How to upscale the death house and still keep it fun?

Due to Reasons™, my intro level to my current run of Curse of Strahd for a new group didn’t involve the Death House, I wrote my own intro-level this time.

I always had a lot of fun running it for other groups, though, so wanted to keep it in the game for a later stage. I’ve already written it in the world in a place that’s pretty likely to be found by the players.

The issue is that I still want to keep it a Death House, which it clearly is at levels 1-3, but I expect the party to find it at the earliest by level 5, probably 6. While it still would not be a breeze, I ran a number of the encounters with likely upscales of their current party and it did not feel deadly at all. I could just up all DCs and make each monster group a bit larger, but I don’t feel like that’s particularly interesting.

Assume my Plan™ survives first contact with the players and they find the House. What is an interesting way to upscale the Death House to party level 5-6? The party will be either 4 or 5 characters, depending on who can make which session, and the group is paranoid enough about dying that they seem to insist on running at least 2 healers at all times.

How can I keep a player from “shutting down” after a streak of bad rolls?

In my sessions I’ve repeatedly noted that after a few bad rolls, one of my players (age 20) seems to become reclusive and stop paying attention.

Now I’ve tried various methods to get the player to pay attention again, but it seems that no matter how much his PC is punished or rewarded in game, even to the point of almost dieing to a hefty bag of gold, that this player did not care. I’ve even tried abstract methods, and given him a verbal slap, getting the other players to laugh at his PCs expense just to see if he’d dignify his character. Complete disconnect. The Player didn’t even care.

A Few rounds later, the dice rolls are in his favor, and suddenly, he cares about the story again! Participation happens, and the players are moving nicely.

This is bad for both of us. For me because suddenly I’ve got a brain dead PC that is being lugged around, slowing the game. For him, because he isn’t enjoying the game.

How do I as a DM prevent the disconnect that happens when players are on a bad luck streak?

How to keep people from talking over one another

It’s been getting to the point that I now have 8 characters, happy and playing together. The problem is, due to lots of yelling we get approx. 1/4 of the stuff we’re supposed to get done per session done. What are some good ways to regulate them to stop yelling and talking over one another besides establishing out of combat initiave or a squirt bottle?

We are playing virtually and in person- discord is much easier to mute/unmute, so just help physically please

Can I keep playing a character who annoys other PCs?


Context

This question is about an online community campaign: we are around 20 players who play on a persistent universe where anyone can run a game as a GM. The system is Pathfinder 2e and players can have multiple character so that they can play on quests designed for different levels.

Among the 20 players the degree of participation is heterogeneous and usually only a handful of players are available for a specific session.

Issue

Recently I learnt other players didn’t want to play with my main character (the one of the highest level). I don’t know exactly how many of them nor exactly why, but the effect is that I basically can’t play this character: each time there is a session where I could play her, a player cancels their participation, which yields to the session being cancelled or delayed to oblivion.

After talking with one player specifically I understood he considered my character was too immature and getting on his character’s nerves for lacking respect.

The defendant

My character is actually a 25 years old gnome: so basically a child but who still has more life experience than many adventurers. She gets serious when she thinks it is needed, but keeps a playful face (for example when casting a spell she would add silly incantations to make it sound like a lullaby). She often disagrees with other characters but I am extra careful not to make it disrupt the game’s flow (I think I am doing well, even if that’s hard to tell).

She is about as respectful as one could expect a 10 yo human child with magic powers to be: not especially mean but not extra polite either.

She also has a secret identity, as a vigilante, who is way more serious than her. I use this as an excuse to justify playing this character in scenarios that wouldn’t look fun enough for the child gnome to engage in.

The victims

The player I talked to seems to consider it as impossible that his character ever ends up getting along with mine. Personally I don’t think he tried it at all since all the examples he presented to me were in my opinion very minor points of disagreement. The more I think about it, the more I am convinced that he wants to play darker games but somehow retrains himself from playing "dark" when my character is around. As you can’t imagine bringing that up is not easy without being a douche, so I haven’t yet.

About the other players I only have suspicions. I think some simply don’t like that my character is not very powerful compared to their. They would be right: I haven’t optimized her build and on top of that some are simply more accustomed to the system and make a better use of their actions each turn.

As a side note none of those players seem to have any issue with my other characters (who are both more optimized and not annoying in the same way). Also my character is not the youngest nor the least mature of all the PCs, but she is the only one like that in her level range.

Solutions?

As of now I see two solutions, but none is very satisfying:

  • I could drop this character and make a new one. Pro: I am pretty sure I could make one nobody will hate. Con: I like this character, I don’t want to drop her.
  • I could focus on her vigilante alter ego. Pro: I still would be able to play her. Con: I suspect it might not be enough and other players won’t even try to play with the alter ego by association with the character they know.

There are probably more solutions yet to be found.

Bullseye Lantern: does pointing one away from you, keep you in darkness?

Suppose my character is in darkness. I light up a bullseye lantern:

A bullseye lantern casts bright light in a 60-foot cone and dim light for an additional 60 feet

If I point the bullseye lantern away from me, is my character illuminated in any way? Am I included in the cone of light, or am I outside of the cone, like when casting the Cone of Cold spell?

If I remain in darkness when using a Bullseye Lantern, then I can remain invisible to those without dark vision, while illuminating my enemies.

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How do I keep the narrative alive during combats?

For years, I’ve had trouble keeping the players engaged in the narrative of combat and what happens during their turns.

After the first 4 turns or so, it becomes hard to imagine what everyone does and even my players forget about their allies, and I forget about the villain’s allies as well. After a couple rounds it starts becoming a "you hit with a raise, well, throw 1d6 more", and I’m left wondering how I can make things seem more dynamic and cool, however I find it very hard to wait for players to end turns, throw dices, and then proceed to imagine and narrate what they do, it also makes players frustrated as they just want me to be down with other player’s narrative and move on to their own turn.

How to avoid alienation by expected but slow mood shift, and still keep players out of spoilers?

I run an MLP campaign. By design, at the start of the campaign what the citizens (PCs) know about the world is true, but it’s not the whole and complete truth, and many issues of the past are either not widely known or just reframed to appear less severe than they are. The campaign revolves around them figuring out How Things Really Are, and becoming ones who keep the surface level of the Utopia running.

And here’s the question. MLP makes people think that they know how things really are. So, over time a player may decide that it’s too dark, or by other means too conflicting with their own vision.

Be it other campaign, we could compare our visions for compatibility beforehand, to make sure that it works.

But this campaign is meant to include perspective shifts; I have a few players that are prone to ‘bleeding’ (and know that!) and/or prefer to stay out of spoilers. The ‘actual state of the world’ has/will have a ‘darker past’; this Utopia is based on a few questionable decisions, and is not as stable as it appears at first. I am afraid of alienating these players, or being met by a reaction of "You asked us to play in the Utopia, and then the mood became totally different". Basically, "I was creating my character for another sort of game, one that you initially described to me; and now it’s a different game, one that I don’t actually like".

How to reduce this risk of alienation, yet still keep the mood of mystery and (classical urban-fantasy) ‘this is deeper than you have thought’, without spoilers?