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How do I get more roleplaying out of my Players?


I would like to get more role playing out of my game. Our average session begins with someone needing to catch up their character and then leads into my recap. After a short speach I remind the characters of their exact situation they left off.

Normally a session begins in either the wilderness or a town. If there is nothing urgent at the time they begin doing simple bartering, pick pocketing (rarely), and looking for some kind of job. A few of the PC's play diplomatic characters and tend to get into lengthy conversations with NPC's trying to recruit, gather information, and accidently sprining arguments.

The other PC's make up a forray of characters varying from a half-celestial human psion to a half-dragon Githyanki fighter. The characters that are not diplomats don't really interact with the acception of killing things and bickering amongst themselves. When a generic quest like kill the troll pops up they rarely spring in to action so they need other kinds of motivation. Treasures namely.

The PC's know my intentions are false and apply metagame physics to over-lucritive opportunities. Even if I was to make such an opportunity they would pass it up. They want to think they bluffed me. If I show them the item, possibly in the possession of a powerful NPC located in the town or by noticing a dragon in the sky they go after it.

They fail sometimes, which of course begins a chase, fight, or other encounter.

Then rinse and repeat mostly... sometimes they get involved in a war for fun, sometimes they side with a leader to gain more experience and gold, and sometimes they get a prostitute pregnant.

Generally I never see epic plots, which I am fine with because epics should remain epics. They only happen once in a while.

The issue I find annoying is that there is never any important interaction outside the party. They don't make friends, though they do make enemies. Metagame thinking prevents me from tieing important npc's to the party, "the DM is sure making this guy stick out... at least a little bit... I don't trust this character, but maybe I can get some information or equipment from him."

If the PC's can get something out of him and end the association there they often kill, abandon, or mislead the NPC. If they encounter him again they expect to either continue abandoning, killing, or misleading him unless they see immediate information.

One ally they always keep is the generic Powerful Good Cleric . If that kind of character needs help they jump up and obey, as long as there are no strings attached.

Next session, tomorrow, I am going to try another hook.
The Greater Evil hook. Enemy A is more powerful than the PC's and is their competition. Enemy B is the constable from a town the PC's are infamous in for less than legal activities. Enemy C is the Ogre Mage bastard the PC's have never encountered before and has all plans to eliminate Enemy A, is a bigger agrivation to Enemy B, and is holding not one, but two of the PC's hostage (of 9 total PC's in the campaign).

I am hoping the PC's follow the hook and aid either A or B, but there needs to be a reason they don't want to backstab A or B.

A is going to be important because only he knows how to free the PC's appropriately for the time being. B can only offer immunity from their current record of crimes in his jurisdiction.

This is my first step to getting roleplaying going. If you think you can improve/replace my idea, or have other steps I can take then inform me. Keep in mind that hey "want" to roleplay, they need a little help though.

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First Post
It sounds like they are playing a party full of Eddie Haskells! (If the reference is unfamiliar, don't worry.)

In general, they sound like they are being general public nuisances, with the exception of the convenient relationships such as the good cleric for resurrections.

It sounds like carrots on sticks are working, but you may not be using the right type of carrot.

I say, make their sorry butts pay for their aggravations. Get them involved in the community.
  • Do they train for level gains, or do they just happen? If they have trainers, these trainers are eventually going to want more than just money for their aggravation. If character #1 won't do quest X or Y, they don't get trained. If character #2 doesn't help his trainer win the heart of his beloved, then he is too distraught to train him. If character #3 is too busy being a successful con-man and thief, then his trainer, who has picked up on this fact, will bribe him into absconding with a powerful item in exchange for training. After a certain level, they CAN'T FIND trainers for what they want - unless they are willing to pay triple the time and money to train. Remember that.
  • Do the characters tick off everyone in the community? It's not wise to do so, because word eventually gets back to that good cleric. The good cleric is going to want them to atone before he has anythign to do with them.
  • That Barmaid they got pregnant? Turns out it was the local 15th level Artistocratic Lord's daughter, who ran away from home to see the world! She got infatuated with a handsome adventurer - who has just knocked her up. DAD'S gonna want satisfaction, and he's gonna want his future son-in-law to present him with an appropriate dowry for his "damaged goods."
  • The NPC they just abandoned for dead? He was the good cleric's long-lost son; he was just on his way to see dad, but dad tells the PC's that he hasn't arrived yet, and dad is afraid some brigands have befallen him. Would they go and see to his safety? :)

My point is that the world will not stop idly while it waits for the PC's to get involved. The world will MAKE the PC's get involved, or it will roll over them in its eternal march forward. The PC's will go from being PROactive to being REactive. That's what you want to remove those jaded feelings. If the world is moving then they have to move to keep up.

Good luck and I hope some of this helped!


The concept of trainers being more important NPC's is something I'm taking off your list to use. Some of your plots are good ideas, with the exception that the particular cleric is celebatel. The prostitute they killed, but I always wanted the kid to grow up wanting to meet daddy. With the PC's the way they are I would expect them to try and kill him... which leads into more and more plots, etc.


First Post
Personally, I would handle a problem like this "out of game". Clearly there is a conflict in gaming styles between you and some of your players. You seem like you want to run a heroic game with some long term storylines and a good dose of roleplaying; some of your players seem like they just want to accumulate treasure and kill stuff.

Try talking to your players and see if you can find a style of play that suits everyone. You can also try to convey the type of game you want to run to your "problem" players and see if they would be willing to adapt their style of play a bit.

You can try in-game solutions all you want, but if your players can't or don't want to roleplay, it probably will just be more frustrating for you.

Also, I'm not sure what alignments these folks are playing, but you can always use XP penalties for "breaking alignment" and using too much Meta-Game knowledge.


First Post
creamsteak said:
The concept of trainers being more important NPC's is something I'm taking off your list to use. Some of your plots are good ideas, with the exception that the particular cleric is celebatel. The prostitute they killed, but I always wanted the kid to grow up wanting to meet daddy. With the PC's the way they are I would expect them to try and kill him... which leads into more and more plots, etc.

Excellent! Just keep the overriding theme in mind - make your world come to them, and "hit them where it hurts" - involve things that they need or take for granted in your plots. Make them feel that the merri-go-round isn't stopping just because they feel like a night of looting the town jeweler. Every single one of their actions has a consequence - you just have to figure out what those are!

Good luck!

William Ronald

It seems the player characters assume that the world exists solely for their benefit; it is time to disabuse them of the notion.

For those who are reluctant to role play, have them encounter people who matter to them. The half-celestial (who seems not to be acting in a good manner by robbing the jewel merchant) may run into a relative who scolds him for his behavior. Or one who is legitimately worried about him. Of course, agents of darker powers might want to have him as a follower and try to manipulate him. If he refuses, they may decide he is a hindrance to their plans. On a more mundane level, the character may see someone who once knew him. Have this character talk to him. If the player is foolish enough to attack the old friend, have him get a rude surprise. (Project image is a wonderful spell. As is unseen servant.)

The githyanki half-dragon is darn lucky he is not being chased by villagers with torches and pitch forks. He may meet members of his own kind who wonders what he is doing slumming with the humans. They may have certain ideas on how he can advance their agenda, and might not be willing to take no for an answer. (Her majesty, the lich queen, might take a personal interest in the character -- if he is likely to be a threat to her power or machinations.) Of course, the character may have a few githzerai out looking for him. It would be reasonable for the githyanki half-dragon to be contacted by someone with a grudge against the illithid. (Unless of course, this person is an agent of the illithid.) The key is to make interactions which the characters can's solve just by loping someone's head off. (If they try an attack in a public square, send in some competent guards with nets and clubs. Or worse, another party of adventurers helps the guards.)

Merchants do not like to be intimidated, and may have a few hired guns looking for the party. It would be nasty if a rogue with a few levels of cleric infiltrated the party and tried to engineer their downfall. Or they could be declared persona non-grata and forbidden to enter the town. As word of their bad reputations spread, few people will want to associate with them. (Morale: people do not like being treated badly.)

I suggest that the good cleric starts to hear bad news about his associates. He demands penance. If the party is stupid enough to attack the character in his own temple, then they should be ready for nasty consequences.

Trainers are important. Imagine if the only person who could train one of the characters was the friend or relative of someone they offended? No training. Worse, training but with an additional cost. (Amulet of inescapable location.)

Another thing I try to do is put characters in social situations. Weddings and funerals are great. The characters might have to say something appropriate to the occasion. This can impact on their reputation in the community. Or have the wedding or funeral be for someone the non-role players would actually care about.

You can not force a person to role play; you can only set up opportunities. Try to do so. Remember, if the characters act like automatons maybe everyone else will treat them that way. Similarly, characters who think they own the world usually will find that they don't.

The difference between role playing and roll playing is the distance between the human heart and the dice rolling hand.


Your talking about what to do about the characters actions, which is a totally seperate issue. Im trying to encourage them to solve problems in character and play their role, not just interact with the world. When you send Enemy X at them, they will solve the problem however they see to be the easiest or most efficient way, but they don't solve the problem as a person sees it.

If I tell player A his brother is kidnapped he doesn't care. Do you see what I am saying? They don't play like they are in the game. They play like they are outside the box looking in. I like some of your ideas, but thats all about the story of the game and the key players. You could help me more by giving me ways to use your ideas to force them into wanting to save their brother. Does that make any sense?


"If I tell player A his brother is kidnapped he doesn't care."

The first question I musk ask you is: Do you ask him why??

It seems to me that they just want to dungeon-hop and not much more. There are some who "get into the spirit" of roleplay and some who don't (whether they don't feel like it, they're afraid of bumbling or ridicule, etc). You're going to have to talk to them to get the answers you seek.

"The PC's know my intentions are false and apply metagame physics to over-lucritive opportunities. Even if I was to make such an opportunity they would pass it up. They want to think they bluffed me. If I show them the item, possibly in the possession of a powerful NPC located in the town or by noticing a dragon in the sky they go after it."

Again, this is something that should be hashed out by all of you ASAP. They could be bored. You might have to make changes (someone else DM's, different setting, a couple of weeks off to "get everyone to recharge their batteries") but whatever they are, there must be communication from all players. Let them say what's on their minds -- and most of all, Listen (don't be defensive).

William Ronald


Sorry I did not get back to you sooner. I had some problems trying to post a reply and was away from home (and my PC) most of the day.

It is difficult to make someone care. Indeed, I have known people who were so indifferent that they have endangered their lives and their health. (Also, hurting loved ones in the process.) Sometimes it is difficult to make a person care about the real world, let alone relatives of a fictional character.

However, actions and inaction do have their consequences. Consider. How many people would want to associate with someone who did not lift a hand to save his own brother? Would anyone wish to train such a character? Also, how would other friends and family members react. In the case of the half-dragon githyanki and the half-celestial, they may find that they have irate relatives. As much as some families fight amongst themselves, it is quite another thing for an outside enemy to come in and cause harm. Possibly the characters could find that they are targeted for vengeance by grieved loved ones.

Then there is always the chance that the death of someone will effect the character. There is the possibility of an angry, vengeful ghost. Or possibly sacrificing a character's brother will help a PCs enemy be in a position to harm him. In Celtic mythology, there was a weapon called a tathlum -- essentially a human head covered with layers of lime. When thrown at a relative or friend of the deceased, it could be potentially lethal.

In game, I think NPCs will resent being used or abused by PCs. They may find every open door slammed shut. They may even have trouble being hired as adventurers, for who can trust a faithless man. (If you had to hire an adventurer, would you want someone who did not even take the time to save the life of his own brother? Probably not.)

I think that you need to also reward role playing. Possibly you could reward good role playing. A positive incentive might work. It is often easier to use a carrot and a stick, rather than just a carrot or a stick.

By all means talk to the players. It seems that you and at least some of the players have different visions about what you want out of the campaign. I second mixmaster's advice, and urge you to talk and listen to your players. I hope it works out. If not, chalk it up to a learning experience and move on. Sometimes that is all you can do - in life or gaming.


First Post
creamsteak said:
...Keep in mind that they "want" to roleplay, they need a little help though.

I'd think that anyone who wanted to roleplay would go for the big, neon "family member in danger" sign, especially in a group of relative novices. It sounds like you have some players who want to be social and fall into a role, and others who just want to break stuff. You'll have to work to keep things flowing.

Training is good. Reputations can be good if they hinder the party's access to Stuff. I'd also reccomend putting a kibosh on all non-PHB races or possibly even all non-humans after this. (I know some people will disagree with me, but in my experience good roleplayers would rather be known for their exploits and abilities, while bad roleplayers are more likely to want grand, implausible backgrounds and lists of stuff. Templates and odd races tend towards the latter.)

But I agree that the best things to encourage roleplaying are sitting down and talking with everyone, and small carrots. (May I reccomend a small XP bonus, maybe 10 for appropriately placed catch phrases and war cries, and 50 or 100 for following up on a "useless" interest if it drives play or makes a good scene.) Good luck.

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