chromatophoria
 member, 698 posts
 Be excellent
 to each other.
Fri 8 Apr 2022
at 04:38
How do you keep a game from becoming a chore?
Hey community,

What's best practice here, to keep a game from getting bogged down?

"Lite" systems and approaches exist. I've read up on those from previous forum posts.

But what about, when the Lore and the Context of the game become overwhelming to manage?

In particular,

3 players and 1 gm, in an open world, player-led game.

When each player goes deep into their respective rabbit holes to build their character, or their backstory, they will invent characters, factions, environments maybe... And I think that energy is great!

But I struggle to keep ALL OF IT in mind, and feel like I need to keep on top of SO much information, and relationships, that in the end the spirit I started the game with, falls victim to the sense of choredom, keeping notes in a wiki-like tool...

Am I asking a question that has no answer? hahah that's okay too.
engine
 member, 874 posts
 There's a brain alright
 but it's made out of meat
Fri 8 Apr 2022
at 04:45
How do you keep a game from becoming a chore?
It depends what you're asking. If you're determined to do things a certain way, even if that way is difficult, there might not be much anyone can offer. If you feel it's necessary to create lore, to be the sole propriety of that lore, to give the players complete freedom, to not require the players to work within constraints, etc. then you are making a lot of work for yourself.

If you want to have a fun experience that doesn't literally do all of those things but is still fun, then there's lots of room for advice. Just remember that not everything you might be trying to do is necessary or even all that helpful, despite what others might claim.
donsr
 member, 2558 posts
Fri 8 Apr 2022
at 04:50
How do you keep a game from becoming a chore?
i have a note book for each game, and  stcks  of scratch paper as NPC  pop up, or disappear.

 there are a couple main  plot lines..and a few  subplots. The players, through their   RP can create new plot lines ( it  better, when they don't even know they did it!)

 keep the game  moving...events...interactions and side stuff...most player  really want to play, by the GM must have the framework  in place, and  keep the  game moving.

 if it 'becomes a chore"  you're doing it wrong.
1492
 member, 11 posts
 ADD Grognard
 PBP Neophyte
Fri 8 Apr 2022
at 05:40
How do you keep a game from becoming a chore?
Great advice from Engine and Don. In the world of Improv, the golden rule is "Yes, and..." So relax, have fun, take what your players give you, and build on it.

If you are presenting yourself as a GM, aside from module-play, I think you have an obligation at the outset to have a rough sketch of the "world" you are dropping your characters into. It doesn't have to be fully fleshed out. Just a rough sketch.

From there, you can let them build their back stories and take cues from them to help add some detail to your world. Aside from that, just move the story forward, and build out further when and as needed.

If you get to a place where you feel stuck, just tell the players you need a week (or whatever) to do a little work to fill in the blanks. I think most players would understand that.

100% agree with Don that it should not feel like a chore. To me (and I imagine, to most of us on here), RP is the most fun thing in the world. If being a GM is not fun, try just being a player. If that too feels like a chore, then maybe try pickle ball?

This message was last edited by the user at 14:16, Mon 04 July.

liblarva
 member, 746 posts
Fri 8 Apr 2022
at 06:54
How do you keep a game from becoming a chore?
The problem, I think, is giving the players perfect freedom to add anything to the game on an apparently unlimited basis. You have four DMs at that point. Thatís not sustainable. Players absolutely can and should collaborate on world building, especially when it comes to their character and backstory, but that cannot be carte blanche. The world will cease to have cohesion in no time and, as you say, it quickly becomes impossible to hold much of that in your head at once.

Set limits. One or two factions, one or two important NPCs, one or two important locations, etc.

Even if you donít run D&D, you should check out Return of the Lazy Dungeon Master. Itís a great book, despite the name, about only prepping whatís really important and whatís coming next in the game rather than thinking you have to prep tons in advance.

If itís more a ďhow do I keep notesĒ question, How to be a Great GM on YouTube has a video on taking and keeping notes thatís really good.
CaptainHellrazor
 member, 241 posts
Fri 8 Apr 2022
at 07:46
How do you keep a game from becoming a chore?
Just because a player posts something or comes up with an off the wall concept/location/NPC etc doesn't mean it "IS" that is the GM's prerogative to allow or decline.

I have recently implemented a number of protocols to help keep my games running smoothly.  I have a 'joint' thread for all players to post (IC) and interact and then each player has a 'solo' thread so they can investigate various options that do not include or require other players.

I also use the Game Wiki, a lot.  Some parts are GM only editable but other parts can be left for the players to edit themselves.  So if you want to allow them a free hand, let them use the Game Wiki and you can always reign things in if they are getting out of control.

Don't be afraid to say 'no' to things your players are trying to introduce but don't work within your campaign framework.  If it ain't fun, forget it!
InQueli
 member, 28 posts
Fri 8 Apr 2022
at 15:23
How do you keep a game from becoming a chore?
Finish it early.
V_V
 member, 993 posts
Fri 8 Apr 2022
at 16:35
How do you keep a game from becoming a chore?

This message was deleted by the user at 17:04, Fri 08 Apr.

Yaztromo
 supporter, 467 posts
Fri 8 Apr 2022
at 20:41
Re: How do you keep a game from becoming a chore?
chromatophoria:
keeping notes in a wiki-like tool...

As a side note, let me flag that this website do provide a game wiki as part of each game.
Silverlock
 member, 138 posts
Fri 8 Apr 2022
at 21:15
Re: How do you keep a game from becoming a chore?
Engine and Don, you are both absolutely right.

 I keep a main outline in text for the adventure, a timeline of what happens at what point.  The monsters and the villains have jobs to do.
facemaker329
 member, 7392 posts
 Gaming for over 40
 years, and counting!
Sat 9 Apr 2022
at 01:54
Re: How do you keep a game from becoming a chore?
It's one thing to let players come up with NPCs (which is a great idea, as it's an easy way to get your background cast of characters put together and make sure that they're characters that the players like/find useful/will interacct with).  But unless you're ready to basically turn the game into a freeform and/or make all the players GMs, you need to take control of those NPCs once the players have put them on the board.

I'm in a game where the GM is only minimally involved in steering player-created NPCs.  In some cases, it's not too bad...the players use those NPCs for RP purposes and otherwise just kind of let them remain in the background.  In other cases...the NPCs become, basically, echoes of that player's PC, so whatever that player wants to have happen, regardless of whether or not it fits well with the GM's vision of the game, ends up happening...it becomes a significant burden for the GM to try and keep up with, because those players like to keep haring off on their own storyline (because there are enough characters, with all 'their' NPCs, to make it a plausible attempt, in-game).  So the GM has to devote time and energy to supporting their private little plotlines, on top of trying to keep the rest of the game moving.  I don't resent the creation of the NPCs, as I've created a few myself...but the fact that those NPCs are being used as a lever to demand special focus from the GM annoys me (and I've brought that annoyance up with the GM on a few occasions.)  I can't imagine how being a GM would NOT feel like a chore, at that point (but I don't enjoy the whole GM aspect of gaming, particularly, so it easily feels like a chore to me.)

But it seems to me that, if your players are throwing so much information at you that it becomes laborious, it's your prerogative, as GM, to say, "You're welcome to create any NPC that you like...but I control them."  I also happen to think it's your prerogative to say, "You can only have (X) NPCs, so choose them carefully."  I know not everyone agrees with my take on it, but in my book, it's YOUR game, as GM, and if I'm going to play in it, there's an implicit agreement on my part to play the game within the guidelines you establish.

But it's also incumbent upon you, as GM, to make those guidelines clear to your players, and to enforce them when and if they get challenged.
Waxahachie
 member, 176 posts
 The horn that wakes
 the sleepers
Sat 9 Apr 2022
at 16:41
Re: How do you keep a game from becoming a chore?
The solution is to have your players keep the notes. With the freedom you're giving them to world build should come some ownership of capturing the information and documenting it.  That way you have it as a reference.
donsr
 member, 2559 posts
Sat 9 Apr 2022
at 17:01
Re: How do you keep a game from becoming a chore?
 i try to  have the players, in the 'interveiw'( 1 PM thing)..to have  a  short bio..what they were, how they got  there, what do they expect.

 sometimes i have to gear them  down, or flat out  refuse  goofy charatcers..but i have their ideas..and sometimes they ask  this or  ask that, but i can pull infro from the Bio  and  any IC interactions they have had, to  add plots. or set triggers for them to  trigger a plot( sometimes they miss...but? they create  new ones..and if , as a GM, you can't  adjust, then..again? You're doing it wrong)

 I know there are players  out there that want control..i had to dismiss a few when they started   ruining things  for other players. For Me  as a player.. i want some freedom of choice, but i also want a frame work...rules... i have seen  GMs  who unleashed god moding?..those  game don't last... i have seen some  that micromanage..that's not  good either... the best games i played  in have a structure with Lee way for the characters to express  and be themselves and grow..

the golden rule for a GM should be... 'run the game, how you would  want it run for you."
Silverlock
 member, 139 posts
Sat 9 Apr 2022
at 22:53
Re: How do you keep a game from becoming a chore?
I had another thought.  I know, it's rare, but every once in a while...

GMing becomes hard when you're tired and worn out.  I've managed to keep going for years by keeping to a set schedule for posting for myself.  And there have been times when I've been really tempted to stop the game, or take a break, but the schedule seems to help.  It gives me some momentum.
engine
 member, 876 posts
 There's a brain alright
 but it's made out of meat
Sun 10 Apr 2022
at 05:00
Re: How do you keep a game from becoming a chore?
1492:
Great advice from Engine and Don. In the world of Improv, the golden rule is "Yes, and..." So relax, have fun, take what your players give you, and build on it.

For that matter, the players themselves should take things and build on them. That's what keeps a good improv scene from being an insane mess: every next idea being a part of and building off of what has come before. This makes it so that there are only a few core ideas that need to be kept track of, and everyone is helping keep track of them, because everyone helped create them.

The DM is in a position to help the process. Even the most well-meaning players will have a focus on their characters that the DM can keep from having. Arguably, the DM can't even really gain that same focus, which is good. The DM can focus on things that tie the characters together, tie the characters into the world, and tie the parts of the world together. This can come in the form of directions to the players, presented as leading questions. Rather than asking "How can these two factions be connected?" "Say, these two factions are connected. How?" or, even better, "These two factions are connected by a familial relationship between two of their members. Who are the two? Only one faction knows the truth. Which one?"
facemaker329
 member, 7393 posts
 Gaming for over 40
 years, and counting!
Sun 10 Apr 2022
at 05:16
Re: How do you keep a game from becoming a chore?
engine:
That's what keeps a good improv scene from being an insane mess: every next idea being a part of and building off of what has come before.


This is great--in theory.  But it presupposes that players are actually going to try and build off of what's already there, instead of trying to fabricate their own concepts into the game with no regard as to whether or not those ideas actually fit.  That's where the GM needs to weigh in and say something.  To run with the improv idea--if you're doing an improv about the French Resistance during WWII and someone jumps in with an idea that's based in medieval Japanese Samurai tradition, it doesn't work (unless what you're going for is a random assortment of time periods jammed together).  I'll freely admit, coming from a theatrical background, that full-on improv was never my strong suit, although I was really good at rolling with mishaps on stage or people dropping lines--as long as the focus remained on the story we were all trying to tell.

If someone's 'Yes, and...' idea contradicts the game parameters you've set up, redraws the reality of the game world, or massively shifts the balance of power in your game (in an unwanted way), you as GM need to be ready to referee a little bit.  Player contribution to the game needs to be collaborative, not a free-for-all of "Wouldn't it be cool if..." ideas that have only the most tenuous connections to the game.  Players throwing outrageous ideas onto the table or redefining the game that you created and other players signed up to play in can kill a game just as quickly as GM burnout.
GreenTongue
 member, 1114 posts
 Game Archaeologist
Sun 10 Apr 2022
at 11:46
Re: How do you keep a game from becoming a chore?
facemaker329:
Players throwing outrageous ideas onto the table or redefining the game that you created and other players signed up to play in can kill a game just as quickly as GM burnout.

Sadly, this happened when I let a new player into a long running game. Immersion was broken and the game collapsed.

Sometimes having the players pick up some of the load of the game is a blessing. Interacting between themselves without _needing_ GM supervision / input. Rare and wonder players.
donsr
 member, 2560 posts
Sun 10 Apr 2022
at 13:05
Re: How do you keep a game from becoming a chore?
 I have 100s of  NPCs..almost all of them a different in some way. Try to make it like a Movie  with these NPCs  moving in and out  of  'scenes' and such

 some players  seem to only want to interact with  NPCs...others lock themselves into onr PC...neither of those   is really good for games, unless you can  guide the flow around it...sooner or later they   see they are Missing out.

 BUT.. when you get PCs  who interact with other PCs, that jumps the  game up another level...IF...those interactions lean towards the   game flow.
engine
 member, 877 posts
 There's a brain alright
 but it's made out of meat
Sun 10 Apr 2022
at 16:30
Re: How do you keep a game from becoming a chore?
facemaker329:
engine:
That's what keeps a good improv scene from being an insane mess: every next idea being a part of and building off of what has come before.
This is great--in theory.  But it presupposes that players are actually going to try and build off of what's already there, instead of trying to fabricate their own concepts into the game with no regard as to whether or not those ideas actually fit.

I suppose that one sentence presupposes, but, insofar as it's possible not to presuppose a few things in a two paragraph post on a complex subject, the rest of my post addresses your point.

The players should know what the intent is, and the DM should guide the process. It's not "Please add a faction to the game," it's "The French are working with a group of Belgian criminals. What's their particular racket, and why does the Resistance risk working with them?"

I'm not here to address the problem of players who don't play along. Any game style is good "in theory" until someone decides to be an agent of chaos, or simply doesn't understand the assignment. It's reasonable to presuppose that the group will explain things to the player, or part ways with them.
ladysharlyne
 subscriber, 3360 posts
 Member before Oct 2005
 Creative Writing ROCKS!!
Sun 10 Apr 2022
at 16:58
How do you keep a game from becoming a chore?
Hiya, I have the same games running for a long ling time.  Sometime or other deleted, restarted, trimmed tyreads for a reboot.  Why?  Because I feel sometimes my players stop posting regularly and I fault myself as not giving my players a good game.  If it fails I feel its my fault and sometimes I just look, read, and donít have my own muse to post.  It happens to players and it happens to GMs.

But if it becomes a chore to a GM and you arenít enjoying it the take some time to look at it and think about it.  As for players or GMs Ö. If you canít get the feeling back then talk to your players or GM and see if new ideas can be done or simply fold your hand.  If it ainít fun donít do it cause this is a hobby, an escape, you do it for enjoyment.  We all do.

I agree that sometimes new players come in and take the bit in their mouth and run away from what your game is about to the point you want to just give up.  Remember if something like this happens. Delete players not the game/world/story YOU created.  Get hold of those reins and pull up to get YOUR world back.  I find that having CoGMs that care about the game and you are the best way.  They are there to talk to as friends OOC.  They know what you want, the world you created in your story and puck you up, put you back in the saddle, and help you get back into enjoying or if you canít then leave it to them for awhile.  You will also see how making a pist ir two yourself breaks the chore feeling down and you get involved again.  If a player feels that its a chore and stops posting its not your fault itís theirs and they should either try again or leave, one way or another.
Brianna
 member, 2253 posts
Wed 13 Apr 2022
at 15:07
How do you keep a game from becoming a chore?
Sort of related to what ladysharlyne said but: If a player comes in and makes trouble in some way, perhaps by not bothering to read and adhere to your game rules and world, perhaps by poor interactions with other players/characters, don't spend too much time trying to get them to behave, fit into your world and scenario, and/or play well with others.  Unless they shape up pretty quickly, in my experience they probably never will, and it doesn't take long for someone like that to spoil the game for your good players.  So if you aren't careful, you'll end up with the difficult player, and the others will go looking for somewhere they can enjoy themselves, rather than tangle with the troublemaker.  It might take a while before you even realize that's what happened, because some may not drop out of the game right away, but just lose interest and not play to their previous level.
donsr
 member, 2564 posts
Wed 13 Apr 2022
at 16:04
How do you keep a game from becoming a chore?
 I agree  with Bri.  Not only do they  never  really  'get with the program', but they couold cost you some good players.
CaptainHellrazor
 member, 244 posts
Wed 13 Apr 2022
at 17:05
How do you keep a game from becoming a chore?
I concur, classic example of one bad apple ruining the whole barrel.
Hunter
 member, 1761 posts
 Captain Oblivious!
 Lurker
Thu 14 Apr 2022
at 22:33
Re: How do you keep a game from becoming a chore?
CaptainHellrazor:
I concur, classic example of one bad apple ruining the whole barrel.

And there are people who's idea of fun boils down to ruining everyone else's fun.  If the game is truly become something you hate doing but feel obligated because of the time/effort everyone else has put in...it's time for a serious OOC discussion about continuing (either under different terms or just bringing it to an end).
donsr
 member, 2565 posts
Thu 14 Apr 2022
at 23:19
Re: How do you keep a game from becoming a chore?
we have, at  any one time' 3-5 people on the shelf because of RL.... other sprinkle in with thier 'bust  seasons' , everyone has thier own RL goign on.

 That is my biggest hurdle, is moving the game along. positionign players so they can jump in and  out, until life catches  them a break.

 so far..so good!

 BUT... there have people I had to  tell you leave. When they make the  game, less fun for others, then you have to  cut them,  and wait for the next free agent to come along.
pdboddy
 supporter, 727 posts
 EST/EDT [GMT-5/GMT-4]
Wed 27 Apr 2022
at 14:38
How do you keep a game from becoming a chore?
In reply to chromatophoria (msg # 1):

I find that scheduling helps, if you stick to it.

The biggest part of keeping the energy and avoiding it becoming a chore is to factor in time for yourself.  Make that schedule available to your players.  Take some of the yearly holidays off by default.  Heck, take your birthday off too.

It also helps to keep up an OOC conversation with the players.  Can be idle chitchat, or asking how everyone's doing, or 'what do you think so far?', and so on.  Show them a bit of interest (but not so much that they think you nosy) in their lives.

As far as keeping notes for different player hooks, you're under no obligation to use any or all of them, though it'd be pretty crass to ask for such hooks and not use at least a few of them.  My suggestion here is that to fit at least one hook from each player into your upcoming scenes.  Have a pre-planned adventure?  Shove in that player's brother's son seeking revenge as one of the antagonists.  You won't need too many notes, and the player will practically write the scene themselves.  If you immediately incorporate player hooks into upcoming scenes, you won't struggle to remember them.

This message was last edited by the user at 14:39, Wed 27 Apr.

facemaker329
 member, 7400 posts
 Gaming for over 40
 years, and counting!
Thu 28 Apr 2022
at 06:07
Re: How do you keep a game from becoming a chore?
pdboddy:
It also helps to keep up an OOC conversation with the players.


THIS.  The games that I've come to remember the most fondly on here are the ones where we, as players, got to know each other a little bit and got to know the GM a little bit.  Tabletop gaming groups are often made up of friends, friends of friends, and people with whom you're not yet friends (but will be after a few sessions).  If you don't have any OOC space (or you have it but remain detached from it), that piece of chemistry-building is gone and you're greatly weakening the resilience of your game.

People will keep coming back to play with their friends, when they'll gladly walk away from a random group of internet strangers.

And if you feel like they're YOUR friends, it's less of a chore to get things ready for them (plus, the better you get to know them, the easier it becomes to tailor aspects of the game to appeal to them).  And if they feel like you're THEIR friend, they will be more forgiving and understanding when/if things don't go to plan and you can't keep up the pace of the game for a while.
chromatophoria
 member, 700 posts
 Be excellent
 to each other.
Mon 4 Jul 2022
at 08:29
Re: How do you keep a game from becoming a chore?
You advice is golden. Thank you all.
evileeyore
 member, 706 posts
 GURPS GM and Player
 Joined 20150819
Mon 4 Jul 2022
at 14:50
How do you keep a game from becoming a chore?
facemaker329:
And if you feel like they're YOUR friends, it's less of a chore to get things ready for them (plus, the better you get to know them, the easier it becomes to tailor aspects of the game to appeal to them).  And if they feel like you're THEIR friend, they will be more forgiving and understanding when/if things don't go to plan and you can't keep up the pace of the game for a while.

This.  So much this.

[RANT=OLD MAN]
I know it isn't the same for a lot of you youngsters these days, with your social medias and constant internet-connectivity, but in my day we sat down at a table with friends to game.  Even if it was a FLG or con 'pick-up' game with randos, about halfway through the game, you knew if these were Rando Calrissians (the coolest randos in the universe) or not, you knew if you were making friends or not.

That's why the whole pseudo-anonymous culture of this place is so bothersome to me, it's hard to track friends from game to game as a Player.  You don't look over at that game filling, a system you might not enjoy, and see some friends at that table and say "Damn the system, those people are fun to game with!"

I know there's ways around that.. but still.  Right, I'm done yelling at the clouds.
[/RANT]