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MightyTim
2010-08-04, 08:45 PM
As a preface, I'm still relatively new to D&D (Playing for almost a year) and DMing (Been doing that for about 6 months). My group of players either started around the same time I did, or later, and I try to keep things casual and not get too anal about details that really would just detract from the fun of it all.

I'm pretty sure that as a DM, I've got a tendency to railroad my PCs and I'm working on that.

Here's what happened in a playing session a couple weeks ago. The PCs got back to town after disrupting a bandit camp (basic low level stuff). After they had the relevant discussions with NPCs and got their reward, I did this.

Me: Interrupting any further conversation, the gate at the north, you can hear a villager scream. "There are orcs at the gate!"

PCs: *Silent, blank stares*

Me: So.... what do you do?

PCs: *Shrug*

Me: Are you... going to investigate the fact that orcs are apparently laying siege to the town?

PCs: Yeah, sure.

Does anyone else have this kind of thing happen to them? This wasn't exactly an isolated incident, but it was probably the most extreme example. It just seems that they tend to be very passive at times. Should I as a DM be working to make sure that the plot hooks I'm giving them are better suited to their interests? Any advice would be helpful. Thanks.

fryplink
2010-08-04, 08:59 PM
Yea, though in my groups its because they don't understand the concept of "plot hook" because I used to unrelentingly railroad on a crazy level, then these here boards enlightened me about 1.5 to 2 years ago and they haven't adjusted play styles all the way yet.

Also, yea more to there interests, but also, give them time between hooks, no point in giving them a cash sum if they never get time to spend money. No point in having a backstory if it is never explored. If your players are playing evil PCs then don't expect them to rush to the front of an oncoming orc raid w/o pay.

Sylivin
2010-08-04, 09:07 PM
If your PCs are new to playing D&D like you are, then I'm guessing you may have a some new-gamer syndrome going on. Essentially - the PCs are used to being spoon fed (or railroaded) adventure hooks and react to indifference when presented with options.

The easiest way is to make the players take a more personal interest in the game world. Make sure they all have some idea of their character's backstory. They don't need the names of their parents and the city they were from, but rather some other general ideas. It can be as simple as: "I was raised by my parents who were innkeepers. They wanted me to follow in their footsteps and take over the family inn, but the tales I heard growing up from adventurers made me crave that lifestyle instead."

Then tailor some hooks around the players. "You get a letter from the tavernkeeper. You see it is scrawled in your father's handwriting and reads, "Son, the town has been under constant attack from a band of orcs for weeks now. I don't know if you'll get this, but I hope you managed to find some companions because we are going to need their help. Please hurry!"

Now the focus of the campaign has switched from helping random people to the personal involvement of the character. After they bust up the raids they find the name of someone else pulling the strings getting these orcs to attack random towns and softening up the borderlands. Now you have your first storyline villain and at least one character in the party already is mad at him.

With any luck the PCs will now want to track this guy down. Instead of railroading them all the time, the campaign is now turning more organic as the players are deciding where they want to go and what they want the next step to be. Does that make sense?

MightyTim
2010-08-04, 09:12 PM
That does help a lot, actually. Thanks.

RickGriffin
2010-08-04, 09:28 PM
Having been through a few games where I've felt passive, I believe there are a few things that account for this. It's not necessarily an easy fix, because there could be a discrepancy between what the DM knows/sees and what the players know/see.

Sometimes it's not because the players don't have something to do, but that they don't have a pressing reason to do it. For some groups of course this isn't a problem, they're perfectly fine jumping into whatever scenario sounds the most exciting at the moment. But some players, they're looking for something different, and not necessarily railroading.

Sometimes they might be a bit put-off because there doesn't seem to be story-unity. You may have dropped a boatload of hooks off earlier, and now the issue that they're faced with has nothing to do with any of those. Some groups can freeze up when they feel like they've been jerked in a different direction than they've been anticipating (especially when not directly confronted with it--told or implied to that they have to go out and meet it)

Sometimes all of the hooks and possibilities you give them are white noise, and no choice is better than any other but maybe you're implying bad things will happen if they don't chase after all of x or y or z . . . so they feel like they ought to be doing several things at once and they're all mutually exclusive. Or you brought up story element X earlier and made it sound all nasty and terrible and then expect (or gave off the aura of expectation) all the players to drop that plot when they're faced with something else that may or may not be more important.

Had what they were doing before the orc attack been resolved yet? Was there something about the city they were in that implied they might not have actually had any business fighting their battles for them? Did the event come out of seemingly nowhere and you expected them to parse it right away? Are you expecting your players to run on almost no information when they'd be better off seeing things in detail beforehand? Etc.

(EDIT: And, of course, getting the players actually invested--I am thinking in terms of story, but it is actually easier in a D&D game because the player ought to automatically connect with his character the moment he feels like it's actually a part of the game world and not just an extension of himself)

valadil
2010-08-04, 10:26 PM
Be prepared for the players to do nothing. If they state no action, run whatever happens without their intervention.

This isn't to say you should never nudge your PCs. But in your case, the PCs expect a nudge and don't know what to do without one.

Savannah
2010-08-04, 11:39 PM
Have you talked with the players outside of the game? Sit them down and tell them that you have been thinking about the game and your DMing style, and you've noticed that they don't always seem interested in your plot hooks so you were wondering what would interest them. Maybe they want political intrigue when you've been running hack-n-slash, or vice versa. Maybe just talking about it will make them act more.

Another thing to keep in mind is that you have the benefit of knowing the entire plot. You might inadvertently be not giving them enough clues to figure out what they should do (less likely in the case of the orc attack, but you never know).

Tyndmyr
2010-08-05, 04:04 AM
Rule 1: Use LOTS of hooks.
Rule 2: the world keeps going, even if the pcs don't.

Kaww
2010-08-05, 04:54 AM
Make your players write down one page (word, font 10; for example) of their background story with important people that HAVE NAMES WHICH THEY, and you, MUST KNOW. Leave the geography unnamed so you could fill it as you see fit. Use these stories and the characters in them as hooks. Most people have at least one important character (NPC) in their lives. So if it was your mother shouting "ORCS!" you would run to save your mUmmy, right?

jpreem
2010-08-05, 05:06 AM
No i would wait for she to be dead so i could claim my inheritance, after killing the orc and an overtly superfluous display of grief.
( Well some of us like to play characters form the deep end of the alignment pool :))

Nihb
2010-08-05, 05:48 AM
This kind of event happened, but it is either because the player's are fatigued or unfocused on the game, or because they don't believe the hook is worth reacting to.

In the first case, I usually ask for attention and repeat for those who might not have hear it.

In the second, the game goes on, and events happen. Not to act was a decision they made. This can lead to other plothooks.

I try not to plan too much with the players I have. No villain is expected to survive, and no murderer is expected to be cought.

BigPapaSmurf
2010-08-05, 09:04 AM
[QUOTE=MightyTim;9079937]
Me: Are you... going to investigate the fact that orcs are apparently laying siege to the town?
QUOTE]

This is the statement you should try to avoid...

"There are orcs at the gate"
PCs do nothing
"You hear shouts to the west and several terrified looking guards run towards the north gate"
PCs do nothing
"A Bloody man is being helped by an old woman to get away from the north"
PCs still do nothing
"The old woman is hit in the leg by an arrow from atop the north wall, sending her and the injured man tumbling down some steps, the old woman appears to break her neck.
PCs do nothing
"You smell Orc!"
"You spot an Orc crawling out from one of the larger storm drains"
"There is a fire in the harbor!"
"Jimmy, your trusty squire takes a bolt through the eyeball spilling his brain out the back of his head."

See no railroading nessesary, though eventually,
"...Roll initiative you uncreative jerks"


The PCs should be allowed to do nothing, for as long as they are realisticly able. They should also be allowed to aviod most situations where they are not completely trapped, such as stealing a boat to the the hell out of
Dodge while the guards are distrated by an Orc attack.

Even if you wanted to force them to go to the Orcs, your railraoding can have multiple paths. Perhaps the Captain of the Guard orders all able bodies to report, the PCs might feel a bit railroaded, however they can still fail to report, disappear, kill the Captain, rob the treasury etc.

If your players are uncreative or worse, drunk and uncreative you may have to railroad them, in which case, quit playing or find some new PC blood.

WarKitty
2010-08-05, 09:15 AM
Talk to your players outside the game for a bit. Ask what they *want* from the game. Do they want pre-given plots, or do they want a more organic story? Let them know that "the orcs are attacking!" is known as a plot hook. Also ask them what kind of plots they would like and then provide a hook for something of the type.

valadil
2010-08-05, 09:44 AM
No i would wait for she to be dead so i could claim my inheritance, after killing the orc and an overtly superfluous display of grief.
( Well some of us like to play characters form the deep end of the alignment pool :))

Even though your character is sitting and waiting, you're still taking a course of action. You've made an in character decision as a result of events in the world around you. The OP's players aren't doing that. They just wait till he tells them what happens.

MightyTim
2010-08-05, 09:52 AM
Thanks again, everyone.

Honestly... I'd never considered inaction as a possible, well, action. I'd always thought "Well, surely they're going to want to do something." Rookie mistake, I suppose...

In hindsight, I definitely could have handled this particular situation better. I was a bit put off that they didn't feel the need to do anything in what seemed like obvious adventurer material.

I think half of my problem is I keep thinking "Oh, this encounter is going to be so cool." (I know, terrible way for a DM to be thinking.) and the other half is that I'm not terribly good at making up on the spot consequences when the PCs do something completely out of left field. The result seems to be a pretty bad case of railroading

WarKitty
2010-08-05, 09:56 AM
Thanks again, everyone.

Honestly... I'd never considered inaction as a possible, well, action. I'd always thought "Well, surely they're going to want to do something." Rookie mistake, I suppose...

In hindsight, I definitely could have handled this particular situation better. I was a bit put off that they didn't feel the need to do anything in what seemed like obvious adventurer material.

I think half of my problem is I keep thinking "Oh, this encounter is going to be so cool." (I know, terrible way for a DM to be thinking.) and the other half is that I'm not terribly good at making up on the spot consequences when the PCs do something completely out of left field. The result seems to be a pretty bad case of railroading

Hence why I said talk to them. Find out if they really want the adventure to come to them, or if they just didn't want that specific adventure, or what. That would also tell you if their inaction was a deliberate in-character choice or simply the result of uninvolvement with the character.

Oracle_Hunter
2010-08-05, 10:08 AM
Me: Interrupting any further conversation, the gate at the north, you can hear a villager scream. "There are orcs at the gate!"
I think this is the key line.

In general, you shouldn't interrupt the PCs except for dramatic purposes or if the game is stalling. The game is only "stalling" if the PCs are stuck in making a decision or if they're hung up on OOC conversations.

Example
In a recent SR3 game of mine, the 'runners had just gotten their job from their Mr. Johnson and were sitting around debating what to do next. Since they didn't have any real information (and didn't even ask to make Knowledge checks) I knew that sitting around and talking wasn't going to get this story moving, so I had their Rigger-on-Retainer pop in and ask them "where do they want to go?" This got them moving (literally and figuratively) and that was enough to get them to take action.
In a game of D&D, the easiest way to deal with a stall is to narrate the passage of time. Even if it's only "the sun is setting - where do you want to go for dinner?" it's usually enough to get the PCs engaged in decision-making, prepping them for the next hook you dangle out there.

WarKitty
2010-08-05, 10:09 AM
I've also found that charging for food and lodging can get PC's to do something. :smallwink: Nothing like saying "you owe the inkeeper another night's rent to sleep here" to encourage players to find some way to move on.

Oracle_Hunter
2010-08-05, 10:19 AM
I've also found that charging for food and lodging can get PC's to do something. :smallwink: Nothing like saying "you owe the inkeeper another night's rent to sleep here" to encourage players to find some way to move on.
I've actually gone the other route - making the PCs worry about the trivialities of life distracts them from looking for adventure. In my D&D4 game I stole a concept from another DM and instituted the "Beer Money" house-rule: as long as you don't abuse it, you always have money for food, lodging, and tips. Bribes and larger expenses require real money, of course :smallbiggrin:

Erom
2010-08-05, 10:27 AM
Make your players write down one page (word, font 10; for example) of their background story with important people that HAVE NAMES WHICH THEY, and you, MUST KNOW.

This is way way waaaaay too much backstory for most groups. I definitely don't want to read that much when I'm DMing. If I wanted a fantasy epic, I'd read a book, and none of my players are particularly good authors. Backstory is important but usually you can reduce it too:

1) 1 sentence about your upbringing and how it affects you. "I was orphaned at a young age and learned to live on the street, as a result I'm cautious, clever, and fiercely independent but somewhat uncultured." Having this one sentence backstory is useful even in a one-off.

2) Two "links" to the world, people or places you have history with. "I studied at the Frostfire Mage Accademy. My father was a weathly merchant in Freeport." You really only need this for a long campaign.

3) One sentence about what happened right before the game starts, to either explain your characters current goal or why your group has gathered if you start as an already formed party. "I'm currently in town to get my sword sharpened." or "This group formed because Character A was hiring mercenaries to help him accomplish Task B, and I joined up because the pay was right." Again, this is pretty much always useful even for a one-off.

Total length - 4 sentences. Maybe 5 lines of text. And yet it has everything you need in a backstory to foster roleplay. It has hooks that tie you to the world that the DM can invoke, it has a basic guide for how you'll interact with other players and NPC's (most of this will evolve as you play, which is what you want - you don't want it all strictly specified from game 1) and it has your starting motivation, all without having to drudge through a page of poorly written prose.

valadil
2010-08-05, 10:56 AM
I think half of my problem is I keep thinking "Oh, this encounter is going to be so cool." (I know, terrible way for a DM to be thinking.) and the other half is that I'm not terribly good at making up on the spot consequences when the PCs do something completely out of left field. The result seems to be a pretty bad case of railroading

Heh. Been there, done that. It's an easy trap to fall into. It's companion is "this NPC is so cool, I can't wait for the PCs to meet him."

Both these are things you'll learn to avoid as you GM. I have a very hard time getting excited about any combat. These days I see them as filler if the party doesn't have anything better to do. If they actually want to sneakily avoid the combat, all the more awesome.


This is way way waaaaay too much backstory for most groups. I definitely don't want to read that much when I'm DMing. If I wanted a fantasy epic, I'd read a book, and none of my players are particularly good authors. Backstory is important but usually you can reduce it too:


I very strongly disagree with that. Backstory is a player's chance to get into character before the game even starts. How can you give a first impression when you meet the other PCs, if you haven't tried out the character yet?

No, my PCs are not fantasy authors either. But I'll put up with their writing if it makes the game better.

Caphi
2010-08-05, 11:03 AM
I very strongly disagree with that. Backstory is a player's chance to get into character before the game even starts. How can you give a first impression when you meet the other PCs, if you haven't tried out the character yet?

No, my PCs are not fantasy authors either. But I'll put up with their writing if it makes the game better.

A length requirement just encourage needless padding and other forms of idiocy. In writing, length and quality should never, ever be conflated.

MightyTim
2010-08-05, 03:46 PM
Heh. Been there, done that. It's an easy trap to fall into. It's companion is "this NPC is so cool, I can't wait for the PCs to meet him."

D'oh. Guilty there too.

In any case, I'll make a point to involve the PC's backstory into the plot at a more significant level.

Tyndmyr
2010-08-05, 04:02 PM
I very strongly disagree with that. Backstory is a player's chance to get into character before the game even starts. How can you give a first impression when you meet the other PCs, if you haven't tried out the character yet?

Very easily. Everyone quickly gets an image in their heads of who their character is, even if that image is only "me, with the powers of class x". They can certainly give a first impression with that, for good or ill.

More practiced roleplayers have no trouble assuming roles at the drop of a hat, and can even find lengthy backstories restrictive(depends on the player). In any case, if someone WANTS to write a long backstory, sure. But forcing your players to write them is only likely to result in poorly written generic fantasy drek to meet the minimum length.

Kaww
2010-08-05, 04:30 PM
This is way way waaaaay too much backstory for most groups. I definitely don't want to read that much when I'm DMing. If I wanted a fantasy epic, I'd read a book, and none of my players are particularly good authors. Backstory is important but usually you can reduce it too:

1) 1 sentence about your upbringing and how it affects you. "I was orphaned at a young age and learned to live on the street, as a result I'm cautious, clever, and fiercely independent but somewhat uncultured." Having this one sentence backstory is useful even in a one-off.

2) Two "links" to the world, people or places you have history with. "I studied at the Frostfire Mage Accademy. My father was a weathly merchant in Freeport." You really only need this for a long campaign.

3) One sentence about what happened right before the game starts, to either explain your characters current goal or why your group has gathered if you start as an already formed party. "I'm currently in town to get my sword sharpened." or "This group formed because Character A was hiring mercenaries to help him accomplish Task B, and I joined up because the pay was right." Again, this is pretty much always useful even for a one-off.

Total length - 4 sentences. Maybe 5 lines of text. And yet it has everything you need in a backstory to foster roleplay. It has hooks that tie you to the world that the DM can invoke, it has a basic guide for how you'll interact with other players and NPC's (most of this will evolve as you play, which is what you want - you don't want it all strictly specified from game 1) and it has your starting motivation, all without having to drudge through a page of poorly written prose.

It has no soul. That is the problem. I want my players not being indifferent about people. One of them acutely wanted to hit me when I said: "When you go back to your village you will find out your sister died". It's not hard to write it and it most certainly isn't be hard reading it. In a campaign I play I have a journal and my DM laughs himself silly when reading - it's one or two pages per session. And it is worth reading (several non players asked to read it and wanted to be updated). As for basic guideline for interaction - try alignment it has two letters and is much shorter than a whole sentence. Thus you reduced it to three sentences.

Regards!

P.S. Do not write epic stories, all stories start at lvl 1 and they may or may not grow...

RickGriffin
2010-08-05, 04:41 PM
It has no soul. That is the problem. I want my players not being indifferent about people. One of them acutely wanted to hit me when I said: "When you go back to your village you will find out your sister died". It's not hard to write it and it most certainly isn't be hard reading it. In a campaign I play I have a journal and my DM laughs himself silly when reading - it's one or two pages per session. And it is worth reading (several non players asked to read it and wanted to be updated). As for basic guideline for interaction - try alignment it has two letters and is much shorter than a whole sentence. Thus you reduced it to three sentences.

Regards!

P.S. Do not write epic stories, all stories start at lvl 1 and they may or may not grow...

Uh, I don't think you can force your players to take on the soul of a character by assigning them an essay. That sort of smacks me of English Lit assignments, creative or not.

Caphi
2010-08-05, 04:54 PM
It has no soul. That is the problem. I want my players not being indifferent about people. One of them acutely wanted to hit me when I said: "When you go back to your village you will find out your sister died". It's not hard to write it and it most certainly isn't be hard reading it. In a campaign I play I have a journal and my DM laughs himself silly when reading - it's one or two pages per session. And it is worth reading (several non players asked to read it and wanted to be updated). As for basic guideline for interaction - try alignment it has two letters and is much shorter than a whole sentence. Thus you reduced it to three sentences.

Regards!

P.S. Do not write epic stories, all stories start at lvl 1 and they may or may not grow...

A one-page "blah blah blah my character did this and this and this" full of padding and fluff because you forced your players to put up with a pointless length requirement has much less soul than a few sentences about the character's background and personality.

Tyndmyr
2010-08-05, 05:00 PM
A one-page "blah blah blah my character did this and this and this" full of padding and fluff because you forced your players to put up with a pointless length requirement has much less soul than a few sentences about the character's background and personality.

This. Length is a horrible way to judge content.

"My wizard grew up as an orphan, with only her classmates as friends, before being tossed into the world at 12 when the orphanage burned down." has more content than many 1 page backstories I've read. It has hooks you can work with, and that's what you need, not length.

Mnemnosyne
2010-08-05, 05:25 PM
Most people also really aren't very good at writing backstory. Especially not if it gets to be more than one page. Quiz-like 'answer these questions' type things are probably better if you really want to get more out of your players. Short questions that don't need paragraphs of response. The well-written ones actually give a better sense of the character than writing reams of backstory, because they ask questions that the player may not have been expecting, forcing them to ask themselves 'how would my character react to that?' as opposed to putting the characters in situations they themselves formulated and therefore already know what the outcome will be.

Personally I still tend to write a lot of backstory, but when I go back and read some of the stuff I wrote years ago I can see it wasn't very good and shouldn't have been that long. Once I wrote a backstory that was 60-something pages, as I recall. I read it several years later, and it was difficult to read through the whole thing. Concept was good, and some parts of it were well-written, but taken as a whole it was very poor writing. That's an extreme example, but it still applies even for just one page.

Aroka
2010-08-05, 07:25 PM
Honestly... I'd never considered inaction as a possible, well, action. I'd always thought "Well, surely they're going to want to do something." Rookie mistake, I suppose...

It is a rookie mistake, but you can only make it because your players are making a rookie mistake, i.e. ignoring a plot hook flapping disconsolately in the wind and slapping them in the face.


I've also found that charging for food and lodging can get PC's to do something. :smallwink: Nothing like saying "you owe the inkeeper another night's rent to sleep here" to encourage players to find some way to move on.

I love this kind of rule. Conan d20 has my favorite living expenses system: you use 50% of your wealth per week until you're down to your last few coins and can't even afford a bed or a pitcher of ale. Gets even the laziest player reaving and slaying.

chiasaur11
2010-08-05, 09:20 PM
The living expenses rule does feel very Conan/Fafhd and the Grey Mouser.

Not being able to hold onto money seems to be one of the cornerstones there.

Aroka
2010-08-05, 09:35 PM
The living expenses rule does feel very Conan/Fafhd and the Grey Mouser.

Not being able to hold onto money seems to be one of the cornerstones there.

Yeah. In Conan d20, you're encouraged to - told to, really - start adventures in the true Howardian style, with the PCs having lost all of their possessions except some clothes and a blade. (Of course, many of the best stories, like Hour of the Dragon and People of the Black Circle, don't start like that at all, but it's a good general rule.)

Xuc Xac
2010-08-05, 10:10 PM
1) 1 sentence about your upbringing and how it affects you.
2) Two "links" to the world, people or places you have history with.
3) One sentence about what happened right before the game starts, to either explain your characters current goal or why your group has gathered if you start as an already formed party.
Total length - 4 sentences.

This is quite good. In addition to this and alignment (which often falls short of really defining a personality in play), I'd also recommend adding the stimuli from Unknown Armies:

Rage: What makes you really angry?
Fear: What are you most afraid of? (Keep in mind that fear can cause a Fight or Flight response so you can be inspired to fight more fiercely and don't just have to run away from it)
Noble: What brings out the best in you?

It can add a lot of interesting hooks. Even the most mild-mannered bookworm has something that will make him stand up and say "No!" Maybe the weedy little wizard has a Rage stimulus of "disrespect for knowledge". When the rampaging orcs throw a torch into the town's only bookstore, IT'S ON! Maybe the merciless hard-hearted mercenary warrior has a soft spot for dogs. When the orcs attack and he sees a loyal hound whining and whimpering next to the arrow-riddled body of his dead master, those orcs are going to pay!

valadil
2010-08-05, 10:31 PM
Very easily. Everyone quickly gets an image in their heads of who their character is, even if that image is only "me, with the powers of class x". They can certainly give a first impression with that, for good or ill.

More practiced roleplayers have no trouble assuming roles at the drop of a hat, and can even find lengthy backstories restrictive(depends on the player). In any case, if someone WANTS to write a long backstory, sure. But forcing your players to write them is only likely to result in poorly written generic fantasy drek to meet the minimum length.

I'm quite practiced and still find a backstory is the best way to get into character and communicate that character to the GM. I realize it doesn't work for everyone though. Also, this isn't a thread about backstory, so I'll stop arguing it further.

At any rate, hooks from a player's backstory are almost guaranteed to be of interest to that player. Whether that backstory is 4 pages or 4 sentences makes no matter. If it supplies hooks, use them.

chiasaur11
2010-08-05, 10:32 PM
Which is why the smart players roll orphans with no close friends or relatives.

Kaww
2010-08-06, 02:55 AM
My players write the their history willingly.

I make just a campaign skeleton, they fill it with their stories. I don't want to tell them: "Ok now you have to..." It's much better saying: "You got a message from your home vilage", and I give the player an actual letter to read. This is rollplay and you may (should) use some props.

One of my chars made a very good and detailed story, he also likes to decipher messages so I give him ciphered letters he receives from his clan from which he is banned until he redeems himself. He receives a letter ~ once in five sessions. Everybody has their own mini quests and puts that in the first place.

I agree that the length is not that important, but fluff must contain details: How many siblings? Are your parents alive? Do you have important NPCs in your life? This is a rather long list and I try to remember these stories and their protagonists, they make your characters, well not alive, but a close second and they make players care which is the point of this thread.



No i would wait for she to be dead so i could claim my inheritance, after killing the orc and an overtly superfluous display of grief.
( Well some of us like to play characters form the deep end of the alignment pool :))

This is also in character thinking and is an action. I salute people who can play evil and act really EVIL. I had a player like that. He was a good rollplayer, he made me sick and I think I would enjoy playing with him again, in a distant future.

snikrept
2010-08-06, 07:39 AM
Regarding backstory: one thing I've seen done well with newer players is that the GM has a 1 on 1 short session with each player before they all play together, to sketch their background from their character concept and have them make some life path type decisions. So 1) the player gets used to making decisions as their character would, allowing them to roleplay more effectively with the others, 2) the story of how all the players find themselves as traveling companions is generated, but 3) there's still some mystery to each character's backstory that they can reveal to the others, or not, and 4) there won't be any "but I'm secretly the king of the mole people, it says so in my backstory essay" that the GM doesn't know about because the GM skimmed that document.:smallbiggrin:

FoE
2010-08-06, 11:50 AM
It's time like this that I wonder why people bash railroading.

Here's a tip: you can never go wrong assuming that your players are idiots. You can't just wave a plot hook in their faces and assume they'll go for it; you need to bash them over the heads with it.

chiasaur11
2010-08-06, 03:49 PM
It's time like this that I wonder why people bash railroading.

Here's a tip: you can never go wrong assuming that your players are idiots. You can't just wave a plot hook in their faces and assume they'll go for it; you need to bash them over the heads with it.

Unless the plot depends on them being idiots, in which case they will ruin it.

Nyarai
2010-08-06, 04:11 PM
This background generator could give you a well-rounded idea of what motivates the PCs and what could make them dive into danger instead of going, "Meh." It's a little longer than the "four quick sentences," but provides a wealth of information.

http://community.wizards.com/go/thread/view/75882/19713850/The_Ten-Minute_Background--Post_your_characters!

(Hope no one posted it already. :smallredface:)

Aroka
2010-08-06, 04:19 PM
Unless the plot depends on them being idiots, in which case they will ruin it.

And it is incredibly easy to unintentionally write idiot plots; look at just about any TV show. Star Trek: TNG is full of idiot plots, for instance.

Oracle_Hunter
2010-08-06, 04:24 PM
ProTip: if you think your Players are being idiots, then you haven't given them enough information.

As a rule of thumb, Players aren't dumb. However, they can only operate within the bounded rationality of the scenario. If they are not acting on something that seems perfectly obvious to you, then it is because you have not made that fact sufficiently salient.

Don't be afraid to do IC nudges or to drop extra clues if your players seem lost. By no means should you be spoonfeeding them plot points, but sometimes all it takes is presenting the same information several different ways to make it click.

Aroka
2010-08-06, 04:27 PM
ProTip: if you think your Players are being idiots, then you haven't given them enough information.

As a rule of thumb, Players aren't dumb. However, they can only operate within the bounded rationality of the scenario. If they are not acting on something that seems perfectly obvious to you, then it is because you have not made that fact sufficiently salient.

Don't be afraid to do IC nudges or to drop extra clues if your players seem lost. By no means should you be spoonfeeding them plot points, but sometimes all it takes is presenting the same information several different ways to make it click.

It's not just the IC scenario/context, but the OOC/metagame context, too. They know they are playing a game, and will try to play it in ways that they know work. If they don't know anything that works, they'll get confused. If you change the expectations without somehow signaling this (there are many ways, some of them subtle), they will get frustrated. If you start out a noir detective campaign and turn it into two-fisted pulp action (random examples, replace them with anything), there will be frustration and difficulty.

RickGriffin
2010-08-06, 04:51 PM
ProTip: if you think your Players are being idiots, then you haven't given them enough information.

As a rule of thumb, Players aren't dumb. However, they can only operate within the bounded rationality of the scenario. If they are not acting on something that seems perfectly obvious to you, then it is because you have not made that fact sufficiently salient.

Don't be afraid to do IC nudges or to drop extra clues if your players seem lost. By no means should you be spoonfeeding them plot points, but sometimes all it takes is presenting the same information several different ways to make it click.

Yes; also, sometimes the players do have technically enough information and know it, but might double-guess themselves because they've also picked up a number of other, possibly contradictory things that may have appeared like information to them even if it was just filler to you.

Savannah
2010-08-06, 06:22 PM
Yes; also, sometimes the players do have technically enough information and know it, but might double-guess themselves because they've also picked up a number of other, possibly contradictory things that may have appeared like information to them even if it was just filler to you.

Very, very, very true. It never ceases to amaze me how players will pick up on the minor details that you throw in at the last minute for flavor and completely miss the clue that you practically hit them over the head with. (If you think fast, you can sometime turn the minor things into clues, which makes them think you are really prepared :smallbiggrin:)

Tyndmyr
2010-08-06, 11:11 PM
It's time like this that I wonder why people bash railroading.

Here's a tip: you can never go wrong assuming that your players are idiots. You can't just wave a plot hook in their faces and assume they'll go for it; you need to bash them over the heads with it.

I disagree. Most players are not idiots. They probably just focus on different things than you think are important. Or aren't paying attention. For instance, if the clue involves names suspiciously matching up, at least 50% of players will miss it, simply because names of NPCs aren't generally given a whole lot of attention.

Presenting multiple hooks, or multiple clues leading to the same hook is generally best. Better than repetition or extremely obvious hooks. Toss enough clues out there, and someone will eventually pick up on one and think it's important.

valadil
2010-08-06, 11:34 PM
ProTip: if you think your Players are being idiots, then you haven't given them enough information.


Not necessarily. Until they start connecting the right pieces of information they may act like idiots. I killed an NPC in session 2 and the players couldn't rez him. In session 3 I told them that casting rez on a live person has no effect. They didn't figure out until tonight (session 11) that the NPC from session 2 had already been true rezzed elsewhere. They had all the information needed, but didn't realize it was related info at the time.

RickGriffin
2010-08-06, 11:44 PM
Not necessarily. Until they start connecting the right pieces of information they may act like idiots. I killed an NPC in session 2 and the players couldn't rez him. In session 3 I told them that casting rez on a live person has no effect. They didn't figure out until tonight (session 11) that the NPC from session 2 had already been true rezzed elsewhere. They had all the information needed, but didn't realize it was related info at the time.

So you dropped two very minor hints a session apart and expected them to get all Phoenix Wright on you immediately?

chiasaur11
2010-08-07, 12:49 AM
So you dropped two very minor hints a session apart and expected them to get all Phoenix Wright on you immediately?

That would be great, wouldn't it?

A whole campaign turning to finger pointing and shouting.

JonestheSpy
2010-08-07, 01:03 AM
Regarding backstory, I find the best way to encourage an involved backstory is having an interesting world that captures the players imagination and makes them want to figure out how they're a part of it.

One of the best compliments I ever got as a GM was from an old 2Ed game I ran a few years ago. It was a traditional Tolkienesque, low magic fantasy world, but I'd spent a lot of effort imagining the various people and nations the campaign was centered around, and a player told me "Wow, I never play humans, but you actually make them interesting!"

Math_Mage
2010-08-07, 04:03 AM
Not necessarily. Until they start connecting the right pieces of information they may act like idiots. I killed an NPC in session 2 and the players couldn't rez him. In session 3 I told them that casting rez on a live person has no effect. They didn't figure out until tonight (session 11) that the NPC from session 2 had already been true rezzed elsewhere. They had all the information needed, but didn't realize it was related info at the time.

Since the latter is simply the rules and the former is extremely common among dead NPCs (what with the "must really want to be rezzed" thing), I think you're really overestimating the clarity of your hints.

Oracle_Hunter
2010-08-07, 01:29 PM
Since the latter is simply the rules and the former is extremely common among dead NPCs (what with the "must really want to be rezzed" thing), I think you're really overestimating the clarity of your hints.
Which is exactly the reason for the ProTip.

No matter how "clear" you think you've been, if the Players are acting like idiots it's because you haven't been clear enough. It's a handy rule of thumb for DMs because it can be really easy to get wrapped up in your plot and lose sight of what the Players are seeing.

Aroka
2010-08-07, 02:52 PM
Which is exactly the reason for the ProTip.

No matter how "clear" you think you've been, if the Players are acting like idiots it's because you haven't been clear enough. It's a handy rule of thumb for DMs because it can be really easy to get wrapped up in your plot and lose sight of what the Players are seeing.

Seriously. Especially if you're creating a mystery or intrigue. When you're the one on the inside, it is completely impossible for you to evaluate in any way how easy the plot is to understand or catch on to for someone on the outside.