Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Things Go Wrong - Part 2

I had more of a stream of consciousness/rant/rambling type post yesterday rather than anything super productive. I'm honestly not sure what prompted it. Experimentation? Laziness? Who knows, but it is what I wanted to write and I'm moderately happy with it, even though it leaves out the possibility of when things go wrong for you as the GM. Anyhow, today I want to take a bit more in depth look at things going wrong for both the GM and the Players. Feel free to add to the discussion in the comments.

It Might Not Be Your Fault
One of the first things to realize about things going wrong is that it might not be your fault. In fact, it might not be anyone's fault. Sometimes things just go bad. Sometimes the dice come up bad for you and good for them. Sometimes shit happens, you know? Try not to take it personally and try not to fret about it too much, because if you play long enough then at some point something is going to go wrong, and horribly so at that.

Then Again, It Might Be Your Fault
On the other hand, it could be your fault. Maybe you made a bad decision. Maybe you acted without proper information. Maybe your character acted in a way true to them but that made things worse. Maybe you broke character to do something when the in character response was appropriate. Even in this case you don't want to worry too much, and I'll get on that soon I promise, but try to roll with it. Remember, things are doomed to go wrong at some point from the beginning. Whether it is your fault or someone else's fault or nobody's fault it doesn't matter.

Someone Else's Fault?
Just to clarify, it is possible for the fault to not be yours but still be someone's. Maybe the GM messed up and made something too hard. Maybe something wasn't communicated properly. Maybe someone made a bad call. Once more, don't fret. Bad calls happens, mistakes happen, and things go wrong.

Fault Doesn't Matter
No matter which of the above is true, the bottom line is that fault doesn't matter. All too often when things go wrong people have a tendency to focus on who is to blame rather than to focus on what is the solution. The thing is, pointing fingers and assigning blame doesn't help anything. In fact, it normally slows things down because the blame very rarely is the sole possession of one person. Did Sarah make a bad call? Well it would have worked out if John had stuck to the plan or if Jeremy knew which person to take out first. Then instead of focusing on the problem at hand the group is focusing on who messed up more, or who caused the mess up to happen. Not productive at all.

Try To Keep It In Character
When things go wrong in game try to keep the responses in character. It is perfectly fine for your character to be frustrated with a bad situation. It is less ok for you the player to be frustrated. Ultimately this hobby of ours is a game and a game should be fun. If you can't have fun when things go against you then it might not be the hobby for you. At the same time being frustrated or snapping out of character will put everyone else on edge and can steal the fun from the game. A fun environment becomes a hostile environment, and no one wants to spend their free time in a hostile environment.

Post Game Discussion Is Your Friend
Don't be afraid to discuss matters after the game. Do it in private, wait for everyone to cool down, whatever works for you, but don't be afraid to talk things out. Players in the groups I'm in can't seem to go 12 hours without talking about some aspect of our various games or another, and that is pretty awesome to see. At the same time, sometimes things go pear shaped and in needing to find out why you need to talk about it on a meta level of some sort. With cooler heads and open discussion the heart of the matter can be discussed. Try to keep blame out of the conversation, even self blame, and focus instead on what went wrong, how it went wrong, and how to avoid it. You can't fix something that already happened, but you can learn from it.

In Games Things Rarely Go Wrong For Just One Person
The final thing for today is this. Remember that things rarely go wrong for just one person. Often the player group as a whole has things go wrong for them, and sometimes that means the GM is included in that list. The hobby has so many moving components between the 4-6 players and their brains, the GM and her brain, the system rules, and the dice that it is near impossible to plan out how something will go. All we can do is learn and move on.


  1. It's funny, dice going poorly for me and great for my players pretty much sums up the Halo game, don't you think?

    I think the most important part of this is recognizing that, though it might be somebody's fault, assigning blame doesn't matter. Since I might be running a Pathfinder game for teens very soon, I think I'll need a good strategy for when things go sideways.

  2. It's good to read this kind of thing to remind you that crazy things happen to groups everywhere. I described a situation in a comment to yesterday's post on this blog...which was really not that big of deal in the scheme of things. Intellectually, you know that all groups have to find their way at times, but it still helps to be reminded.