Insomniac Monkeys On Crack

Another issue came up in the last session of my Pathfinder campaign – chronic PC impatience.

It happens especially when they go to cities and between adventures. They go into a frenzy of trying to buy and sell and talk to everyone and do everything to the point where I have to start enforcing fatigue rules to get them to stop pounding on people’s doors at 3 AM demanding magic item sales.  Sometimes there is plot related time pressure but often there’s not.

In this campaign, I knew it was happening a lot. Heck, the last huge multisession fight they got into was initiated with Serpent going to visit the Cypher Lodge in the middle of the night and waking people up to demand magic item sales (with no idea that it had been taken over by the forces of evil… He found out quick though). So I tried to give them an out, a friendly (as such things go) local crime figure they’re aligned with (Saul Vancaskerkin from the Second Darkness Adventure Path) offered to take care of buying and selling and whatnot for them.  I reckoned that would get it off our play session plates and let us get to adventure. “Sure!” they said. And then they immediately went out to do it some more! They literally made that deal with Saul at 3 AM, went to bed, woke up, and then demanded of him immediately whether he’d gotten everything on their wishlists yet. When he hadn’t, it was out to kick down doors.

Serpent, and his player really, was getting frustrated. He keeps wanting to sell and or buy his stuff NOW.  Well, I run a fairly realistic game world.  If you want to sell something like that in a four hour span, then like in the real world you’re going to get pawn shop prices. And if you want some specific magic item, you’re not going to be able to find it in that span – especially if you have shitty Diplomacy/Knowledge: Local skills.  I also run fairly low magic so there’s not “magic shops”. I try to reward their persistence with some randomly generated magic stuff that some decent scavenging lets them find some gypsy selling or whatever, but this doesn’t sate their desire for to-spec items. It’s not just buying and selling, it’s anything they end up wanting to do in a city (Get information! Build a criminal empire!), but that’s a handy example I have that shows the syndrome. PC impatience vs. the realistic pace of the world.

Am I being hard-headed? I guess I feel like a lot of this, and I’ve said this out loud to the players, can be elided easily.  Say you are looking for X, let’s all say you loiter around in town for a week, and it’ll probably show up. It doesn’t have to take GAME time, it can be over with in one sentence. But for whatever reason, they don’t want to “let time pass” – every waking hour is spent in high activity mode. And in cases like this, it ends up making things take a lot more game time than a more relaxed approach would.

I understand that’s easy to do in a game – it’s why in many computer games we set our character to “run” by default, why would you want to go somewhere slowly? But it does stretch my (and NPCs’, in my world) patience when the group is a nonstop tornado – trouble in any 24 hour period is practically guaranteed.

It’s not just this group either.  I always laugh when I see con game adventures that are time-based – the PCs arrive at the inn at 5:00, then dinner is at 6:00, the body is discovered at 6:30, and then this big list of things that are supposed to happen after the next 24 hours.  Here’s what really happens: from 6:30 to 7:00 the PCs (insisting on being in combat round time the whole time so that they get the most out of their buff spells) beat, intimidate, interrogate, tie up and/or kill everyone in the whole inn. That’s if they’re good characters and a murder is needed to provoke them of course; otherwise that happens from 5:00 to 5:30 instead.

Of course maybe I’m worrying about it too much – if they didn’t want to waste game screen time on it, they wouldn’t; they’re adults and I’ve explained all the above to them explicitly. And heck, I can’t really claim it’s unrealistic – adventurers in town is just like sailors or cowboys or whatnot; they have a short time to play hard before they head back out on the sea/trail/etc. But it seems to frustrate the players (well, especially the one) because he seems to think it’s unreasonable that he can’t get what he wants quickly.

Comments or ideas? I also posted this as a question on RPG Stack Exchange to see if it garners any good answers.

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3 responses to “Insomniac Monkeys On Crack

  1. Serpent's Player

    Sigh… as usual, you attribute anything positive that happens in your game to your wonderfulness (my players are actually role-playing relationships with NPCs? It must be because I’m such a wonderful GM!) and anything bad that happens in your game solely to your awful, awful players.

    We spent 3 days in port in a major city. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect that we could find some healing magic and maybe a belt of strength for sale. My social skills may be poor, but I also had our more-socially-adept NPCs looking as well. I wasn’t asking for custom to-spec items, just some commonly available items. I also was looking for magic hide armor, which is a bit rarer, so I understand not being able to find that easily, but what is so unreasonable about finding potions, scrolls, or wands of cure light wounds? We were REALLY hurting for healing magic after that giant knock-out fight that nearly wiped the party twice, and nothing could be found! Instead, you offer us a choice of 8 randomly generated items that all sucked, and apparently expect us to jump on that. What do I need with a ring that keeps people from reading my mind when I’m dying because I couldn’t get a healing potion? It’s a major city with a 40,000 gp buying limit! Strictly by the rules, any magic item under 40,000 gp ought to be commonly available 75% of the time. It’s your world and you’re free to ignore those rules, but don’t go blaming it all on your players when they get frustrated because they can’t spend any of the money they busted their asses to get through adventuring.

    Secondly, you made such a big deal about me asking if Saul had sold those items yet. As I said at the time, I thought at least one full day and maybe two had already passed. We gave those items to him right after the cypherlodge debacle and we were in town for at least one full day after that, and I just asked if he had sold the items, I didn’t DEMAND anything.

    You say all we have to do is say “We spend a week loitering around town and getting our business done?” Really? I wish, I really, REALLY wish it were that simple. Since the beginning of the campaign I have been constantly trying to get us even a little bit of downtime to get business done. Every time we are in town, we are constantly either being attacked by monsters and assassins, or being approached by NPCs who say “I need you to do this mission and it has to be done RIGHT NOW!” We never get any downtime. In the session you’re talking about, Sindawe got some info on Morgan Baumann and decided that we had to get out of town right that second. I was like, “Hey, what? When did we make the decision to leave now? We still haven’t done the things we came into town to do.” But the GM teamed up with the impatient player and essentially out-voted me. I would LOVE to have a week of downtime to spend in the city.

    And you wonder why I’m so pushy about trying to get magic item sales and purchases out of the way? It’s specifically BECAUSE we never get any downtime. I know that it’s not going to be even one day until we’re forced by the GM into leaving town, so every chance I get I say “we’re trying to sell magic items.”, “we’re trying to find magic items to buy.”

    Honestly, I don’t know why you have to make it into such an arduous process. If you just said, “It takes 3 days to sell your magic items” or “You spend a week, you find buyers for these items but not this one” or “Make a list of things you want and how long you’ll spend looking for them and I’ll tell you what you can find.” Instead, every time I say “we’re looking for magic items” I get another lecture from the GM about how PCs are insomniac monkeys on crack until someone distracts the GM with a question about something unrelated, and I get no definite answers about anything.

    • Hey man, not blaming you and not taking all the credit either. No need to get heated. I know you’re frustrated, and I consider that a problem to be solved, as I don’t want you to be frustrated.

      That’s why I’m asking people for ideas how to change things to help you be less frustrated – I feel caught between my model of how the world works (I freely admit I don’t do the standard 3e buy what you want model) and your expectations. Not saying your expectations are wrong, but not saying mine are either, how do we settle it out?

      I’m happy to say “it takes you three days” or the like. I’m just saying that when we do that, if y’all rustle up trouble in the meantime that’s not on me… I know it’s hard when you have 4 players and not all of them decide they can sit still for 3 days, that’s something I’m interested in solutions for too.

  2. Serpent's Player

    I’m just trying to defend myself here. You say “they” but in fact every example you give is about me, so it feels rather like a personal attack. You’re painting an inaccurate picture of me as an “insomniac monkey on crack” who has “chronic PC impatience” and make me out to be incredibly demanding and petulant.

    The reason I have to keep asking “Can I sell magic items in town?” “How about now?” “Can I sell them now?” “Has Saul sold those magic items yet?” is that you refuse to give me a clear answer as to how and when we can sell and buy magic items, how long it takes, and what we can expect to find. You say my expectations are off, but you’re not really helping me figure out what my expectations should be. Just directly answering my questions and telling me “it takes you 3 days” would be just fine. The frustration begins when I repeatedly ask and I’m repeatedly stonewalled and never get an answer.

    Then, when I finally wear you down into letting me sell our loot, so the party has some money, I’m told that there is nothing in this major city to buy. We desperately needed basic healing items (which should surely be the single most common type of magic items produced) but we couldn’t find enough even to replace what we used in the last fight alone. The PCs and several NPCs combing the city for an entire day could only come up with 8 random items that no one wanted. All of the frustration I went through just to be allowed to sell loot was pointless because there was nothing to buy. At this point I was so frustrated I was ready to just throw my money into the street and say good riddance to it. What’s the point of even going on adventures and collecting loot if no one in town wants to buy it and there’s nothing in town for you to buy even if you sell your loot?

    So, you’re asking for ideas of how to change things to avoid frustration:
    1. You clearly have some kind of guidelines in your mind about how difficult it should be to find, buy, and sell items. Share these guidelines with your players, because we are clueless about what’s going on in your mind.
    2. Selling items does not have to be such a complicated affair. Just tell us what we have to do and how long it takes and it will be done.
    3. Give us a little downtime to get our business done. You act like it’s the players who are setting an unreasonable pace, but in fact its the GM who is setting the pace. Not one single day goes by in Riddleport where we are not attacked by monsters, forced to drop everything to help out an NPC, and/or forced to leave town immediately to chase some lead. You say “if y’all rustle up trouble in the meantime” but trouble always finds us, not the other way around.

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