Player Engagement Outside of Session Time


I know. This is a perennial issue, but I'm frustrated right now so bear with me. ("Bare with me?" I don't actually know...)

Anyway: I am starting a new Starfinder campaign (YAY) using the Fly Free or Die AP (YAY) and I am desperately trying to get my players to put in 20 minutes to read the Player's Guide for the AP (BOO).

Why is it so damn hard to get players to put in even the tiniest effort outside of the designated hours of the campaign?

This isn't a Starfinder issue. It happens all the time. Sure, you find the occasional player who writes in character journals or does artwork or plans their advancement 20 levels before they need to, but those are the exception that prove the rule.

I'm not askinga lot, am I? Just read the thing so you know the set up, and pick a background so I know how to engage your character with the specified NPCs. Hell, i didn't even ask you to read the rules on trade -- which will be important later.

Ugh. Players. Amirite?

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I have experienced this, and I have no idea why. There seems no rhyme or reason. The most engaged and wonderful players during play time are just as recalcitrant as the other players between sessions. A thing to read, a request for ideas or feedback... even confirmation of scheduling items.... no-one wants to reply. No clue.


Leave a copy in each of their bathrooms.

Seriously though, I have no clue either. My players do some things like my brother paints minis or makes terrain and my son will look at new classes or builds. My father planned his spells for playing a wizard instead of a fighter for the first time in like 15 years.

Is it like a PC backstory where I will read a paragraph or two, but cringe at reading 5 pages of back lore that likely will never come up. Seems like some things belong on each side of the table where players feel the world is developed by the DM and told to them and the PC is the players baby where the DM does not care what happened before 1st level.


This is just the way players....really people are. Really, with nearly anything, asking some people to make any effort to do anything is just too much. Even when it would directly benefit them. People are people.

For a typical game, I make a player handout that the players don't read before the game. Then when the game starts they are confused at the very least by things and at worst are just lost.

The players will have a hundred questions about the most basic things, ninety nine of them are answered in the handout.

If there was anything a player wanted to know or was confused about, they could have e-mailed/texted me at any time before the game. Even worse here is where a player does not understand a game rule. Then the player will suddenly want to stop, disrupt, and derail the game asking "so what does this spell do?", often as soon as combat starts.

Every so often you find a good player that does engage, but not too often.


Mod Squad
Staff member
I know. This is a perennial issue, but I'm frustrated right now so bear with me. ("Bare with me?" I don't actually know...)

Bear. As in weight bearing. You don't want folks shucking down on this one.

Why is it so damn hard to get players to put in even the tiniest effort outside of the designated hours of the campaign?

Because life is incredibly busy for most folks?


I don't believe in the no-win scenario
I made a thread here on how essential I find players guides. Sadly, a lot of people seem to not like them.

I've taken to a lot of one shot gaming hoping to find the right folks for campaigns.

I mostly run GURPS, where character generation is somewhat time-consuming and can't sensibly be done in-session. So my players are used to working on their characters by themselves and consulting me via e-mail or 'phone. At the start of a new campaign, I'll write a concept document that covers the basics of what characters will need to do, and explains some of the background, so that they know why. I'm also reasonably firm about rejecting character concepts that can't work (example: a vampire in a campaign which will involve a lot of journeys through inter-world portals with no synchronisation of time of day between worlds).

Rather than trying to get your players to read the published AP guide, is it worth writing a summary, with changes according to how you plan to run it? Your players may be more willing to read something you wrote specifically for them.

aramis erak

I've had a handful of players, out of several hundred over the last 4 decades, willing to do any outside reading at all. Most of the time, what outside knowledge is required was because half or more of the group likes the licensed IP of the game I was running. When I ran BTVS, I was the second least familiar with the series in the group, having seen seasons 1-4 in binge mode (and buying the later ones during the campaign.)

The exception being when I was prepping to run alien... where four of the 6 watched Alien and Aliens as a weekend sleepover activity. (My group is decades younger than me.) THose 4 don't mind deep lore games, but want to be fed the lore in bite-sized chunks with varying depth by skill roll result.


Maybe many players are interested in a No Myth, Story Now approach to gaming--even if they aren't familiar with the terminology and debates around such terms? Ie, they're more interested in driving play themselves with a relatively clean slate rather than largely serving as passive participants in a pre-crafted, GM-curated game?

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