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Player Engagement Conundrum

   
Player Engagement Conundrum

Disclaimer: This is not a complaint. It is not directed at any specific player/s. This is a genuine inquiry from a MW DM and player.

Setup (This is a conceptual scenario): A GM has created a new game/adventure. This is not a sandbox game. They select their 5 players and post the opening post: "You have all been summoned to a town square in the metropolis of Sigil by flying fiery gerbils. with acidic smelling breath, carrying personal missives to each of you, delivered by a screeching magic mouth cast on each gerbil.
You are to meet a devil in a green cap in the town square. You each arrive in the town square around noon and spot a devil in a green cap.
"

The next thing to happen is that the GM gets four lengthy response posts (the first in the game) describing each character, how they arrived in the town square and how they're doing all sorts of great or sneaky stuff, some of them even speaking to each other, but none of which includes speaking to or engaging the devil in a green cap, with one player approaching the devil to engage.

That one player and the GM will now wait anywhere from a day to several weeks RLT until all five players deign to speak to the devil and the adventure can get under way.

Question: Why?

Given how many games die here do to attrition.
Given the players signed up for an adventure, not a sandbox.
Given that PbP is slow and even if a game survives, it'll last years and you'll have plenty of time to prove your roleplaying chops over your rollplaying chops...


Why delay the adventure getting off the ground..?

So from the one time I ran a PbP game that lasted longer than a month (2 years is my record, FYI), the trick I used was not to leave it to the PCs to get the plot started. I started with action.

Because I believe in examples, this is literally what I did: I let the PCs gather up at a meeting room, gave them a week's worth of posts to chat with each other (at the time, I was wrapping up finals and projects and promised a project teammate I wouldn't start the game in full until after we did our presentation), then have a major NPC show up to give the briefing of the job (the main quest).

After giving the PCs a bit of time to ask questions and RP a bit more, I then hit the freakin' Airship that was the initial set piece with a massive attack, leading to the death of what everyone had assumed would be a major NPC (not the one who gave the briefing, who I killed much later on), and sinking the airship. The PCs escape in a dramatic fashion, and began the main quest, with the knowledge that the enemy that attacked them would be after them too.

In all reality, however, I attribute my success in that game to the fantastic players I had. They kept it going, although I like to think I got things rolling with that bit of action at the beginning, keeping things from burning out fast.

Yamazaki, thank you for your reply and for keeping a game on the Weave alive for 2 years! I applaud that (IMHO). That also sounds like a cool game intro scenario.

While I appreciate all responses, I just want to make sure I keep this on track by stating that I am not searching for a means by which to avoid this particular type of scenario, I am trying to understand the logic and reasoning for it happening in the first place.

I guess I'm trying to get a peak behind the curtain of some player's minds. There must be some reason they choose to behave this way... Must it always come back to a GM's failure to engage the players?
They clearly lay out what they wish the players to do. Its an adventure, linear or otherwise, its has a plot...

The phrase that comes to mind is"begin as you intend to continue." If you want action from the players, force them to action. If you want then to wine and dine some NPCs then they should still have stated goals.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sorithar View Post
Yamazaki, thank you for your reply and for keeping a game on the Weave alive for 2 years! I applaud that (IMHO). That also sounds like a cool game intro scenario.
Thanks, although I must admit it was not here on MW, but another forum.

As for the player mindset, I think I might have a touch of insight, as I've dealt with it from time to time: option paralysis. To use the example you used in the opening post, I can see myself freezing up before even talking to the particular NPC, because I cannot figure out how I want to approach him/her/it. This can be compounded when the character hasn't been fully fleshed out yet (this is one of those occasions where I appreciate pre-game IC threads).

Furthermore, it should be stated that many players out there are very passive players. They're better at reacting than being proactive. These types can be difficult to engage without dragging them into the plot and giving them something to react to. So to return to the original example, such a player would find the devil in question, but not approach it. They instead take a 'wait and see' method to the story, seeing what other players do first.

There is also the characters who are too cool for such interactions, but we won't go there. We can assume that the chosen players are above such terrible edgelord characters.

Now, I'm no expert in dealing with these players, because I'm often that kind of player (yay minor social anxiety!), but my theory is, as I try to get myself out of those hang-ups, is to discuss these things with the player(s) in question.

I will also point out that there is still the trope of the Adversarial GM, the "Gotcha!" GM who exists to spring traps on their players. In this case, someone who was primed for it would be very wary about going up to a fiend and striking up a conversation. "You greet them and tell them your name? Your full name? A-hahaha! Now the devil has your true name and will steal your soul!"

You specified it's not a sandbox and that players know that. But, it's also a Planescape game in which they have just been summoned by a fiend. The suspicion that something is "not right" about this situation is going to be strong in the heads of any experienced player. So they'll scout the area. Meet allies. Make preparations. All of which ARE engaging with the game, if not exactly in the manner you seem to want them to.
I know you said this was a hypothetical. But if this rather suspicious setup is an example of how you start games, you shouldn't be surprised if players engage with the game in some manner other than running straight up and clicking on the quest giver. Accept that players are rarely going to do what you want and look for how they ARE engaged in the game. Play to that. Make them feel like their paranoia had some sort of result, either good or bad, just don't let it blow the game up completely. Throw them a bone or two, feed them some reassuring info and eventually, they'll get down to business.

I believe I've been on multiple sides of this problem. Here's what happens:

The DM sets you up to arrive at a place and talk to the Quest Giver. You arrive and talk to the Quest Giver, doing the expected action. This locks you into an engagement. Behind you, the other characters arrive and, because they don't want to do the exact same thing and be boring, they do something Different.

Which leads to engagement. And they start playing the game.

Without you.

Because you're locked into the Quest Giver and the DM never posts until everyone comes over. Which leads to you missing out.

That's typically what happens with these kinds of starts. It seems your players were too excited about your game to risk missing out on playing it.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Yamazaki View Post
Thanks, although I must admit it was not here on MW, but another forum.

As for the player mindset, I think I might have a touch of insight, as I've dealt with it from time to time: option paralysis. To use the example you used in the opening post, I can see myself freezing up before even talking to the particular NPC, because I cannot figure out how I want to approach him/her/it. This can be compounded when the character hasn't been fully fleshed out yet (this is one of those occasions where I appreciate pre-game IC threads).
OK, interesting. Seems self defeating. That game has just begun. Why would there be options or a fleshed out character. You literally just made this character (or possibly made them earlier but are reviving them in a new setting)...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Yamazaki View Post
Furthermore, it should be stated that many players out there are very passive players. They're better at reacting than being proactive. These types can be difficult to engage without dragging them into the plot and giving them something to react to. So to return to the original example, such a player would find the devil in question, but not approach it. They instead take a 'wait and see' method to the story, seeing what other players do first.
I guess this can't be helped, though it is unfortunate and might cost the very game the passive player has been selected to. I think it would not be unfair to say, don't be a passive player. Passive players don't keep games alive, certainly not in this medium.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Yamazaki View Post
There is also the characters who are too cool for such interactions, but we won't go there. We can assume that the chosen players are above such terrible edgelord characters.
I would hope. But there's some of everything out there.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Yamazaki View Post
Now, I'm no expert in dealing with these players, because I'm often that kind of player (yay minor social anxiety!), but my theory is, as I try to get myself out of those hang-ups, is to discuss these things with the player(s) in question.
I agree that's good advice if the problem persists.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Raveled View Post
I will also point out that there is still the trope of the Adversarial GM, the "Gotcha!" GM who exists to spring traps on their players. In this case, someone who was primed for it would be very wary about going up to a fiend and striking up a conversation. "You greet them and tell them your name? Your full name? A-hahaha! Now the devil has your true name and will steal your soul!"
While I'm sure these GMs exist, I assume they're in the minority and their game will likely fail for other reasons.
Lets not get hung up on the example I set. Assume the devil was a human and the location was some town on the Flaness. Problem still stands.







 

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