How to Screw Up a Game of Thrones Campaign in 3 Easy Steps

I'm back!

It's been awhile.  So long, in fact, that Blogger seems to have finally caught up with the 21st century while I was away.  Mobile-compatible sites?  Updated, more user-friendly post-editor?  I guess I don't have to bug John to switch to Wordpress after all.

But enough about Blogger.  What have you missed in my gaming world??

Our PBEM Battlestar Galactica came to an abrupt end when I died (see, I was right to be afraid) and the other characters ended up on a cliffhanger Mexican standoff (with each other) as the Cylons were just about to attack.  Nice ending, and I would love to go back to it some time, but the truth of the matter was it was growing a bit stale and we needed a change.  Through no fault of the DM, it was hard to keep people interested when he was competing with summer vacations, kids off school, visiting relatives, etc.  It's understandable.  So, wanting to shake things up a bit, I offered to take over and run a different game.

That was mistake number one.

I offered to run A Game of Thrones (the old Guardians of Order d20 version, that I talked about here).  I figured with all the hype around the recent TV series and new book, people would really dig it, and be able to get excited about playing again.

That was mistake number two.

Then I sent everyone some background and told them to make characters, explaining the changes to the d20 system used in the game.

Strike three and I'm out.

I'm not really a sports guy.  Three strikes, right?  Or is two-strikes, ace, touchdown?
What I'm getting at is that my AGOT game is not really running as smoothly as I would have hoped, and I think it's mostly my fault.  Allow me to explain:

Mistake Number 1:

We had already burned out playing BSG.  People were busy and distracted and we probably should have taken a break (and we did, sort of.  It was a couple of weeks between the end of BSG and the official start of AGOT, but it still felt like I forced it).  I thought by changing things up I would re-invigorate the group. I was wrong.  I think people needed downtime to cool off and recharge.  It sounds silly to say you need a "vacation" from playing "games" but it's true.

Mistake Number 2:

When I announced I would run A Game of Thrones, I had 6 people immediately jump on board (the most I've ever had for a PBEM game). Then one dropped out.  Then I discovered that another had only watched a couple of episodes of the series and knew little about the setting.  Then I found out that a third (my brother-in-law) has not watched the series OR read the book, and knows even less.  He has no excuse, either, because he's heard the rest of the family talking about it for years.

SPOILER: Don't get attached to ANY of the characters.

I've had no response or contact from a fourth player.  Planning to cash in on the AGOT hype just did not work.  We started playing with only three active players, and it just doesn't seem to have the "oomph" I was hoping for.  Maybe it will pick up, maybe not, but I'll keep trying for a little while.

Mistake Number 3:

I had forgotten how stupidly complicated the Guardians of Order AGOT game is.  It takes the basic d20 frame, but then adds a dozen extra rules to combat in hopes that it will keep you from engaging in any.  Not only do you have armour class and hit points, but you have damage reduction, defence rolls, shock value (the amount of damage you can take in one hit without passing out, a number which by the way is laughably low), fatigue value, etc.  Sure, it captures all the flavour of combat in Westeros, but because of the way it's set up most characters, no matter what their level, are going to go down after a single solid sword slash, so all those rules seem redundant to me.  Then you add in background feats, and house feats, and reputation and influence, and suddenly you have this massive, bloated, complicated character creation process as bad or worse as anything in 4th Edition.  I'm trying to trim down the rules and make it simpler, but I'm worried I've already scared my players away.  Like I said, I only have three who are now actively playing.

On top of that, before we started playing, I wrote a lot of background material.  Like, alot alot.  You know how many characters GRRM introduces in every book?  I basically did the same thing for my game.  Want to know what the first email looked like?

"You are in the Lord's Great Hall, surrounded by people.  Here is a list of all 50 of them, with a brief description of who they are.  Who do you want to talk to?"

Yeah, that went over well. It killed the mood faster than taking off your pants and telling the girl "Oh, by the way, I have herpes."
So what do I do now?  We keep playing but it feels a little forced, without any of the excitement of previous games.  Anyone have any suggestions?  Should I just keep playing and hope that it picks up?  Should I scrap everything and try a different game system or setting?  I have a couple of players who really want to play, but some of my other regulars are just too busy to play now, so maybe I should find/invite some new players?

Of course, there is at least one other option... (lemme know what you think of that one, too...)

Like this?


  1. Book_ScorpionSeptember 27, 2011

    "You are in the Lord's Great Hall, surrounded by people.  Here is a list
    of all 50 of them, with a brief description of who they are.  Who do
    you want to talk to?"

    I've played a Vampire game like this, only the GM had to look up the background for the NPCs we met on his laptop while we were playing. Argh.

    I would tend to scrap the round based on what you describe, but what do your players say? Maybe they see things differently. If you can reach them, I would ask the players who no longer are active what would make them come back.

  2. Just accept that winter is coming, and move on.

  3. As a GM I've been there. Many, many, many, many...MANY times. 

    Sometimes it's just good to get away from gaming something that feels off. ESPECIALLY something so heavy as AGOT. 

    When that starts to happen in my live group, we grab a bunch of overly complicated board games and some decks of Legend of the Five Rings and make a night of that instead. 

  4. CDGallant_KingSeptember 29, 2011

    Ugh.  Yeah, at least I had everything prepared in advanced, and could send it out in bulk.  And PBEM saved me the embarrassment of watching my players' eyes glaze over.

    I kinda hinted at how I felt with my players, (and they should have read this blog by now), but the handful that are still playing really seem to want it to work, so we've all stepped up our game.   At least a small group of people having fun is better than none.

  5. CDGallant_KingSeptember 29, 2011

    No, dammit, that's why the Starks keep getting screwed!  They have absolutely no self-preservation instincts.  "This is what is right, so I guess it's going to happen." Their pessimism is so extreme it turns into fatalism, which leads them right into fatalities.

    I have more sympathy for the Greyjoys and the frigging Lannisters.  At least they go after what they want.

  6. CDGallant_KingSeptember 29, 2011

    As I said above, I'm giving it another push, just in case.  But if we had been playing in person I don't think I could have brought myself to do it.  A switch to a boardgame (probably the AGOT board game!) would have been perfect.

    Although, that's what the link at the bottom of the post was for.  It was an effort to try something very different.  As of yesterday, I now have more people officially signed up for this:

  7. Firstly, make your own version of the game.. use the classes and hit points and whatever else you like from it, but take out anything that you don't.. like shock value or at the very least change it.. I use what works and so far my group loves it, we're 6 active players strong with a rotating 4 so the group I have tends to be too large most of the time.. and we don't get a whole lot done.. but it's fun at least :)


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