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GM burn out?


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#1 Yepesnopes

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Posted 23 July 2012 - 10:58 PM

 Hello all,

I am back from a WFRPG marathon weekend, and I came back with a sort of mixed feelings.

I have been a GM for the 1st and 2nd editions for maaaany years, and changing to the 3rd edition is probing to be a challenge; not a bad one, but still a challenge, with dice pool interpretation, opposed checks and social combats probably the hardest of all.

There is yet another problem, which are the combats and the lack of fate points. In previous editions combats where lethal but the PCs had fate points. In this edition combats are more lethal and PCs do not have fate points. On top of this there is an increasing need from my part to give the world a higher realism which inccours in making enemies more cleaver i.e. they use tactics like attacking the archers of the PC group, or focusing on the light armoured PCs etc…

Result => Total disaster from the PC playability point of view. After each combat PCs get badly hurt which translates in the story slowing down a lot.

I wanted to ask a bit of impression from other GMs.

Are your combats that lethal? are PCs dying often? one every combat, every two combats…?

And from the realist part, are you more relaxed? do you just throw enemies in mass against PC? or do you use tactics and try to get the most from the NPC enemies?

In the last session, after watching the faces of my players I had to reset a combat after the first round :( It was an encounter from a published scenario where the PC face a number of goblins equal to 2 times the number of PCs. I divided them in two groups, one group attacked the Troll Slayer with the card "Swarm 'em", knocking him out of combat right away, the other half attacked the archer who had just used rapid fire on them; some "chop" action cards and a "sneaky gits" was enough to knock him out of combat also. I looked at my players and I decided to start over the encounter using only the chop action card and just playing the goblins as dumb asses.

Any thoughts? I think I need holidays as a GM :(


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#2 valvorik

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Posted 24 July 2012 - 02:17 AM

To your question about lethality - I find critical wounds etc. pile up but lethality low (though a TPK was narrowly averted at one point).  Key has been heroes not having to "leave the wounded on field".

I try to play creatures "not stupid at least" unless they are enraged etc.  Even a beastman knows it's better odds just now beating on that archer than attacking the human who just used magic to summon a bright light that makes him hard to hit (at least after seeing another beastman try to attack the wizard).  Though we're not using grid etc I still put a limit of about six for how many foes can attack 1 PC (e.g., if there are 4 PC's and henchman come in groups of 4, 2 gangs of them can't attack the same PC in melee) and I alternate between locations where heroes can spread out, archer has lots of back up space, and narrow quarters or fights with foes all around.

I try to make fights with large numbers into the attrition of "waves with rally steps" not "a big mass at once".  This makes the heroes choose carefully when to use long-recharge/big payoff actions as they can't be sure "is there a next wave, what's in it".

Burn out is always a problem for GM's.  The role demands much on many fronts, for all that it is also very rewarding.  I switched to WFRP having burned out vis a vis D&D.  I find playing boardgames and reading (cooperative/equal games and sending mind elsewhere) are ways to relax and recharge - with just gonig for a walk helping too.

If there are enough foes to "swamp" heroes the fight may start at range and the "real question" is whether the heroes can winnow down the number before engaging or buy time (e.g., that ranged attack that staples a foe to ground) so that when engagement starts not every hero has to be manno-a-manno.

 

 



#3 Emirikol

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Posted 24 July 2012 - 05:46 AM

I LOVE THIS TOPIC SO MUCH!  Dude, I've been there so many times over the past 30+ years of gaming.  It's perfectly ok to be in that place and perfectly normal.  It seems you just want to put on a great, exciting game and have your players saying, "Wow!  That was the greatest game ever.  We love you GM!"

It's not always going to happen (and rarely happens at my table, more oftentimes, players say "you dirty rotten SOB, you killed Kenny!), so that's why its important to clarify a few things with players before hand.  Most of these deal with handling expectations.  Sometimes these things need to be said before the game begins.  Sometimes they need to be said before the campaign begins.  And, sometimes these things need to be said before they go into a combat with goblins numbering twice their number :)  Now, take my opinions with a grain of salt, because I tend to be a rat bastard GM who loves to eliminate characters when they enter situations they shouldn't be in (like a troll slayer that doesn't think that he'll go insane trying to "handle" a social encounter just because the player is an extrovert and thinks that WOUNDS are the only way to die!)

Anyways, below are a few thoughts on how to update player expectations about the game and your GM style.  Some of these are helpful.  Some of them are just ways to comedic ways toughen up your players and be a TYRANT GM!!!!    ;)

  • FIRST (and this is a rule for ALL game systems and ALL campaigns, and I'm constantly amazed at the sheer number of GMs who don't take this one, simple step to save themselves and their friendships from the ravages of campaigns):  Do you have a house rulebook clearly laid out on what replacement characters come back like?  For example:  same xp but starting coins is the simplest way to go about this.  This should never be left up to chance.  This should not be omitted from your house rulebook as some lame excuse like it's "arbitrary and situational."  Have a RULE.  You can alter a rule, but if you don't have a rule to begin with, the PLAYER'S feelings get b…hurt when you kill their character off. 
  • Second:  Establishing expectations:  Have you told your players that they seriously need to think about every combat and that NOT every combat is winnable by rushing in and going toe to toe? If not, you're going to run into this problem.    Use this last session as a good example that not every combat is MEANT to be winnable and that "there are alternatives to fighting."
  • Do you have 1000 ways for characters to be "eliminated from play"?  This prevents players from always bringing back just another fighter-type who is min-maxed to just be a combat monkey.  The beauty of WFRP is that there are many ways to go.  Disease, madness, permanent injuries, death, , marks of chaos, etc.  Personally, I think there ought to be more ways to go.  Stuff like curses, being "lost",  and "angstfully sitting at home on Friday nights because nobody likes them (to quote the Smallville game)."
  • Sometimes it's ok to TPK the party..but let them know that ahead of time.  "Hey.  I love you guys, but your characters are probably going to all die tonight.  My challenge to you all, should you choose to accept it, is to try to survive tonight.  You have my sympathies. Sound good?  Great.  Let's get started Heck there is a major WFRP3 published scenario out there where this is going to occur to 95% of parties..not knowing this ahead of time, was not a good thing for me as a player.  Our GM acted like we were going to just be able to keep going and going..AND THEN THE BASTARD STOMPED US.  The only character who lived, was the priest of Sigmar, and that's just because my character hid him in a coffin before fighting the BBEG..of course the coffin was locked, so he was essentially buried alive, but that's not the point!  ;)
  • Are you the type of GM that gains sadistic glee from killing off, maiming, or inflicting disease/insanity/corruption on the CHARACTERS? I happen to be this type of GM, but most normal GMs want to have a fair game where the players don't feel the need to be adversarial towards the GM. I've found that being a pansy -GM tends to get bossed around by his players and they whine about every little time they suffer a little set-back (like a TPK) and want to bend the rules so that they get to push the EASY BUTTON all the time.
  • Sometimes the players are just lazy.  Ignoring my insensitive thought above, this is a case where you have to occasionally /advise/ a group what to do.  Remember, players can roleplay characters that are stronger than themselves, but GUARANTEED many players are playing characters that are SMARTER than themselves.  A player cannot roleplay high intelligence. It is an impossibility.  This is simply where the GM has to step in and play C3PO and say, "Your chances of survival are 100,000,000:1 against!"

 All in all, it seems you were in a situation where the players just assumed they could walk in and win a combat.

My guess is though, from here on out, they are going to have a GREAT DEAL OF RESPECT for greenskins and combats now.

 

When it comes to strategy, sure the GM holds all the cards, and that's why it's best not to min-max an encounter from your end.  Every evil villain has a flaw and you need to "bring that out" while playing.

Another thing is that you could have TPK'd the party but had them wake up, tied up, in the goblin pens having to do degrading slave duty until they could escape and take vengeance on their captors.

 

Anyways, my overall point after all this rambling is, sometimes let the dice take their course, and play out the consequences of being left for dead.  Whenver I TPK, I alwayse have them all wake up, stripped of all "gear" and then thrown a pile of bodies, refuse, whatever.  When one player makes a bad decision, I have no qualms about killing him off..but when fortune doesn't favor the group, I usually just pull the "left for dead" bit.

 

jh

 



#4 Captain Fluffy

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Posted 24 July 2012 - 07:11 AM

My thoughts on these two issues.

GM Burn Out.  This can be a real issue.  WFRP 3rd is an easy game to run but a very hard one to master.  I have run 70+ sessions of this game and I end most with a list of things I would like to do better. This sort of pressure can leave you feeling flat.  Sometimes this is caused by players. You have to remember that it is not the GMs job to entertain the table. It is the GMs job to facilitate the people at the table entertaining each other.  If you have players that suck the fun out of roleplaying, even just one at the table,  then this will drain the energy out of you.  My advice would be to mix it up with different games and different players from time to time.

 

Combat and Character Death.

Character death is normally a bad idea.  Roleplaying is meant to be fun and that fun tends to come from a variety of sources. The fun is to be had by both the GM and the Players so there is a symbiotic relationship going on.  Sources of fun include:-

1) table talk and banter

2) Story telling

3) Character development (both in story terms and mechanical terms)

4) World / setting exploration

Source 1 is a given and unlikely to be effected by a character death (although see note below) and 4 is pretty straight forward as well.  Sources 2 and 3 can get ruined by character death.  Players normally enjoy developing their characters (which is why there are so few games around without an experience point mechanic) but this is not possible if they die on a regular basis.  GMs and players want to create stories but this is ruined if the lead characters die at strange moments.  Raiders of the Lost Ark would not be as good if Indy died half way through and a random archaeologist finished off the rest of the story.  

Character death is good.  Without character death you have no risk and a lot of tension, and fun, is lost.

So basically you need to have the threat of death as often as possible but to only actually have it occur occassionaly.

Another point is that you want your players to be upset by a character death. Different players handle it in different ways.  I have had some walk out of the game and others just start rolling up a new character.  Ideally I would like them to be somewhere inbetween. When I am a player and my character dies I like to take the rest of the session out to work out the background of a new character and a means of introducing them into the game.

I have recently played in a couple of games with GM's who had opposing views on character death and they both failed in different ways. Both where Pathfinder campaigns but the results would be the same in any other game.  In game A the GM was keen on killing as many characters as possible.  One player (in their first every RPG experience) was going through character every other week and every single singe player was on to their second or third character within a couple of months.  The game fell apart. None of the players enjoyed it and the story became non existent (because all of the character created with strong hooks to the main plot died).  Players stopped creating new characters and just introduced the new one as "my previous characters twin brother". This was probably the last straw for me as a player because I like to play with characters rather than stat blocks.  Game B the GM was against killing characters if at all possible. The story progressed much better and eventually after about 4 months of play the first character, mine, died.  No problems, I new enough about the story at this point to create a character with sensible links to the plot and we continued.  Then two weeks later my replacement character should have died and the GM ruled that he survived.   Similar things then happened with other characters. I.E. the bad guys would attack a character until they were at 1 or 2 hit points and then, for no good reason, switch to less damaged characters.  Pretty soon the players lost a bit of respect for the GM.  However, GM B kept his game going and most of the players would probably play in his game again (although they might mock him for being a wimp GM until his kills someone), whereas GM A's game fell apart and most of the players would not join one of his games again.

So its all about balance.

Final note on published adventures.  The combat readyness of a WFRP party is much more variable than it is in other games so often you wont be able to take the enemies in the published adventures at face value. Examine your party and tweak the encounter to suit.

 

 


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#5 Sami K

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Posted 24 July 2012 - 08:27 AM

Can you name any of the published adventures for outstanding lethality? I'm running them all. Already at the beginning of Eye to Eye, the players alerted the ambush in advance, were not able to get support from the lodge's crossbows, and fought the beastmen to the bitter end (even though I did place the Lodge location card at Extreme range from them as a cue for a possible withdrawal).

 

Funny thing was, the party was all combatants, with a dwarven dockworker, a Wardancer and a Bright Wizard, but in the end only the dockworker was left standing quite injured. Methinks I'll have to limit my aggressiveness (and use of the A/C/E pools, I often went "all out") a bit (though I did admit I ran the other group of Beastmen full pelt to the party with max. fatigue (wounds) and the use of the bestial roar card to boost an ungor group to combat…my bad.)



#6 Emirikol

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Posted 24 July 2012 - 09:52 AM

Black fire pass.  Total Party Kill assured, especially if your group goes into the final encounter with any pre-existing wounds whatsoever..and you won't know it's the final encounter until it's too late….

The gathering storm wasn't much trouble for my group, but we had 6 players.  At 4, they will have to think about what they're doing.

EfaE was pretty dangerous, but only because I split up the party pretty easily and drove one character insane.

You'd have to talk to Gitzman about the others.  He's played all of them.

jh



#7 Sami K

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Posted 24 July 2012 - 12:38 PM

I remember commentary on the Gathering Storm expected a 3-man party, one of which would be a combat specialist. I'd assume that'd be the expectation in the other modules as well - and the rulebook's examples always show such a 3-man party as well.

I assume you scaled things up due to your doubled party size for combat?



#8 Emirikol

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Posted 24 July 2012 - 12:50 PM

I did some scaling, but not to the extend that I would know how to do now that I'm more experienced with the system and challenge levels of things.

 

jh



#9 stormofswords

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Posted 26 July 2012 - 12:45 PM

On Combat:

I have a party of 6* and they have so far skated through my combat encounters. Things seemed so cocked I thought I was misreading the rule on monster defense, attacks, etc. But I'm pretty sure I'm not. Not new to Warhammer, but I am new to 3, and after only 3 sessions or so I'm still in that process of finding the "sweet" spot of combat optimization (from a gamemaster's perspective).  So no, I'm having the exact opposite experience in terms of combat - its seems too easy. Though once they get hurt, they tend to stay hurt…

 

*(Troll Slayer, Grudge Keeper, Bounty Hunter-human, Road Warden-human, Boatman-human, Apothecary-High Elf)



#10 Yepesnopes

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Posted 30 July 2012 - 11:01 AM

 I just wanted to thank all you that posted here, it really helped me. I have learned a few things, and it helped me to look from a different peespective some others.

I guess I am suffering from a mixture of things; one is that I have been GMing for many years in a row now without siting at the other side of the GM screen, not a single time and probably I have lost a bit the perspective. Additionally I have to rule over a party of eight players (lucky me that they are my friends since we where kids), which I find extremly difficult in Warhammer 3rd ed.

Good that I find regularly in this forums help and inspiration.

Thx guys!


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#11 Emirikol

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Posted 30 July 2012 - 03:22 PM

I made one of my players run BlackFire Pass for the group.  That was refreshing and helped me test out the game from the player perspective.

 

jh






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