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Stagnation

Page history last edited by PBworks 15 years, 6 months ago

After a time, some game groups lose direction. Management theory doesn't discuss a "stagnation" stage because work or study groups are brought together for a particular purpose, and once that goal is achieved they break up. In game groups, the purpose is usually less concrete. Rather than "design a new space capsule for orbital work," or "make 400 pizza bases," it's "let's have fun." It's very difficult to get somewhere unless you know exactly where you're going and what route you'll take. So the vagueness of the goals of roleplaying groups can lead to Stagnation.

 

A group is Stagnating when people aren't interested anymore. A player comes in, lies down on the couch and says, "wake me when it's time to roll for combat." Another player reads a comic. Yet another simply doesn't show up often, or "forgets" where the session was going to be this week.

 

Most game groups will fizzle out at this point. A work or study group rarely stagnates because there's a boss or teacher outside it who keeps it focused on its goals, and achieving those goals is compulsory. But a roleplaying group is a voluntary social activity, and attempts by someone (say the GM) to impose goals on it will usually result in only bad things for the group, and can actually hasten Stagnation, since one kind of Stagnation is for everyone to leave everything up to the GM.

 

The answer is to get the group Storming again.

 

 

Why Stom?

It may be wondered why you'd want to go back to that chaotic stage. The aim is to make it storm again because only then can you go on to Norming and Performing once more. It's a bit like when you've gone the wrong way on a long journey and reached a dead end, you have to go back to go forwards once more.

 

Many players unconsciously try to bring the group back to Storming if it's been Stagnating. They introduce new game systems or settings, get someone else to GM, bring in new players, and so on. And in truth, a fresh Storm is the only hope for a Stagnating group. That does not mean that players should deliberately create conflicts with one another; but they should try to freshen things up.

 

Commonly, groups Stagnate socially when one person has been GMing the same campaign at the same time and same place with the same group each session for years. The group simply doesn't know what to do with someone else as GM. The regular GM also doesn't know what to do, and is uncomfortable in their new role as player, and, consciously or unconsciously, sabotages the game. The group has in effect returned to Storming, but these are difficult conflicts to resolve - the regular GM wants to return to GMing, others in the group want to stop Stagnation, they cannot meet in the middle without some humility and honesty. Usually this Storm will end in the group breaking up. As always, if the group have made one another friends, this won't be a problem - find someone else to game with, remain friends with the old group members. If not, no loss. But in either case, there needs to be caution used here, words in anger and all that.

 

In general, prevention is better than cure. As noted in Session organisation, the group can avoid Stagnation by such things as holding "Alternates".

 

Some methods of reviving a Stagnating game group, and notes on their likely success:

 

New system or setting

This will almost always fail to revive a Stagnating group. This is because all this stuff is happening at a person-to-person level. The game itself has nothing to do with it. It's all about how the members of the group relate to one another. Whether they roll d10s or d20s, play in a medieval world or a sci-fi universe, doesn't matter. If the group ever passed through the Storming stage, managed to get Norming and Performing, the game system and setting have become irrelevant.

 

Change GM

This can be very useful. Game groups usually have the GM as leader as well as Game Master; the GM determines what is played, when and where, and will commonly have a stronger vote than anyone else in accepting new players, or rejecting old ones. Changing the GM will change everything, and will almost certainly take the group back to the Storming stage. If the group is truly Stagnant, then often the old GM will sabotage the game of the new GM, as noted above. Some of the group members will react with suppressed hostility towards the new GM, while others will go out of their way to welcome them. Again, this takes the group back towards Storming.

 

Change of Players

Bringing in a new player often shakes up the old group. Most new players will be cautious at first, so that there's a little island of Forming in the group. But at some point, unless the player is very reserved, they'll step forward and try to suggest changes. Eventually this takes the group to Storming.

 

Likewise, having an old player leave can give the same results. Human beings are like chemistry - A, B and C may combined to make a useful compound, while A and B alone make an explosion.

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