Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Build a Better Player...

I've noticed a bunch of posts about building a better DM and improving ones DM skills. I've come to realize something over the years: a good game needs good players.

I'm stuck in a rut because of my regular group of players:

My dad plays a neutralish fighter with a cross of knightly and forester characteristics.

One of my oldest buddies always plays the freakshow supernatural character, usually a spell caster but not always.

Another plays a hulking marauding pillager.

One youngster plays mr unlucky...he'll go through 6 characters in the same time everyone else is on the same character they rolled up. He doesn't mind, he's not really wreckless but he gets his character killed so often he really hasn't gotten his groove.

My son plays a slight oddball marksman youth longing for greater things.

This happens in every campaign we play. For three of them it's pretty much described the past 25+ years of game play. I've seen such trends with other regular groups of players and it leads me to imagine this might be a universal problem. For games to be different players have to be able to play different characters.

Better DMs need better players.


  1. Absolutely. Good post. I like Mr. Unlucky who still keeps playing despite being the drummer of Spinal Tap.

  2. Noting that PC rut is a good insight. After coming back to the game last year, I've been playing a cleric the whole time, and really enjoying building up the character, thinking about the cool things that could be done with cleric spells (yes you can; in B/X or 1e anyway), and really trying to learn how to play it right. That fun has sort of worn off in the last 6 months or so, but I've had the chance to do a couple of playtests in that time where nothing in particular was at stake, so I tried out some new classes and new systems, and that has made the play and the systems more interesting to me again.

    Maybe do some one-offs with these folks, make them roll 3d6 in order for their new PCs? Seems like the folks that always play the same class might have to choose something other than MU if their INT is 8.

  3. Play a couple Google+ hangout games. I was getting pretty fed up with my group of players again, but ConstantCon has been a really great change of pace and always recharges me for out Saturday night game session.

    From what I've gather so far, the best ways to improve both DMing and player skills in to play and DM for varying groups of people.

    As one of my kendo senseis always said, "No. Practice makes permanent; only perfect practice make perfect."

  4. Part of me doesn't blame them because I always end up playing a knowledge hunting wizard, but that's because I don't get to play much and have never gotten my fill.

    If you really get tired of it two ideas pop into mind:

    1) have them encounter a bodyswitching artifact that switches abilities too and let them deal with the powers/weaknesses of their teammates for a few sessions.

    2) have a flashback or flashforward one-off: "Tonight you'll be playing your children on the night they meet."

  5. I'd even go so far as to claim that the highly regarded sandbox campaign is impossible, without players that dare to step out of their comfort zone.

    There are a lot of good GMs with mediocre players.

  6. @ A.D., I've been playing with some of my group for over 25 years and every now and then they all sit there blankly with PC's in a tavern waiting for me to tell them what adventures are on hand.

    Never mind they know the kingdom next-door and the kingdom they occupy frequently raid across each others borders, there are criminal gangs in some of the cities they know about, tombs waiting to be pillaged, tribes of humanoids harassing the fringes, valleys noted for the inhuman occupants, and so on...

  7. Do the players have the opportunity of playing in different settings and rule systems? Do they have opportunities to play vampires, superheroes, starfarers? Do the players get chances to act as game masters?

    Does the game group encourage theatricality?

    Humans are creatures of habit. Shaking people out of their ruts takes quite a bit of effort.

  8. postgygaxian,

    Good idea! Shaking things up are good. Sometimes people just want comfort, and hopefully it's not when you want them to take the lead...