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D&D 5E Integrating a story-resistant player

emeraldbeacon

Explorer
I'm getting ready to start of War of the Burning Sky in a couple of days, and have been working towards integrating my players' characters into the backstory of the campaign. So far, most players have some existing connections to the story all planned out and ready to go! But one player has been extremely consistent in giving me virtually nothing to build off of. "He's a wanderer. He's just passing through Gate Pass. He helps people in need." But every time I ask why he's in Gate Pass specifically, or where he came from, or why he's moving through, I get utter radio silence. He hasn't shown up to any of our "pregame" chats.

Is this a player that is going to be more trouble than he's worth in the game? Do I need to make the tough call and give him a sharp ultimatum (give me more info or I'll have to let you go)? Or do I need to give this guy a chance in the game proper?
 

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jeffh

Adventurer
Some people need to how things actually work out in play before they have any real idea who their character is. Having run it to completion, WotBS gives plenty of opportunities to form connections after the campaign starts.
 

emeraldbeacon

Explorer
My issue is that I've asked several times, "why are you in this particular city? What brought you here?" And I get complete radio silence, or a non-commital "I'm just getting supplies." I don't think he's paid any attention to the players' guide, or my own attempts to tell the pre-story of the game. This is an online game, and I've never played with him before... but from our interactions, he seems to be barely interested at this point.

I'll give him a game or two to judge how things are going, to see if I need to take more draconian action.
 

niklinna

Looking for group
Have you played with this person before? Not even showing up for sessions, even if they are pre-game, is a red flag. What if he decides not to bother showing up for a game session?

I think it's fine if people aren't clear about what they want to play at the beginning, but they should be able to at least state that, instead of giving silence. Maybe he feels pressured and is afraid saying he doesn't know will get a bad reaction? It's also possible he's cool with not having any hooks and therefore getting less "screen time", but (if you also don't mind that) you might want to make that particular factor amply clear to him.
 

amethal

Adventurer
You could ask the player if he needs any help coming up with his backstory.

If he doesn't need any help, and genuinely doesn't care about backstory and/or just wants to play a drifter who goes wherever the whim takes him, is that a problem for your campaign?

As others have mentioned, the main issue is that his character might get less "screen time" as a result - but at this point that has become his problem, not yours.
 

Galandris

Foggy Bottom Campaign Setting Fan
I wouldn't be afraid of a short backstory. Not everyone is a writer and some might be able to come up with things on the fly. I build a few characters with significant "holes" in their backstory, filled during play.

I'd be much more worried by the inability to show up at the "session 0" chats, if he didn't excuse himself properly he might dump your campaign... (but then, since he'd be a loner just tagging along, it will be easy to remove him). If he just wanted to be less often in the limelight, why not?
 

Tormyr

Adventurer
You could also make it more open down the road with a means to integrate the character at a loss of surprise when something cool for the character comes up. The player could be given three story points that they can cash in over the course of the campaign to say, "this is someone I would like my PC to know from their travels." If knowing the person wouldn't break the story, you then tell them where they would have met, and what the PC would know about the NPC (and vice versa). If they have one use per arc (books 1-4, 5-8, 9-12), that gives them opportunities to be tied to the story every once in a while.

It would require the player to be okay with you writing their PC's backstory on the fly, but it could get a bit more buy in from the player.
 

John R White

Villager
If they are unsure of character backstory but you feel that one is integral to the start of the campaign you could always devise a few random tables for motivation, events and locatations.
 

emeraldbeacon

Explorer
Well, first session was yesterday, and aside from some technical difficulties and some first-session clumsiness, I'd say things went well!

Except the player in question for this thread "forgot about the game" and was a no-show (not the only absence, but the other player contacted me well in advance to notify me, and had a very legitimate reason keeping him away). I'm on my last straw with him, but I feel like I'm letting my frustrations get in the way of being fair. So, my current plan is to tell him something like...

I consider communication to be an extremely important part of D&D, especially in an online game where we don't have visual cues to go off of. This includes out-of-game situations, like how I've been asking you for character information. I can understand how you might have been distracted and forgot about the game, so I'm not holding this against you, but I really need to you show you actually care about being in this game, by engaging with both me and the online group in our discord chat.

I do understand that you might not want to commit to a character story this early, and that you might find the backstory & lore aspects of the game to be a little overwhelming. If you have any questions about the campaign world or how your character fits into it, PLEASE contact me, and we can work out a story for you! If you don't want to have a story, that's okay too; it just means you won't get the same level of engagement in the campaign that everyone else might.
 


emeraldbeacon

Explorer
Yay for first session! Boo that people didn't make it. Good luck with forming a stable party.
One reason I aimed to start with a bigger group... room for attrition, if people left the game. Even if you end up with a party imbalance, story trumps stats, and I can adjust difficulty on the fly.
 

Jmarso

Adventurer
I never ask players to develop a big backstory at first, because, to put it bluntly, not every low-level character makes it to the top of Tier 1.

Plus, having one or two players with 'mystery backgrounds', so to speak, leaves you a little room as DM to 'fill that in' on your own if it makes for an interesting plot hook or story point later in the campaign.
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
This seems multiple red signs. I would actually cut them now before their character has ever had any interaction with the group, so their exit does not affect the ongoing narrative.

If he replies to your missive and seems contrite and willing to change, tell him the minimum you need from him is his call to adventure - why does he wander and help people?
 


billd91

Hobbit on Quest (he/him)
Personally, I would not re-invite someone who ghosted the first session. I just don't see that sort of relationship ending well.
Mistakes happen. I wouldn't assume someone 'ghosted' the first session rather than actually forgot. That said, in this situation, it does sound like he isn't all that engaged with the game anyway - so it's no wonder he forgot, it that's what he truly did.
 

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