In my last game my players were almost overwhelmed and I saved them, with a NPC joining the battle. My players were bummed out after the fight and had a heated discussion about the fight.
How can I get my players back on track and stop fighting each other?
The players recently created a new party of characters, after our first campaign ended a few weeks ago. They are still “new” players, having problems remembering the rules. Because of that, I openly roll all dice in rules-heavy situations, so that rules get explained more.
This time around they wanted more specialized characters, after playing more general adventuring type characters at first.
The group consists of:
- Alice, my fiancée, playing a mage
- Bob, a friend of Alice, playing an archer
- Charlie, Bob’s best friend, playing a sword-fighter
- Dan, a friend of mine with no connection to any other player, playing a rogue
Up until now they never lost a fight, and they wanted more of a challenge with the new characters. We play a game with extensive role-play scenes, but normally at least one battle per session. The characters are not optimized and there was never a “grand group strategy” with roles that have to be filled.
There have been some complaints by Alice and Charlie about Bob’s choices before. Mostly for investing to much experience points and in-game money in only one “feature,” (i.e., putting everything into making damage, complaining that his intimidate checks don’t work).
Otherwise the group ran rather smoothly.
The party was defending a castle against a besieging army. The players were sent to defend against a small vanguard of the enemy forces, who had breached the wall and were now trying to open the gate.
The party attacked the vanguard head on, without playing to the new characters’ strengths. Alice didn't use her mage’s magic powers, as she didn't deem it necessary at fist. The rogue didn’t try to flank the enemy. The archer just stood in the middle of the room to be able to shoot at any enemy without moving, instead of using cover for his advantage.
Things started to go south rather quickly. The vanguard rolled extremely well in the opening round. With two critical hits against the players and high damage rolls. The players rolled badly and little to no damage in the first round.
We all shrugged it off as bad luck (which it was) and played on, but after taking massive damage in the first round and having similar luck in the following rounds, the vanguard clearly had the upper hand.
Bob, the archer, just stayed his course, standing in the middle of the room, taking hits. Alice thought about using magic, but concluded that it would take too long. [Magic takes several rounds to prepare]. Charlie tried to strategize some way out of this and moved together with Dan, bringing him into a better position.
Then Bob got hit by a second critical attack, almost killing him. I realized they were out of options I sent in a NPC to help. A knight they had met before, who was helping with the castle defense against the main force. He stormed into the room, and joined the main fight with Dan and Charlie’s characters, killing one enemy but mostly took defensive actions and taking the brunt of the enemies attack.
Not getting pummeled allowed the party to recover quickly and overwhelm the vanguard. Charlie rallied Dan to a counter offensive, while Alice finally decided to use magic.
After the fight everyone was bummed out, because they thought they lost the battle and were just spared by the knight’s arrival.
I told them, that I might have misjudged the enemies strength and that they mainly had a hard time because of the exceptionally bad luck in the first round.
Bob started to complain that the enemy had archers, that attacked his character, as he would otherwise have won the battle single-handed1. That lead Alice to attack Bob, telling him, that his character was a glass cannon and he only thinks about attack and never about defense when creating his characters. Bob lashed out in response, complaining about her stupid magic2. Charlie joined in, telling both, that their old characters were a lot better. Meanwhile Dan just had a defeatist attitude about how they should always have the knight with them.
1 Not correct.
2 Technically correct, but unhelpful.
After everyone calmed down a bit we were able to continue playing for a bit. Everything seemed fine for a while, as we played out the aftermath of the attack and discussions about rations and wounds. Only Dan sometimes remarked, that we might just have the knight deciding things like that.
But as they decided to start a counter attack, things started up again. Even in the planning phase of the attack heated arguments flew around and Alice and Bob were attacking each other, with Charlie joining in on Alice side. Dan just announced that he thinks that they should just take the knight to the attack and let him do the heavy lifting.
So how do I get the players back on track?
I could now either have the knight refuse to go with them, or go with them and show them that the knight can't solve all of their problems. The knight isn't overpowered. Bare dumb luck, he should be no better than the players. His stats are slightly below those of the characters.
So I’m hoping this will stop the “Let the GM solve the problems.”
But how do I stop the players infighting over “bad” character choices and getting back to having fun?