Player Engagement Outside of Session Time

Reynard

Legend
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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Longspeak

Adventurer
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.
 

aco175

Legend
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.
 

bloodtide

Adventurer
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.
 

Umbran

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?
 

payn

Legend
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

Legend
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.
 

darkbard

Hero
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?
 

JAMUMU

go, hunt. kill haribos.
I think it's because RPGing is a hobby. I play squash, but I don't hammer a squash ball off a wall or stand about swinging a racket in my spare time, because although I enjoy playing squash I'm just not that invested in it.

I'm very invested in my bodywork, so I do that whenever I get a free moment in a clear space. It's a hobby I take more seriously.

Roleplaying games are generally taken most seriously by GMs, of which I am one, and we're the people who devote the largest amount of "out of session" time to the games we're running. We think about our game world, about plots and themes and NPCs and hooks and prepare adventures and handouts and maps and what have you. You get the odd player who does that too, but it certainly isn't an expectation of mine.

Turn up, bring dice, have a vague idea of where we left it last session (and only one player really needs to do that, as everyone else remembers when prompted). People live very busy lives; expecting them to devote time to a hobby outside of hobby-time places an unfair onus on them, imho.
 

payn

Legend
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?
Not my experience at all. Of course, many gamers say they want this style of play, but are not capable of being proactive. 🤷‍♂️
 

Reynard

Legend
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?
That's possible, but you would think it might have come up during the "Hey, i want to run this Starfinder AP. Want to play?" portion of the discussion.
 

werecorpse

Adventurer
Yup you are not alone. When I am a player I’m the opposite. I want to know why my character is involved in the hijinks and some background as to what they know about the set up. I also hate missing the set up in the first 5 minutes of a movie. I suspect I am a bit annoying to some GM’s wanting to get some idea as to why my character might care about the adventure.

My advice is to link the background knowledge to a mechanical advantage like inspiration. I often start each session asking for a recap of last session and giving a reroll to those who participate in giving it. Do that maybe?
 

JAMUMU

go, hunt. kill haribos.
My advice is to link the background knowledge to a mechanical advantage like inspiration. I often start each session asking for a recap of last session and giving a reroll to those who participate in giving it. Do that maybe?
This is very clever. I am de-authorising and revoking this trick and trademarking it for myself. If you wish to continue doing this at the start of your games, please contact my attorneys at HasbroHatchets.com...
 

Longspeak

Adventurer
Yup you are not alone. When I am a player I’m the opposite. I want to know why my character is involved in the hijinks and some background as to what they know about the set up. I also hate missing the set up in the first 5 minutes of a movie. I suspect I am a bit annoying to some GM’s wanting to get some idea as to why my character might care about the adventure.
I play rarely but my last series, I was the same. I made the group a Discord, but then gave ownership to the DM after is was set up. I often supply recaps via discord. I wrote out thoughts and notes about how I would handle situations that had come up. I asked for side sessions to resolve side issues. I wrote letters in character to leave for my character's "mother" and "father" and the young woman he developed feelings for...

My advice is to link the background knowledge to a mechanical advantage like inspiration. I often start each session asking for a recap of last session and giving a reroll to those who participate in giving it. Do that maybe?
Never thought of this. I love it.
 
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BrokenTwin

Biological Disaster
I deal with this constantly, and it's honestly really frustrating. Especially since my players frequently expect me to put in hours of prep to make them a sandbox to play in, but can't be bothered to spend literally any of their own time between sessions. I shouldn't have to bribe my players with in-game rewards to get them to do a fraction of the work they expect me to do. Bare minimum, it would be nice if a year in they knew the basics of the rules system we were using...
 

Xamnam

Loves Your Favorite Game
For a one-shot I played on Saturday of Cyberpunk Red*, I read the entire rulebook, with an especial focus on any world-building and history sections. I've never met another player who does that sort of thing unprompted. The most I've seen is mechanically minded folk doing the research to make an at least somewhat optimized character, because that's key to their fun and not easy at the table.

For my tables, I know the reason. I'm the person who's excited to run the game, and put in the effort to learn and assemble it. The players are excited to play, but without me, they would never spend their free time building characters, reading forums/subreddits, or finding new systems of interest. The game play at the table is already an investment above and beyond what they would do on their own.

Now, I've had luck getting outside of session work and responses, but I know that I need to ask them repeatedly, usually once in person and twice in-between sessions to get what I'm looking for. But, in remembering that I am asking them spend time and energy in a way that is for my benefit (even if I think they will as well), I'm...well, it's not that I'm not frustrated, but I do understand that it is no personal slight against me. They've already gone out of their way for me, if they're showing up for the game and are present and focused at the table.

So, I really try and limit what I ask of folks. Doing their leveling up in-between sessions, communicating with me if they're finding something missing/unfun, and the basics of scheduling. If I need to communicate something about the world or lore that it's important, then to get the best result, I need to find the way to deliver that information, in a interesting way, at the table. Reading dry text is something only weirdos like me love to do.

*WHAT AN ABSOLUTELY ABYSMALLY ARRANGED TEXT
 



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