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View Full Version : How can I stop being a Rules Babysitter?



Katana_Geldar
2009-08-19, 08:53 PM
I have the growing impression in my game (Star Wars saga) that I am one of the few who really knows how to play, whereas the other players (one exception) are rather simplistic.

They have access to the source books, I try and get them to "think out of the box" in my pre-game growl, but are more interested in pure and simple combat even without the coolness factor.

I tried to bring this in when I stepped down for a time so I could play, but it didn't rub off. I have also tried (to my ongoing regret) to hint a little at alternate possibilities, such as a skill check, but it doesn't sink in.

And it's also just simple things, like calculating an attack roll which I have to spell out almost every session.

Any suggestions? We haven't been playing for long, but long enough to master a few basics.

Doc Roc
2009-08-19, 08:56 PM
Here is my suggestion:

Run a couple of smaller one-offs with a strong diplomacy elements with smaller portions of your group, say two players at a time. Salvage missions gone wrong, Space Hulk-style, are great for this!

The goal is to push people gently, and play in a situation where you can really spend one on one time with your friends, a rulebook shared easy-like between you. Attack roles can be weird the first few times. Another nice trick is to make sure you have cheatsheets on hand. No one EVER enjoys ye olde drown till you swim.

Another thing that I do is:
Start with asking them what they enjoy in the game. Some people LIKE just straight combat, because they're just at the table to hang out with friends. That's totally fine. Others hate combat for virtually identical reasons. I think knowing more about your table is the most-right decision you can make.

I've taught somewhere around 20-30 people a variety of different systems in the last year or two, and I think the best thing you can do is be patient and try a lot of different angles.

erikun
2009-08-19, 09:04 PM
Ask. No, seriously. You'll never know what they like if you don't ask them.

Some people just don't care for roleplaying. Some people are shy. Some really wanted to do something interesting last week, but the hour-long combat drained the initiative out of them. Some can't think of anything else to do. Some just follow the rails. Some thing roleplaying is Final Fantasy VII, and treat the XP Meat Grinder with occasional story bits as standard.

How well do they roleplay? Do they really get into it, treating rolls and combat and tedious? Do they tend to keep quiet, just stabbing whatever they come across?

If they want combat, give them exciting combat. Set up opportunities to ambush opponents, and have them act surprised when attacked. Set up opportunities for the party to be ambushed, and have the opponents taunt and intimidate the party. Make the surroundings interesting. Have the occasional soldier mix up the move-shoot routine, say by trying to shove a pile of crates onto a PC.

Players tend to take cues from the NPCs actions. If the NPCs are silent faces that just roll on their turns, the players will be too. If the NPCs are running around, shouting at each other, and interacting with their surroundings - chances are the players will, too.

Mike_G
2009-08-19, 09:06 PM
Or, just start drinking at the game.


It'll loosen you up, you won't get upset at the sloppy play of your group, and they will be spared your nagging.

It's a game. If the rest of the party just wants to blast clones, and can't be arsed to optimize, I would just let it go.

erikun
2009-08-19, 09:16 PM
I forgot the most important point:

Sometimes, people are just there to be with friends and have fun. I've run into a number of gamers who don't care much what happens at the table, as long as they can hang out with their buddies on Friday night.

Elfich
2009-08-19, 09:16 PM
If you want to encourage role-playing, give individual party members and the party problems where roleplaying is the solution and if a fight break out they have failed. It means you have to have a back up plan in case the role playing option has failed.

It works best by starting small, negotiating for information so the party can proceed to the shoot'm up comes to mind.

It also works when a single character has a large amount of buy in and wants to see the issue through. When that player is confronted with the idea that guns won't solve the problem, they realize that they have to do something else.

Work on getting buy in one player at a time. While I have a "group" problem I may also have several "character" problems that are running in parrallel, and coincidentally enough in locations that are close to the main adventure. Some of the best role-playing occurs when a couple of these "character" issues conflict in some way. Either in timing or competing interests. Then the members of the party have to work with each other and deal with the results of those decisions as well. Since the results stem out of decisions they have made, the players and the party have more buy-in as well.

Katana_Geldar
2009-08-19, 09:21 PM
Firstly, there's no problem with the actual roleplaying part. That actually can get a little weird, particularly with the Loonie player and the Gambler. It's more the stuff that can be done while roleplaying. If they are trying to "convince", "bribe" or hide something, I'm getting a little sick of reminding of this dialogue:
Me: You can roll a Persuade check.
Player: But I am not trained in Persuade!
Me: (resisting the desire to leap over the table and throttling the player) You can still make untrained skill checks with most skills as long as you don't do anything fancy.

It's as if they don't think they have an option outside pure roleplaying and combat. And since we're on Alderaan, where they have to behave themselves more than usual, this is getting to be a little problem. It has gotten rather hilarious, like when they used a flame thrower on a protocol droid that had him running around screaming "Help! Help!"

Second, alcohol is sadly not an option as we play on saturday morning, right before half the players go to the swordfighting club. And half of the players are underage too.

But a pre-game chat sounds a lot better than a growl, and I will pass around a cheat sheet to make things absurdly simple for people.

erikun
2009-08-19, 09:29 PM
Me: You can roll a Persuade check.
Player: But I am not trained in Persuade!
Me: (resisting the desire to leap over the table and throttling the player) You can still make untrained skill checks with most skills as long as you don't do anything fancy.
If that's the only problem, just keep copies of the character sheets. Possibly formatted for ease-of-skill-reference. When they try to persuade someone, don't say "roll Persuade", say "roll 3d6".

....or whatever the Persuade roll is. I've only played the old d6 Star Wars.

Katana_Geldar
2009-08-19, 09:33 PM
Saga is almost the same as D&D 4E, so it's modifiers. Yet the Persuade skill does not have any "Trained roll only" elements.

I wonder if I have to do some sort of list of skills sheet and point out which ones have trained elements, and what those elements are, and which ones aren't. Problem is that there's so much variation it will take me ages.

AstralFire
2009-08-19, 09:52 PM
Nah, it'd be pretty fast.

If your group has any familiarity with 3.5, there's a link in my sig that can help.

Katana_Geldar
2009-08-19, 09:54 PM
We're all first-timers at gaming, even me.

Kylarra
2009-08-19, 09:56 PM
If you're all first timers then I'd just work on getting everyone used to playing first, before worrying about everyone being familiar with the intricacies of each and every rule.

Katana_Geldar
2009-08-19, 09:58 PM
We are used to playing, it's been at least three months. I know that's comparatively not long, but it's long enough to remember things I have been explaining over and over again.

AstralFire
2009-08-19, 10:02 PM
Set them on fire. It makes everything better.

Anyway, that list really shouldn't be too hard to compile. If my brain wasn't addled I'd do it for you right now and I may do it tomorrow.

Katana_Geldar
2009-08-19, 10:13 PM
Now that I remember, I do have the Omega Dex which has all the skills listed and what they can do. I'll just asterisk Trained only and cross out ones I don't have the books for or aren't really relevant to the time.

Golden-Esque
2009-08-19, 10:18 PM
I have the growing impression in my game (Star Wars saga) that I am one of the few who really knows how to play, whereas the other players (one exception) are rather simplistic.

They have access to the source books, I try and get them to "think out of the box" in my pre-game growl, but are more interested in pure and simple combat even without the coolness factor.

I tried to bring this in when I stepped down for a time so I could play, but it didn't rub off. I have also tried (to my ongoing regret) to hint a little at alternate possibilities, such as a skill check, but it doesn't sink in.

And it's also just simple things, like calculating an attack roll which I have to spell out almost every session.

Any suggestions? We haven't been playing for long, but long enough to master a few basics.

You could try some psychological conditioning. Show your group how beneficial it can be to play outside of the "Kick Down the Door" playstyle.

When I was first starting out, I learned this when my party ran into a group of Monster Tamers and a large aberration of some sort. The thing was monsterous, and probably would have expended our resources to stop it, but our one party member made a spectacular Diplomacy check and got the tamers to leave us alone.

Kylarra
2009-08-19, 10:20 PM
Maybe mark on their charsheets which ones don't require training? :smalltongue:

Dragonmuncher
2009-08-19, 11:02 PM
Try to set up a situation where they have to use skills. Maybe they're fleeing from an AT-ST, and they need to use Stealth, Computer Use, Repair a damaged Speeder, and then a Pilot check. Maybe instead of Computer Use to gain access to the damaged Speeder, they use Diplomacy to talk the old mechanic into giving it to them/selling at a cheap price.

And if they just murder the mechanic, Dark Side points.


Or you could set up some sort of set-piece trap, perhaps a laser bed. They can search for a control panel, and then try to hack it. They can study it for a minute, which would give them a bonus on an acrobatics check. Make sure it's clear to them that just running through the laser bed would deal massive damage. For added incentive, have a few enemies with blasters on the other side of the laser bed, defended so that only melee combat is really feasible.

Yahzi
2009-08-19, 11:09 PM
Me: (resisting the desire to leap over the table and throttling the player) You can still make untrained skill checks with most skills as long as you don't do anything fancy.
Another option is to just stop caring so much.

Make a roll for them. Don't even bother with the rules; if they come up with a half-baked idea, just roll a d20. On 1-10 it fails, on 11-20 it succeeds. 1's cause a disaster and get them into trouble, and 20's cause them to succeed beyond their expectations.

This is pretty much the spirit of d20, so just take it and run.

When they want to be able to predict what their actions will do, start investigating the rules. But if they just want to have fun, don't let the rules get in the way.

xPANCAKEx
2009-08-19, 11:10 PM
put together a set of index cards with the basics

then when they need to know they have to look it up for themselves

that way they have to make the effort and can't be so lazy

Kurald Galain
2009-08-20, 02:58 AM
I have the growing impression in my game (Star Wars saga) that I am one of the few who really knows how to play, whereas the other players (one exception) are rather simplistic.
I'd suggest that the solution to that would be to pick a rules-light system.

Kaun
2009-08-20, 04:09 AM
3 months lol, i know players that played 2nd Ed for 3 years twice a month and like clock work and still couldn't remember even the most frequently used rules.

Some players pick up the rules fairly quickly.

Some over time.

Some dive in and end up being a walking rule book.

But there are some who just never will.

Personally i wouldn't worry about it to much if your players don't understand the rules then your less likely to have arguments about them. :smallbiggrin:

shadzar
2009-08-20, 05:08 AM
Give the players a time limit. If they haven't performed there action within that time limit, then they default and lose that action in the round. After they have lost enough character they might just learn.

The DMs job is not that of a babysitter for ANY portion of the game. If they don't want to invest time learning the game, then they might not be interested, and you should not waste yours to run it. No game is there for the players to sit with their thumbs up their but. Maybe they just want you to tell them a Jedi story that they are not a part of. Include Jar-Jar and make him much smarter than the PCs/players and see if that sparks a fire under their butts to do some of the work, if they want any of the enjoyment.

Alas, they might not really be interested in playing and just be taking advantage of you.

If you feel they are not doing that, then tell them the buck stops here. If they want to continue playing with you running it then they need to learn some of the game. There is really no excuse that no player can roll his own attack. :smallannoyed:

Premier
2009-08-20, 05:26 AM
I suggest you consider running a different system (could be the old Star Wars D6, for instance). At the end of the way, some systems are simple and others - like many d20 games - are very complicated with lots of rules and mechanics. And there are just lots of 'casual' players who don't want to invest the energy, time and effort needed to master a complicated system. If you have players like that and you force them to play a complex system nevertheless, that will just end up with everyone being unhappy.

Mark Hall
2009-08-20, 11:11 AM
Pre-calculate things, and write down the formula. Show them where everything goes, and make sure it's easy to read (I've found that the character sheets from Wizard print up lousy unless you have a really good printer).

Have NPCs start doing things with their skills that get them advantages. This may be a simple jump check to get the high ground, or a Swim check to get away from combat. When they want to follow, ask for skill checks.

Katana_Geldar
2009-08-21, 01:18 AM
Different system not an option, and the dice-cup mentality of d6 kinda annoys me. It'll be like playing yatzee.

But I will be handing out a basic combat sheet and a sheet that has all the skills, indicating which ones can only be taken trained and others that have certain prerequisites, like feats or items.

On the plus side, the skills sheet has become rather useful for me.

Skorj
2009-08-21, 02:11 AM
You're stuck being a rules babystitter for some time to come, sorry. But you can make the game more fun, and faster paced. Add some NPCs that travel with the party (giving the party a quest to escort said NPCs to some distant objective helps smooth the insertion of the NPCs into the party). Have the NPCs suggest in character the things the party should be trying, but don't realize they can do. Make sure these NPCs never outshine the party, and occasionally have bad ideas too.

You can create good habits by repitition eventually, even if it involves leading them by the nose for many sessions.

Katana_Geldar
2009-08-21, 06:15 AM
And I guess I should stop being so nice. It's very, very tempting.