Help: Players constantly want to switch characters

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Tigerlemur
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Help: Players constantly want to switch characters

#1 Postby Tigerlemur » Mon Apr 24, 2017 8:30 pm

So, I have a problem. Well, it's sort of a problem. By the way, I GM.

One player in particular, but all of my players to some degree, constantly want to play different characters. The problem player changes every few sessions, and is undeterred by the "one less advance" rule. Normally, I would say, "Okay, make your new character. That's fun for you." The other players prefer to change at the end of a season, or arc, usually. A few problems have arisen, however.

The first problem is that I must find a way to add new characters to the party...every time. Sometimes, it's really easy and sometimes... it's not. Frankly, I'm getting a little tired of it, though.

A second problem is that it destroys party cohesion. Every loves Jim the Ranger for 10 sessions. Now they have to re-learn a whole new character: Tim the Barbarian. Everyone else in the party has had all these adventures and character development with each other... Who is Tim again, and why are we trusting him to be a part of our world saving group?

A third problem is sometimes the character will form bonds with recurring NPCs, learn a crucial clue to the story or possess an item the party needs. Maybe I would just have the character hand over the information or item, but sometimes I'm not ready for the group to know how that clue fits into the plot yet. Or, I don't want to steal player autonomy and force them to divulge information they do not want to share. And sometimes recurring NPCs are known only to the now vanished character.

A fourth problem is that the constant "one less advance" is gimping the group. I try to make the challenges ramp up as the campaign progresses, but instead of an all veteran group... I have two seasoned with 2 advances, a veteran and a novice with 3 advances. Balancing for that is... hard, and I refuse to reward the behavior of changing characters.

There was one particular moment it really burned me though. Three players changed characters after the arc, and then one character died later that session. There was no one left of the original party. Their NPC contact literally didn't know any of them. None of the recurring characters did.

Obviously, these are problems with player death too, but it's just not as frequent (partially for these reasons). I say it's only a "kind of" problem because they want to change characters because its fun for them. And that's the point, isn't it? And everyone in my group has changed a character mid-game, so they're all okay with it. I've suggested we run shorter campaigns, because then you have more freedom in character choice. They all say they prefer the longer, epic campaigns though.

Surely our wonderful Savages have some advice for me?

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Gut0nez
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Re: Help: Players constantly want to switch characters

#2 Postby Gut0nez » Mon Apr 24, 2017 11:01 pm

Just run one sheets or shorter standalone arcs and forget about campaigns. My initial impression is that your players clearly aren't interested in character development or a longstanding campaign, so you shouldn't try to force them into it. This way, everybody gets a new character and starts a new story from scratch every 5 sessions or so. Also, have a session zero where everybody creates their characters together and discusses the concept of what the game will be like. Maybe a disconnect between what they hope to get from their characters and from the game and what they're actually getting is the issue here, so have a honest conversation with them before starting. And then, after that, flat out tell your players that no one will be allowed to change characters until the adventure is finished or a character dies before the last session.
"Did I fire six shots, or only five? Three? Seven. Whatever." - Unkempt Harold

Freemage
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Re: Help: Players constantly want to switch characters

#3 Postby Freemage » Tue Apr 25, 2017 12:20 am

Shorter arcs are definitely going to help. You can even make them loosely connected, such as taking place in the same overall 'world', but focusing on different areas. At each arc-change, you can decide whether you want them to reset to a particular Rank, or if you're good with them making characters that match in Rank. If someone wants to keep an older character who is appropriate Rank, let 'em. (They could even bring back retired characters if they feel like it).

Within those arcs, as an alternative to 'no restarts', you can use a softer rule: Anyone doing a voluntary restart MUST provide the full explanation for how they get brought into the group, etc. You have to do the heavy lifting. Until they've done that, in writing, they are stuck with the old PC. They must also provide a rough outline of the previous PC's intended exit--they can retire, die, even turn traitor if that works for your campaign.

duck-of-doom
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Re: Help: Players constantly want to switch characters

#4 Postby duck-of-doom » Tue Apr 25, 2017 1:40 am

I would say that it wouldn't be unfair for you to ask for the players to come up with a way for the new character to know someone from the new party or one of the main NPCs so there are some connection. Its a bit easier to fit in an brother or old war body than john doe from down the corner into the group after all

galu
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Re: Help: Players constantly want to switch characters

#5 Postby galu » Tue Apr 25, 2017 7:05 am

Tigerlemur wrote:The first problem is that I must find a way to add new characters to the party...every time. Sometimes, it's really easy and sometimes... it's not.
...
Who is Tim again, and why are we trusting him to be a part of our world saving group?


Easy, push this onto the players. Simply ask who is Tim, and why do you all trust him?

This nearly always work, and a group of players generally come up with something better then 1 GM.


This is from "FEng Shui" btw, tried and tested. There it is used to edit out the "form the team" part, which is considered boring for a hong kong action movie. The GM simply asks "Why do you take part in the fight, defending the barkeep girl from the ninjas?" note that the question is NOT "do you defend the girl" rather "why".
The player then simply comes up with an answer fitting his character concept. Nobody slaps a woman in my presence - those ninjas wear the insignia of the killer who murdered my partner - I can't believe I cannot drink a beer in peace, in this $Í&ł÷¤ country...


A third problem is sometimes the character will form bonds with recurring NPCs, learn a crucial clue to the story or possess an item the party needs.


With the team you described, I would advise against doing this.


A fourth problem is that the constant "one less advance" is gimping the group. I try to make the challenges ramp up as the campaign progresses, but instead of an all veteran group... I have two seasoned with 2 advances, a veteran and a novice with 3 advances.


I don't think it is necessary to "ramp up" opposition. But I am strongly against the idea that players need to be heroic before doing major deeds.
There was a comment floating around a few years ago, which had the idea that Gandalf is a level 5 bard, Gimli is a level 2 warrior, while the hobbits are... level 1 hobbits. (IIRC) While I don't really agree with all points, it is an interesting perspective: the group doesn't need to be strong, to be involved in important events.

The other side of the coin is that even though they are only seasoned, you can throw strong monsters at them. At worst they get captured, and have an interesting scenario for escaping.


Balancing for that is... hard, and I refuse to reward the behavior of changing characters.



You could allow "troupe style" play, it used to be very common, and it might work in your case.

In Cthulhu a good group needs so much skills that PCs tend to be focused, so we generally had two per player. A "background" PC, who was good in investigation (lawyer, entertainer, someone with funds, doctor), and a "man of action" for the showdowns (gangster, former foreign legion, etc.)

In Ars Magica everyone had a mage character, some sidekicks (knights, ladies in waiting, priests, etc.), and some henchman (man at arms, archer, local shepherd, etc.) For every adventure, you choose from a pool of characters. That specific one gains XP, the rest don't.

In early DnD editions you need to hire henchmen to carry stuff around. It is not uncommon to have 4-5 PCs with 10-15 hirelings. We usually did that the PC could spend gold (and thus share XP) with hirelings. The hirelings then became fallback characters when (NOT if) the real PC bought the farm.


The only important thing in this troupe style play is that they need some common aim: survive as a city run by mages (AM), keep the ship going (Firefly), build a relatively safe haven in post-apoc Canada (Apocalypse World), get the golden fleece (the crew of the Argo, amongst them 35 - iirc - greek heroes of the Atalanta-Heracles-Pollux caliber)


Obviously, these are problems with player death too, but it's just not as frequent (partially for these reasons). I say it's only a "kind of" problem because they want to change characters because its fun for them. And that's the point, isn't it? And everyone in my group has changed a character mid-game, so they're all okay with it. I've suggested we run shorter campaigns, because then you have more freedom in character choice. They all say they prefer the longer, epic campaigns though.

Surely our wonderful Savages have some advice for me?




Apart from the pool of characters method I described, I would really consider running shorter campaigns or even episodic adventures. Like a Conan novel: it starts with the heroes already surrounded by lizardmen, where they escape and end the conspiracy of snakemen. They start at the entrance to the tomb, entering a desert city, getting away with loot, chaced by guards. This way you can have sessions which have a short adventure each, with a definite end. Similar to how Shadowrun jobs or Cyberpunk screamsheets work: job+preparation+mission+brief out, that's it.
If you want, you can create chains of connecting adventures.

Running a separate adventure each night is more work then running a sandbox, but might work out well for you.

(I do this all the time, but mainly because there is a pool of 7-8 players, and for each game, 4 different friends can make it. They might not be able to come next time! Sometimes Valeria is at the side of Conan, sometimes she isn't. Same with the "Ethernal Champion" of Moorcock, Jhary-a-Conal is sometimes present, sometimes not)

galu
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Re: Help: Players constantly want to switch characters

#6 Postby galu » Tue Apr 25, 2017 7:25 am

One more, pure speculation though, because I don't know the characters.

There is a kind of player, who writes long/detailed/boring backstories and has cool character concepts... on paper. But very often, these prove to be unplayable during the game. You might want to help them if this is the case.

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DMbobby
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Re: Help: Players constantly want to switch characters

#7 Postby DMbobby » Tue Apr 25, 2017 8:13 am

So a few things here:

1) Not every game needs to run forever. If you're group as a whole is looking to change up characters every major are or season then that tells you that your group is wanting new characters for new arcs. The fix here is simple, just have a game where when the arch ends the game ends. If they players want to pick it up later then you just make a sequel with it's own end point possibly picking back up in those characters lives a few years later after their last great adventure.
2) In Savage Worlds you don't need to be X rank before facing a threat. While it helps being Seasoned or Veteran for the most part the game stays just as deadly at every level with the numbers shifting very slowly. I've had well versed player's with Novice characters pull of more than inexperienced players with Veteran characters. Worst case it means the players will need to get creative to overcome or get around the bigger threats out there. Or just start an adventure at a higher rank if the arc really calls for characters of a specific heroic level of renown to be involved.
3) Hopefully knowing that when the story ends the players can pick up a new character will help your player that wants to constantly change characters keep things in check as there is an end goal in sight. If not you do have the option of flat out telling them they are saddled with the character they have till this adventure ends. Just have a frank but polite discussion with them that their inconsistency with characters is causing a problem with keeping a steady flow to the game and remind them that this will just give them more time to work on their next character so that they can make sure its something they want for more than a session or two.
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Snate56
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Re: Help: Players constantly want to switch characters

#8 Postby Snate56 » Wed Apr 26, 2017 8:26 am

As Galu said, have them be part of a larger group, such as an Explorer's Society, or a large band of mercenaries that jobs out a squad of folks to do certain tasks.
You might want to lay down certain ground rules such as you can't switch out characters when you are in the middle of a dungeon. (unless a guy dies: you might have a convenient sap stuck at the bottom of a pit or something)


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Ilina_Young
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Re: Help: Players constantly want to switch characters

#9 Postby Ilina_Young » Sun Apr 30, 2017 11:50 pm

Troupe Style Play is a good fix for this. but so is Guild focused campaigns.

a Guild Focused Campaign is about the Crew, Guild. Organization or Faction, and All Player characters are members of the Guild. but while everybody is a member of the guild. you swap characters between adventures with no loss in experience, as long as it makes sense to bring the new guild member for that particular mission. for guild focused, i would recommend something like an explorer's guild or something. because explorer's guilds in fantasy settings can be quite diverse in their makeup and allow all sorts of concepts. as long as the character isn't too old or too young. so definitely no retirees or rugrats.


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