Also known as getting on the same page. See what I did there…moving on.
Quick show of hands. How many of you have played in a RPG where there was at least one person that played an off-the-wall goofy character in your super serious and very dark game? Or how about you GMs that had planned for an epic story of survival where the group has to worry about food and water as much as monsters and someone rolls up a robot/construct? What I’m getting at is that we’ve all, at one point in time, played a game where at least one person in the group had a different idea as to what the game was going to be like. Maybe they tried to change the tone, maybe they wanted to circumvent a problem by picking a “better” choice (such as race), or maybe they are just buttheads and want to ruin your game. Any of these are not fun, but where does the real problem lay? It really comes down to communication.
Not What I Expected
I’ve run games where I wanted to have a very certain feel for them. My current home game is very dark and grim. A friend of mine tried running a same kind of game a long time ago. My game currently is going fine, but my friend’s game fell flat on its face. I had planned to play a barbarian of some sort and when we started playing I caught on to what my friend was going for and went with it. Then the gnome enchanter walked in. By Odin’s beard was he a little wanker. This player was somewhat disruptive on good days, but that game was terrible. His gnome would have important NPCs do very silly and ridiculous things (having the king take off his pants in front of the kingdom was probably the funniest), and it drove the GM up the wall. The player was frustrated with the GM because he was playing his character. The game eventually fell apart due to scheduling, but to be fair, it would have fallen apart on its own.
Looking back on it, I feel that the GM just didn’t communicate with us what to expect. We all went in assuming we’re going to play our usual setting of medieval fantasy with a touch of comedy. The GM wanted to try gloom and doom. This shows us that it’s important to talk to your players about what you’re going to run. If you want to keep secrets from your players that’s fine, but never hide the tone and mood of your games from them. You’re just going to confuse or anger them. To be honest, I don’t even keep anything about the setting secret from the players. I run my games fairly transparently and that works for us. For other groups the GM may want to hide certain parts of the world from the party until a good time, but always consider the impact it might have on your players. If you ever think that something about your world may be misinterpreted by a player, talk to them.
Who are you? I’m the new level 5 princess!
Another problem that can creep up is player vs player expectations. I learned early on that groups should make characters either together or at least let everyone know what they are planning. I once played with a group where someone played a full on vampire. For a while it was alright until we had to do stuff during the day. I also played a game where all but one player were some sort of arcane caster (dumb luck) and we had one witch hunter in the group that hated arcane magic. Now really good groups might say, “that’s just RP gold right there,” but most groups are going to have a bad time. Bickering in-character happens, and soon it’s really hard for the group to come up with a reason to stick together. The paladin hates the thief due to his evil ways. Why would they keep working together?
This problem is best nipped in the bud if the group comes up with a party theme. The group (players and GM) should work out who the group is before working out the individual. Maybe the GM is thinking of running a pirate game on the high seas. The group should talk about what kind of pirates they be. Are they cutthroats, privateers, or just a couple of dashing scallywags looking for adventure? Each of those three give a different story and feel. Once the group agrees on a theme, then they should work on their character and how they fit the theme. If someone wants to play a paladin, but the group agreed to being evil cutthroats, the player now knows that ahead of time and can either make a PC that fits with the theme, or maybe rethink his character. This will help stop problems before they start. If the player insists on going against type, then it needs to get brought up to the group to work out a compromise.
Be up front about what you expect from your fellow players and GM. Talk to them about where you’d like to see the game to go and how you’d like to get there. COMMUNICATE!!!
Thanks for reading!!!