Players: When A Campaign Is Boring You, Ask Yourself Why… Then Tell the GM

Posted: October 14, 2011 by pointyman2000 in Advice, Articles, Roleplaying Games

Self-examination is a critical skill that a lot of us don’t really practice all that much anymore.  Sometimes, taking a few moments to ask why and to really formulate your thoughts in an orderly structure, backed up with examples and supporting statements can do a whole lot of good.

Today we look at being bored.  We’ve all been there.  No matter who the GM might be, there’s always that one campaign where we go in, raring to go with our character… only to find ourselves bored out of our wits.  But from personal experience, players tend to just say that they’re bored and leave it at that.   I feel that this is a golden opportunity for the player to come forward to the GM and really give them the kind of feedback that helps GMs improve (and I say this with the assumption that the GM actually does want to improve.)

I tend to go on and on about the importance of communication between participants in the activity of roleplaying games, but it needs to be said that the quality of feedback matters.  Players owe it to themselves to examine their gaming experience and isolate the things that make them dissatisfied with how things are going.  As such it becomes helpful if you had things to help your case such as:

  • Examples – Citing situations like “That whole hour-long court scene where we technically were just bystanders to these uber-influential NPCs?  I don’t think we actually could do anything to contribute there.  It was hard to just sit there and listen and maybe nod in agreement while they did their thing.”
  • Suggestions – It can’t hurt to give a few suggestions, who knows, your GM might just be stymied for a way to keep your characters in a loop, “What about the Cardinal in that court scene?  Maybe he needs lackeys?  Or might try to frame one of us… that’ll involve us and put us up front and center.”
  • Honesty – Sometimes, it becomes easier to pussyfoot around an issue when clarity is necessary.  “I know that you really like these NPCs, but if you looped us in on their plans then we could be more eager to pay attention to their bickering.  Otherwise, the character’s won’t really care, and it doesn’t seem to make sense in the context of narrative either.”

As a GM, I appreciate this sort of feedback.  More than just the words you’re saying, it also tells me that you A) pay attention to the game, B) care enough about the game to take a personal stand in its improvement and C) trust me enough to give me this feedback knowing that I’ll do my best to apply them.  Feedback is very important to me, and that’s why I tend to nag my players about it all the time.

  1. loquacious says:

    There are times when it is really hard to tell a GM what’s causing the boredom. Perhaps a storyline is focusing elsewhere for a while, and that person surely deserves a turn, but has no sense of drama or curiosity. Maybe there’s too much thinking after a long day as a lawyer or banker. Maybe the storyline is so confusing you don’t know what to do… there’s a lot of reasons why you might be bored and worried about telling your GM.

    Any tips on how to approach it?

    • Hey there Loquacious!

      Well, honestly I’d review my experience and check first if I actually have a right to complain. I think you cited a very strong case where the GM isn’t at fault. If he’s running a scene with a character other than yours as a focus, then I feel that one should be able to graciously accept that as a player you can’t have the spotlight all the time.

      That said, I think that bringing up a valid issue with the GM is always best done with starting off by telling them that you’re providing feedback in order to help make the game more fun for everyone. The point is not to antagonize the GM, but to help open a dialogue where both parties can brainstorm ways to make the game more fun.

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