Player Engagement Outside of Session Time


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payn

Legend
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
The whole rulebook? Cheese and crackers thats impressive! Players guides for APs are like 6-10 pages and half of that is skimmable mechanics. No dice from many players lol.
 

bloodtide

Adventurer
A bit of a "bribe" might work....

It's not enough that players get role playing benefits by using the lore, even when the benefits are huge.

The player character encounters a group of elves, and typically "acts like their 2023 self" and say something crude like "Yo my pointed ear peeps! How is it hanging?" As a DM that does not like such "I play my character as myself" things, they might be lucky to not just get attacked by elves as "monsters".

The player that read the handout, and takes the whole five seconds to say "I greet you under the branches of the Great Tree". And suddenly the elves are at least neutral, if not semi freindly to the respectful PC.

A circumstance bonus or advantage on a roll is a nice mechanical benefit for the players that "must have mechanics", and for some players that is enough.
 

Reynard

Legend
A bit of a "bribe" might work....

It's not enough that players get role playing benefits by using the lore, even when the benefits are huge.

The player character encounters a group of elves, and typically "acts like their 2023 self" and say something crude like "Yo my pointed ear peeps! How is it hanging?" As a DM that does not like such "I play my character as myself" things, they might be lucky to not just get attacked by elves as "monsters".

The player that read the handout, and takes the whole five seconds to say "I greet you under the branches of the Great Tree". And suddenly the elves are at least neutral, if not semi freindly to the respectful PC.

A circumstance bonus or advantage on a roll is a nice mechanical benefit for the players that "must have mechanics", and for some players that is enough.
In my case, it has nothing to do with roleplaying their characters per se. The AP Player's Guide explains the core conceit of the campaign setup, and it provides a list of backgrounds to choose from that are directly tied to NPCs in the AP. it also makes strong suggestions about certain mechanical choices the players should consider, such as starship crew positions and skills that should be covered.

In the end I imagine this week will be Session 0.1, which is too bad. We are only playing every other week for 3 hours at a time and I was hoping to hit the ground running.
 

Jer

Legend
Supporter
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 you're asking them to do homework. Homework in order to play a game. A game where they really just want to show up and play a character in a world you're spinning for them. Some of them possibly just want to show up and beat up monsters if your playing group is anything like mine. If they wanted to do homework they'd be GMs :)

No other game asks for this. Even complicated ones. If I invite a bunch of folks over to play Arkham Horror I don't need them to read an essay on the city of Arkham before they start playing. Even the rulebook isn't necessary for all players to read as long as one or two of us are willing to teach the game and the others are willing to learn.

A better question might be to ask why some APs need to have a book of homework for the players in the first place. Why can't it be reduced down to a dozen bullet points that they can skim when they make up characters in the first session? Especially for a game like Pathfinder or D&D where the basics of the setting are "hey this is generic fantasy and I know you really just want to roll up a wizard and cast some pew-pew spells at the bad guys." It would be much better to hand them a page that is "here's ten bullet points about wizards relevant to this AP so you can have some ideas of what kind of pew-pew wizard backgrounds might be a good idea for this story".

(It's a sore point for me - I think too many APs are just really poorly designed in this way. Especially from Paizo - or at least how Paizo was designing them when I stopped buying them. Pages of background material that should be worked into the play of the game itself or even dispensed with entirely to free up page space.)
 

payn

Legend
Because you're asking them to do homework. Homework in order to play a game. A game where they really just want to show up and play a character in a world you're spinning for them. Some of them possibly just want to show up and beat up monsters if your playing group is anything like mine. If they wanted to do homework they'd be GMs :)

No other game asks for this. Even complicated ones. If I invite a bunch of folks over to play Arkham Horror I don't need them to read an essay on the city of Arkham before they start playing. Even the rulebook isn't necessary for all players to read as long as one or two of us are willing to teach the game and the others are willing to learn.

A better question might be to ask why some APs need to have a book of homework for the players in the first place. Why can't it be reduced down to a dozen bullet points that they can skim when they make up characters in the first session? Especially for a game like Pathfinder or D&D where the basics of the setting are "hey this is generic fantasy and I know you really just want to roll up a wizard and cast some pew-pew spells at the bad guys." It would be much better to hand them a page that is "here's ten bullet points about wizards relevant to this AP so you can have some ideas of what kind of pew-pew wizard backgrounds might be a good idea for this story".

(It's a sore point for me - I think too many APs are just really poorly designed in this way. Especially from Paizo - or at least how Paizo was designing them when I stopped buying them. Pages of background material that should be worked into the play of the game itself or even dispensed with entirely to free up page space.)
The real sad thing about this is a players guide is essentially a bullet point list with a few paragraphs of setting info. I got tired of towns that had only two people, shop keep#1 and Mayor info dump #2. Also, I like a little more than a neon sign that says "dungeon this way" If I wanted to ditch homework id just play Heroquest. 🤷‍♂️
 

Reynard

Legend
Because you're asking them to do homework. Homework in order to play a game. A game where they really just want to show up and play a character in a world you're spinning for them. Some of them possibly just want to show up and beat up monsters if your playing group is anything like mine. If they wanted to do homework they'd be GMs :)
This goes back to a discussion we had on these boards a while back: it is not the GM's job to entertain the players. It is collaborative. That means the work gets spread around, along with the fun.
 

Xamnam

Loves Your Favorite Game
The whole rulebook? Cheese and crackers thats impressive! Players guides for APs are like 6-10 pages and half of that is skimmable mechanics. No dice from many players lol.
I like knowing the rules before showing up, I like building characters that fit in the world, and I like the confidence that comes from knowing what someone who exists in this universe would know, but even so, I know my approach is generally both unnecessary and overkill. :p I would love to partake in adventure that has a player's guide so that I can direct my attention in a more focused manner.

If I ever find a player who approaches my games like I approach others', I'm going to hang onto them for dear life.
 

payn

Legend
I like knowing the rules before showing up, I like building characters that fit in the world, and I like the confidence that comes from knowing what someone who exists in this universe would know, but even so, I know my approach is generally both unnecessary and overkill. :p I would love to partake in adventure that has a player's guide so that I can direct my attention in a more focused manner.

If I ever find a player who approaches my games like I approach others', I'm going to hang onto them for dear life.
I like the cut of your jib.
 

Jer

Legend
Supporter
This goes back to a discussion we had on these boards a while back: it is not the GM's job to entertain the players. It is collaborative. That means the work gets spread around, along with the fun.
Except ... the GMs that I know have fun prepping for games. It's why we're GMs.

My players, on the other hand, do not have fun prepping for games. And if it becomes work for them they'll just choose not to play. After all, we could be playing Catan or Arkham Horror or even Heroquest instead and many of them would be quite happy with that choice. They like RPGs, but they like a lot of other games too, and if a game becomes work why would you play it?

And of course it is collaborative, but that doesn't mean that the homework away from the table is also collaborative. In my group at least our collaborative entertaining of each other happens at the table - we entertain each other in the moment, but I can't expect them to prep before the game any more than I'd expect them to prep for a game of Catan. It's a game, they're busy people, and I'm the one who decided to make this hobby a big part of my life and devote time to it. They're far more casual with the game than I am and that's an understanding we all have.

The real sad thing about this is a players guide is essentially a bullet point list with a few paragraphs of setting info. 🤷‍♂️
Then it's something they can read at the table and don't have to worry about outside of the game.

I mean, I also have a one page setting sheet that my players can refer to during the game as needed. But I don't give them a 32 page (or more) book to read before starting an AP (which was what Paizo was suggesting back in the day at least). To me that's just nonsense, and if I were a player I probably wouldn't read it either unless the setting really grabbed me and I wanted to know more. Or I'd skim it at the table during the game just like my students try to get away with skimming any readings they've been assigned right before class starts :)
 

payn

Legend
I mean, I also have a one page setting sheet that my players can refer to during the game as needed. But I don't give them a 32 page (or more) book to read before starting an AP (which was what Paizo was suggesting back in the day at least). To me that's just nonsense, and if I were a player I probably wouldn't read it either unless the setting really grabbed me and I wanted to know more. Or I'd skim it at the table during the game just like my students try to get away with skimming any readings they've been assigned right before class starts :)
When was this exactly? Going all the way back to Curse of the Crimson Throne the players guides have always been under 12 pages?
 

Jer

Legend
Supporter
When was this exactly? Going all the way back to Curse of the Crimson Throne the players guides have always been under 12 pages?
Op - you're right. It was 16 pages not 32. Still too much but not nearly as bad as I recalled (though looking at it the font size is so tiny that my poor eyes would probably prefer if they upped the font size and made it a 32 page book now). It was Rise of the Runelords which was the first and last AP I bought on a monthly basis from Paizo after they lost the Dungeon and Dragon magazines because I was so disappointed in it - I've got a few more but that's the one where they started to lose me.
 

payn

Legend
Op - you're right. It was 16 pages not 32. Still too much but not nearly as bad as I recalled (though looking at it the font size is so tiny that my poor eyes would probably prefer if they upped the font size and made it a 32 page book now). It was Rise of the Runelords which was the first and last AP I bought on a monthly basis from Paizo after they lost the Dungeon and Dragon magazines because I was so disappointed in it - I've got a few more but that's the one where they started to lose me.
I get you and let me take the temp down a little. I totally get folks are busy and they might just want to relax during their game time. Thats a very legit playstyle and many folks have it. Sometimes it just gets frustrating when you have a miss match on expectations with your group.
 


pogre

Legend
If I had a table full of players willing to do work on a regular basis away from the table we would be playing Ars Magica instead of D&D.

Instead, I have a table full of players with varying levels of investment. From show up and play to much more involvement. I lean into the players who like heavier involvement by inviting them to co-create parts of the campaign world and give me input on the future direction of the campaign adventures.

However, I don't begrudge folks who just want to show up and play - they're engaged while they are at the table and that's all I ask.
 

Xamnam

Loves Your Favorite Game
This is such a strange perspective to me. Everything takes work to understand and master -- even games. Even Arkham Horror and Heroquest, for that matter.
It's a bit funny to me that this specific one was mentioned, as when a group of my friends last attempted to play this, the second edition I believe, it was abandoned when all but two of us gave up out of exhaustion.
 

Seems weird to me that players don't engage outside of the sessions. When our normal DM starts a new campaign, we are all given info on the campaign and specific rules, and work on our characters. After the first session, we make adjustments to the characters (we're all busy, so characters have to be made in a vacuum) to make sure everything is covered. Then we constantly communicate and refine things to add to the role-playing.
Just seems to be what a good player should do. It's our "baseball practice".
 

bloodtide

Adventurer
Just seems to be what a good player should do. It's our "baseball practice".
It would be nice.

Though it will nicely, ALWAYS be the divide between DMs and Players. For the people that say "everyone in the game is a player" or "all in the game are the same". A DM will take time, often hours, to work on the game outside of the game; Players can't even spare a couple minutes outside of the game to do anything, after they create a character.
 

werecorpse

Adventurer
Some rpgames and campaign starts are fine just with a 30 second recap - play those with the ones who don’t engage. “The town you are in was attacked by mysterious marauders who kidnapped some townsfolk including the local priest and you have tracked them back to this mountain pass” etc.

We play no more frequently per game than weekly so Im not a big believer of the “I didn’t have time” reason. It seems some people who have less on their plate get it done and others don’t, and it’s often the same people in both camps. It’s a choice and they chose to do other things and that’s fine. My experience is that if they don’t have time during the week to do 15-20 minutes reading while eating a meal they arent gonna be able to carve out 3+ hours to play a session. But let’s not pretend they were without time. That’s my excuse for not exercising enough - it’s a time anomaly.

I also don’t think a board game is equivalent to an rpg and I know my group doesn’t want to play a board game when we get together to play an rpg.

I find that more than half of those that don't engage with the campaign before or between sessions tend to engage less during the session as well. This combination is fine for some games but for the other games where more engagement is required I tend to try and figure out which players are better at investing and just play other games with the more invested players, even if it means less players.
 

Before the campaign starts, I think the amount of backstory depends greatly on the type of story being told. If the characters are going to be in a "hub town", I want to know all about it. Who are the movers and shakers in town? What's been happening recently? Are there established churches? What are the best places to gather rumors?

My group just started playing Ghost of Salt Marsh. Prior to starting the campaign, we got a one page handout on a brief history of the area. In session zero, the GM gave us a guided tour of the town, showing us where all the important land marks were and who the town leaders were. The group really liked it. I know I did! I like knowing my PC fits into the world around him.

As a GM, once the game starts, I try to send out weekly session recaps with a short homework problem. I never ask for anything too complex but I try to use the homework to spur my players to think about their character and the world around them. It could be anything from "What did your character have for breakfast today?" to "You saw Lord Fancypants and Lady Fatale whispering to each other and passing something between themselves. What do you think they were discussing?" If I get an answer before the next session I give each player a reward. I use a deck of cards that give players things like extra dice on rolls, temp HP, or even regaining an expended ability. I think it works out well.
 

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