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Old 07-15-2016, 10:45 PM   #8
Emerald Cat
Join Date: Oct 2015
Location: Cincinnati, OH, USA
Default Re: Gaming disasters

It looks like I'm going to be the first GM to post about their own game. My gaming disaster was my home brew Pathfinder campaign two years ago. To be fair, this was my first time GMing. So I was still learning how to do things.

My first mistake was running this campaign at all. At the time, I was trying to graduate an entire semester earlier that I had been planning to. So I was trying to finish three graduate level courses on top of finishing what was supposed to be a year long project in half the time. Luckily, I did manage to graduate, so at least that stress paid off. But I realistically didn't have the time to devote to a homebrew campaign. And that exacerbated my other mistakes.

Initially, I was writing up walls of text for dialogue and description because that is how Paizo's adventures are written. Stylistically, I feel that this was a poor choice because reading walls of text to players, with no room for interaction, is boring. Worse, it is boring material that is very time consuming to produce! At least I quickly switched to improvising off of bulleted lists of key points. That made my acting a lot less wooden.

Even when I wasn't writing walls of text, my campaign was badly designed. This campaign was before I read GURPS for Dummies. So I was still trying to write my adventures/campaign in chronological order. There was no foreshadowing at either the adventure or campaign level, very little continuity between adventures, and no tangible progress. The links between adventures were so weak that you could literally run my adventures independently. Compounding this issue was my decision to set every adventure in its own country. Not even the setting was consistent! Worse, researching the various countries was time consuming. In retrospect, I should have set the campaign in a single country.

On an individual basis, my adventures were passable. They were designed to be combat heavy dungeon crawls. I did this because combat encounters are the fastest to design in Pathfinder. But I don't feel too bad about that one because I openly admitted that was what I was going for in my sign up sheet. So the players knew what they were getting into. If I were to revise these adventures now, I would add in more social encounters. I would also include player choices more meaningful than "do you go left or right."

Using the random encounter tables was a big mistake. At the beginning of the campaign, I was preparing literally everything in advance, including the random encounters. Namely, I was trying to tie the random encounters to the plot (ha!). But this meant that I was wasting my limited time on developing these unimportant encounters rather than the story ones. Not planning them in advance saved me a lot of prep time.

But the other issue was that the random encounters were overly deadly. On one occasion, I rolled a result for a roc. The party had to run from that one. On another occasion, I rolled up 6 trolls as a random encounter. This nearly resulted in a TPK because the party couldn't consistently deal acid or fire damage. Meaning that the trolls regenerated faster than the party could damage them. Even if I hadn't forgotten to give them a large token on the map, I think the party would still have suffered a TPK. I'm OK with there being challenging encounters that the players have to run away from. But I don't like it when these aren't part of the actual plot. So I don't think I will be using the random encounter tables again.

That all being said, my players enjoyed my game. Apparently, my mistakes were a lot less obvious on the other side of the screen. Considering that a lot of them were meta mistakes, that isn't too surprising. Maybe I'm more critical of my own mistakes than my players are. Hopefully, my next campaign will go better.
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