It is very easy to become angry while playing paper RPGs, especially if you really enjoy the roleplaying aspect of the game as I do. Suddenly everything that happens to your character becomes personal to you. Especially the bad things.
When I was still young as a player I would place a lot of the blame for my frustrations squarely on the shoulders of the game master. Was this fair at all? Well, no not really. All of the GMs I have played with (our good friend Nick has been one of them) have always taken great care to make sure that a game is balanced and fair to the best of their ability. With certain games, like FFG’s Star Wars: Age of Rebellion, there is no true gauge with which to balance your combat encounters like you’ll find with the combat levels in ‘Dungeons and Dragons’ later editions. This makes it much easier for the player to feel like they were too easily overwhelmed by the adversity that was placed before them.
For a personal example, I was playing a Dungeons and Dragons one-shot with some buddies of mine. It seemed pretty carbon copy from your basic one-shot formula at first. A band of orcs has been attacking the town, you should go and kill them. Got it. Okay. Easy. NOT. Things started to get a little difficult when every one of our rests were interrupted by orcs, goblins, or even a Yeti. A Yeti!! Then we get to the orc’s hideout and there are two massive guys with 17+ Armor Class and darkvision. They put out their torches and none of us could see to fight them. All of my teammates went down, so my character tried to run away. Guess what. There were more of them outside! While the other PCs were knocked unconscious and captured, but two huge dudes with multi-attack were too much for me and I was killed immediately. Later in the session the final combat resulted in an almost instant TPK (Total Player Kill).
So what is a player to do in this situation? Maybe you’ve just lost your whole party and no one can save you. Maybe you have just lost a PC, even your character, to an encounter that was incredibly unfair in your eyes. You’re angry. Now you are down a member going into a major combat and someone has to sit out for an hour to create a new character! How could the GM do this to you?! Is he really that bloodthirsty?! Doesn’t he care about the party?!
Let’s take a look at this with a clear head. Sometimes bad things happen and you can’t really avoid them. Maybe a few bad rolls got the better of you and someone came out worse for it. Maybe the party did something the GM didn’t expect and he had to come up with something on the fly. There are a million and one reasons why things could have gone wrong, just like there are one billion reasons it could have gone right. Sometimes whatever bad thing happened can be reversed that same session if the GM accounted for it in their planning. You don’t know everything that is coming next and that is one of the most fun things about paper RPGs. Still angry? Bring up your frustration to the GM privately after the game and see where they stand on the issue. Sometimes an explanation is all you need from them in order to understand the situation and feel better. Nick actually just wrapped up a series on this same idea called ‘The Empathy Hammer’ (see parts one, two, and three here) that outlines not only interactions with your GM, but also interactions with other players.
I would heavily caution you against the idea of shaking your fist at the GM just because things didn’t go the way you wanted them to. Some advice is to avoid having specific expectations when going into a campaign. The GM is the one who builds the world, you just live in it. It’s the same idea as reading a book and a character doesn’t make a choice you would have them make. Do you message the author and demand that they re-release the book in your vision? No! That would be ridiculous. So instead of shaking your fist at the big old GM in the sky, take a minute and ask yourself if all of the blame should be where you throw it.
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