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I'm preparing a game in Roll20. I have listed the game as looking for players. I'm not a picky person with my players if they are nice.

One guy has shown up very excited about the idea of my game. When I started to ask him things, he realized something I had already publicly posted in the game resume: that the character sheet would be predefined by me, though I would allow some minor changes once the player picked it, but mainly pregenerated by me.

The guy started to say things like "That's not roleplaying!". As English is not my mother tongue, I'm not sure if I have actually said something wrong in the resume, or if the person just didn't read it.

Here is the conversation. My question is:

  • Have I done something wrong?

If not:

  • Shall I allow this player to join the game? I'm worried that he didn't even read the resume of the game, and it doesn't help that even before the game has started he is arguing. I don't think I want to see what would happen later...

  • Am I making a bad focus on how I set up a game? Is the use of pregenerated characters a bad and wrong way to play?


Here is the transcript of the game resume:

Hi there!

I'm looking for players to try this system. I've been reading the ASOIF books since a long time a go. Even before the TV show was in planning so...

I want to explain the system I'll be using. Date is set up in 17 of September. But the first meeting would be the day before that, to show you your character sheets so you can choose one of them, I'll prepare them for you. That day I'll allow you to make changes. After I'll show you some game knowledge your character will know.

What I offer:

  • Small campaign: About 5-7 game seasons of 2 hours more or less. (Between 10 and 15 hours)
  • Great Knowledge of the books.
  • Branched story.
  • Game for 3-4 players.

What I ask of you:

  • Don't fail any of the game seasons.
  • Be proactive.

If all the group is OK, maybe we can continue the story beyond the original point but that's a matter for another time.

P.S: English is not my mother tongue. I have run games in English before. But I thought you should know it before applying.

P.S 2: If you feel you need more information feel free to ask. I'll do all my answers per PM.

Cheers.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Hi and welcome to the site! Your first question is formed fine, which is great, and I see you've already taken our tour. We hope you find our Q&A useful, and look forward to seeing you around. \$\endgroup\$ – the dark wanderer Aug 25 '17 at 8:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ ♦ Reminder: We do not support answers in comments because comments do not support features like proper voting and the wiki-style editing that allow us to vet, correct, and improve the content. (Several attempts to answer the question using comments have been removed.) \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Aug 25 '17 at 15:05
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    \$\begingroup\$ The only thing I see in your posting that makes me think you're not a native English speaker is that you say "game seasons" when I think you mean "game sessions". \$\endgroup\$ – Gregor Aug 25 '17 at 17:44
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Gregor You missed the other error in that very sentence... "don't fail" should be "don't miss". :) \$\endgroup\$ – T.J.L. Aug 25 '17 at 19:43
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    \$\begingroup\$ Although I dont think you have done anything wrong, I had to reread that twice before I noticed the bit about picking character sheets. If characters are premade it should be stated very clearly 'Characters will be premade by the GM.' I totally see why he was confused. \$\endgroup\$ – kingfrito_5005 Aug 25 '17 at 20:29
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Have I done something wrong?

No but you do have a clash of styles with that particular player. Essentially you are providing and requiring pre-gen characters: some players will be fine with this and some won't

Shall I allow this player to join the game?

If you can play this game without this player, I would. It is likely that this player will be discontented in your campaign and while they may be able to overcome this, why take the risk?

Am I making a bad focus on how I set up a game?

It's your game: you can't do it wrong.

Some players rebel against too much game master control (aka railroading) others are completely ok with it. So long as you explain the premise of the game and your expectations and the players are on board with this, play any damn way you like.

In any case, even if it all turns to crap you can cut your losses, learn from your mistakes and try again.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Point here: I usually have a lot of issues to find players. And Spanish community in my experience is not very good. So that's the reason I'm trying to play with English community. For the moment not many people have show up so... I don't really know how to handle this situation, as I'm "in the need" of players. \$\endgroup\$ – Tiklis Aug 25 '17 at 8:44
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Tiklis There's no point in taking a player who is going to make the game miserable for everyone else, especially the GM. All that will happen is that other players will leave and/or the GM will get fed up and stop running the game. \$\endgroup\$ – Wibbs Aug 25 '17 at 8:53
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Tiklis: to double on Wibbs: not many is already ok, don't add another person who could potentially ruin it. The best memory I had as a GM was a one-shot session I did, with pre-made characters for the only 3 players I was to play with, and it ended up a very, very good session for all involved (they played around limitations, found interresting ways to play their characters, managed to surprise both the others and myself, and the pre-gen made everything fit beautifully) (I still prefer non-pregen, for longer-haul sessions, but that one-shot with pre-gen showed the situation from another pov) \$\endgroup\$ – Olivier Dulac Aug 25 '17 at 15:41
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It's your game, if the player doesn't like it, he/she has a choice not to join

It's as simple as that, especially in an online game, looking for players among strangers. (It gets considerably more dramatic if you were dealing with close friends!)

I'm sorry you feel that way, but I think providing players with pre-generated characters would offer the best experience for this game. If ever I run another game where you can make your own characters, you'll be in the priority list, for sure.

Communicate to the potential-player that you are not changing how your game will be played, and leave the door open for more interaction in the future.

I've been in and out of quite a few online games, personally, and I don't mind being turned down from a role. Just say it in a way that respects his/her playstyle, and you're golden. It's for the best that you spotted this playstyle difference now rather than after the game starts, which could really be bad.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Last sentence is so key to how right this answer is. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Aug 31 '17 at 3:12
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Your game would not be my cup of tea, due to pre-generated characters. (And also my lack of knowledge of ASOFAI.) Many players take great joy in creating characters and/or their character backgrounds.

However, that does not mean you are doing something wrong for at least two reasons:

  1. I know several players who would love that sort of set-up. They take much more joy in playing the character than in the mechanics of defining it, or even the act of detailing backgrounds.
  2. There are numerous examples of RPGs and/or modules that came with pre-generated characters, where the expectation was that the players would actually use them. The most prominent in my mind are Dragonlance modules.

It's difficult to tell you that you're doing something objectively wrong when you're doing exactly what well-established people in the field have done before you, and made a lot of money doing. (It's also very rude to tell you that in any circumstance.)

Unless you are having problems filling the game with an acceptable number of players, I would pass with this guy. There's no need for that to be hostile or angry, at least on your part — not all players are right for all games or GMs, and it's far, far better to know that now than have to deal with it in-game.

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As your game resume says, on September 16 your players will choose between character sheets you made.

Not being a native speaker, you lack the specific terminology that would have made the message impossible to misunderstand (e.g.: "I will hand out pregen characters"), but I dare saying that it takes effort to misunderstand that as "Tiklis wants to show us some empty, different character sheets so that we can choose the layout we like most" meaning at the exclusion of the more usual one.

Especially in light of your first Post Scriptum.


So, by looking at the chat transcript, I would assume this guy is perfectly sane, just a bit opinionated, and that if he has read the pitch in its entirety he just wanted to see if you really wanted to write what you wrote. You can ask him if he has been reading it, I'd write this:

He thinks that a premade character, and this might have something to do with the fact that the premade sheets include personality and alignment traits, force him into a role that's been pre-written by you.

Now, I've ssen this attitude before, about a lot of games with pre-written finales (Polaris) or development (My Life with Master), and I've seen a lot of semi-popular games that use pregen characters as a default (e.g. Lady Blackbird) or as a way to demonstrate games at a convention (e.g. Sorcerer, the Burning Wheel).

So, this would be my reply:

I think it's a pity that you think that playing a premade character in a scenario amounts to playing it as I would have. There are many games that use this technique to introduce a tense situation for the characters to solve and I'm not willing to spend time crafting one from scratch with the collabortaive input of all players, this time. I take it you're not interested in such a game, maybe you will like some of the games I will GM in the future. By the way, was it not clear from my game resume that I would have handed out premade characters?

By the way, I have a roll20 account and I'm really tempted to post something similar myself.

One last thing: usually, a game with pregen characters is called a "scenario". Convention scenarioes are mostly used to skip the character creation part during conventions, in order to pack more gaming time in the assigned time slots, but as I mentioned there are several tabletop and live RPGs that commonly use scenarios.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Aug 25 '17 at 13:55
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This looks to me as if you have quite different expectations for the game than that player. That is ok and valid. In RPGs, there is no absolute right or wrong way of doing things, and as long as you are finding people who want to play that way, everything is fine.

For me, personally, having to play a serious campaign with a character made by the GM would be a no-go, but other people might prefer it, because it's less work for them.

Different people enjoy different kinds of play experiences. Some people like to play RPGs as they would play some kind of shooter game: kill everything that moves. Some people like to focus on strategy and tactics and like to build the best character they can, statswise. Some people enjoy the aspect of playing someone else.

From my experience pre-fabricated character sheets work well either for one-off-sessions, where you don't want to spend hours on creating characters but you just want to get into a quick session. Other than that, they mostly only work for players who aren't so serious about the game, so the hack-and-slash kind of player.

If that's the kind of game you are looking for, than it is perfectly reasonable to require the players to use pre-made character sheets.

If you are looking for serious role-play, it might be better to let the players make up their own characters.

You might try to strike a balance between both options and let the players make up their own characters while providing guidelines or rejecting characters, that are too far off what you want. You can also provide pre-made character sheets that the players can customise afterwards.

The same goes, generally speaking, also for your role as a GM. Hack-and-slash kind of players generally don't mind getting railroaded by the GM. They are just in for the fights and as long as they can kill monsters and get loot, they are mostly happy with that. Players who like to explore their characters and make meaningful choices usually don't like it, if the GM basically tells the story and only lets the players roll dice.

When I had my first session as a GM I had the whole campaign planned out, only to realise within the first minutes that it was not going to happen with the players I had. They had their own mind about what they want to do. So I changed my role as a GM. I stopped planning how exactly everything was to happen but rather planned more about the environment and the NPCs the players could meet, so that they could do whatever they wanted. As the GM my job was now not to tell the story but just to provide a background where the players could tell their own stories. This facilitated very good role play.

But that's my style of doing things. And other people might do things differently.

If your expectations are too different from the players' expectations, talk to them about that. If you can't agree, find other players.

Further reading:

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  • \$\begingroup\$ In this specific case. I expect from them to customise the character and give them their of touch. I agree with you in almost everything you said. In fact my first time being the director happen that way. In this case my intention is not to let the players go wild. They will have weight in the story. I don't know if it is because my poor english but a lot of you think that is railroad without any decision making or space for improvisation. And for sure that's not my plan. The good point about all of this is the chance to improve my ideas and hear good advices. \$\endgroup\$ – Tiklis Aug 25 '17 at 13:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ That's a difficult balance to strike. Especially since the level of control that feels like railroading is quite different for each player. One player might feel you are railroading them, while another player might feel they have a lot of choice, depending on their expectations. Just make sure your players know what they're getting into before they sign up for the game and everything will be fine. And if a player leaves your group because they don't like the way you are handling the game, don't be offended. It is ok to discover different expectations also when the game is running. \$\endgroup\$ – Dakkaron Aug 28 '17 at 7:18
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Addressing his points as phrased:

It defeats the point of Roleplaying if you don't get to be who you want

No, no it doesn't. Constraints breed creativity. In fact, here's a quote from an absurdly famous, absurdly creative person:

The enemy of art is the absence of limitations - Orson Welles

Creative roleplay is, in point of fact, hindered by the freedom of choice, not aided by it.

That's basically just playing 4 yous in a game and none of us.

To which I point to the many different actors who've all managed to portray a bit of themselves within their roles of famous characters, such as the Joker, Sherlock, or Doctor Who. No, he's just projecting what he wants(to be able to make his own character) onto reality.

Addressing places where your restrictions are...not popular:

1.Incredibly strict session schedules(missing a session for school or family is "bad")

2.Small session windows(The only time I've heard of a game taking "only" 2 hours per session, it was either an inexperienced DM or heavy time-constraints)

3.Pre-genned characters

None of these decisions are popular, by choice, among D&D groups I know. That's fine, but its going to get you a lot of grief from those who expect "normal" things from what you're offering. However, you're approaching your constraints in the proper way, upfront, and honestly, so you're not doing anything "wrong", except if it interferes with your ability to run a game at all.

Answering your questions directly:

Shall I allow this player to join the game?

No. He's too disparate from you, and I'd expect there to be conflicts no matter how much you tried to reconcile your differences.

Am I making a bad focus on how I set up a game?

No, or maybe? No, in as much that, in a vacuum, these are perfectly reasonable things for you to design for your game. Maybe, in as much as it affects your ability to get your game rolling with players who actually enjoy the experience. I can't say for sure, but I support your attempt to find out.

Is the use of pregenerated characters a bad and wrong way to play?

No. Its not bad or wrong. Otoh, its certainly not the preferred way to play, which will impact the popularity of your game some.

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