Another episode of our dark fantasy, Savage Worlds shenanigans has arrived! It’s not enough that we’ve killed Valix Drogue and everyone who ever knew him in the city. Now we’re off to find his country manor and kill everyone who ever knew him there as well. Because that’s just the way we roll.
We’re somewhat beaten to the punch by the demiplane of Ravenloft, as his manor is now surrounded by mists and inhabited by undead. We fight a witch or something, and a lich or something. And ghost light pillars and bone piles. We were unclear on a lot of it. But Bruce’s session summary is quite entertaining, read it at:
The session kinda went bad and people were grumpy towards the end; there was even a bit of GM/player squabbling. This is a common enough problem so I’ll talk about it frankly. Your input on similar situations and potential resolutions is welcome!
1. Chuck, our erstwhile GM, runs a good game but has one weakness – description. When game world descriptions are incomplete or confusing, it hinders the PCs from being clear on what’s going on. We had a number of encounters where there was pretty much no setup, just minis put onto a tactical map and we’re off to combat. “Are those goblin minis the zombies again this time?” Tactical maps and minis can actually be even more confusing than not having them when some of the minis/features are representative of what’s going on and others aren’t, and there’s not a clear explanation of what the party sees.
2. We have a fairly large group for this game and it can be chaotic anyway with people rambling on about random stuff. Even from the start, there were times where the GM was trying to get a word in edgewise for like 5 minutes while people babbled on loudly about whatever story, movie review, or whatever came to their mind. (I’m guilty of this one too.)
Now, these two things can both be overcome, until the “death spiral” starts.
The Death Spiral
Here’s what happened. Confused players got a little disaffected and bored and started paying less attention and being even more disruptive. People would wander away from the table for long periods or be doing other things. Our host was running some kind of loud industrial equipment at inopportune times by halfway through the session. During the final combat, it had gotten so bad it was comical. Chuck was trying to explain what these ghost light pillar things were, and every time he tried to clarify it the host’s girlfriend would hit “puree” on a food processor located 4 feet from us. Needless to say, this was obviously wearing upon the GM’s poise.
As we’re gamers, and therefore by definition good Marty McFly conflict avoidance types, we all just let this build up till near the end open arguing broke out between the GM and players about a typical “you’re trying to weasel your way out of a trapped area now that it’s been triggered” thing, which was of course not what was really bothering anyone.
So at the end, things ended normally, but I think with negative aftereffects, with some players less enthused about the campaign and the GM less enthused about doing a lot of work for seemingly less than grateful players.
What To Do?
I’m sure everyone will get over it, most of these guys have been gaming together for a decade or something. I’m “the new guy” because I’ve only been here for five years. So this isn’t a crisis of Biblical proportions. But how do you stop the spirals from happening?
It’s easy to say “nip it in the bud early.” But no one wants to be a hardass out of the gate, and some amount of game disruptions and/or weak descriptions just happen, you can’t make a federal case out of it when it happens on occassion. But then you start to feel like interrupting the flow of things to address problems is harder later on. Once it’s already been going this way, it’s hard for the GM to say halfway through the session, “Look, you guys shut the fuck up and pay attention if you want me to be running this game!” (Though frankly I would have backed that play.) How do you get back on track, and “gently?”