The Ye Olde Wayfarer's Adventurer's Almanac
Updated: Oct 26
Legends from the Labyrinth
This isn’t Working Out-
Incompatibility at the Tabletop
Welcome Friends and fellow adventurers, to The Ye Olde Wayfarer’s Adventurer’s Almanac. It’s good to see you back; however, if this is your first visit, well met. I have recently looked through stacks of Arellon’s scrolls and, while there, I came across the journals of adventurers who have long since gone into the maelstrom of history. As I uncovered the mysteries of tabletop games long ago, I found that many of the things described in these withered old pages are still true today. So, my friends, pull up a chair, grab a mug of your favorite libation, and let us delve into the topic of this conversation. I call this “Legends from the Labyrinth,” as it is a sort of “tales from the trenches” of Roleplaying from Gamemasters and Players alike. So, without further delay, let us delve into this mysterious topic which plagues even the greatest of Gamemasters, Gamemaster/Group Incompatibility. What do I mean? Let me explain…
Okay, let’s say you've met your new group and played a few sessions with them. They seemed alright at first, even if character generation was a bit rocky. However, as soon as the actual gameplay began, something seemed off. Maybe it was how they handled what should have been an ordinary shop encounter, or maybe they made a snarky comment about robbing and killing a Non-player Character they met along the way, maybe it was the disdain they showed for having to go on the presented quest, or maybe it was the way they seemed to detract from the game by using game time to socialize or fumble with their phones instead of participating in the quest. Either way you have found that this group just isn't lining up with your expectations of a Gamemaster- Player Character relationship in game or out of game. Is it you, the GM, or are the Players the problem? As unpopular a truth as this may be, it could be a bit of both. Here's why.
A GM and the group of Players must have a certain amount of chemistry. And, just like chemistry, some things are compatible, while others are not. Not all incompatibilities result in explosive interactions, they could just as easily be indifferent at best. Either way the game will not be found to be enjoyable by either the Gamemaster or the Player Characters, if not both. Think of Gamemastering and Running Characters as a sort of relationship, of which running a good game is a sort of relationship as the Player Characters and the Gamemaster must depend on, trust in, and actively communicate with one another, while sharing a vision of where they want to see in the gaming world. In this they must work together for a common goal, which is to build the world they are exploring together. So, while the GM may be all the villains and monsters the Player Characters, or PCs must face, they are also the PCs very senses, as well as all the Non-Player Characters, animals, Gods, and more that the Players meet and interact with along the way. Together, both PCs and the GM make the game come to life, and without them both being in cooperation, the game world as well as the game itself is pure chaos. Just as players can be incompatible with their GM’s style of play or even handling a game, the same can be said vice versa. A Gamemaster can just as easily be incompatible for a group of players. For example, if the players are looking to play an epic adventure in an uncharted fantasy realm where a great evil has threatened the land and they must rise to the challenge to eventually overthrow the villain to save the world as they know it, then a Gamemaster whose love is for a sci-fi thriller game like Shadowrun, or the infinite dungeon delving Gamemaster may not be a good fit for that group of players.
To make a long story short, the Gamemaster and Players must be a team, with the common goal of making the game the best and most memorable for everyone. Like a relationship, there is a lot of give and take, as well as trust, loyalty, and understanding involved in a gaming group. Communication is a must between Players and Gamemaster alike. Together they should define a common vision for what they want out of the game before the first die is cast, and together they should work toward those goals. It is on both the Players and the Gamemaster to ensure that everyone involved is a reasonable fit and works well together. Over the next few segments, I will discuss the traits that are detrimental to the hobby as well as sure signs of Player/Gamemaster incompatibility.
Well, this brings us to the end of this discussion, for now. I am glad you stopped in to join us. I hope you have found this discussion on Group Incompatibility to be helpful. Be sure to come back as I delve further into this topic and discuss the unpopular truths that can be sure signs of Group incompatibility. Until then, may the road rise to meet you, and may your journeys be safe. Happy Adventuring!
W. R. Frady