Tips for drawing in PCs?

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TacoChemic
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Tips for drawing in PCs?

Post by TacoChemic »

I'm a very new CK (1 session so far) and find it a lot of fun. Like most new CK's (DM, etc.), there are questions that pop up that I'm sure the more seasoned veterans can offer guidance on.

Here's one: My group tends to run small - myself, the ex-CK (a busy schedule so he had to step down), and about 1 to 3 others, depending on availability. Most times, it's around 2 adventures and a ck. I would say half of us are pretty new to tabletop rpg's (myself included) and it feels like there is some difficulty in drawing all members in to the scenario.

For example, There's one member that I can tell is interested in the scenario, but is perhaps to shy to get into her character's role, there is another member that is fairly young (13?) that seems completely disinterested and is only there because his dad is playing (who has played since AD&D 1 and 2 ed.) - this kid consistently plays on a tablet and really only interacts when there is combat and his dad tells him "kill".

The issue is that as I'm taking over the role of CK, I want to hear of some tactics and tips that I can use to really draw the group in and make the scenario fun. When we first formed, we started playing Keep on the Borderlands, which was run by the previous CK. However, after talking to the previous CK, the group agreed that I should run a different adventure - so a few weeks ago I did my first session running the Shadows of the Halfling Hall, which has proved to be entertaining so far, but I am still getting the vibe that I need to make sure that each member in my group not only gets to act, but wants to act, and isn't left feeling like they don't have an important role. One of the biggest indicators was during a situation where our party is trying to collect information: one member simply sat at the bar and drank, 1 made the rounds and interviewed several npc's, and 1 simply disappeared into thin air (the individual controlling that character did not interact at all, possibly believing that she wasn't needed at the particular point).

I hope that kind of sets up the situation. So, what sort of tactics would you do to draw a group in?

serleran
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Re: Tips for drawing in PCs?

Post by serleran »

This was moved from Keeper's Advice so more people can comment. I doubt you want one answer...

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Buttmonkey
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Re: Tips for drawing in PCs?

Post by Buttmonkey »

It sounds like your players as a whole aren't very interested in in-game social interaction. At least 2 seemed to be bored/disinterested when the party was digging for info. I suggest trying to minimize those sorts of role-playing encounters. There are a number of ways to do that. You can spoon-feed critical info to the players (e.g., "You go to town and ask around. The town drunk tells you about a rumor he heard of a back entrance to the local dungeon."). Then, focus encounters on the stuff they are interested in. If that's combat, try to get them into the action early and often. Another approach to drawing the players into role-playing encounters is to bring the encounters to the reluctant players. If Bob tends to sit out during info-gathering, have NPCs come up and interact with Bob's PC. Try to make it interesting. For example, maybe an NPC approaches Bob's PC at the bar and says he saw a thief pick the PC's pocket. The NPC will ID the thief if the PC agrees to do the NPC a favor. That could lead to an adventure hook. For a lot players, role-playing things like information gathering is boring as hell. You'll never make them want to play out going around to various NPCs at the local tavern to ask for information. For those players, you need to bring the information to them.
tylermo wrote:Your efforts are greatly appreciated, Buttmonkey. Can't believe I said that with a straight face.

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Dracyian
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Re: Tips for drawing in PCs?

Post by Dracyian »

For the information gathering if it is something you want to keep in without completely spoon feeding them, you could try making it so the information they need is split into a couple different areas, like the theives den knows something, the castle guards know a different peice of information and they only talk to knights because of the rank knights hold without being directly commanded by the ruling body of the castle.

If your players are still split some like that role playing some don't, get different city scape role playings going on, like Buttmonkey said have an npc approach the character and try to draw them, have a local assassin make an attempt on a life of a character for political reasons, Or you could make something so ridiculously different it becomes an awesome enigma, like Buttmonkey's friendly Beholder, in our Greyhawk game we have a talking goat who recently secured te position of high mayor in the town of Greyhawk.

There are also other ways of finding information, you can make the rounds do the talking, you can trade quests for info, you can buy, you can also kidnap and interrogate people if their moral compass allows them to.

Also something to keep in mind is not that all players can be drawn into all parts of role playing. Like me for example, the tedious informatino getting and research is out of my character's scope and after working a 10 and a half hour day (i know its not too long and some of you guys work much longer days) Ineed to get some killing under my belt and get the adrenaline pumping so I can vent it out on some unsuspecting bad guy before I can do the less exciting but just as fun parts, so when that happens I just bury myself in my PHB looking for character and campaign ideas for different games and obviously lol different campaigns, I may seem disinterested but i'm not, i'm just letting the other players enjoy that part of the game and keeping myself entertained with something that in the future will pertain to what I'm doing

TacoChemic
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Re: Tips for drawing in PCs?

Post by TacoChemic »

Thanks for the suggestions. As a new CK, I haven't quite grasped that I really need to be less passive in some regards and fully engage the pc's in new and creative ways, but these responses have given me some ideas. Thanks!

Arvernian
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Re: Tips for drawing in PCs?

Post by Arvernian »

One thing you might want to consider is creating a party identity for your group to sort of guide your players in creating their characters. You might tell them they are all members of a mercenary band or are all retainers in the service of a noble lord and have their "boss" send them on a mission. Of course the players can still have their own goals that may be at odds with the rest of the group (a PC assassin might be hired to kill the noble the other character's serve for instance) but you've provided them with something to keep their party together at least for a little while.

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NJPDX
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Re: Tips for drawing in PCs?

Post by NJPDX »

I have one trick that always seemed to work. At character creation make the players write down a few things on an index card that you then keep with you at all times so you can reference it when developing adventure hooks or trying to think of something on the fly.

The first is a goal. It need not be complicated or overly developed (in fact it's usually best if it's not as there will always be some player who wants to give you a 4,000 word essay, but that's a different problem). It can be as simple as, "get rich," "find out what happened to my older sibling who left home all those years ago," "get revenge." Anything really.

The second is a belief or trait. Have the player describe something about their character that is intrinsic to their mental makeup: Quick to anger, cowardly, religious, loyal to the king/lord, stands up for the weak, a bully, charitable, etc.

Lastly, have the players describe as succinctly as they can (a few sentences at most) what is their favorite thing about playing an RPG. Is it getting loot, combat, the story, character development, solving mysteries and riddles, political intrigue, is it exploration? Whatever.

Once you are armed with these little note cards use them in your prep time to spur your own imagination for what kinds of hooks you want to lay down for the players. You won't be able to hit everyone's favorite thing in every session, but if there's a common theme among the group it should help you tailor the game to your players' taste somewhat. and if you occasionally sprinkle in something that focuses on a single character and give them the spotlight from time to time, people love that.

Maybe most importantly though, (assuming you don't already) read lots of books and figure out what fantastical fiction that you are passionate about. If you love the Lord of the Rings and that high fantasy feeling gets your creative juices flowing then tap into that. Personally, I find the Celtic Myths, the Dark Ages and "weird fantasy" (Moorcock, Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith, Howard) to be the most inspiring and I borrow elements from that all the time when I'm creating adventures and fleshing out my game world.

Also, if you're interested, there are some great tutorials on being a game master on youtube out there that give lots of world building and game running advice. I've been away from the GM's chair for a long time myself and I've been using them lately as way to kind of refresh my memory and to even gain some new insights.

Here's a few links to get you started (all of these guys are more inline with OSR style gaming):
http://www.youtube.com/user/Samwise7RPG
http://www.youtube.com/user/VengerSatanisRPG
http://www.youtube.com/user/Wintersome
http://www.youtube.com/user/bluespruce786
http://www.youtube.com/user/GrognardGames
http://www.youtube.com/user/TheOutsiders68

Cheers and good luck.

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Sir Osis of Liver
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Re: Tips for drawing in PCs?

Post by Sir Osis of Liver »

Loving the replies I've seen so far. Experience in front of the group will get you a better feel for what people like. I'd also suggest, if possible, getting to play at a con. It took going to a few good cons (GenCon, back when it was in Milwaukee and GaryCon, in particular) to see what out-of-this-world GMs/DMs/CKs were like. How did they run their games? How did they keep people active and interested? If it's possible for you to get to one, I highly recommend the experience.

Just for curiosity's sake, what class is the kid with the tablet playing? If he's a fighter-type, those can be fun for muscle during the course of info gathering. While the bard or the thief or the other PC with high CHA does all of the talking, have him sharpen his blade. Little things like that can seem stupid at first, but when it turns into a running gag during future sessions that you, as the CK, can plan around, you can have loads of fun with it. The intimidation factor is huge, in terms of the group dynamic, and it allows you more latitude to shape the encounter. :)

Bottom line...it gives him something to do during a part of the game that he's not normally interested in, and it keeps him a little more invested in the party's doings. And maybe, if he's lucky, he'll get a brawl out of it.

TacoChemic
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Re: Tips for drawing in PCs?

Post by TacoChemic »

Thanks for the great suggestions NJPDX! The notecard idea is a good one and I might ask that the pc's provide some rudimentary details at the beginning of the next session so that I can mold the session into something that is less rigid and more likely to run closer to their own interests in the game (although I'm pretty sure the kid is only there because his dad wanted his son to experience table gaming). I'll look into some Youtube videos. I definitely benefit from watching how others play and run a game.

Sir Osis, the kid is playing a human fighter (just about everyone is level 1-2), and he definitely is a passive player. His father, who plays a rogue, typically jumps into the action by telling his son when to attack (sometimes going outside of combat initiative - which I would have to remind him that his son's combat round has not yet come up). A few times when the father has interrupted the flow of combat initiative, the other CK has narrated an excuse for this, such as the kid's fighter saw another character falter, etc. and took advantage of the situation. I don't really mind the father telling his son when to attack, it serves as a good reminder that the kid's turn is up (usually), but I would like to see the kid honestly think about his turn and decide for himself if attacking is what he really wants to do. I've thought about putting him in a situation where he becomes separated from the party and must figure out how to safely return amidst various obstacles - maybe throw in some more traps, riddles and ambushes to keep him in the game.

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NJPDX
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Re: Tips for drawing in PCs?

Post by NJPDX »

Hmmmm ... Well a couple of things I'm wondering about. It kind of sounds like tabletop gaming might not appeal to him. Another thing to consider is if the kid is green and a bunch of experienced (older) gamers are at the table, it can be pretty intimidating when you're young and new to the hobby, especially at 12 or 13.

As for solutions, maybe instead of separating the kid from the group, you can give him a chance to shine on his own some other way. For example, you could have the party taken captive (or otherwise imperiled) and let the kid's character have a chance to come to the rescue (don't make it too hard or complex of an obstacle and make sure everybody else at the table shuts the hell up).

In my experience people usually are the most invested and have the fondest memories about gaming when they get to do something really heroic or dramatic with their character. Just splitting off a disinterested/shy/inimidated player and putting them through an obstacle course alone is going to put them on the spot in potentially a bad way. Another thing to consider for a new player is running them through a solo adventure, where they can be free from the scrutiny and judgement of other players and get to experience a personalized adventure ... circumstances permitting of course.

My last suggestion might be a little bit out of step with the tone of your game, but I've had good success with it a couple of times when I've had younger players at my table. Let them play something a little bit crazy and non-standard; I had a kid that played a centaur once and he had a great time getting to do cool stuff like run all over the battlefield with a lance, and letting somebody play a half-ogre never hurts either. :D

The main thing though is to talk to this kid and see if there's anything he really likes or dislikes in the game and see if you can diagnose why he doesn't feel engaged. If it's a question of style and tone or feeling intimidated, that can be fixed, if he's apathetic about fantasy or role-playing in general, there's not much you can do to change that.

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Lurker
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Re: Tips for drawing in PCs?

Post by Lurker »

NJPDX wrote:
...

In my experience people usually are the most invested and have the fondest memories about gaming when they get to do something really heroic or dramatic with their character. Just splitting off a disinterested/shy/inimidated player and putting them through an obstacle course alone is going to put them on the spot in potentially a bad way. Another thing to consider for a new player is running them through a solo adventure, where they can be free from the scrutiny and judgement of other players and get to experience a personalized adventure ... circumstances permitting of course.

My last suggestion might be a little bit out of step with the tone of your game, but I've had good success with it a couple of times when I've had younger players at my table. Let them play something a little bit crazy and non-standard; I had a kid that played a centaur once and he had a great time getting to do cool stuff like run all over the battlefield with a lance, and letting somebody play a half-ogre never hurts either. :D

The main thing though is to talk to this kid and see if there's anything he really likes or dislikes in the game and see if you can diagnose why he doesn't feel engaged. If it's a question of style and tone or feeling intimidated, that can be fixed, if he's apathetic about fantasy or role-playing in general, there's not much you can do to change that.

Rgr on that. First talk to the son, see what he likes and wants. Then try a solo with him (Hmmmm ... maybe have someone capture his dad's character and he has to chase them down through the city and save the day) &/or let him play that fun odd character (half-ogre etc) to have fun with RPG for an one off game or 2.

Also, talk to the dad about stepping back a little and let his son shine on his own.
Sir Osis of Liver wrote:
...
Just for curiosity's sake, what class is the kid with the tablet playing? If he's a fighter-type, those can be fun for muscle during the course of info gathering. While the bard or the thief or the other PC with high CHA does all of the talking, have him sharpen his blade. Little things like that can seem stupid at first, but when it turns into a running gag during future sessions that you, as the CK, can plan around, you can have loads of fun with it. The intimidation factor is huge, in terms of the group dynamic, and it allows you more latitude to shape the encounter. :)

...
Rgr that, and make sure there is a bonus for that little thing he is doing (to encourage him to role play a bit more and be less passive)
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Dracyian
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Re: Tips for drawing in PCs?

Post by Dracyian »

Also don't be afraid to press the reset button on this campaign and start over a new one, or have the son's character in an utter act of bravery or in something so ridiculous its funny to him Die off so he can recast himself as something new.

Either the main thing I am trying to press with this is don't be afraid to look at this campaign honestly and ask yourself and those playing honestly if you want to continue this campaign or start over or start a different one.

TacoChemic
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Re: Tips for drawing in PCs?

Post by TacoChemic »

Good ideas, maybe this younger member just wants an opportunity to play 'hero' for the team. The next time we meet, I might pick his brain a little and determine what about the game he really enjoys. If he's all into just swinging that battle axe, then I should provide a scenario where he can really utilize his fighter abilities and become a hero for the party (or at the least, his dad).

Right now, we have only just begun our second adventure - the first was run by the other CK and it was Keep on the Borderlands. We never actually ran through all of the caves, etc., as the CK found he didn't have the time to continue running games due to an outside schedule, so I took over and so far have run 1 session of Shadows of the Halfling Hall. I'll see how things go for 1 more session (they have really only just scratched the "surface" so far) and try to adjust things accordingly. Running a game has so many different factors to keep track of in terms of keeping the party invested in the atmosphere and events of the adventure, I love the challenge.

Thanks for all of the feedback so far.

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NJPDX
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Re: Tips for drawing in PCs?

Post by NJPDX »

Oh one more note. TacoChemic, you said that your groups run small, in that case I'd consider letting anybody who wants to run a second character. It's not for everyone, but it could help add some flavor to the game and expands the types of challenges they might tackle. However, if you allow this it's usually best if the pair have some kind of in-game bond that explains why they tend to stick together (siblings, henchman and master, etc.).

TacoChemic
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Re: Tips for drawing in PCs?

Post by TacoChemic »

I have considered that. The other member that has run games in the past had a Ranger that would pop up from time to time whenever the play group was out 1 or 2 members. Definitely comes in handy-especially if members start dropping unconscious. :P

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