87 – Live at GeekGirlCon: Building a Welcoming Game

The Mythcreant Podcast

This weekend is GeekGirlCon 2016, and yesterday the Mythcreants were there hosting a panel: Building a Welcoming Game. Mike and Oren are joined by our special guest contributors, Elise, Sarah, and Rhys, to discuss how to make the gaming table a welcoming and safe space for new players. We covered making the game accessible to new users, managing discomfort, and building a game that will be fun for the entire group.

Download Episode 87 Subscription Feed

Have a question or comment for our hosts? Send it to [email protected]

Opening and closing theme: The Princess Who Saved Herself by Jonathan Coulton. Used with permission.

P.S. Our bills are paid by our wonderful patrons. Could you chip in?

Read more about , , ,



  1. Pteryx

    RPTools is back in active development! MapTool 1.4.05 is the current stable release.

    Another question comes to mind related to this general topic: what do you do when players show absolutely no interest in or respect for the idea of getting on the same page, discussing OOC problems with or expectations of the game, or otherwise actually preparing or troubleshooting? This is a massive problem I’ve had in the past, to the point of players refusing to come to OOC troubleshooting sessions because they’re “not important”, even when a game is on the verge of falling apart.

    • Oren Ashkenazi

      I’ll field an answer here.

      When players get to a stage where they are simply unwilling to address problem behaviors, be they in or out of character, you have a few options.

      1. You can stop playing with them. This is the most extreme option, and not viable for everyone. You may not have a large enough group to absorb the loss, or your social circle might be badly disrupted by kicking the problematic player(s) out.

      2. You can try to shift them into games more to their liking. Some players will be hugely disruptive in games that they don’t like, and be fine in games they do. If the player is constantly ruining the mood at your Call of Cthulhu game, they might to better at a more empowerment focused Burning Wheel game. Again, this strategy is largely dependent on the games you have time to run and the player(s) being reasonable about it.

      3. If you’re stuck with the players you have, and they aren’t interested in talking about the problem, your only option is to leverage your authority as a game master. You are in charge. If one PC is dominating the party and bossing other players around because that PC is the most munchkined for combat, you can introduce a super powered NPC that will check their ambitions.

      If one player just can’t get anything they’d like done, you can arrange it so they come into possession of a mega powerful magic item that makes them a total badass. Often, players who aren’t interested in talking a problem out will instead respond to the authority granted to you by the game’s rules.

      This is an extreme course that should only be done if the problem player(s) is ruining fun for others, not just if they’re not following the story the way you hoped.

      Even this may not work, as some players will take your actions as an affront and double down. Remember that at the end of the day you cannot force other people to be reasonable.

      • Pteryx

        Bludgeoning techniques like #1 and #3 are all well and good if the players in question are being actively disruptive. I have no problem dealing with actual PROBLEM players once they’re apparent. The problems I’m scratching my head over are of a more passive nature, such as a refusal to discuss scheduling problems, a disinterest in discussing character ideas with EACH OTHER and not just with me, the lack of emergence of IC leadership in the group, an apparent fear of asking for clarification of information provided, an inability to admit to feeling inadequate as a co-GM for months, and the like.

        As for #2… well, the last campaign I ran ultimately fell apart because the three players I had at the end wanted three incompatible styles of play. I couldn’t have just “shifted them into games more to their liking” and still had a group — and they weren’t “problem players” of the like that would call for punishment.

      • Oren Ashkenazi

        Ah, I misunderstood your problem, my apologies.

        So, trying to address you’re actual problems.

        1. Really passive players. To a certain extent, if the players won’t tell you what they want, you may just have to accept that. You can’t force players to have fun. But you still have options! If the players seem to be enjoying themselves but never take initiative, and won’t give you enough material to fully work them into the story, it’s ok to introduce an NPC to be the stand in protagonist that will guide your players through the story. That gets your campaign moving at least, even if your players aren’t willing to take the initiative.

        To find out what your players enjoy, even if they won’t tell you, you can always try running a series of sessions with vastly different content and see what they respond to. This week it’s a dungeon crawl, next courtly intrigue, after that a murder mystery, etc.

        As for being passive on scheduling, that’s a bit beyond the scope of GMing advice. If your players aren’t committed enough to tell you their schedules, it may just not be worth trying to run for them.

        2. Players with incompatible styles of play. Oh boy, that’s real trick. I think the best option here is what I already recommended, try to create a campaign that will give you the largest variety of possible sessions, so that one week you can have the combat heavy session that one player likes, the next week a political intrigue story, etc.

        • Pteryx

          I have the impression that what I mean by “incompatible styles of play” in that second case needs clarification. It isn’t merely that they wanted different genres of story, which is what you appear to me to be listing. It’s that one wanted a strict railroad where he could be as passive as possible except to quip at the scenery going by, one wanted a complete plotless sandbox where she could wander and explore with no pressing goals or need to remain focused on any particular issue or course of action, and one actually wanted singular or tightly-related sets of problems to focus on and resolve by his character’s own action and wits like I was actually trying to run. To use one of your genre examples, if there was a courtly intrigue scenario, the first would have expected to be told a story of courtly intrigue that his character was nominally a part of without the need to do more than say cool lines, the second would have wanted to chat with all the nobles just to find out the depth of the setting and found any plot that got in the way of that to be an imposition, and only the third would actually have tried to piece together what was going on and solve the problems. All valid styles of play, but all mutually exclusive to the point that pleasing one inevitably ended up chafing on one of the others — hence why I ended the campaign.

Leave a Comment

Please see our comments policy (updated 03/28/20) and our privacy policy for details on how we moderate comments and who receives your information.