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DiscipleOfOdd

How Do You Coax Players Into Being More Active?

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So my family (my current beta RPG group) and I just did our second session, in which they had to deliver a shipment full of illicit and unknown goods to an Imperial Officer for his own "independent business venture" and as an extension of their favor, they had to break into a secure Imperial Records facility and erase sensitive data that could link this business venture to the Officer in exchange for 1,000 Credits.

The adventure went great: they had help along the way from some inside men working for the Officer, got to the records facility, and ended up in a fight against a Stormtrooper (who stabbed a few of the crew) before the Outlaw Tech managed to rig some left-behind tools and E-11 Energy Packs together in the facility's power center to overload the place and explode.  Next session we're gonna round things out with a space battle; the Officer double-crossed them (imagine how it would look if he let the terrorists go free!) and they have to fix their damaged hyperdrive before they can get out of there.

Here's my problem I kept running into: I had to keep either coaxing them into making decisions or they handled the situation in a manner that would have yielded them little-to-no help at all and I had to have the world lovingly re-direct them to the proper path.  Regardless, I feel like they haven't fully "jumped in the pool" yet.  Does anybody have any tips on how I can help with that?  I'm planning on the next story being completely dictated by them and their actions with no plot and way more of a sandbox feel, but I still worry about their hesitance not leaving me much to work with (not to mention one player is 10 years old and makes his Outlaw Tech Mechanic Droid punch everything).

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This advice is pretty general but I hope it applies...

1. Present clear problems/challenges/threats:

Make the essential thing they should be dealing with plain and in their face (or imminent).

2. Try to avoid challenge/threat setups that have a "proper path" of resolution:

Some may be better than others but if designed well (something we're all working on as GMs) different paths of resolution mean different trade-offs and consequences down the road.

Not that you can't run "the stormtroopers are shooting at you" scenarios but they may shoot back (resolved by combat victory) or escape or deception or other form of security (locking the troopers away from themselves).

As for the 10-year old - I'd recommend regularly throwing things into encounters/scenarios for them to chew on and interact with they find interesting that are specifically well-suited to their character's strengths and interests.  Let their character's good skills come up as useful and obviously applicable.  It could be some challenge to overcome that the rest of the party depends on their PC to deal with (get the door open, extend the bridge, repair the ship component/system, etc).

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I run a near-sandbox campaign and you don't get completely past this. Sometimes the players talk themselves down a route that you're sitting there as GM going "that would never, ever work" (in which case you just point this out) but the real danger is "that's almost certain to fail" ... because it lulls you into letting them proceed until they're invested in a course of action, only to have them predictably fail the high difficulty roll. If that's happening a lot, no one will be having much fun. IMO, fun is your number one priority. 

In each segment of the campaign, I write in "bail-out" NPCs for each major aspect of gameplay: failed combat, overmatched combat, researching information, legal trouble. Some bail-out NPCs can serve multiple roles. These NPCs are normally on the periphery of the plot and only intervene if the party is just stuck - in the ideal run, they'd never be more than flavor.  

Failed combat - this is the NPC or group that stages a breakout/rescue of the PCs. They don't even necessarily need to care about the PCs ... maybe they're breaking out the guy in the next cell over. If you introduced the guy in the next cell over getting captured earlier in the campaign, or planted the rumor that the group was upset because Next Cell Guy was captured, it feels a lot less like "Hand of the GM" and a lot more like "Sweet, this is exactly what he/she planned us to do! Wow, he/she's good!" Of course, they certainly can care about the PCs. Their employer or their contacts don't want them talking. They have some item someone needs. Or it's a legitimate straight-up rescue - think Yoda arriving at the end of Attack of the Clones when Obi-Wan and Anakin are laying on the floor about to be slaughtered by Dooku.

Overmatched combat - Could be the same as above, but I tend to prefer this be a merc or contact who will assist the PCs. Sometimes for a price.

Researching - In urban environments, this is super easy - there's any number of experts wandering around. Pretty easy to introduce casually in another setting - drinking at the cantina or some such, getting into a loud argument with their colleagues over some new theory.

Legal trouble - This is who cleans up after the PCs if they leave a legal mess. Or, worst case, this is who gets them out of town. Could be actual legal help. More likely someone who pays off officials and/or deletes traces. This one should usually have a cost attached, even if (especially if) it's not in credits. Great way to introduce a non-sandbox quest into a sandbox campaign, by the way.

 

And any of these NPCs make great overheard/found on the holonet/word on the street rumor targets for advantages PCs get on various social, slicing or streetwise checks.

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5 minutes ago, Jedi Ronin said:

As for the 10-year old - I'd recommend regularly throwing things into encounters/scenarios for them to chew on and interact with they find interesting that are specifically well-suited to their character's strengths and interests.  Let their character's good skills come up as useful and obviously applicable.  It could be some challenge to overcome that the rest of the party depends on their PC to deal with (get the door open, extend the bridge, repair the ship component/system, etc).

All of those sound great!  I'll try to get more creative with working on what they throw at me and building a more open-ended experience.

The 10 year old is gonna be a challenge to cater to though.  He built his character as a Tech guy solely because he liked a little comedic character idea somebody spouted at the table in passing, but he also wants his guy to be an action god because... y'know, he's an IG model assassin droid (on the fritz).  Not to mention he's a VERY headstrong and argumentative little dude...  But throwing him a proverbial "chew toy" may just pacify him and keep him from shooting Joe Nobody walking down the sidewalk because he wants to be funny and cool.  XD

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2 minutes ago, sarg01 said:

I run a near-sandbox campaign and you don't get completely past this. Sometimes the players talk themselves down a route that you're sitting there as GM going "that would never, ever work" (in which case you just point this out) but the real danger is "that's almost certain to fail" ... because it lulls you into letting them proceed until they're invested in a course of action, only to have them predictably fail the high difficulty roll. If that's happening a lot, no one will be having much fun. IMO, fun is your number one priority. 

In each segment of the campaign, I write in "bail-out" NPCs for each major aspect of gameplay: failed combat, overmatched combat, researching information, legal trouble. Some bail-out NPCs can serve multiple roles. These NPCs are normally on the periphery of the plot and only intervene if the party is just stuck - in the ideal run, they'd never be more than flavor.  

Failed combat - this is the NPC or group that stages a breakout/rescue of the PCs. They don't even necessarily need to care about the PCs ... maybe they're breaking out the guy in the next cell over. If you introduced the guy in the next cell over getting captured earlier in the campaign, or planted the rumor that the group was upset because Next Cell Guy was captured, it feels a lot less like "Hand of the GM" and a lot more like "Sweet, this is exactly what he/she planned us to do! Wow, he/she's good!" Of course, they certainly can care about the PCs. Their employer or their contacts don't want them talking. They have some item someone needs. Or it's a legitimate straight-up rescue - think Yoda arriving at the end of Attack of the Clones when Obi-Wan and Anakin are laying on the floor about to be slaughtered by Dooku.

Overmatched combat - Could be the same as above, but I tend to prefer this be a merc or contact who will assist the PCs. Sometimes for a price.

Researching - In urban environments, this is super easy - there's any number of experts wandering around. Pretty easy to introduce casually in another setting - drinking at the cantina or some such, getting into a loud argument with their colleagues over some new theory.

Legal trouble - This is who cleans up after the PCs if they leave a legal mess. Or, worst case, this is who gets them out of town. Could be actual legal help. More likely someone who pays off officials and/or deletes traces. This one should usually have a cost attached, even if (especially if) it's not in credits. Great way to introduce a non-sandbox quest into a sandbox campaign, by the way.

 

And any of these NPCs make great overheard/found on the holonet/word on the street rumor targets for advantages PCs get on various social, slicing or streetwise checks.

Oo, I really like the idea of backup plan NPCs!  There were a few points in storytelling where I had to kinda steer things in a direction (a Stormtrooper Lieutenant really wouldn't give directions to highly classified databanks to a bunch of rag-tag pretending-to-be-lost riff-raff), and really didn't have anything planned to get them where they needed.  I'll definitely work on some plot points, scenarios, and NPCs that can guide or adjust the story to head in the best direction for everyone and keep things on track. 

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Getting players more active?

Would a paid subscription to Planet Fitness be subtle enough?

Maybe a size Medium T-Shirt?  That's kind of hard though.  Even if you lose weight that might still be too small.

I really don't like to RP in nature and since I live in Florida temperatures tend to hover somewhere between 80 - 100 degrees . . . and we have Zika infested mosquitoes too, but you could plan your session a mile down a hiking trail.  Maybe start half a mile at first?

Another thing would be to plan time to do Paint Ball.  What RP'er doesn't also like Paint Ball?

Huh, good question, but this is the best I've got so far.

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