I’m officially done with my first Pathfinder campaign after just three sessions. I would have liked to have continued playing, but other things interfered.
The big one is that my wife’s health has not been good, and she just needs me around more. I have to cut back on gaming time, and since this was my newest campaign it was the obvious choice to cut first. I’ve also cut way back on Living Forgotten Realms games, but with the awesome DM Andy having moved to New Mexico, I wasn’t as motivated to show up to LFR as a player anyway.
I ended up missing this past Monday’s Pathfinder game because I had to take my wife to the emergency room Sunday night, and she still needed me Monday evening.
Then, one of the other three players ended Monday’s session by bowing out of the campaign. He decided that he really preferred playing 4th Edition Dungeons and Dragons and was getting out of Pathfinder and d20 System games entirely. With only three players left, the game was looking shaky; when I bowed out, too, that was the end of the game.
I met with Phil, the incredible GM running the game, tonight at our local game store for coffee and a post-mortem. Why did this campaign fail?
- Obviously in my case, it was my wife’s health (although I wasn’t passionate about this particular game)
- One of the players decided that he just didn’t like Pathfinder
- One of the players was a bit socially awkward and didn’t really fit in with the group
- We only had four players to begin with, meaning that the game was almost impossible to run if anyone was absent (or dropped out of the campaign)
- Phil observed that a game like Pathfinder really needs a rules wizard at the table, and we didn’t have one
Some reasons that I would have expected the campaign to make it:
- We had a fantastic GM
- The story was engaging
- Three of the four players really clicked with one another
So, there are some lessons to be learned here for future campaigns.
- If you’re not playing with an already close-knit group of friends or family, make sure you have at least one more player than you need in order to run a fun session (if you need four, have a party of five or six)
- Screen players up front; if someone isn’t going to click with the rest of the group, it’s hard to fix that problem down the line
- Make sure you have enough system mastery at the table – if not from the GM, then from one of the players (this isn’t a concern with a rules-light game, of course)
I feel bad for Phil, as he’s a great guy and a great GM, and I know that he poured a ton of energy into this campaign. The biggest change to make for the future is to make sure you have enough good players lined up before starting the campaign. It may stink to delay the start of the campaign by a few weeks in order to recruit another person or two, but it’s the right choice in some instances.
RIP Father Beren, my first Pathfinder character.
I am sorry to read about your wife’s health and a cut back on your gaming time.
I am also sorry to hear that Pathfinder just didn’t work out. Hopefully you can give it another shot some time down the winding road. I am on the outside looking in for both a Pathfinder and 4e game currently. I don’t know enough about either to confidently try to GM them and all of the local games I have found are full with a backlog of people waiting to join in.
Luckily I still have my trusty once a week group playing AD&D but I have missed half of the first 4 sessions myself due to work.
Just hang in there and make the best of the times you do get to play. The same goes for Phil. Hopefully this doesn’t dash his hopes of still running that Pathfinder campaign sooner or later.
Thanks for the sympathy. I’m guessing that I’ll get a chance to try Pathfinder again at some point, but since I’m dialing back on the gaming time right now I’m okay with just 4e. I do feel bad for Phil, but I think a great GM will be able to get a great campaign going in the end.
Have fun with the AD&D game! And if you’re ever looking to learn more about 4e, I’m always happy to chat.
Sorry to hear about your wife and I hope she gets better! While I agree with some of your statements, I do disagree about the rules lawyer. The whole point of playing RPGs is to have fun. If you spend 10-15 minutes looking up a rule just to make sure it is right, probably isn’t contributing to fun. Just make the decision and look up the rule at the end of the game or have someone do it for the group. I do have to say that recruiting extra players for online games is a necessity as I hate to say it many people flake with no reason given for leaving (this is my biggest peeves with online play). While screening players is a good idea, you never really know for sure if someone will “gel” with the group. I have DM’d some organized play games where I was certain it was going to be a train wreck as the first person that showed up was talking in a crazy voice and other idiosyncrasies turned out to be a very enjoyable and memorable game for the whole table.
Thanks for the sympathy!
I thought I should clarify a couple of things, though. First, the desire for a rules whiz was expressed by the DM. I personally didn’t see any problems with our game on this point (as you suggest, we didn’t spend tons of time looking up any particular rule; we’d decide what seemed reasonable and then move on), but the GM wished he had a better command of how things were “supposed” to be.
Second, this was an in-person game, not online. Despite my moniker, I don’t exclusively play online!
Finally, surprisingly enough, my one regular online game has had very good luck with the flake factor. I still have all five of my original players from over a year ago, and we’ve added two more. On any given week it’s usually only 4-5 players who can make it to the game, but I haven’t had anyone disappear from the game with no explanation – or even disappear at all for good. I think this is just luck, though – I wouldn’t expect to always get so lucky if I were forming another online group.