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edwardavern

Player feels like a passenger

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One of my players recently told me that, although she's enjoying the game, she feels a bit like a passenger - that she reacts to stuff, rather than ever making decisions.  She accepts that part of this is because she's never really taken the time to flesh out her character (so, in her own words, her character is "plot-driven" rather than "character-driven"), and also is aware that it's partly because her character is quite a quiet, sneaky sort of dug, who isn't instinctively at the forefront of what the party decides to do.

I'm talking to her to see if we can find ways for her to feel more involved in the decision-making, but I just wondered if other GMs out there had had similar issues, and (if so) how did you address them?

Thanks in advance.

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I'd work with the player to flesh out the lacking backstory. Once you know that, you can more easily involve "hooks" that are both plot and character related! If your player just really isn't into that or can't come up with anything, ask if they're alright with you filling in the blanks instead.

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This is the time to ask her two questions, in my opinion.

1. "Do you want to flesh out a backstory to some degree that you (the GM) can work with?"

2. "If you don't want to/don't feel like you can flesh out the character, you they (the player) be fine with you (the GM) dictating a backstory for a session(s) about the character?"

Depending on the answer, you can make a character focused session based on what you are given (or what you come up with). OR, you can put parts of the session together in a way that they have to step up and make a decision/take the initiative.

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Backstory is definitely one way to do this, as others have suggested. But what about motivations? What does this character desire more than anything else in the galaxy? If they haven't identified that element of their PC, you should work with them to do so. Then it becomes a game of carrots more than sticks.

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6 hours ago, edwardavern said:

I'm talking to her to see if we can find ways for her to feel more involved in the decision-making, but I just wondered if other GMs out there had had similar issues, and (if so) how did you address them?

Some players just prefer being along for the ride, yet get jealous of others who are creative in their actions or take more of the limelight and there is unfortunately sometimes nothing you can do about it as GM.

 

I have dealt with players like this and the most I can do is encourage them to take charge and say what they want to do, be proactive instead of reactive. When it comes to their turn they often just stare blankly and go "idk" until someone gives them suggestions or until I come back to them later. Usually it is players who spent very little time thinking of their character beyond the aesthetic and core concept (I wanna be a jedi/bounty hunter/thief!). Another type that struggles with being proactive is the self-insert character.

 

Sometimes though, players just want to be there for the association and no matter what you do to encourage role-play and decision-making, they care not for the game itself. Those players are the ones I have found, above all, to be the ones that will never change their ways because they are not invested in the game and in playing it, only in the social aspect.

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If she's never fleshed out the character and the character is the type that isn't really involved in decisions, perhaps she might want to retire the character and try a new one. There's nothing wrong with opting out when an option that seemed good at first fails to pan out.

Whether she switches characters or not, it should be up to her to get involved. If she doesn't, then I wouldn't waste the effort on trying to pull her along, but your feelings may differ. As far as I'm concerned, the GM has plenty of other responsibilities while the player has only a few. Chief among those player responsibilities is making their character an interesting part of the game.

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Some players can really take to their back stories and bring them into their role playing. Some can’t, and it seems like this player doesn’t much care about hers due to the fact she didn’t bother in the first place, and that’s okay.

It’s been my experience that what happens at the table is always worth more than backstory anyways. Find her character’s skills and build a session based on that. Give her the opportunity to shine and find her voice, maybe make some connections and get a little more weight to her contributions with the group. There’s a ton of ways to do this and you know this player far better than we ever will. Get creative and keep the pressure to a reasonable level based on her own personal securities, then work out from there.

Edited by Flavorabledeez

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How about introducing a Dug NPC that prefers to speak only to the other Dug? Perhaps the party need that NPC to come along with them for a short while, meaning you can encourage that player to be more vocal through the interaction, and maybe they'll discover more about their own character that way?

Edited by Urbane Spaceman
Spelling!

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20 hours ago, edwardavern said:

One of my players recently told me that, although she's enjoying the game, she feels a bit like a passenger - that she reacts to stuff, rather than ever making decisions.  She accepts that part of this is because she's never really taken the time to flesh out her character (so, in her own words, her character is "plot-driven" rather than "character-driven"), and also is aware that it's partly because her character is quite a quiet, sneaky sort of dug, who isn't instinctively at the forefront of what the party decides to do.

I'm talking to her to see if we can find ways for her to feel more involved in the decision-making, but I just wondered if other GMs out there had had similar issues, and (if so) how did you address them?

Thanks in advance.

Split the party.....then she's got no choice.....

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I don't see how having a backstory is going to change her play style - she's still going to be reactive, just to things that are part of her story.  Could offering her different routes to solve problems give her the agency she seeks?  To be honest, unless she's directly guiding the narrative, then she's always going to be reactive and that's more often the case at the tables I've sat at - GM presents a scenario, players react.  Rarely does the GM just open the curtains and say, "okay what do you want to do?" without dangling some hooks in front of the players. 

 

 

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39 minutes ago, themensch said:

Rarely does the GM just open the curtains and say, "okay what do you want to do?" without dangling some hooks in front of the players.

I've done it a few times, but only if I know the players well and they know the setting well. Otherwise, you easily fall into indecision as analysis paralysis kicks in when they look into the big empty and realize they can do anything... so they do nothing.

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1 minute ago, HappyDaze said:

I've done it a few times, but only if I know the players well and they know the setting well. Otherwise, you easily fall into indecision as analysis paralysis kicks in when they look into the big empty and realize they can do anything... so they do nothing.

That's my experience too, on both sides of the screen.  It takes a very special group to be able to pull this off, but often falls into inside jokes unless it's done just so. 

 

For those reading that haven't tried it, often the illusion of free will is enough - and that can be done by masking hooks in event descriptions among other things. This is how we can prep for a session without appearing to railroad the group.  Utilizing tools like Dungeonworld's Fronts can imbue a setting with a life of its own.  But at the end of the day, a GM must remember that everyone's generally there to satisfy their thirst for adventure and the GM should be at the forefront (but perhaps not the sole purveyor) of said adventure. 

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On 1/23/2019 at 3:41 PM, SavageBob said:

Backstory is definitely one way to do this, as others have suggested. But what about motivations? What does this character desire more than anything else in the galaxy? If they haven't identified that element of their PC, you should work with them to do so. Then it becomes a game of carrots more than sticks.

1

This is a good point - I feel like she selected a motivation from the CR list (can't remember it off the top of my head), but hasn't really thought about it at all.  I'll push her on this and see what she says.

 

On 1/23/2019 at 5:44 PM, kaosoe said:

What's the character's obligation? Surely there's some meat there.

Yes.  I'm working on this - it's definitely the most interesting aspect of the character so far.  Going to be building on that.

 

On 1/23/2019 at 9:32 PM, HappyDaze said:

If she's never fleshed out the character and the character is the type that isn't really involved in decisions, perhaps she might want to retire the character and try a new one. There's nothing wrong with opting out when an option that seemed good at first fails to pan out.

Whether she switches characters or not, it should be up to her to get involved. If she doesn't, then I wouldn't waste the effort on trying to pull her along, but your feelings may differ. As far as I'm concerned, the GM has plenty of other responsibilities while the player has only a few. Chief among those player responsibilities is making their character an interesting part of the game.

1

I agree in principle, but in practice I can't seem to help making the effort.  #noyouredesperatetopleaseeveryone

 

On 1/24/2019 at 9:48 AM, Urbane Spaceman said:

How about introducing a Dug NPC that prefers to speak only to the other Dug? Perhaps the party need that NPC to come along with them for a short while, meaning you can encourage that player to be more vocal through the interaction, and maybe they'll discover more about their own character that way?

This is a great idea.  Totally going to do this.

 

22 hours ago, 2P51 said:

Split the party.....then she's got no choice.....

Yes, that's also a good idea.

 

Thanks all.  Really helpful stuff.

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I actually had a player in my Exalted game tell me the same thing tonight.  We talked for a bit about it.  I asked her about what her characters motivations were, why specifically she chose the abilities and charms (inherent magical powers) she did.  Once she reconnected with her character concept, we looked for ways to include her interests into what's already going on in-game.  Example: she chose a lot of abilities/powers that make her great with animals.  Yet she hasn't really used them outside of her one animal familiar.  Her abilities make it easy for her to walk right up to a pride of wild lions and have them fully domesticated/trained within a few days.  Two of the other characters run a smuggling/trade business.  I suggested she work with them to create a new branch of the business for dealing with exotic fauna that she could charm, breed, and train.  So far, she loves the idea.

In short, I've found that talking about the characters original concept to be a big help, especially the characters interests and motivations!  In my experience, once a player remembers what excites them about the character, they start to involve themselves more in the story.

Edited by TalosX

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I mirror splitting the party. Sometimes the best way to make individual members of the party to shine is to set up situations that require them to spilt up and therefore have to use skills that are usually only the domain of "the parties specialist". Character's that are usually quieter then get the opportunity, if they wish to contribute more heavily to the ongoing narrative. Likewise, having racist or otherwise characters who will only interact fairly with their own species can provide some opportunity, though while this provides opportunity for roleplaying it won't necessarily kickstart their own intuitive. 

Ultimately though, it comes down to the player to begin developing a sense of agency, a desire to do things and to plan in the long term. There was a very deliberate point in our ongoing campaign that my PC, Tobin Stryder the force emergant decided that getting revenge on that bounty hunter who killed his father was much more important then the work that he was doing for the alliance as every encounter with the red-sabers brought him closer to death, so he stole away on a nemesis's vessel, killed him in cold blood and set a course to the smugglers moon to set up an elaborate heist. It was at that exact moment that I stopped merely reacting to assignements and I started plotting, planning. I ended up making quite a career as a rebel planning various elaborate heists on both the empire and various criminal syndicates, and slowly became a living, breathing facat of that world.

The first question I would ask is what is their characters motivation? And are they connecting with their character? Sometimes if a character concept is too alien then we just aren't quite as interested as we could be, my first character was a female human warrior monk who I just couldn't make any connection with to save my life, I just didn't enjoy playing as her so at the first opportunity, a couple sessions in I just had her leave and the crew picked up someone new and more in line with what I wanted in a character which at the time was a droid and I was much happier; I got to burn through Zombies as a pathfinding extraction droid, it was pretty fun. Likewise, if she isn't able to engage with her character properly, like she just couldn't imagine what a Dug would do on a day to day basis maybe a character change to something a bit more relatable would be a bit better. Through a short backstory it might be possible to define what this character wants in life and, perhaps more importantly determine exactly what this new character would do to get it. Determine if that character has any family or a well defined reason as to what put them on this particular path.

That being said; agency comes from within. It doesn't matter how hard you try you won't be able to draw out the roleplayer out of someone without them actively seeking to. Talk to her about what her expectations are and see whether she can engage the party to talk about stepping her role up.

 


Usually the problem with the Sandbox is that sandboxes aren't all that interesting, at least until the players start developing serious agency and self motivating ambition within the universe. My GM does give us free rain to make choices but he informs us that the events of the galaxy will continue with or without us. There are often several major events in the galaxy happening at once (Zjni's iron fist deploying the Kratos Virus, the Sith Lord trying to complete a ritual to some unholy site under the Jedi temple, or the Hutt's reorganising to form up a Hutt Empire, with several less impressive hooks doted throughout the narrative; such as helping pirates steal a valuable component, or a mysterious hyperspace coordinate left in the hands of a dying nemesis.) that we have to pick from. Some might linger for some time, others are time sentivie, the way I see it is the GM is the world in our adventure; he is the one who puts options into the world but it is up to ourselves to make interesting decisions. The issue with a sandbox is that it takes time to get to a point where we developed nichie enough to make those interesting decisions.

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So one of my players that isn't all that interested in the game blanks out every time we play and doesn't know what they can do/can't retain the information of options that are available. I made this for them, to be placed in front of them every time we play from now on. Will try to come back and report on if it works well or not.

 

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