, the dragon allowed the master of the Wild Hunt to stay.
Shortly before the PCs arrived, the dragon ascendant decided to take a nap (dragon ascendants, as quasi-deities, do not normally need to sleep). But she was trapped in her slumber. (The reasons why are more related to the overarching plot.) The master of the Wild Hunt noticed this and took the opportunity to use Behemoth B's avatar to communicate with all its inhabitants, and convince them that they should revive the tradition of hunting behemoths one last time, and they would be sure to conceal the evidence. She then kept the avatar by her side for safekeeping.
However, it just so happens that *this* time, the master of the Wild Hunt set her sights on a behemoth that was inhabited: Behemoth A. Being amoral, she cared not one whit for that, but if the faeries of Behemoth B found out, they would not be pleased. Still, she was very charismatic, so she convinced Behemoth B's faeries' collective consciousness to set sail towards Behemoth A.
Simply destroying the magic circle would not have been a *complete* solution, as Behemoth B would still collide with Behemoth A, creating catastrophic results. Thus, it would be imperative for the PCs to actually divert Behemoth B from Behemoth A. But of course, dealing with the master of the Wild Hunt would not be so simple.
For one, the master of the Wild Hunt is in the constant company of four hounds of the Wild Hunt, powerful fae dogs. All together, she and her mutts would prove a devastating encounter. For two, a master of the Wild Hunt and their hounds of the Wild Hunt are empowered by the nighttime. (Originally, they were empowered by simply moonlight, but I made it clear that their species had recently evolved to grow strong in the night in general.) If she is encountered with her dogs *or* in the nighttime, she is unstoppable.
But she always tries to stay in the nighttime. You see, the Border Ethereal (ghostly, spectral realm with psychedelic rainbow mists, distorted space, and other surreal features) of the crystal sphere of Herdspace has a special quality: when it is day in the "real world," it is night in the Border Ethereal, and vice versa. The master of the Wild Hunt and her hounds have learned how to cross the Border Ethereal at-will, and thus they always try to stay in the nighttime. The rub, of course, is that dawn and dusk are neither truly dawn nor dusk, and so they are weaker during those times, yet still formidable opponents.
I could continue, but something tells me that this is a futile exercise because I will simply be explaining things from an "omniscient" perspective and not what the players would have been privy to.
>I could continue, but something tells me that this is a futile exercise because I will simply be explaining things from an "omniscient" perspective and not what the players would have been privy to.
Was all the stuff in >>44686993
and >>44686982 and >>44686963 the stuff you were trying to convey to the players? If so, how did you try and do it?
That one player is the one consistently complaining towards me about how I am very poor at communication in general. I try to learn from them, but it is proving to be a fruitless prospect, as I can never quite learn.
I would rather not do that because my players browse these threads, and one of them is *extremely* against anything even remotely involving spoilers.
I could, on the other hand, run this thread through a rehash of the behemoth situation, but I am afraid I will have time for that only after I retire for the night (which is very soon).
I am unwilling to do this due to the fact that it would breach the privacy of those involved short of painstaking editing, and also due to the fact that there is material in these logs I would rather not share in public.
Would there truly be *anyone* actually willing to participate in a "fake game" just to vet a session for other players?
There are no shortcuts when it comes to communication skills, but they should not come *this* slowly, should they?
I am entirely incapable of pinpointing what my players do enjoy, even when they say what they enjoy, because I inevitably misinterpret things.
I let the players explore as necessary, telling them what each NPC knew and giving them knowledge-based information as appropriate for their rolls. I described each area impartially and objectively. This was fairly standard.
I will have to do some editing of logs for the sake of privacy and for the sake of removing proper nouns.
>That one player is the one consistently complaining towards me about how I am very poor at communication in general. I try to learn from them, but it is proving to be a fruitless prospect, as I can never quite learn.
In other words, he's full of himself and incompetent at teaching people. Find someone else to teach you.
>There are no shortcuts when it comes to communication skills, but they should not come *this* slowly, should they?
Well, we're trying to pinpoint precisely what you're allegedly doing wrong. Communication is a complicated thing, so if there's a misunderstanding between parties or one party isn't responding the way the other wants them to, it could be for any number of reasons.
>I let the players explore as necessary, telling them what each NPC knew and giving them knowledge-based information as appropriate for their rolls. I described each area impartially and objectively. This was fairly standard.
This is why we keep begging you for concrete examples. YOU might think you were giving them appropriate info based on their rolls, or that you described each area impartially and objectively, but maybe your players did not think that. Or maybe you actually did all the above, but you presented the information in a way that the players had difficulty grasping--maybe you talk too fast, or you gave too much info in one sitting, or you didn't structure what info you gave in a way that was easy to digest, or maybe your players weren't paying attention to the necessary background information. Or something else entirely.
Realize that sometimes stylistic differences make it hard for people to have fun together. Sometimes people are looking for different things, and sometimes their personalities or approaches just don't click. Don't know if that applies here, but it's something to keep in mind.
This was just one of the many out-of-character arguments we have had during past sessions. During this session alone, there were two or three other major out-of-character arguments that arose from misunderstandings; it seems that I am quite poor at communication.
This person is one of the very, *very* few people who actually tolerate me as a long-term GM or player rather than finding themselves entirely incompatible. They are the single most "compatible" GM or player I have ever had.
There is no way for me to provide more concrete examples without me sharing too much. I have given what I could.
I must sleep now.
A: What were the other 3 solutions? It's important, because if all of them are as weird as lawyering your way past a protection spell with an unknown parser, if might be a problem on your end.
B: Who in the fuck would hunt a continent-sized creature to eat? Meat rots, what would they do with all the rest of it?
No, he's legit autismal.
Hey, at least you're gettign feedback instead of blank stares and "iunno" when you ask what kind of game they want, and when you run a game for them they don't go out of their way to try and ruin it through sheer contrarian hate.
I was supposed to sleep earlier, but it seems not.
1. Kidnap the avatar and using it as an interface with the behemoth's people. This is ultimately what the PCs did, although I had to simplify the situation greatly to accommodate the players.
2. Destroy the magic circle and make it clear to everyone that the two behemoths are now on a collision course.
3. Get the hounds to infight with one another and their master, which would have been possible given the right information-gathering and questioning of NPCs in the area.
World-sized, not continent-sized. Gentle Repose spells exist, and some creatures can be *very* ravenous and take their time eating.
One issue that quickly became apparent is that the players, to my (surely flawed) understanding, are the sort who would rather *not* have to perform constant legwork that involves questioning NPCs and gathering information via relentless chit-chat. They are roleplayers to be sure, and they certainly love acting as their characters and speaking to NPCs, but pressing NPCs for information in games of 20 questions does not seem to be their style.
This, unfortunately, is the exact opposite of my playstyle as a player, which sometimes sees me hold up entire sessions by constantly questioning NPCs with questions for even the tiniest details. I do this through actual in-character question, whatever the RPG's "gather information from a crowd/the streets" skill is, and whatever the RPG's divination spells (something like 3.PF's "Contact Other Plane" and "Commune" spells are my favorite, because they revolve around games of 20 questions with objectively true and concrete answers). I consider information-gathering to be one of the most important things a player can ever do, which is why I place so much emphasis on it as a player... and perhaps why I constantly expect it as a GM either.
This is my flawed understanding of what my players had told me after the session, of course, so I could be misreading them yet again.
>World-sized, not continent-sized. Gentle Repose spells exist, and some creatures can be *very* ravenous and take their time eating.
I'm not sure you understand just how damn big a planet is.
I have DM'd at most a dozen sessions and I never really recieve any complaints. I'm probably more critical of myself then my players are of me.
It probably helps that we're all good friends.
Dont play rap music for people who like rock
Dont take someone who likes horror to a kids movie.
Ect,. Your GM may not be wrong, just your audience. Some people go in expecteding certain things. Some players want to be catered to. Some want a challenge, and some want their characters to die.
There are people out there begging for a GM like you, specifically like you. We have the internet, find them. If a GM running a furry anthro diaper rape game could have a starving audience, then someone like you can find the right people.
This is a setting where people can literally debate other people out of existence through pure, mundane rhetoric; where there can be a finitely-sized torus-city floating atop an infinitely tall spire in the dead center of an infinitely expansive plane; and world-sized behemoths can exist in the first place without collapsing from their sheer mass. None of this is "magic" in-universe; they are simply the natural qualities of the planes.
Billions of faeries descending upon a world to pick it to the "bone" just because they think they can would not even register as "mildly unusual" by the standards of the setting.
This setting operates more on fairy tale logic than anything else.
I never said it would be instantaneous.
The behemoth falling from being slain in the first place, on the other hand, would be much quicker, and *that* would cause casualties.
The point is that his players would never guess that the fairies were going to eat the behemoth.
>people can literally debate other people out of existence through pure, mundane rhetoric
I'm going to need source on this one.
Ok OP, after having read through the chat log you posted...
The core of the communication problem appears to be that you have vastly different expectations and mode of thought from your players. This is partly related to what you mentioned here, >>44687775, where you said that you enjoy thinking about information-based puzzles and deeply delving into investigations, but there's more to the problem than just that.
You seem to be expecting your players to have the same or similar approach to situations as you do where information gathering is a necessary component to the current adventure.. As a result, what may seem like an interesting puzzle to you ("How do you find and defeat the extremely powerful Huntsman, who always goes to where it is night?") seems like a vague, vacuous situation with no clear answer.
For you, such a puzzle elicits a response where you sit down, think about the information you have, see what information is missing, try and ask (or otherwise use information-gathering skills) to fill in what gaps you can, and take further steps based on your newly expanded knowledge base to acquire more until you're ready to go out and confront whatever needs confronting.
For your players (and for many other people), such a puzzle is daunting. Maybe if they did sit down and spend a significant amount of time and mental effort trying to figure things out, they'll come to the same conclusion you will...but many players don't conceive of tabletop roleplaying games in such a way. An "investigation" in a tabletop game to them is probably something that has clear, fairly obvious next steps to it, much like how a modern videogame approaches investigations--you're presented with a mystery, and you are told extremely clear ways to at least start your investigations (talk to the cops, look at the murder weapon, etc.).
Continued on next post
>B: Who in the fuck would hunt a continent-sized creature to eat? Meat rots, what would they do with all the rest of it?
Not him, but considering the particular Crystal Sphere, while part of the Prime Material Plane, is clearly extremely different from the standard PM world (planet-sized creatures would obviously not function under laws of physics as we know them; such things are probably magical in nature), it's somewhat foolish to expect them to function based on how things work in the standard world. It's entirely possible that their flesh doesn't decompose and just remains untill eventually their bodies are picked clean by scavengers.
>>44688225 Continuing from previous post
Here is an example of how many, perhaps even most, tabletop players might approach and expect an investigation:
The party walks into town. As soon as they arrive, a guardsman (the local police force) mentions that there's a series of strange murders around. The party takes it upon themselves to investigate these murders.
Thanks to police procedural shows and general cultural expectations of how murder investigations go, the players are reasonably expected to know the next following steps:
1) Talk to the guardsman some more about the murders. Chances are, if the guardman does not know much about the murders himself, he will direct the party to whoever commands the town guards (who will probably know more about the situation).
2) Ask if they can see the site of some of the murders. Chances are, they will uncover some clues there that will help them take the next step in the investigation.
Players will then (or can then be expected to) go to those locations and ask questions, look around, etc. If they do not and complain that the investigation is too obtuse, then they are the ones at fault.
Here is how, I think, the players responded to the Huntsman investigation:
The players knew that they had to defeat the Huntsman or else something bad would happen, so they opt to try and defeat the Huntsman. The only things they know that are relevant to combatting the Huntsman are:
1) The Huntsman is beyond they ability to fight in a head-on battle if it's currently night or the Huntsman has her hounds.
2) The real world and the Borderlands have directly opposing day-night cycles--when it's day in the real world, it's night in the Borderlands, and vice versa.
3) The Huntsman tries her utmost to be where it is night.
Your response, I suspect, would be to try and sit down and examine the 3 pieces of info and closely scrutinize them to see if there are any subtle implications that could arise from them.
Continued on next post
This person >>44688229 has already answered you.
In previous adventures, I had experimented with presenting *very* clear and *very* obvious next steps, but that resulted in a lukewarm-to-disappointed response, because there was no "player agency" and everything was already laid out on a metaphorical railroad track for the players.
What I was trying to do was let the players feel clever for presenting a reasonably open-ended (inasmuch as four relatively predetermined solutions is "open-ended," and they could have thought up their own ingenious solution) situation and letting them investigate on their own and piece together and corroborate information, but the end result was me communicating everything poorly: they picked up "clues" that were gross misinterpretation, and they did not comprehend the clues I wanted them to grasp. This resulted in them feeling lost and directionless, which was the opposite of my intention.
Is there some easy way to strike a balance between these two extremes? I wish I knew, because I have been trying for literally over a hundred sessions to no avail at all.
When all else fails, I try to fall back on "3.5 magic logic" to explain strangeness in the planes, even though I run Fate. It helps to have a baseline for how magic works in order to settle arguments on the "rules" of magic.
In 3.5, a Gentle Repose spell would target a single corpse regardless of its size. So it is written, so it shall be, translated into in-universe terms.
This is all correct so far. I do my utmost best to try to pick out inconsistencies and loopholes in any information presented to me (which, incidentally, makes me ideal for picking out inconsistencies or flaws in system mechanics or in setting lore).
Continued from previous post
You may therefore end up coming to the conclusion that, to fight the Huntsman when it's not night, you should maybe try and intercept her while she's moving to and from the Borderlands to the real world. From there, you might surmise that the Huntsman would probably move from one place to another around the time it transitions from night to day. Since it's currently daytime in the real world, you should therefore move to intercept the Huntsman when it gets around the early evening, because that's probably when the Huntsman would begin to move.
Most people, however, would probably be stuck. Maybe the more inquisitive among them might try and ask the local sage for more details about the 3 pieces of info they know, but the sort of logical reasoning you did in the above example simply isn't the sort of mental exertion people are prepared to do when they sit down for a game of Fates (or whatever other tabletop game).
This doesn't necessarily mean that your players are dumb or that they only want a "track something down, beat it up, repeat" sort of game. Rather, it's simply that you're expecting a level of reasoning that the players don't expect or want to do. Yes, an intelligent, patient person who sits down for several minutes to consider the logical implications of "constantly moves to be where it is night" COULD eventually conclude that you should therefore intercept the Huntsman when she moves...but players tend not to do or even want to do such a sit-down, deep thought sort of action during a game.
>Striking a balance between "hand-holding" and "incredibly obtuse"
There is no easy answer to this, I'm afraid, other than having a deep understanding of what other people expect when presented with a given situation.
The best we can do is try and give you some practice. That is: you can present us with a conundrum that you might expect your players to encounter (it does not have to be something you plan on using during your current campaign), and we can try and tell you whether what you're doing is too much hand-holding or is too obfuscated for us to take the next step.
>I'm going to need source on this one.
Plastcape: Torment has a few variations. You can view a sensory recoding in the Sensate Guildhall where a guy wins a debate by conving his opponent he doesn't exist, and if you tell everybody your name is Adahn you'll eventually encounter a guy called Adahn who looks just like you. If you inform him he doesn't actually exists and is created from people believing that a guy who looks like you is called Adahn he disappears.
I believe one of the Planescape books also references something similar happening.
Ironically, I do not think you quite fully follow either. It is not that the trick (for solution #1 out of 4) would be to attack while she is moving, but rather, to attack in the twilight. That is a non-negligible time frame wherein it is neither day nor night.
I will admit that when I am playing in one of my players' games (that is, with me as player and them as GM), I find that I am *stumped* in many a situation... only to find out that I was overthinking it and that the solution was actually much simpler.
I frequently think that any given solution has far more moving parts and loopholes than it actually does, and this leads to me thoroughly questioning everything around me until it turns out that the solution was far more "layman"-like.
When I was playing under a completely different GM whose game *did* encourage such a style of investigation, I flourished and was able to contribute considerably and colossally to all of the party's endeavors.
Could this perhaps be another symptom of the underlying issue? That is, I approach everything as a thinking puzzle to be sat down and investigated slowly but surely, with all sorts of loopholes and solutions that are *not* out-of-the-box but rather exploit hidden nooks and crannies of the metaphorical box. Meanwhile, the players approach everything expecting a more straightforward playstyle... yet do *not* want a linear railroad.
Is this accurate?
If so, how can I strike that balance between "open-ended, allows for freedom in approaching the situation" and "boring railroad with all information in plain sight"? Surely there must be a trick to it that has eluded me for over a hundred sessions.
In case it might shed more light on the subject, here is another piece of the logs of the last argument:
One of the previous situations I had included in a campaign involved the players trying to prevent a gate-town (one of the major cities that bridges the Outlands to the Outer Planes) from being claimed by the baatezu (devils) by way of contract.
To grossly oversimplify the situation and excise the other parties present, one part of that quest involved trying to find loopholes in a certain law. It stated, "The baatezu cannot claim this gate-town unless it has been fully occupied by demons," then went on to painstakingly define each and every term there.
It defined "demons" as "outsiders of an Abyssal origin, nature, or allegiance, including, but not limited to, tanar'ri, obyriths, loumaras, and Abyss-born tieflings," an especially broad generous definition, but perhaps a necessary one given the state of the Blood War between the baatezu and the tanar'ri.
The trick is that the gate-town was not being threatened by demonS. It was being occupied by a single, especially gigantic demon. By pointing out the plurality problem and by keeping other demons away from the gate-town, the PCs would have been able to blow away that contract.
However, they did not twig to this even after I dropped hint after hint after hint (in retrospect, they could have been obtuse or cryptic hints regarding singularity and plurality), so they had to resort to one of the various, more involved backup solutions instead.
Would *you* have thought to bring up the matter of singular "demon" vs. plural "demons"?
I'm familiar with the Indian myth with the avatar of Vishnu defeating a demon invulnerable during day and night by attacking him during dusk, but that still woudln't have been my go-to solution. The first thought I got would be to prevent the Hunstmaster from switching places (although that probably would involve attacking her at dawn since you want to catch her before she switches but shotly before she's vulnerable). Also, it would have been clearer if she actually was stated to be unbeatable during day or night. Note how most of the myths that use this trope use a specific wording: the demon can not be harmed during day and night, by neighter beast or man, indoors or outdoors. Thus Vishnu fought him when it was not day or night, in a form that was neighter beast or man when he wasn't indoors or outdoors.
Also I'd have arranged it so that removing one of the two advantages the Hunstamaster has (her hounds and it being night) would be enough to make the battle beatable. That way the players can approach the problem from two different angles (either find a way to engage her when it's not night or find a way to separate her from the hounds).
While in character to Devils, that feels to me like needlessly obtuse. I sure as hell wouldn't ahve figured that out, since I'd consider the "Demons" to refer to the group as a whole. If the town is in the hands of an Abyssal-aligned outsider, then I'd say it's controlled by "the Demons", even if only one Demon is actually present.
I'd have gone with the notion that a single Demon, even if a very big one, can't obviously occupy the whole town. It can only be at one place at a time, so they players could occupy multiple buildings, and have the person the Demon comes after run away. The Demon can't chase everybody at the same time, and thus can't occupy the whole town by itself.
>There must be a trick to it that has eluded me over a hundred sessions
Alas, as I said previously, there is no trick to something fundamental as this. It is a matter of understanding how other people react to certain situations, and that's always going to be a difficult thing. Hence, my proposal for you to do exercises like >>44688826, which could help you at least practice and develop that skill.
As for >>44688826...
I agree with >>44688987 here. It is true that such a fine-print loophole is precisely what a Baatezu would do, and I quite admire and praise the level of thought you put into this encounter. HOWEVER, the level of detail I would have to scrutinize and think about to arrive at your conclusion is not something I would expect from a tabletop RPG game. It would have taken me a frustratingly long time to pinpoint the Demon vs Demons technicality.
Generally, players want puzzles they can solve in a matter of about a minute or two at most, not puzzles they would need to think about and scrutinize for half an hour or more.
(As an aside: as a person who is in law school studying to become a lawyer, even if I, personally, noticed the demon vs demons technicality I might dismiss the notion of pursuing it because the intent of the contract is clearly about the Abyssal presence of the town, not how many Abyssal entities are in it.)
for what it's worth, I think pulling off the sort of game you want to DM--where players must, as you yourself would, sit down and scrutinize many things in great detail and perform a relatively large and strenuous amount of logical reasoning--can be succesful, especially given that you yourself were a player in such a game and you flourished there.
However, you must also understand that such games are unusual and are not the norm. If you want your players to do the sort of thinking you want them to do, you must 1) make it EXTREMELY clear that the level of thought you want for your game is unusually high and 2) that your game is very different from what the players may have already experienced. That should help your future players approach your games with the sort of mindset necessary for your games; as it is right now, they are approaching your games with a mindset more typical of their straightforward games, and as a result feel frustrated when their approach does not comply with yours.
My logic was that it refers to "demons" and not "the demons." Few would consider a single demon to represent "the demons," especially considering an inordinately broad and generous definition.
It seems that my logic and the expected logic of others have a significant rift in between them. If there are truly no means to reasonably gauge the likelihood of a player being able to arrive at a certain insight without hand-holding, then it seems that I am in for another hundred or so sessions of trial, error, and subsequent post-session demoralization.
I am strongly considering having the next questline be a thinly-veiled linear corridor (both in plot structure and in terms of physical locations, although the corridor does have a few U-bends in it, again in both terms) wherein all the PCs have to do is overcome obstacles in one step, find a blatantly obvious piece of information in the next, overcome more obstacles in the next step, find another blatantly obvious piece of information in the next, and so on.
Would this be a good idea, or should I alter it somehow?
>matter of understanding how other people react to certain situations, and that's always going to be a difficult thing.
Normal people have enough difficulty with such a thing. I imagine it takes at least tenfold the effort.
>Hence, my proposal for you to do exercises like >>44688826 (You), which could help you at least practice and develop that skill.
This will be cumbersome if I have to poll /tg/ for every single one of my quests. I had run ideas through a third party, but they had the luxury of an "omniscient" viewpoint and plenty of time to think of a solution. Should I perhaps ask this third party to see if they can conjure up a solution in just a few minutes, and give only the information a player would have, rather than an "omniscient" viewpoint?
If a puzzle can be solved in a minute or two, it is not much of a puzzle, is it?
The letter is what matters in a baatezu contract.
>A request for "less open-endedness, more direction" leads to an aimless sandbox quest.
>A request for "less direction, more open-endedness" results in a railroad.
>request for more direction results in no direction
>request for less direction results in railroading
Shall I assume you just wrote that down wrong?
It is too late to switch to such a paradigm when the campaigns have already started, I already have my players, and they do not seem to be the sort of players who would like for the game to revolve around long bouts of questioning NPCs, corroborating information, and finding loopholes and inconsistencies.
If someone has to bend, it has to be me, the GM, for I have been the one disappointing the players for an exceedingly large amount of sessions. I should make the game more straightforward, require less synthesizing of clues in drawn-out bouts of thinking, and simply have the game be less of an "interactive investigative puzzle-solving game."
Thank you, whoever you might be. You have proven to be the most insightful person in this thread by far, and you have managed to identify the underlying issues with far greater incisiveness than any of my players, the aforementioned third party, or me.
Of course, I am still deathly afraid that I might dumb the game down to one of monotonous hand-holding though. I suppose all I can do is try to take the investigation down *one* notch and hope that I do not fall to the other extreme.
Why, yes, I did. Thank you for pointing that out; they should be switched around.
>come into thread with some GM motivation
>Post and come back
>It has diverted into some kind of faerie magical realm touhou wank or somthing
I knew it. I KNEW I should never trust a thread that starts with a loli pic.
For the exercises like >>44688826, I had proposed them intending for you not to use 4chan as a 3rd party playtester for your investigations, but more as, "Give us some hypothetical puzzles/investigations that you MIGHT give to your players, so that you can practice understanding what people expect from a situation". You don't have to give us what you're using for your games right now, just use us between sessions to develop your people-understanding skills.
>If a puzzle can be solved in a minute or two, it is not much of a puzzle, is it?
It's not, but such is the nature of tabletop rpgs. Your players likely came to the table to do some roleplaying and beat up cool monsters; I doubt they came to the table to sit down and scrutinize a puzzle for a long while, especially if doing so would interrupt the flow of the adventure.
>I imagine it takes at least tenfold the effort.
You and me both, my friend, you and me both...
>Should I perhaps ask this third party to see if they can conjure up a solution in just a few minutes, and give only the information a player would have, rather than an "omniscient" viewpoint?
This sounds like an excellent idea. Ideally, you should move on from this practice once you develop your people-understandings kills, but until then consulting a 3rd party and using them to calibrate your investigations is a great idea.
>My logic was that it refers to "demons" and not "the demons."
My response to that would be:
"The demons" would not generally be interpreted to mean "outsiders of an Abyssal origin", but rather "a specific group of outsiders of an Abyssal origin". Therefore, if the contract had said "The baatezu cannot claim this gate-town unless it has been fully occupied by *THE* demons," my response would be "Huh? Which demons? Is there a specific army of demons lurking outside/inside the town?".
Continued in next post
Instead, because the contract says "demons" in general, I would interpret to mean "Baatezu cannot claim town if the town is in an occupied state, and the occupation is the result of the presence of one or more outsiders of Abyssal origin". Given the context that the word "demons" appears in, I would assume that even a single demon could fulfill the above condition of demon-occupation.
No problem. For what it's worth, I, at least, would be happy to help you take your campaign's investigations down a notch.
I doubt that I can consistently ask /tg/ to vet "sample" thought puzzles week after week; I should keep to the third-party I already have, but restrict the information I give them to only what the players would know.
If you would like to share some form of contact method, I would be happy to speak to you over time.
Absolutely! I'm a little weary of sharing personal contact info on 4chan, however, so here's what I'll do:
The following is a temporary email account I'll be using just for this: behemothhunter1111 at gmail. Email me whatever contact info you want--I usually hang around Skype and the Giant in the Playground forums.
Part of the problem, then, is that your mindset simply works differently than that of your players. If I was a player and I heard this context, for instance, I would believe that a single demonic overlord that is fairly tremendous in size would constitute "the demons have fully occupied the town". I would have failed at this puzzle, because my mindset works on a different track than yours.