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D&D 3E
Players who just won't learn the rules... 
18th-Oct-2005 02:56 pm
kitty
So unlike all my past entries with lots of confusing questions, this is more a rant than anything else.

My game is officially one year old now. I have three new players I'm meeting for lunch before my next session, to see if I want to add them to the group. That will put my group at nine players, which is a tad too much for me--which means either I don't like the new three and ask one or more to not come back, or I get to get rid of players that just don't seem to fit into the group.

Among those I'm considering, are two girls that, for this past year, still have not learned how to calculate the saving throws for their spells, or if they hit an AC, or even calculate their own iniative score. They always take up a minimum of an hour help from someone else leveling. They're mother and daughter, and the mother also has periodical mood swings that makes other players uncomfortable.

I'm hesitant to get rid of these two players if given the opportunity for two reasons:

1) No offense to you guys here, but I am female, and getting rid of this two will leave me with a group of SEVEN MALES. For some reason, this disconcerts me, and I can only be thankful for the fact my boyfriend is one of the players, since I am convinced two of the players that I find to be less than properly hygenic have a little high-school-like crush on me.

2) One of my really good players is friends with my two dumb players.

Have any of you honestly experienced this before? These girls refuse to learn the rules. I'm convinced the one playing a rogue has never read the rogue section in the Player's Handbook. And try as I must to plea with them to learn the rules, I'm not so condoning as to assign D&D homework. :-p When other players calculate things for them, I stop that player and make those girls calculate things themselves. I write the formula on the whiteboard I use. "10 + Spell Level + Ability Modifier = Saving Throw." They don't get it. I don't know what to do with them.

On the other hand, I'm thankful I do not have a lot of inner group drama other than my occasionally moody player. In the Vampire game I used to be in that recently ended, there was drama between the players that took away from the fun of the game.
Comments 
18th-Oct-2005 10:31 pm (UTC) - Wow.
I don't think I've ever even heard of a problem like that before.

That's just crazy. Ummm... Whatever you do, don't plan on gaming the same day you tell the 2 dumbdumbs they can't play anymore, heh. I just have this gut feeling that it would be highly dramatic....

Hehe, we fix not-so-hygenic people in my group. Drinking beer solves a lot of everyone elses problems ;D
18th-Oct-2005 10:35 pm (UTC) - Re: Wow.
We're all adults here, too. When I was fourteen years old running games for twelve year olds, it was one thing. But we're talking adults with full fledged jobs and therefore seemingly functional IQs.

I don't know what to do with them.

Several of us really don't drink (I'm one), while other players get enthused with being drunk on a weekly basis--but beer isn't really prevalent at the gaming table for us, lol.
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18th-Oct-2005 10:57 pm (UTC)
She has a spell sheet, and I don't need her to know the rules for bull rush or anything like that. All I need her to do is know how to calculate her damage all by herself, so the game isn't slowed down during battle because it takes her twenty minutes to act and all the other players two minutes.

And the rogue doesn't understand backstab rules. XD
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19th-Oct-2005 01:05 am (UTC)
I've had them come over early a couple times to teach them the rules, and they just don't retain it. They end up talking about other things to other players and not paying attention to learning the rules. I think for them, game itself is not important--it's being around people and having something to do. We could be playing Scrabble and they'd be content (and likely not understand how to play Scrabble, lol; not the brightest crayons in the box, unfortunately...)

One of the girls does not own the PH, which is a huge issue in and of itself, and she also has a child, so I know she has stuff to do--you know, work, kids, the like. That's why I've been patient for a year, and all I've really asked is they know how to make skill checks and calculate saving throws for spells, and calculate how to hit an armor class with their weapon...

...but they don't even get that.
18th-Oct-2005 11:29 pm (UTC) - I've been no help at all, but having typed it I'm posting.
Yep I know this one. My partner is very much lacking in rules knowledge, even for the games she runs. Although it isn't often too much of a problem as both I and one of our other regulars are aware enough to help out(although that can cause it's own problems-we occasionally differ in interpretation:>), and she has run some of the best games we've played.

However when I was running my "weird" D+D game(high level ish with monster characters, prestige classes etc) there were so many options and rules points that it did occasionally become an issue as she often didn't seem to know what she could/should try to do, which led to some pauses.

Part of the reason it happens is that when people do have full-time jobs and other responsibilities sitting down with rules etc can be very dull; unless you like that sort of thing. Plus if someone is in a lot of games it's easy to get muddled; I've done it myself occasionally(was playing a different game[and system] every night of the week at one point).

I'd suggest letting the other players tell tham the result they should get, it'll save time, and if otherwise they're really good it'd be a shame to lose out, if the other players don't mind that is.
19th-Oct-2005 12:10 am (UTC)
Well, first off I'd say if you have 6 people, you pretty much have a full group and probably don't want to be going around recruiting people. Unless you're into the huge group thing.

As for the dumb player thing... well I had that problem initially with this group, if only because the players were new. I've taken some time to explain the game, and they're really starting to get it. I mean at least they picked up attack rolls and stuff. Spell level isn't that big a deal. I mean if you know what level the spell is (which you usually do), just ask them what their INT is and then you're done. If they can't figure it out, just do it for them. That's what I do.

Sneak attack really is a complex mechanic, and I wouldn't blame people for not getting it. The point is not to get frustrated if the character doesn't use the ability. What tends to happen in my game is the player says "I attack this guy" I say "Well you're flanking him, so add your sneak attack damage" "what's flanking?" "you're on either side of him, see?" "Oh okay. What's the damage?" "what level are you?" "4" "then it's +2d6. Roll it". And done. They'll pick it up eventually, and it only takes like 20 seconds.

So if you enjoy them as players, work around the rules things. If you don't even like them as players, ditch 'em (which is of course a different matter)
19th-Oct-2005 01:09 am (UTC)
I'm recruiting new players because I'm losing a player in December and another player just joined last game and I don't know if I'm too keen or not with him, which would imply a group of 4. However, there's variables still up in the air. I'm just preventing that group of 4, which I find to be slow personally. It works with some people, but I prefer to have 5 or 6.

New players is fine, it's the fact that it's been a year that baffles me. I'm only asking them to know basic stuff. Attack rolls, saving throws for your spells, how to make a skill check. They don't even know to pick up a d20 when I say "make a search check." The rogue doesn't know that after a year.

Your above example of explaining sneak attack, I've done for a whole year. But when you ask them, "what level are you?" they get confused. Then you say, "roll 2d6," and they have a hard time figuring out what "dee" means. After a year, they haven't picked up anything. Not even a glimmer of hope, like learning one of the three things I wish they could do.

They're good players, but I can't afford spending EVERY ROUND holding their hand...not when I have players that know what they're doing. They slow things down significantly, and they show they don't want to learn. When I try to teach them in game, they get pissed off until you do all the calculations for them.
19th-Oct-2005 12:28 am (UTC)
In a couple of the games I play in, two of the players just do not "get" the rules, and have to be told what to roll _every_ time. But they're decent guys and adding new blood to the group isn't a bad thing.

I had another player in my games who just couldn't remember the rules. Even playing a barbarian was difficult for him. He was fun to have around, and did his best, so we just accepted it.

My suggestion would be to ask the girls _why_ they play, and try to find out what they enjoy about gaming. I have a feeling that "making" them learn the rules is just going to drive them out.
19th-Oct-2005 01:11 am (UTC)
That's why I don't impose having them read the PHB out of game. Instead, during game, I'll say, "What's the saving throw for your fireball?" She'll say, "I have no idea." I'll then say, "Check the spell level on your spell sheet, add your charisma modifier, and add ten. That's the saving throw." She gets appalled when I ask her to do that though, and I didn't ask for the job of being everyone's mathematician. I've been very patient with it for a year now, and it's just tiresome.

She also gets frustrated because she finds there's things she could have done, but no one told her she could do them--and that's part of it. To at least know the skeleton of the rules let's you get more fun out of the game.
19th-Oct-2005 12:45 am (UTC)
*cringes* Yeah, it seems half of our group is that way.

In the d20 Modern game, there's myself and two other players who can take our turn in all of thirty seconds, one player who takes about a minute, and while everyone else is taking their turns I can go buy lunch at a dine-in restaurant, eat, catch a show, and come back before my next turn.

It's so frustrating, especially because ALL of the other players have been playing for AT LEAST a year.

Funny moment:
Last game, one of the guys asked if he could use Evasion to get out of the way of a coup de grace (actually he asked if it helped his AC, but he was Helpless, so it didn't really matter). This guy asks this question all the time, as well as whether or not Uncanny Dodge helps his reflex save (-_-).

Myself and the player next to be both started, at the exact same time:

"I swear to God if one more person asks...", paused, looked at each other, and continued "... if Evasion helps their Defence, I'll kill them."

The guy has been playing d20 system since release.
19th-Oct-2005 01:13 am (UTC)
What's sad, is I just want them to calculate the saving throw for their spells. Or calculate their attack rolls. We're talking basic stuff here.

I used to be one of those people that believed in "giving them a break because the rules are complicated," but when you cast a minimum of five spells with saving throws a game for a whole year...how do you NOT get 10 + spell level + modifier? HOW???
19th-Oct-2005 01:11 am (UTC)
I'd say, they have to learn the basics. You've explained it to them, more than once, if they can't pick up on it, work around it or ask them not to come back. It's not condescending to assign homework, it's treating them like capable adults, who can learn the rules of the game. I can be a bit abrupt when I get tired of explaining the same thing over and over. My soloution would go something like this

Me: Make a will save please.
Clueless: Umm, how do I do that?
Me: I've explained it to you before. The modifier should be on your character sheet but for now, roll a d20 and add 1.
Clueless: Umm 1? I know it's better than that!
Me: Then find it and tell me next time round, for now it's one. Roll.


Having a speedbump in the game ruins the flow of combat for everyone else. You get the other players doing random stuff because they have been playing pencil wars and gossiping about people while the DM tries to work out the speedbumps combat action. Then the DM starts planning shorter simpler combats, to avoid the disruption. There's nothing wrong with a learning curve, and everyone needs help with the obscure rules, but a player has to learn the basics.

19th-Oct-2005 01:14 am (UTC)
I've never thought about that. If they don't know the roll, they just get a d20 plus one.

I just don't want to come off as a jackass to them, but at the same time, my other players shouldn't sit there and stare at the ceiling for twenty minutes every round. It's not fun. The game is about having fun. The learning session ended about ten months ago.
19th-Oct-2005 01:26 am (UTC)
http://www.unc.edu/~murphy/mad_irishman/ has a bunch of character sheets for almost every style of game. Each of them has on it a series of boxes in which your players can write the dc's for the saves for various levels. With that system, there is no math required. They just look at the level and read a number.

If they are enthusiastic, definately keep them. Enthusiastic players poor in the education are ten times more useful and fun than munchkins.
19th-Oct-2005 02:32 am (UTC)
Heres my two cents..

Ive been gaming over 20 years now, running majority of the time. I have actually had both problems throughout the years, bear with me and Ill explain.

I am a guy and have had large groups (8 to 10 people) before. There was only two females in the group at the time and there were times when the guys acted with the wrong head. I warned the players in front of everybody that that type of behavior would not be tolerated and if they did it again, they would be told to leave and not return. (Not saying your problem was harrasing in nature, just addressing it)

I had a player that was rules ignorant. He tried and roleplayed very well, but the finer mechanics of the game eluded him. What I had to end up doing was create a cheat cheet for him (like addressed in earlier posts). It was simple in reality: it had the weapons that he used, what to add to his roll and the final result. (this was with 2ed, alot more crap to keep in your mind)

For his saving throws, I told him that he needed to roll above a certain number. He rolled the dice and after I did quick math in my head, I was able to tell him wether he saved or not. The sheet greatly helped this guy out, he was not stupid by any means and was very grateful for the extra time that I took to help him out.

I kept him because while it slowed the game down somewhat, he added to it by playing his character.

Are the two ladies good roleplayers? If they are not, that right there would be reason for me to move them along and out the door, esp after a year. If they are bringing drama to the game, talk to them on the side. Explain to them that everybody is there to enjoy the game and play, and that if they wish to continue bringing up drama, ask them to either stop or leave.

As far as the body odor cases, be blunt and straight forward. Tell them that they smell, ask them to please take care of the issue. Most gamers that I have gamed with usually were not aware of their smell and had no problem when it was brought up to their attention.

As far as your players...if they add to the game. They are worth it, even if you have to make a sheet for them. Make the sheet like they are 5 yr old. you will be suprised at their response.
19th-Oct-2005 02:41 am (UTC) - Beat them with the book
My largest group was 12 players (well 3 were in and out because of work).
The way I dealt with it was had 2 game nights and split them up. One night I ran half the group (who were on the eastern coast) and the second night I ran the others (who were on the Western coast).

The two groups would hear of things the others were doing as they got into trouble. Every once in a while would be a meeting of the two groups for a massive game session which was never easy to run.

I would not recommend this to anyone.

I might dump the girls from the group but be careful with the new players. I have been trying to keep my groups down to about 5 players max. I find it a lot easier to manage as I run a lot of side story (The group might go off on something while the thief is busy breaking out of jail-and getting into deeper trouble with a cult).

Sigh…as I type this I wish I had a chance to really play D&D rather then run it for once.
19th-Oct-2005 03:14 pm (UTC) - Re: Beat them with the book
12!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! thats sick!!!!!!!!!!!!!! what did a round last like an hour and a half???
19th-Oct-2005 03:15 am (UTC)
Tell them to make the save, or the attack roll, or the skill check, don't let the boys help them, and when they don't know what their modifier is, assume it's +0 and let them suffer the consequences. They'll start to learn by necessity!

...that or they'll quit the game in disgust.
19th-Oct-2005 02:16 pm (UTC)
I'll disagree with the_elephant's advice, although I admit I was tempted to offer it, myself, when I first read about the problem.

I'm a math teacher. These days, I teach adults, and some of the classes I teach are very remedial. (As in, the start by teaching whole number addition and subtraction!) And there are are some students who need those classes, and some who are panicked by math.

Everybody's suggesting ways to front-load the math, so that it's already done by the time they need it / make the table calculations easier. Those are good suggestions. I would also explain the modifiers, without using any numbers. "The more powerful you get, the better your spells are at breaking through Spell Resistance." "If your opponent is paying attention to somebody on the other side, you can sometimes slip in behind and get in really good attacks."

Actually, the biggest concern I had was the player who felt that "nobody told her" about some of the things her character can do. I think it would be a good idea to (a) explain some of the character's abilities, outside the actual party encounters, but with examples she'll be able to apply, and (b) then set up encounters where she can use those abilities in practice.

The reason I think this is a big problem is that the players don't seem to be bothered by not knowing the game mechanics. It's frustrating to you but not to them. Having mysterious abilities that she doesn't know about, and which she can't effectively employ, is bothering her.

Maybe it would be worthwhile to create a "grizzled mentor" NPC who'd be willing to take her under his wing and "show her the ropes," maybe for some nefarious reason later on. Her character would go in for training, and she'd see how different abilities / spells work.
19th-Oct-2005 07:53 am (UTC)
Studies show that people are less likely to make a scene if let go on a Friday, according to The Bobs from Office Space that is.

Funny thing, too, I had a player that didn't own a player's handbook, or any other materials, but he managed to learn the rules for his character within a couple sessions, and after a few weeks was even helping other players level up and learn rules. I'm sorry but I think you need to drop yo players foo.
19th-Oct-2005 09:49 am (UTC) - 9 Players...!!!
I have trouble finding 3 players, and I would murder someone to get 4...!!!

As for your problem, I find photocopying relevant pages helps dramatically... That way, they don't have to go flipping through the pages of the PHB every other round or so... Blank spell-slot sheets with room for descriptions and saving throws and stuff are also a blessing- Make the player write down the spells and such, they WILL learn... Good luck...
19th-Oct-2005 11:03 am (UTC)
Hail fellow sister - I too am of the rare breed of female GM's! Also I am Inncubus' other half - who so evilly claimed I do not know the rules - lies, lies, I tell you....well, maybe a BIT true (*looks guilty*). However, I've never been as bad as those two! I know how to level up!
Anyway - (1) ditch the bad players. I have a list of people I won't roleplay with, and thus I think I have some quite good games. It spoils it for everyone. People often forget - you roleplay for FUN not some kind of religious duty.
(2) Mother and daugther teams - never a good idea. Remember they've have 15+ years of one of them organising the others life, it's hard to let go of that. You might want to ditch the mum and you could see the daughter blossom. It might also be an idea to talk to the player who's mates with them - if she does fly off the handle all the time you might find he understands.
(3) 9 players - don't do it!!! Many a death of games I have seen by over populating!
(4) Do not be put off by all male players, you might find that it works fantastically well, I do. Men don't try and compete with you like women have a tendency to.
(5) Buy those guys soup for xmas, they might get the hint!

However, one thing you will need to bare in mind....you know I said "RP is for FUN not some kind of religious duty"? Well, people do take it too seriously - if you kick them out the game they'll take it personally and it will cause a lot of problems. It might sound drastic, but you might be better off ending your game and starting a second one. Claim that you've already got your full quota of players when they finally find out. Underhand I know, but sometimes necessary.
19th-Oct-2005 02:56 pm (UTC)
How in heaven's name would soup help with stinkiness?
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