Behind the Screen: An Example of Things Gone Bad…

2007 October 21
by Dante

As my good buddy Vanir posted on Saturday, we had a problematic session. Problematic is kind… it sucked in Dolby Digital Surround Sound. What follows is an autopsy of what went wrong, and my thoughts on how to avoid it again in the future.

Lapses in Playing

As Vanir adequately detailed, we had a fairly long lapse in playing. This caused much off-topic discussion, despite the fact that we had a pre-game meal and plenty of time to socialize prior to game kickoff. I always do a player recap, and even that wasn’t enough to crack the indomitable wall of non-game chatter.

The only real solution I can see is to potentially physically change location, as was mentioned during the “Mastering Your GM-Fu” panel discussion this year. We could have our social time upstairs, then adjourn to the basement to play. Also, playing more would be a good balm for the situation, allowing the players to stay engaged because things are happening to their characters that they are concerned about.

Lapses in Judgement

My co-DM and I did a terrible job of planning during the week. Real Life had crept in, and we were busy or otherwise engaged and didn’t get a chance to even plant seeds from which the session would grow. This had lasted up until the time that we started the session, even our pre-game planning session didn’t break the writers block.

Unfortunately, with this campaign being new we’re still not quite through the prelude section, so my options for introducing episodic content are not plentiful. The only solution to this lapse in judgment is to plan early and more effectively.

This lack of planning was somewhat compounded by our characters collectively deciding to go off the rails and elect to ignore some very important information that was coming via a fairly obvious NPC messenger. Instead, they opted to craft another course of action more within their control, so I may get more practice DMing on the fly.

This was not necessarily a problem, it just throws some additional wrinkles into the plan moving forward. I suppose I could’ve blunt forced them down the path that we had expected them to take, but I disagree with that as a philosophy so we’ll have to get creative in responding to the player’s plan as it progresses.

Owning up and moving forward

Finally, the wrapup. I knew things had gone poorly, and some fun was had however it was obviously ill-planned and inelegant. So I did what any good DM would do: owned up to the fact that things were less than satisfactory and resolved to plan more diligently and come with “The Heat” next gaming session.

So I’ll open up the floor to comments: how do you handle an obviously bad gaming session? (And don’t tell me you never have them!)

One Response leave one →
  1. Yax permalink
    October 22, 2007

    1 month between games can indeed mess up a party’s rythm.

    I try to involve PCs in a fight when roleplaying and concentration aren’t top notch.

Leave a Reply

Note: You can use basic XHTML in your comments. Your email address will never be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS