Rank hath its privileges.
True story: there are games that are more fun to experience as the GM than they are as a player.
I’ve run into this a handful of times! And I assume it’s because the fictional investment is happening at a completely different level as the GM than it is for the players.
Urban Shadows was this in spades, all three times I started campaigns. I was having a grand time watching the game spool out, and the players started experiencing really bad frustration about not being able to resolve anything. My theory is that the game’s setup seeds its situations by asking the players what their characters are invested in … but never comes back to those things. Compare to say Burning Wheel, which accretes literally all the action around the Beliefs everyone wrote in the beginning. But in Urban Shadows, if the players don’t claw their way upstream against snowballing consequences toward the stuff they said they cared about, that stuff is gonna vanish. Obviously the MC can and probably should build fronts/threats around reincorporating that material, but I gotta say, it’s really easy to just go with the flow.
This also happened in our long King Arthur Pendragon game, which I absolutely adored but I think a couple players despised. In that case it was how the characters’ personality trait pairs would drag along the character based largely on die rolls and not player intent. My Pendragon hater really wanted a smooth courtesan but he ended up with a cowardly asshole.
Now, from where I was sitting this was fantastic. Best possible outcome. He was the Gaius Baltar of the Uther Era (holy crossing the nerd streams). But oh how it grated. He basically went suicidal just so he could get a reset of his stats. And even that was great to watch! If you were the GM.
The One Ring I think goes there, too, once the Shadow really gets its hooks into the characters. If the players aren’t on board with being doomed, tragic heroes, I think they can very easily either get despondent, or just disengage from the experience and treat their character like a disposable WoW toon. Loved watching the tragedy unfold, didn’t love watching half the table check out.
What games have you run where it was more satisfying to GM than (perhaps) it was to play?