After many years (try 15) of not GM'ing a group of my own, I recently made an attempt to return to the head of the table and shake off the rust. I have a gaming world of my own making prepared, which is well-developed, but mostly in my head.
My idea was to take the characters on a first adventure, which (by design) would be somewhat railroading them (personal guards for a certain person on a lengthy boat trip upriver, but each for his / her own reasons). My goal was to:
- get some time to describe the world and its inhabitants, so the players could familiarize themselves with the environment and their characters;
- give the characters time to bond a bit in a series of minor "scenes", giving them a reason to continue adventuring as a group;
- give myself some time to get back into the routine of GM'ing;
- introduce the first few hooks for later campaign story arcs, with the end of the trip making them a new friend and a powerful enemy (to get things going).
One of my players decided to play an officer of the Royal Guard, which was fine with me at first. I had talked to her about the world and the background of her character at length. Since she had problems taking the fanatic loyalty of the guards for their Queen at face value, I wrote up several pages of background elaboration, planning to do the rest en-route.
None of my plans really worked out, and we had a falling-out after a single session (two days into the trip), basically disintegrating the group.
It turned out that we had vastly diverging concepts on, for lack of a better word, "background density".
When a couple of street thugs didn't bow before her authority, she was miffed, because she understood the "high respect" of the populace towards Royal Guards to include the lowlife.
When I sensed an opportunity to sink in another hook for later storylines, I made the keeper of the inn they just rented rooms in an old acquaintance of her character, thinking they didn't have that much interaction with that NPC to make a real difference at that point. (Perhaps a bit heavy-handed, but I admitted being out of practice for long.) She was miffed because "I would have played the greeting scene differently".
Other things happened, but I think you get the drift. I am hesitant to blame it on her, because I know her for an excellent player through several other campaigns in a half-dozen of systems - however, those either being based on printed sourcebooks or campaigns created by her husband GM (most likely talking with her about the gaming world at length).
Now, my questions:
- Were either my expectations to "get started and wing it a bit in the beginning" or her expectations of "I want the whole backstory up front" wildly out of place?
- How do you handle demands for detailed background in a game world of your own making? Do you actually write long passages of text on demand (which would delay the beginning of a new campaign significantly), do you give outlines and fill in the blanks as you go (as I tried)? Or do you have another approach entirely?
This incident put a severe dent in my self-confidence as a GM, and I want to bounce this off a few people with more recent experience than me before making another attempt.