Player often times blame the GM for bad games. We blame them for everything wrong in the game - boring story lines, the death of our characters, too much role playing, too much fighting, and on and on and on. But have we ever considered that we are the one’s ruining the game? There are many ways that players can fuck up a great campaign. Here’s are just a few ways we can screw up a campaign, and something for us to work on.
1) Playing With Blinders On
A good GM puts in the time and effort to make the game fun and interesting for us. I know Stephen spends more time making a great campaign for us than he does on this website (I’m joking Stephen[He’s really not]). He creates detailed story lines for each player with interesting sub plots for us to explore. So what do we do? We put our blinders on and plow through to try to get to the end of the story line as fast as we can.
Players can get tunnel vision. We want to get to the BBEG so bad, we don’t stop to smell the roses. We forget to search for secret doors or listen to the NPC rumors when we talk to them. How many magic items have we possibly missed by doing this?
It’s those little side quests that make the game fun. I like to think of it as the video game effect. Lots of times you plow through the game to get to the end, knowing you can go back after you’ve killed the BBEG to do the side quests. Problem is that in D&D we usually can’t go back to do those side quests. We may have teleported out and can’t get back. Or it could be that by reaching our goal, the side quests have timed out or become irrelevant. Either way, sometimes we just need to slow down and look around, you never know what you’re missing.
2) Something Shiny
This is the exact opposite of the mentality above. Too many times, players can go down the rabbit hole following some little detail or minor character, totally derailing the quest at hand. A good GM will attempt to steer the players back on track, but as we all know, we can be a stubborn lot and insist on chasing down some completely useless lead or side plot, with the GM asking themselves “why”? We have done this to Stephen many times, and while he rolls with it and comes up with interesting storylines on the fly, I’m pretty sure I can hear him screaming on the inside.
Players can easily get distracted. Sometimes it’s the thought of glory and treasure, even though what we are doing is just chasing a red herring in the story. Maybe since players do dumb shit all the time, we are daydreaming about doing something incredibly stupid and not paying attention and we get sidetracked. Or maybe we just see something shiny and go after it (and it’s probably in a gelatinous cube). My point is, while a good GM will do his best to keep the game moving in the right direction, we as players can make that awfully difficult for them sometimes.
So if the whole party is uninterested in the story line, then yes, the GM needs to take a hard look at what he or she is doing and adjust. What I’m talking about is when one or two players just don’t engage at all. I never understand these players. Why are you even bothering to play if you’re just going to dick around and not pay attention. It makes no sense to me.
I understand that sometimes you may not enjoy what is happening during that particular session and just tune out, but to me, that’s no excuse. It’s a team game. Try to engage. You are not always in the limelight, and that’s OK. Don’t use the excuse that your character wouldn’t have any interest in what is happening. Play devil’s advocate, roll play your character being mopey and complaining, or even work against the party. A good group of players will enjoy this and understand what is happening. It can lead to some interesting conflicts that can be useful down the road.
But when you have a player that is basically being a dick and not doing anything to help every single session, I say the onus in not on the GM to get that player to engage, but on the rest of the players at the table. The GM needs to focus on the party as a whole and shouldn’t worry about just one player. If he spends all his time trying to get one jerk to engage, the rest of the party suffers. We, as players, need to police ourselves. We can try to get the player to get involved during the game or we can talk to the jerk after the session and see what’s going on. Worst case scenario, we can as a group, let them know that this probably isn’t the party for them, and ask them to move on. It may seem harsh, but why let one person ruin everyone’s fun?
Sometimes it’s not always the GM’s fault when it comes to having fun at the table, and it isn’t always on the GM to create the fun for the party. When we get lost chasing down small details that the GM didn’t mean to be important, or get so focused and forget about all the side quests we can hurt our own fun at the table.
Think of it like this. You go to McDonalds and are waiting in line. The line is moving very slow and you are getting distracted at the beautifully crafted happy meal display next to you. You start to get more and more annoyed at the slow workers. They need to hurry up cause you’re hungry. Maybe you’re getting surly and complaining out loud to those around you about how stupid these people are. Then you get to the front of the line and have no idea what you are going to order. You were so distracted by those shiny toys you never looked at the options. You spend a minute or two looking over the menu and then don’t have your money or credit card out when it’s time to pay. So who really is the problem here?