“So let me go down and take a look. I have this cool ability call Mask of Many Faces (a glorified Disguise Self, but for Warlocks) that I can cast at will and it lasts for about an hour. I reckon I can have a bit of a look around and case out the joint. You know, see what we might be up against.” I manage to get this out among the competing ideas of this massive party of seven. I’m starting to learn when there pauses are in this particular group and figure out what words to say to get them motivated to do a task – which is good because my charisma is supposed to be the shiz. So now, here I am and they have all stopped talking and are all staring at me waiting for me to explain.
Bugger, I don’t really know what to say. I often don’t get this far. Imagine if house cats could play Dungeons and Dragons. Come on, look deep. Think about their behaviour. That’s it. There you go, that’s us. We are far from a cohesive group of players. First, our characters are pretty diverse and the sheer number of chaotic good/neutral in our groups suggest that these lone wolf-kittens would much prefer to go it alone.
Okay, here goes, “Look, I will be extra careful and I certainly won’t engage.”
“If you start attacking something in there, I’m just going to leave you there to rot. I’m sick of people not following to plan and thinking they can take on any battle only to realise that they are, once again dead,” Our gruff dwarven cleric mutters, with no small amount of out of character irritance in her voice.
I empathise with her, I really do. We have a problem. Our party really finds it difficult to comprehend the concept of reconnaissance. You know, having a sneaky peak of the baddies, or maybe testing their strength a little before withdrawing (without having used a spell slot) to come up with a solid plan.
For some of our party, they blame our utter inability to follow instruction, which is hilariously ironic considering we are all teachers. And this is quite true, but I think there are a few other things at play here too and they all result in one thing – boredom.
I guess as we embrace the immediacy of life that technology has granted us we tend to focus more on our own story and not others. We forget that there is a lot of fun in watching other people play out a story – that’s kinda what TV is all about, right? – and then add our own embellishments to it by introducing our own actions to the narrative.
However, that is not the whole of the problem, we do tend procrastinate as a group too. This makes it even more taxing on our collective patience because of the size of our group. We focus on the minutiae of things that don’t really inevitably matter. ‘Oi!’ You call me out. ‘You are supposed to have red herrings and have your party looking in the wrong direction now and again.’ Okay. Okay. Settle down, tiger. What I mean is that we tend to do this to the extreme and sometimes, players need to do a little metagaming to read the Dungeon Master’s (DM) expression and, often times, utter ambivalence to notice that we are barking up the wrong tree.
So, a seven party crew each pestering the DM on the geological nature of a particular grain of sand or its metaphorical equivilate, will often end up in stifled yawns and players sending the DM notes saying something like, ‘Hey DM, I’m just going to open this big scary door when no one is looking. I rolled a 7 for perception for looking through the crack in the door on the other side.” And the DM replying, “All you can see is black until you are stabbed in the eye with a cocktail umbrella attached to a hobgoblin.”
How do we get the right blend of planning and focus? Well, a couple of well timed chats to other members out of game have helped a little in our last game. And the absolute failure of our encounters when we go off the plan has led to a little introspection. It seems now, we are a little more focused and reading our DM’s cues a bit more which in turn, makes us less bored from the procrastination of our party mates. Which in turn, keeps us more focus to make solid plans and stick by them so we can get our blood thirsty taste of battle for the day.
“Don’t worry. I’m in no hurry to start a fight,” I reply to my dwarf companion. “I’ll just get numbers and strengths, and then be right back.”
And then I go and kill the first zombie I get close to.
Just messing with ya. I come back and report and we finally, after almost two months of campaigning, have our first cohesive successful and entirely satisfying battle. It takes almost an hour to plan, mind you, but I’ll take it as a success.
Huzzah!!! And stuff.