True Player Engagement...

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DM Marcus
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True Player Engagement...

Post by DM Marcus » Tue Jun 03, 2014 5:28 pm

I would like to inquire of my fellow Judges, DMs and GMs a simple question that can have an elusive answer...

What steps do you follow to get your players truly invested in the story that is unfolding at your table? What talent or skill have you developed as a storyteller that more times than not, will have your players truly care about the dice rolls and the role play?

I ask because, if seems to be an elusive formula sometimes. Sometimes my players could not care less about saving the orphans or returning the artifact to its proper resting place.

Perhaps a better question is this (since the formula is a moving target): do you have an instance when the player buy-in was at a fever pitch and what happened leading up to that that made the moment matter so much? Why did they care? What caused them to invest their emotions? Or have you EVER had a game moment that resonated with true emotion from your players?

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GnomeBoy
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Re: True Player Engagement...

Post by GnomeBoy » Wed Jun 04, 2014 7:17 am

I just have to run whatever I think is the most interesting, exciting thing I can pull together. Maybe it will be for the players, too.

But I try not to sweat too much over how much they are 'buying-in', since this can be affected by their general mental state and whatever is going on for them at the time in their lives. They may seem indifferent at times, but may actually be very entertained, just under the weight of big changes at work or something else, and so the degree to which they are enjoying things may be hard or impossible to spot. I think we may have all been there; you're going through the motions of the game, welcome for the distraction from whatever is on your mind, but unable to really pour much of yourself into the game. Sometimes as GM you don't get the pick-me-up of knowing they liked a game until much later, in a casual comment -- and sometimes you don't get it at all.

But of course, when everyone is firing on all cylinders, super-charging the game by pouring creativity into it -- well, that's pretty hard to beat. It just can't happen all the time.
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Skyscraper
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Re: True Player Engagement...

Post by Skyscraper » Tue Jun 10, 2014 11:54 am

I of course have no absolute answer to that question.

Here are a few thoughts:

- don't expect or hope players to have what you call "true investment"
- players will have fun if a confluence of criteria are met: good story, good GMing, fun group of players, and other stuff that is hard to pin down
- players usually come to the table with less involvement than the GM. That's OK. The players that are too involved are usually a pain in the butt anyway :)
- I like laid-back players who get involved in the story during gaming sessions. This happens if the cooperative storytelling, or RPing, lifts. I emphasize the open-endedness of the game a lot, letting player decisions matter, allowing player descisions to influence the game and its outcomes, and trying to cast interesting NPCs that are fun to interact with. This usually promotes storytelling and RPing.
- "getting it right" is like a lot of stuff: if you try too hard, it just wont happen. Put an honest effort into it, but just let things fall on their own.
- the sweet spot for a game to work is evasive. With a same group of players, we changed GM and it didn't work anymore. If it doesn't work in your group with you as GM, try suggesting that another take a shot at GMing and see what happens. This is not a critisism towards you, it might simply be a compatibility issue. For example, one player in our group is probably the most fun player to have at the table when he's a player, very creative and funny, very good at RPing; but he's a lousy GM. I love him anyway.
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DM Marcus
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Re: True Player Engagement...

Post by DM Marcus » Tue Jun 10, 2014 5:27 pm

Thanks Sky Scraper for all the input. You offer some solid observations.

The players at my table could make any game fun, so I wasn't asking because I feel like our current game lacks anything. The question was geared more toward getting fellow GMs/Judges to reveal some of their own tips and tricks toward getting players involved.

I have always been a storyteller (professionally and as a GM/Judge for fun), but as GnomeBoy pointed out, it's a moving target. Players moods, work and family situation, etc can have an effect any given night.

I just find the mechanics of story-telling (movies, books, music) and RPG judging to be twins separated at birth. When a writer has to write a story for a television episode, he/she is required to hit the right notes before each commercial break and then the big dramatic moment at the episodes end. How can judges make sure they hit those same notes with emotional pay-offs reliably?

Do you think that the nature of RPGs, non-linear as the game is, makes hitting emotional notes an event that you really can't plan for?

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Re: True Player Engagement...

Post by GnomeBoy » Tue Jun 10, 2014 7:42 pm

DM Marcus wrote:I just find the mechanics of story-telling (movies, books, music) and RPG judging to be twins separated at birth. When a writer has to write a story for a television episode, he/she is required to hit the right notes before each commercial break and then the big dramatic moment at the episodes end. How can judges make sure they hit those same notes with emotional pay-offs reliably?
I'm not a huge fan of this brand of analogy, since I see 'finished' entertainment more the same as the game after it is played. Before play, you haven't written a script, you've brainstormed a script (to try to fit into your analogy). Even a 'finished' script still takes the actors to bring it to life, and their take on the characters and on the words can really change things. If you've ever seen multiple productions of the same play, you may find you very much prefer one to the others. When you design an RPG scenario, it's got to have room for the players to make it their own game, just as a written play has room for actors (and directors, lighting techs, etc.) to make it how they see it.

If you want to think of things like a tv show or a novel, keep in mind readers do put books down for a break anytime, not just at the end of a chapter. That doesn't make chapters meaningless. People pause tv, and take a phone call, etc. This doesn't spoil the novel nor the show for them. The author might be tearing their hair out, going "No, no, no! You stopped just before the...!", but once they put their book/whatever out into the world, they don't get to control how it is consumed. And as GM you should be following the lead of your players as much as you create leads for your players to follow. They get to control the flow, too.

The way you can hit the right notes at the right time is, for me, intuitive, and comes with practice, practice, practice. And ultimately, you don't hit them all the time.

And there are bigger issues to worry about in making a game. This kind of timing can suck up a lot of time to plan, that you might be better off using for other design time...
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Skyscraper
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Re: True Player Engagement...

Post by Skyscraper » Wed Jun 11, 2014 8:08 am

I pretty much agree with gnomeboy on all accounts.

I'm a part-time actor and I do some improv. I think that RPing is closest to imrov if anything. And for that to work, it requires players to be opened to another another's energy and initiatives; and it requires imagination. Not much more IMO.

The backbone of the story probably helps stimulate imagination.
Maledict Brothbreath, level 4 warrior, STR 16 (+2) AGI 7 (-1) STA 12 PER 9 INT 10 LUCK 15 (+1), AC: 16 Refl: +1 Fort: +2 Will: +1; lawful; Armor of the Lion and Lily's Blade.

Brother Sufferus, level 4 cleric, STR 13 (+1) AGI 15 (+1) STA 11 PER 13 (+1) INT 10 LUCK 9, AC: 11 (13 if wounded, 15 if down to half hit points), Refl: +3 Fort: +2 Will: +3, chaotic, Robe of the Faith, Scourge of the Maimed One, Darts of Pain.

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GnomeBoy
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Re: True Player Engagement...

Post by GnomeBoy » Wed Jun 11, 2014 11:42 am

Skyscraper wrote:I pretty much agree with gnomeboy on all accounts.

I'm a part-time actor and I do some improv. I think that RPing is closest to imrov if anything. And for that to work, it requires players to be opened to another another's energy and initiatives; and it requires imagination. Not much more IMO.

The backbone of the story probably helps stimulate imagination.
I always say 'yes' to this.
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Re: True Player Engagement...

Post by ragboy » Thu Jun 12, 2014 12:00 pm

My own experience has been similar to everyone's here: Give them the props and the conflict (and response to their actions). Let the characters tell the "story."
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Re: True Player Engagement...

Post by Wayfaring_Sword » Sun Jun 15, 2014 4:50 am

Keep in mind that it takes a few sessions for the players to become invested in their characters. While the 0-Level Funnel helps, it still might be several sessions before the players care. DCC is a lethal game, characters can die easily, that is also playing against you. The best advice I can offer is show up with your A game every time. Make sure your players have a reason for their characters to challenge fate other than XP and Gold. A good game is not decided with the first game, but what happens over the long run.
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Re: True Player Engagement...

Post by oncelor » Sun Jun 22, 2014 1:51 pm

I used to fashion campaigns that tried to tell epic stories, but I gave up on this years ago -- I guess I finally realized that players weren't really at the table to be a part of my cool story, and that the party, despite playing weekly, could barely remember even the basic elements of my cool story. My approach now is to try to figure out what my players like and to tailor my sessions to that. Presently I have one power-gamer, one tactician, one guy who likes to solve things, and one guy who likes the freedom to define and pursue his own epic agendas.

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