Dear DovahQueen – The Cost of Edition Wars

People are going to disagree about which edition of which tabletop RPG was best. Today, we help a GM weigh options in drawing battle lines or offering an olive branch.

Dear DovahQueen: My group started a Pathfinder campaign a while back. Some players have cycled in and out, but we’ve had a pretty reliable group for some time now. During that time, we would alternate between a 5e campaign and the PF one, which I GM. When the 5e game ended, we’ve played mostly the PF game.

Now, the GM who was the GM for the 5e campaign and I have strongly opposed feelings regarding which is the more fun system to play, but we’ve both been players on the others’ games for many years now. However, after the most recent 5e game ended, he started GMing occasionally at a public event on the same night that we normally play.

Sometimes we’ve played without him and other times we’ve had to cancel. He’s been doing this ~ one in every three play sessions (we try to play every Saturday). It really frustrates me that he openly decided to go GM a public play group at the same time as our current game. His justification is that he gets paid for doing it, so it’s a job.

It didn’t start out that way, but I’m trying to let that go.

Now, there was a game that was supposed to be played yesterday, when he was open about not attending because of his other game. Which was fine.

But, we ended up canceling because two of the other players canceled last minute with no explanation(a bf/gf pair who pretty much always attend or cancel as a group).

Much to my surprise, I see on social media that they were at the other GM’s public game.

I’m fairly certain they don’t know that I know, and I don’t know how to handle this situation. I’m currently too angry to make a sound decision. At the moment I’m torn between just ignoring and trying to keep the group going as “normal” and throwing the whole game out the window.

Maybe you can help me come to a more middle ground solution?—Ectar of Section 9

Dear Ectar: I think that the first and most important thing to do here is get some breathing room. DnD and PF are supposed to be fun games that we play with our friends, and its an unfortunate fact of life that we sometimes choose assholes as friends. Pen and paper games are pretty good at helping us learn to collaborate and accomplish goals as a team, but d20s and sourcebooks really don’t do a lot to help us learn how to deal with the more social aspect of our games and our lives. I’ve been in some pretty similar situations before, and I hate to say it but I think its not a wholly uncommon one. Again, step one is breathing room. Unless you don’t have a choice, avoid talking to these folks while you calm down and figure out how you wanna approach the situation. I don’t think any diplomatic decisions are visible while you’re still seeing red. After that, you’ve got a more clear head-space to start thinking about the harder questions, and you’ve got a few of ‘em to get through.

For one, you’ve gotta think about why these players are kinda being dicks to go play 5e? Do all three of them just prefer 5th? Or are they just dissatisfied with your story or your GMing style? Could it be something else entirely? If you think these three friends are worth keeping, it might be worth it to you to ask them and find out what’s going on. Sure, it kinda felt like betrayal, but they have their reasons and you have to gauge for yourself if you can put it behind you or not.  I’d either ask the bf/gf pair what’s going on and do the same with the GM-friend. “Are you having any fun? Is there something I can do to make it more fun for you?” “The way we keep having to cancel is bothering me; can we work something out to be more regular?” Basically: “What can I do better for you?”

Depending on how amicable their response, you might have to consider if you even still wanna play with these folks. Sure, you could drop your game and play 5th with them but that’s not really what you want. And it’s doubtful that they’ll agree to drop their 5e games. Obviously, a compromise would be best, but if they’re not willing to go for it, then you really have to think about what’s best for you. Consider offering a rotating schedule as compromise. See if you can get the three of them to agree to play in your game on one week and do 5th the next. But, if you want your offer to carry any weight, you should prolly offer to join that 5e game too.

Worst case scenario, you can’t get anyone to agree to anything and all your friends are rude. Do you need them? Like, I get that it’s easier to try to play with these friends than it is to go find new players. BUT… some point it’s *not* easier anymore and you might want to consider finding a new group. I wouldn’t offer this option to you casually if I hadn’t been there myself. I started in 2e DnD and played with that group for 15 years. They became a toxic group that had little to offer other than unwavering disrespect and selfishness. They didn’t like to compromise. So, I went and started playing with the PFS folks in my local area instead of with them, and I had an incredible time. I truly value the friends I made there. Later, I joined a regular group with my coworkers and made even more outstanding companions there. I hate those clichés about closing doors and opening windows, but it’s a cliché for a reason. If these problems are the first that you’re having with these friends, you might not have to consider starting over. But sometimes it is worth considering. You could start over if you needed to.

Start with breathing room; get yourself calm again. If these are good friends that are worth keeping, talk to them about some good compromises, and be willing to make reasonable sacrifices in exchange. If, after some hard thought, you decide that these friends might not be worth keeping, consider deciding to *stop* sacrificing for them; there’s always other people who would actually want to play with you.






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Loren Sieg

Loren has been writing and playing in tabletop RPGs for over 15 years. As both a GM and player, she pours heart and soul into producing new content and helping shape the way tabletops are experienced. She's worked with companies including Paizo Inc., Legendary Games, Swords for Hire, and Encounter Table Publishing to publish material for Pathfinder Roleplaying Game. Dear DovahQueen began early in 2016, and Loren has been helping GMs and players fully realize their stories and game concepts ever since. When she's not knee-deep in characters sheets and critical hits, she can likely be found studying Biology at Indiana University and/or doing research on different types of marine life.

1 Comment

  1. Quo

    You can get paid to be a GM?! Whaaat? I’ve been doing it wrong.

    LoL, my group has been playing together for years. We swap out the GM role regularly to keep fresh and let others flex creative juices.
    Great article as usual.