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Roderz

GM Player Management Advice

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I've now had three sessions as a GM in a round-the-table (as opposed to simply via a chat group with long-time friends) setting with players I found randomly. The first session was a zero, two totally new-to-the-game players, and a veteran turned up. Between zero and 1, a brother of the veteran joined as a new-to-the-game player, but with experience in Saga Edition and extensive RPG experience, and one additional player.

There are two things I'd like opinions and advice on from my experience so far.

Firstly, the last player to join throws me for a loop quite often. The backstory in use is very dichotomous, being on the run from an authority, with a chosen Obligation that the character had a pet it is trying to recover. What often throws me though is that the character is often played in a way that doesn't match any of the material I've been given, so backstory mainly. And, rightly or wrongly, often the player will pick up dice to roll, and then the thing they want to do is so simple that I don't require a roll. Previous experience of the player is actually as a GM for friends, so this may be the first time as a player. I think if I continue on with my track, the player may start to pick up on tone etc and settle in. So far everything still gels with the group and setting, though somewhat on the fringes. Any tips, previous experiences to share in this space?

The second player I'd like to raise I think I'm handling well but I guess feedback would be great. The player is a bit more timid, but does participate, discuss plans, etc, and I think the player is enjoying things. However, when time comes for the character to actually take their turn and act, there is a lot of hesitation. Both in combat, and a social situation. I don't know if there is fear on behalf of the player, or simply an effect of overwhelming options, maybe a bit of deer-in-the-headlights. So far I have taken the time to discuss options with them and even explored a number of resulting steps that could follow before backtracking and taking a different option. I've been very conscious to ensure the player is included and gets time due, and I think this is all I really can do?

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You sound ok to me.  

First player's back story shouldn't be a narrative shackle for them, but a session story opportunity for you.  Dunno about the rolling dice when not needed but it sounds like if they played this system they didn't get that not everything needs a dice roll.  They might be from a different system background where breathing between heartbeats required a dice check.

Player 2 sounds fine, dunno what their experience level is, more table time could help.  Plus you're mixed company so some hesitation in how to proceed in mixed company sounds reasonable.

I don't think you've got any problems at all. 

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Sounds like the making of a decent group.  The player with previous GM experience sounds like he is used to game systems that required dice rolls for everything, or that was his GM style.  I'd imagine that, as they get used to the system and your GM style, the player would start to figure out that he doesn't need to roll Brawn to open a ketchup bottle.
The second player sounds like they're just new to the whole RPG thing in general, and not just the game.  They actually sound like someone at their first day of school, but I would wager that they will 'come out of their shell' as the game progresses, and they get a better handle on the system and the style of the other players.

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Sounds like a decent group so far. If they are gelling up into a group then let it mature for a bit.

For the guy who isnt playing his backstory 2P51's advice is good. Dont try to force him into a way you think he should act, but give him a chance to follow up on his obligation and see if he takes it. If he doesnt, dont fret it. Especially with a new group, and with a few newbies, some things are just not going to come together right. If the player decides to play his obligation, just see if he wants to change it.

You shy player may just not get yet that there is no right or wrong action in the game. Hopefully he will get comfortable with doing stuff and the problem will go away. 

At the very least, give it a few more sessions before you really start to worry. 

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I agree with others here that it sounds like a good group.  As a previous (and somewhat still) quiet player, I used to sit back take everything in and then act when I was ready.  I have a feeling your player will do this to as he becomes accustomed to the game and players.  The previous GM player may take longer to come around as your GM style may be different than his but he will get used to your style and run with it. At least in my experience, most people do.

 

6 hours ago, korjik said:

You shy player may just not get yet that there is no right or wrong action in the game. Hopefully he will get comfortable with doing stuff and the problem will go away. 

 

I wouldn't go there.  My players have taken the wrong action a lot of times (and I will admit I have to). For some reason it is near impossible for my group to realize they have to retreat from any confrontation.

Example of wrong action (in Pathfinder, not Star Wars). Characters have been exploring this old building and have already fought several types of undead creatures.  They came across the room where they hear a a lot of movement within. The room is boarded up on their side - obviously to keep whatever is on the inside inside.  One character decides to unbar the door and open it - near team wipe. The real kicker is the guy who opened the door survived.

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How confident the players feel is largely dependent on the tone you set as a GM. Until they’re more comfortable with each other, go a little easier on the consequences of their choices. Show them you’re interested in the RP potential of whatever choice they seem more inclined to make. Be excited and embellish your responses to them.

As for the dice-happy player, try to set as many difficulties as you can at simple. Try to answer “simple” even before he even finishes asking “What would be the difficulty for this roll?” Hopefully eventually he’ll get bored and get the hint. 

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I concur that this group may work out in the long run.

I too have a quiet player and I'm exercising patience.  They're slowly coming out of their shell.

And as a GM if I have a player roll dice before the opposition or target number is determined I ask, "Are you warming up your dice?"  I'm also a big stickler for making a player announce their action before rolling dice.

Be firm and polite.

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14 hours ago, Varlie said:

I agree with others here that it sounds like a good group.  As a previous (and somewhat still) quiet player, I used to sit back take everything in and then act when I was ready.  I have a feeling your player will do this to as he becomes accustomed to the game and players.  The previous GM player may take longer to come around as your GM style may be different than his but he will get used to your style and run with it. At least in my experience, most people do.

 

I wouldn't go there.  My players have taken the wrong action a lot of times (and I will admit I have to). For some reason it is near impossible for my group to realize they have to retreat from any confrontation.

Example of wrong action (in Pathfinder, not Star Wars). Characters have been exploring this old building and have already fought several types of undead creatures.  They came across the room where they hear a a lot of movement within. The room is boarded up on their side - obviously to keep whatever is on the inside inside.  One character decides to unbar the door and open it - near team wipe. The real kicker is the guy who opened the door survived.

Not what I mean by right or wrong. There are choices that will be right or wrong for the characters but that doesnt mean the choice was right or wrong for the players. 

I more mean that some new players may see a right or wrong choice like in a computer game, where the wrong choice may make a quest line unavailable, and therefore reduce the finite amount of game there is. So the player is too worried about the fact that there is no obvious choice for what to do, and the hesitate to do anything.

I also disagree that your example is an example of a wrong action. There are all sorts of player types and character types that would always choose to open the door, especially if they dont have any real idea what is on the other side. The fact that the party nearly got wiped doesnt make it a wrong choice either. That can happen with almost any fight if the dice go cold, and should be a risk with most well balanced fights, especially if the characters are close to tapped out.

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Thanks for all the feedback everyone, overall feeling of stay-the-course, at least for now. I also think they'll continue to come together.

21 hours ago, korjik said:

For the guy who isnt playing his backstory 2P51's advice is good. Dont try to force him into a way you think he should act, but give him a chance to follow up on his obligation and see if he takes it. If he doesnt, dont fret it. Especially with a new group, and with a few newbies, some things are just not going to come together right. If the player decides to play his obligation, just see if he wants to change it.

I think I'm just having to fight my own personal opinions a bit in this space, in that there are elements I didn't have much desire to touch on, being the ISB, and a lost pet.

Edited by Roderz
Grammar

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This reminds me.

In our last session the group was asked to track down a contact with VERY minimal POC information.  All they had was a name and occupation.

As the GM I had about 4 ways that I thought that the PC's could track down this NPC.  The Players (and ergo their Characters) had zero.

I let them sort it out for themselves and let them eventually come up with a plan E that would work.

I even recall mentioning about their conundrum.  "Uh oh.  We've hit the brick wall where there's no apparent way to achieve the goal."  And then I  sat back, smiled, shut up, and let them think.

 

And yes, the characters may do stupid stuff that shuts down a plot line.  Let them kill that opportunity.  Let the consequences follow.  And give them some other opportunities (or complications) to sort through.

 

Although before the players do something spectacularly TPK stupid, I do ask them "Are you SURE!!!" and if they don't get the reference, I've also asked, "Do you have backup characters in mind?"

There was also the one time I plead with the players "PLEASE don't attack that Imperial Star Destroyer with your Duce-n-Four!"  They took the hint.

 

 

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I've used the "Are you SURE" trick as well but now I also let them know how dangerous it is by saying upgrade that check 3 times.  Adding 3 possibilities for Despair usually makes them rethink it (Not always though).

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So in a recent session I had the group start on 'their' ship. I mistakenly had them start the campaign as if they were currently earning their starting Obligation by escaping slavery and stealing a ship. It seemed like a good idea but I wouldn't do it again.

Regardless, they stole the ship from a ship jacker, and after shooting down the Hutt's Uglies and escaping to hyperspace, they eventually found the actual owner in a cage in the main hold. Rightly or wrongly, I made them take skill checks to let him out. Skulduggery failed, Mechanics failed, and it came to... Melee (or Athletics but I think Melee). By this time I was amused and upgraded the difficulty. Result was Triumph-Despair with success overall. So for the despair I said they'd fatally wounded him. Now they're not murder hobos (with one tentative exception that I think would dive into it), and in particular the medic wanted to save him, so I and the room lent towards the Triumph being that he was able to be saved. The player who made the check though wasn't overly keen, and in fact another player warned that player to read the vibe a little. At the time they had little back story on the NPC (I had planned it and it was a tragic back story with a terminal illness in its ending stages) and the player I think was more worried about keeping the ship. I changed the subject for a minute or so to diffuse the situation a bit, and on coming back to it the player essentially agreed with the group, and the NPC was saved. They then found evidence and a captain's log while he was comatose that drove home the point a little that this was an innocent, tragic NPC and that perhaps murder hobo wasn't exactly the tone of things. Crisis averted.

I think if they had killed him I probably wouldn't have revealed the back story, because that could've wedged the players apart a bit.

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On ‎10‎/‎8‎/‎2018 at 8:05 PM, Roderz said:

I've now had three sessions as a GM in a round-the-table (as opposed to simply via a chat group with long-time friends) setting with players I found randomly. The first session was a zero, two totally new-to-the-game players, and a veteran turned up. Between zero and 1, a brother of the veteran joined as a new-to-the-game player, but with experience in Saga Edition and extensive RPG experience, and one additional player.

There are two things I'd like opinions and advice on from my experience so far.

Firstly, the last player to join throws me for a loop quite often. The backstory in use is very dichotomous, being on the run from an authority, with a chosen Obligation that the character had a pet it is trying to recover. What often throws me though is that the character is often played in a way that doesn't match any of the material I've been given, so backstory mainly. And, rightly or wrongly, often the player will pick up dice to roll, and then the thing they want to do is so simple that I don't require a roll. Previous experience of the player is actually as a GM for friends, so this may be the first time as a player. I think if I continue on with my track, the player may start to pick up on tone etc and settle in. So far everything still gels with the group and setting, though somewhat on the fringes. Any tips, previous experiences to share in this space?

The second player I'd like to raise I think I'm handling well but I guess feedback would be great. The player is a bit more timid, but does participate, discuss plans, etc, and I think the player is enjoying things. However, when time comes for the character to actually take their turn and act, there is a lot of hesitation. Both in combat, and a social situation. I don't know if there is fear on behalf of the player, or simply an effect of overwhelming options, maybe a bit of deer-in-the-headlights. So far I have taken the time to discuss options with them and even explored a number of resulting steps that could follow before backtracking and taking a different option. I've been very conscious to ensure the player is included and gets time due, and I think this is all I really can do?

I have a very similar problem with a player who is new to my table and is always trying to force dice checks. My player is also more of a GM than a player, and so I feel that it's a similar situation where he is essentially trying to grab the narrative. I told the players that I would give them a limited number of such officious dice checks in a session, but that they need to not be doing it all the time. I wanted them to feel like they have input on the narrative, but since they don't know what is going on in certain situations calling for a check is disruptive sometimes. 

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On 10/19/2018 at 12:43 AM, Roderz said:

So in a recent session I had the group start on 'their' ship. I mistakenly had them start the campaign as if they were currently earning their starting Obligation by escaping slavery and stealing a ship. It seemed like a good idea but I wouldn't do it again.

Regardless, they stole the ship from a ship jacker, and after shooting down the Hutt's Uglies and escaping to hyperspace, they eventually found the actual owner in a cage in the main hold. Rightly or wrongly, I made them take skill checks to let him out. Skulduggery failed, Mechanics failed, and it came to... Melee (or Athletics but I think Melee). By this time I was amused and upgraded the difficulty. Result was Triumph-Despair with success overall. So for the despair I said they'd fatally wounded him. Now they're not murder hobos (with one tentative exception that I think would dive into it), and in particular the medic wanted to save him, so I and the room lent towards the Triumph being that he was able to be saved. The player who made the check though wasn't overly keen, and in fact another player warned that player to read the vibe a little. At the time they had little back story on the NPC (I had planned it and it was a tragic back story with a terminal illness in its ending stages) and the player I think was more worried about keeping the ship. I changed the subject for a minute or so to diffuse the situation a bit, and on coming back to it the player essentially agreed with the group, and the NPC was saved. They then found evidence and a captain's log while he was comatose that drove home the point a little that this was an innocent, tragic NPC and that perhaps murder hobo wasn't exactly the tone of things. Crisis averted.

I think if they had killed him I probably wouldn't have revealed the back story, because that could've wedged the players apart a bit.

Never make it so that the players have to succeed on a die roll to advance the plot. They will always fail :)

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9 hours ago, korjik said:

Never make it so that the players have to succeed on a die roll to advance the plot. They will always fail :)

I get this point, and I know the book drives it home as well. In this case though, he was able to converse with them, and I already had contingencies for if he died, which kind of became important as he was unconscious / comatose after the medic patched him up. While it requires a degree of fudging the lines behind the scenes, I think you can often get around this. If you face a barrier in your life you find a way to get over, under, around or through it. If this isn't possible you usually find a different goal. In game terms I picture this as either finding a new way to breadcrumb the players to your goal, and if that fails, you railroad them to your goal. But I did know it was a risk having them fail to release him. In hindsight, "Look, you saw us try but we just don't have the equipment to get you out. We'll pick up a fusion cutter in the next port," could have been funny too.

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23 hours ago, Roderz said:

I get this point, and I know the book drives it home as well. In this case though, he was able to converse with them, and I already had contingencies for if he died, which kind of became important as he was unconscious / comatose after the medic patched him up. While it requires a degree of fudging the lines behind the scenes, I think you can often get around this. If you face a barrier in your life you find a way to get over, under, around or through it. If this isn't possible you usually find a different goal. In game terms I picture this as either finding a new way to breadcrumb the players to your goal, and if that fails, you railroad them to your goal. But I did know it was a risk having them fail to release him. In hindsight, "Look, you saw us try but we just don't have the equipment to get you out. We'll pick up a fusion cutter in the next port," could have been funny too.

I did mean my comment pretty literally. If you planned for failure then it technically doesnt apply. I just tend to harp on this one cause its a lesson I learned the hard way :)

 

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