4
\$\begingroup\$

I'm in a relatively new D&D campaign where the momentum and pace of the game has been lacking, for me personally. My guess is "talk to the DM/group about it" may be all I can do, but figured I'd check and ask for an outside perspective anyway (and would love any advice on how to bring this up with them).
I'm also not sure if this is something I even should start a conversation about, because I might be the only one in the group having this problem.

Background

We've played 7-8 sessions of this campaign so far. We're all good friends and/or family, and everyone but me has played long-form campaigns together before. I only recently moved close enough to play with them regularly, but I did drop in for a few sessions in this DM's last campaign and loved the group then.

Most of why the new game hasn't been fun for me is about not having a lot of direction or anything motivating the party, leading to very uneventful sessions that are boring and frustrating for me. It doesn't help that the DM's style so far has been extremely hands-off and we get very little to work with when it comes to moving the story anywhere, and it's been mostly on the players to dig for things to do and reasons to do them. We sometimes go multiple sessions without really accomplishing anything or progressing the story at all- sometimes it's several hours in a row stuck in a loop of "go shopping/walking the town, enter shop/museum/npc's house/etc, maybe get some lore that we already knew most of and that doesn't really apply to us yet, repeat". When the DM does drop hooks or hints about things we could pursue, they tend to feel very random and have nothing to do with what we're doing at the moment, and many of them are clear on the other side of the world or way above our level. The result being we've got a to-do list of minor quest hooks a mile long but still sit down every session with no idea where to go or what to do, and end up stalling and doing essentially nothing.

This wasn't set up as an open sandbox type campaign either- if it was, we'd probably be handling it better. But, beginning of session 1 the party was brought together and given a very specific mission and to-do-list for how to save the world. Then we were told pretty quickly that we're too low level to do much about that yet. So it's one major plot hanging over our heads that we can't do anything about, and an infinite supply of random minor side hooks that we mostly just get stuck in choice paralysis over. It's kind of stressful, honestly.

On top of that, the party isn't ever really on task. It might be because of the points above, or it might just be how they are; I'm genuinely not sure.

In game that could mean people interrupting, changing the subject, or trying to do several unrelated things at once, so much that we don't get anything done (I'm not excluding myself from that, but am trying to get better about it). It could also mean the conversation is nowhere near the game at all- which also gets frustrating for me, but that's another can of worms. Anyway, judging by the vibes at the table and the amount of time people spend on phones or with attention not on the game, I might not be the only one bored during sessions where we don't accomplish much, but I won't pretend to know for sure what anyone else is feeling. I'm the only one that's said anything so far.

I'm not sure what to do as a player to help make this game more fun.

I don't want to nag or interrupt by constantly trying to steer the party towards a goal or back on track. Hence the problem player tag- I feel like I might be becoming one, there's been a few times now that I've done a bad job hiding my frustration while trying to ask everyone if we could pick a task and stick to it for a minute, and I'm sure it came across as rude. On the DM side, bothering them about changing all of these things feels like way too many complaints to be fair or kind, and would feel a little pointless anyway if I'm the only one who's feeling this way.

I'd love to go back in time and bring up doing a session zero (I'm sure you can tell there are several places where I must have missed the memo on what the expectations for game tone, behavior at the table, etc are). But, it feels too late now and since everyone else has played together before, it would really just be for me as the newcomer to the group. That's something that's making this more awkward and frustrating.

This would be easier if the game was all boring all the time- as much as I love these people I could definitely make an excuse to just quit. But there have been moments where it's been great! The few times that the party has had some motivation and an immediate goal to work towards, the entire table lights up, comes back to life, and kicks ass. In combat especially this suddenly becomes a fantastic group who work really well together. We've had some stellar roleplaying moments too, and everyone made great characters that I'm definitely invested in learning more about. That said, we've only had 3 combats so far in ~8 sessions, and the ratio of time spent on interesting character related roleplay versus time spend on another conversation that doesn't go anywhere with another random one-off shopkeep is very low.

TL;DR: New campaign has been boring and frustrating for me because we have little motivation, less focus, and the story doesn't progress at all during many of our glacial-pace sessions. Can I do anything to change this as a player, and should I even be trying if it seems like I'm the only one genuinely bothered by it? If talking to the DM or even asking for a late session zero is the best/only option- I'd also love any advice on how to do that tactfully and without it coming across as a refusal to adapt to the style of a group that I'm the newcomer to, if that makes sense.

I'm considering just quitting, but it seems like a shame when I love the people in the group and the game clearly has the potential to be way more fun than it is right now.

\$\endgroup\$
2
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ What game are you playing? It can help because games have different methods that work better for them. Like, it's very different to play a Storyteller/Storytelling game from playing D&D. A storyteller/Storytelling game's focus is generally on telling a story instead of the almost singleminded D&D focus on combat prowess. There are even edition differences! e.g. AD&D and D&D 5e have less in common as in the underlying social contract than you'd assume \$\endgroup\$
    – Trish
    Dec 6, 2022 at 8:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ If I was in your seat, I'd start some ruckus, for sure. Essentially, make your own goals-quests. Break off the shopping circuit and make enquiries on the local bandits and bounties. Go "hunting". GM doesn't have bandits developed at all (sloppy)? Go more mundane. What's the priciest imported good in the city? Gear up and go to the source of that imported good to bring back for big cash. Conversely, get a load of local quality product and take it to distant foreign markets. The actual cash merchant success is totally irrelevant. You'll be out in the fresh air with a destination! \$\endgroup\$
    – Blaze
    Dec 7, 2022 at 15:46

4 Answers 4

6
\$\begingroup\$

A mid-campaign Session 0 would probably be good

And not just for your sake. There's a good chance multiple other members of this group are also unhappy with this situation, or at least would be equally happy with a more focused campaign. For example, I could easily imagine a question from a DM like this:

At the beginning of a campaign I thought I set up a good basic structure: the King assigned the PCs an important world-saving mission, and his court wizard explained that facing the threat head-on would be foolhardy and recommended a series of smaller tasks which would lead to a more reasonable final battle. I tried to also leave the players enough freedom that they could come up with their own preparations instead if they wanted, but rather than do anything related to the main quest they've mostly just been wandering around the town talking to random NPCs. I figured they might prefer a more side-quest focused game and started throwing out those type of hooks, but those also get added to a big list of "stuff we could do" without actually doing any of it.

The players seem to like each others' characters, and the few times we managed to reach combat went well, I just can't figure out why they don't seem interested in following any plot I've offered.

In other words, rather than your DM being "hands-off" and trying to make you "dig" for information or things to do, they might be confused why you're not doing any of the things already provided and their "random" plot hooks are desperate attempts to find something you're actually interested in. An honest discussion with all players (including the DM) about how you feel like the campaign is stuck in a rut and you're not sure there's an in-character solution.

If "mid-campaign session 0" sounds to you like a big hassle just for your sake, then you can certainly call it something else. And you don't really need to replace a whole session for it; there's really only one issue and it can probably be resolved in a group chat between sessions. You can open with something like "Does anybody else feel like we're collecting a huge to-do list without resolving most of it?" which should help other players who might also be tired of the situation come forward. Then you could mention some specific things you think are getting in the way, like "quests seem too hard", "conversations get pulled off-topic", and "our characters don't seem motivated to do anything specific". Maybe other players see different things as being the source of the problem.

There might end up being a really easy solution. For example, if so much of what the DM is offering seems above your level it may be that a bump in everybody's character levels will open up the interesting parts of the campaign. Or maybe they're not supposed to be higher level and the DM can tone them back. Or maybe the DM just didn't realize that something they're doing makes tasks seem high level even though they actually would be reasonable if the group agreed to try them.

Another possibility is that the characters don't mesh well, but everybody's compromising to avoid "My Guy" Syndrome without realizing that the result makes the game suck just as much. Without more detail about how "what should we do next" discussions go it's hard to tell, but if every character has different ideas about what to do next then everybody being willing to compromise every time can be as bad as somebody never being willing to compromise at all.

\$\endgroup\$
2
\$\begingroup\$

Yeah, You Should Try.

TTRPGs are Games, and the major goal of a game is to be fun. If you, a player, are not having fun then something is wrong with the game and that should be addressed. So, you should absolutely be having this conversation with your table.

Generally, it is best to start with part of the group before addressing everyone at once. Mostly, this is about attention and communication - it is easier to speak with one person than it is to speak with five or more. For most tables, that means speaking to the GM first.

What Next?

Unfortunately, the complexities of interpersonal interaction are unique to every group, so specific advice is going to be ... unsatisfying.

Based upon your descriptions, I would talk to the GM and explain that I am not having much fun - the game is fantastic when the group has a focused goal, a tight timeline, or a fight, but that the general quagmire of randomly speaking to random townsfolk is dull and frustrating. I would then ask if there was some way to add more of those focused moments, because the fun is real and I want to see more of it. I would then offer to help provide that focus, if possible (I'm not trying to run this game, but I'm not trying to make the GM do all the work).

If that didn't work then I would seriously consider leaving the campaign. Sometimes that is the correct move, even when you're friends with everyone at the table.

Good luck!

\$\endgroup\$
2
\$\begingroup\$

It sounds to me a lot like the 'list of things to save the world' was a sort of Session 0. It seems like it was an odd way to put Session 0 into game play.

Other than that statement I was already sure, that you were all in a Sandbox and it was up to the group to decide what was meaningful to you all there. And to that, I would say, one thing that is potentially up to you is either A) be ADAMANT about what YOU want to accomplish in these side quests, and take the time to motivate others to do the same. OR B) take the time to support someone else's choice specially if they have someone else supporting them, be the third person who rallies the fourth to the cause.

Try to put the Kibosh on shopping, seems far too low level to be shopping if you're 8 hours in and 2-3 combats in... what are you all shopping for. Also. I hate shopping, so feel free to ignore this, I hate shopping in real life, I surely hate role play shopping. If you want to ask the shop keep questions, that is entirely different.

Investigating things in town is entirely too 'easy' I think there is a lot of room to pick and find the direction, but in the long run, I want to suggest what you already know. Talk to everyone.

I know I as a DM find it my duty to keep the story and the game moving. It might feel like a slow start to the campaign, it might feel like nails on a chalk board to the DM. Players ignoring the game and watching their phones feels the same. Might be that everyone is feeling this disconnect. Might be as simple as stepping out of character and saying DM, we need a direction, If we asked you to remove any red herring quests and said we wanted to move forward with a quest 'x' can we all agree to do this course of action and jump this campaign back to life.

You said yourself, everyone comes to life when you get unanimous on moving to an objective. Find, name, and target that objective.

\$\endgroup\$
2
\$\begingroup\$

I think it may be worth proposing to try to use some of the suggestions for "Successful Adventures" from the 1st Edition Players Handbook (pp. 107-108) in particular

First get in touch with all those who will be included in the adventure, or if all are not available, at least talk to the better players so that you will be able to set an objective for the adventure. Whether the purpose is so simple as to discover a flight of stairs to the next lowest unexplored level or so difficult as to find and destroy on altar to an alien god, some firm objective should be established and then adhered to as strongly as possible. Note, however, that inflexibility or foolish stubbornness is often fatal. More about that a bit later.

Once the objective has been established, consider how well the party playing will suit the needs which it has engendered. Will the characters have the means of accomplishing the goal? Is it well-balanced, so that it can cope with typical problems expected in the fulfillment of the objective? Will it be necessary to find mercenary non-player characters or hire men-at-arms in order to give the party the necessary muscle? Is any special equipment needed? When agreement regarding these and any similar questions has been reached, each participant must ready his or her character, but preparations must be made with the welfare of the whole group in mind.

to the rest of the players, and DM. In doing so I would emphasize the positive points you've seen glimmers of ("The few times that the party has had some motivation and an immediate goal to work towards, the entire table lights up, comes back to life, and kicks ass.") Focus on "I, and you all, want more of this" rather than emphasizing how the majority of the game is getting you down.

It's hard to diagnose from a distance but a hypothesis that comes to my mind is that the DM has gone too far in the encourage player agency direction while trying to maintain a story based campaign. I could see them saying to themselves: I've laid out the overall thrust of the campaign, now it's up to the PC players to figure out how to make something happen. So it ends up a weird hybrid where you know there's an end goal, but no clear waypoints (and the PCs are not afforded the complete freedom of a true sandbox). I could also see some player issues in that you may have happened into a group where everyone has decided to adopt a more passive role, in which case they may be looking for a leader. Anyway, this is a case where meta-gaming, asking the group "how are we playing this game" is appropriate, whether in a dedicated second session-0 or less formally at the beginning of a regular session.

\$\endgroup\$

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .