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First time DM (Lengthy Post FYI)

Getting in late here, but just from reading the initial post, you have some work to do if you want to DM. I agree with your conclusion that your problems are mostly self-caused. But that being said, DMing is not for everyone.

While I appreciate brutal honesty as much as the next person, perhaps you could elaborate on what to work on exactly? Self-inflicted problems does not mean a person knows who to change the results.

OK so maybe the Sorcerer in the 40k setting is just sort of tough luck, the way this has gone, but you could still do with rationalising it somehow. Honestly the best way to do this is I think just to say that a Sorcerer is a "psyker" or whatever they're called; the mechanics are slightly different, the character sheet looks a bit different, but in-universe, will your average peasant be able to tell the difference? No way!

I'm actually kind of against the "banning based on your personal preferences" bit. Like I said, you don't have to enjoy playing for those characters, because you're not playing one, you're the DM. Now OK, maybe you don't like DMing for them either, but unless you find them really bad, it's kind of the DM's job to take a little bit of that on the chin so that the players can have fun too - otherwise you might find a party of only Fighters, in a system where magic is really important, and them not feeling like they can really be what they want to be (which is most of the draw of an RPG).

So yeah, sort that out. The main thing though is the whole thing about hooks and stuff. Ultimately I think you just need to find a way to get them interested. It is really about a hook, but it's a hook for the players as much as for the characters. Get them to work with you; feel free to let them come up with bits of the story, it doesn't all have to be a surprise for them. Just figure out which bits they enjoy the most, and focus on those - at least until you have them a bit more enthused. This goes for the backstory stuff, too - don't think of this as "calling them out", just try to get them invested in their characters a bit.

@TheFred, it does seem to be mainly the hook/investment issue. Which is probably the harder part for me, as I said I never really needed one myself so I don't relate. But thanks for your help and advice, I will try that.

@Farland - Not sure if that post was intended to be as blunt as it came off but, as I read it, it's about as delicate as a drive-by shooting. Maybe next time come with constructive feedback or nothing at all?

@sgill07 - You took all the feedback really well, I commend you for that. It's tough to put yourself out there as a DM, have an idea you want to run with and then Murphy's Law rears his damn head. I agree with a lot of the feedback here, and it sounds like you have learned a good lesson or six. Don't give up on the DM'ing, we've all made mistakes that we wanted to nuke from orbit.

Originally Posted by sgill07 View Post
@TheFred, it does seem to be mainly the hook/investment issue. Which is probably the harder part for me, as I said I never really needed one myself so I don't relate. But thanks for your help and advice, I will try that.
From what you're describing, I would consider you a 'on the rails' sort of player - one who tends to follow the intended plot of the GM, instead of more 'sand-box' types who are more prone to wandering about looking for plot hooks. To phrase in video game terms, the former is akin to linear JRPGs (like Final Fantasy) while the later is like western RPGs (like Skyrim). Both are valid ways of playing TTRPGs, but each requires a different approach in adventure design.

Regardless, I believe that the first step in dealing with this entire thing is to sit down with your group and discuss game expectations. Figure out what they want from the game and let them know what you want from it, then come to a consensus about how the campaign should proceed. The Same Page Tool may be useful in this endevour. Remember - there is no 'right' way to play RPGs, only different methods.

As a side note, learn to expect your players not to do their research into a setting/system/etc. It's quite common, unless they're very invested in it, for players to simply learn about the setting/system/etc through play instead of doing their reading. You will be hard pressed to get them to do this on their own unless they have a lot of time, energy, and willpower. And that's assuming it even occurs to them to do such research.

Relatedly, as I suggested before, you may want to look at other systems as well. It's entirely possible that D&D 3.5 is a terrible fit for the campaign, setting, and/or the group's play-style. It can be a pain to learn a new system, but it may be worth it in the end. And even if you don't swap over to a new system, looking beyond your normal system can provide a lot insight and ideas of how to run your game better. Familiarity may be nice, but honestly, you may find something that clicks with your group better.

Lastly, since you're a newer GM, I also recommend reading up or watching videos about GMing in general. You can learn a lot of tricks and gain significant insight into this end of the hobby by doing so. It's not as good as getting hands on experience, IMO, but it can make a difference.

Good luck!

Originally Posted by Yamazaki View Post
From what you're describing, I would consider you a 'on the rails' sort of player - one who tends to follow the intended plot of the GM, instead of more 'sand-box' types who are more prone to wandering about looking for plot hooks. To phrase in video game terms, the former is akin to linear JRPGs (like Final Fantasy) while the later is like western RPGs (like Skyrim). Both are valid ways of playing TTRPGs, but each requires a different approach in adventure design.
I'm not sure it's that simple. If you're the sort of person who never has an issue finding a hook and is always willing to go and wander around and check stuff out, that actually kind of sounds like you'd do fine in a sandbox-type setting. In fact that would suit a Skyrim-like game pretty well, since there are big explorable areas but then you come across stuff and want to take a closer look. Part of the difficulty with DMing a game is that it's easy for it to get whole levels more complex than something like Skyrim. Skyrim actually has a pretty linear plot, it's just set within a very large open world... it's not really "sandbox" in the traditional sense, though - there are lots of little subplots and places to explore, but really the level of choice is fairly low. In a tabletop-type game, players can not only completely leap off the rails, but sometimes take flight and sore above the shattered remnants of your plot in ways you never even expected.

Railroading people is actually not that bad, so long as that's what everyone's signed up for. I once joined a game which was advertised as a sort of Kingmaker-esq sandbox game, but actually the DM had already planned all our moves for us like it was a video game. We had a ship and a whole world to explore but we were "meant" to go to a specific town and start up there, and the DM got really upset when we failed to negotiate a particular deal (never mind that they're written the NPCs as pretty intransigent) because it ruined their plans. Now actually, if they'd just said from the get-go "you're meant to wind up here, and then that's where the real game starts, just roll with it" I'd not have minded so much; yeah, personally I find that kind of irksome, but I'd be able to adjust my character and perhaps between us we could have choreographed it "behind the scenes" so it worked. I don't find that as fun as just playing as the mood takes me and having the world respond, but it's OK; what annoyed me was that I felt like I'd been mis-sold and at first I couldn't really understand why we were being shovelled along a particular path or why the DM was unhappy about what we were doing.

Anyway, long story short, don't be afraid to hold your hands up and admit what you're doing if necessary - and remember that you're a new DM, they know that, and should be willing to cut you some slack on that (of course if you're struggling, this is where a preprinted adventure can help - even if you change some bits up a bit).

The hooks thing... when it comes to role-playing, hooks are important because otherwise you can find yourself in a situation where it's unrealistic for a character to go along with the plot. What if my character is (a) self-centred and greedy and only looks out for himself and (b) has a phobia of demons? Why would he go and investigate a demon attack on some random people who can't pay him? So we either need a more sensible hook to get him over there, or I need to break character and just pretend that somehow he went along with it anyway just... because.

However, frankly this sounds more like it's about player interest. If your players aren't into the setting, have no ideas of who their characters are, aren't really invested in the story (if there is no hook, is there even a story in the first place?), chances are they will be pretty lethargic. Maybe literally just ask them what they want to do, and go with that.

Certainly not trying to be rude or mean. I was simply agreeing with OP, and in fact I think he knows what he is doing wrong, because he identified most of it himself. To be more specific:

Banning legit rules because you don't like their flavor or game effect isn't a good thing, especially if you don't make it clear up front so players can make different choices.

I have found most players do need hooks-- motivations for why they should care as well as what they should actually do. Sandbox style is IMO less popular than people make it out to be, and few players in my experience are motivated by "wow, a person to punch." Also, pet NPCs that guide the story need to be used very sparingly.

A word on "railroading": It's not all bad, and there is a fine line between railroading and motivating. I think the difference is "The DM wants me to do this but I don't see a need to or don't want to" versus "Whoa, I really need to do this or bad things will happen (or good things will happen to me)! I better get on it." In both cases, the PCs are doing what the DM wants, but in the first case they are being forced, and in the second case they are running to do it willingly. It comes back to a skillful hook again, I guess.

So what tips do I have? Well, OP is almost there. He realizes his mistakes. So the thing to do is stop doing that stuff. I know, easier said than done. That is just a matter of practice-- take tips from good movies, shows, books. How do they structure the plot? That will help with hooks. Also, if the players say they don't like something, believe them. Actually ask them what they want from the game, and try to do it. But finally, I meant what I said. DMing is hard work, it takes practice and maybe some natural talent (or at least a natural inclination toward it), and it isn't for everyone. It's okay not to be a good DM and to prefer not to DM (not that I am saying OP can't get there).

Good DM'ing, in my experience, is always about balance. Some of the best DM's I've ever played with were exceptional and telling a beautiful story and balancing player wants with moving the narrative. Move too far to either side of that balance and you risk alienating players. In a face to face game it's more simplistic, in my opinion. It's more like team building or something where everyone participates to meet a common goal. In PBP, however, you have other factors at play. You're not just driving a storyline, whether it's canned or sandbox, but the players often times have their own stories they are trying to tell.

Because of that last fact, I myself have had limited success in large group games as a DM. I have admittedly struggled at keeping groups moving together and balancing play with personal agendas. As a result, I tend to stick with solo games so that I can more readily drive the game narrative along with the player narrative. Maybe that's where you focus as a DM short term while you cut your teeth, so to speak, on DM'ing? It certainly makes it easier to craft a story that the player connects with and continues to contribute to.

All the comments above are spot on though. You learn those lessons in quick order and you will have far fewer issues with your games.

My .02

Originally Posted by AsenRG View Post
My first and best GMing advice is: forget about placing blame. If it doesn't work, fix it. It the problem is in a relationship between the players, or players and you, remember that in relationships sometimes/often both parties are right...they just don't want the same thing. (Obviously there are exceptions, but this is a damn game. There's no point getting righteous over it!)
This. The question of "who is to blame" will lead to someone being ostracized. It goes like this: Figure out who (or who all) is to blame -> how bad is it -> what's the punishment? Instead, look for questions like "what is the miscommunication?", "what can make the game more fun for all?", "what can be improved?" Those kinds of questions will get you to a better place.

As to the rest of it, a few points that I don't think have been made yet.

Originally Posted by sgill07 View Post
B. And this is where I lean toward my fault as DM and maybe I just shouldn't run games, but personally I loathe casters. I have never played one. I am the barbarian/fighter/tank type player. I have never liked casters in ANY game I have ever played, RPG, videogame or otherwise. So my initial reaction was to try and "limit" her casting power by default.
The question to ask yourself is not whether you like casters or not, but whether you're okay with others liking them? If spellcasters aren't your personal cup of tea, that's not a problem. If it falls under a pet peeve where your own fun is affected by anyone else playing a caster, then I'd go with what others are saying and go for a system/games that don't have them. It's not fair to let someone play a character/class/whatever and then punish them because you don't like it.

Is there A. Women or B. Things to punch. That's where I am going. I generally deferred to the group for decisions because chances are any destination would have both A and B in some regard.
Having "women" as a goal, the first listed goal, when it appears you have female players is... not a very good hook. I mean, can you offer hot dudes as well if that's what you want to go for? Beyond that, it doesn't have to be all that complicated. "Stop a great evil", "get revenge", "survive", there are many great motivations out there that don't take a lot of careful planning.

Anywho, I realize this is 90 percent on me being a terribad DM, but like I said, any comments advice etc would be great
There's no such thing as a perfect DM. The trick is learning and improving over time. Practice makes perfect and all that. I think if you're thinking, "Hm... there are a few ways that I can do better, and here's what I'll do different" you're on the right track. If instead it's "I can't make things better" then maybe step back and wait a bit until you're ready to give it another go.


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