View Full Version : DM Help How do I get my players to branch out?

2014-09-18, 08:52 AM
2 of my players like to play very similar characters every time we play pathfinder. One plays a human or half orc that uses a sword and guns. This could be a samurai or a gunslinger. The other plays a character role more like. He likes to play characters that cause way to much conflict or force the other players to see if he approves of what they're doing. I just want them to play something different from time to time, but I don't really want to be rude about it, like banning them from playing those characters. Any suggestions?

2014-09-18, 10:24 AM
I've had some limited success in a similar situation by focusing less on 'don't play X character' and more on 'hey, check out Y character, doesn't that look pretty cool?'. Have a player in our group who loves to play the mechanic/techie. Gotten him to branch out a few times by convincing him that other character types would be cool to play, but at the end of the day he always goes back to being the techie when we start a new campaign.

There are some people who just don't want to branch out, and sometimes you just need to accept that. As someone who loves playing something new every time I play I don't profess to understand the mindset, but I've seen it enough to know it exists, and it's not something you can force away without ruining their fun.

So try showing them some other options you think they'd like, but be prepared to let them go back to their well worn tracks because that's what they like.

*Except the guy intentionally causing party conflict. That's never cool and the entire party needs to have a chat with him about why he's doing that and either convincing him to stop it, or at least make sure to keep it 100% in game if everyone is alright with it. But that's a separate issue from the 'plays the same guy' thing you were asking about.

2014-09-18, 10:27 AM
First question: is it really that important to you that they try something new? If that's what they like and want to play, does it really bug you that much?

If the anwers is 'yes', you can just casually ask them why thye make essentially the same character again and again. Or make a joke about how 'sword and gun half-orc Mk. 5 is ready to go'. If they don't take the hint, ask them straight out why they don't want to try something new, because it's getting a bit wearing for you to always have the same two characters in the game.

Mark Hall
2014-09-18, 10:49 AM
There is, of course, the B.A. method, from Knights of the Dinner Table.

Sick of his players always playing the same characters, he offered everyone a choice: Either they could play 1st level characters of their choice, or they could play 3rd level characters of HIS choice... they build them, but he picks the race and class (though they had some freedom on subraces and subclasses).

Now, the Knights being the Knights, they subverted this, with the guy who always played a dwarven thief opting for the Hackstart by playing a Human cleric... who was creating one of his past dwarven thieves as a deity. And the guy who always played fighters? He made a gnome titan wizard with a 9 intelligence... meaning he could cast cantrips, and nothing else, but he still got the Groin Stomp manuever he wanted. The former gnome wizard? He played a human fighter, all right... but a ranger, and forgot to take any melee weapon proficiencies.

2014-09-18, 03:09 PM
I just want them to play something different from time to time, but I don't really want to be rude about it, like banning them from playing those characters. Any suggestions?

First off, you really should just let this go. Some players like to play the same thing every time. The same way some people eat the exact same thing for breakfast every day. You should just sit back and let them play the game with whatever characters they want to use in the game.

Now, you might want to ask yourself ''why'' do you want them to change? Do you just want a different game? Do you want to just spice things up? You want to run a game with different characters for a change?

The above ones are ok.....though you could just run another game to get that too...

But if your reason is: I, the All Knowing DM wish to open the eyes of the poor, clueless players and make them see all the true beauty and fun of D&D by having them play different classes.

If that is your reason.....just back away.....back far away and forget all of this...

2014-09-19, 08:14 AM
Perhaps try a short adventure (just a couple of sessions) where everybody rolls random classes and backstories. If your player are just in a rut, this could help get their creativity going.

If they are really resistant to the idea (or they do it, but don't enjoy it), it may be a sign that they don't want to branch out. At that point it way be worth assessing how much their unoriginality is really hurting your enjoyment of the game. Forcing them outside of their preferred playstyle may just not be fun for them.

2014-09-19, 09:24 AM
If players always play the same classes / races, there are usually two reaspons for this:

They are having fun with this combination
They've found something that works well

Now as far as the first point is concerned I'm inclined to say: so what's the harm? Unless this is something all your players do, you should still have enough diversity in your campaign to mix things up and keep it interesting simply because your other players will pick different approaches.

Point two is more problematic, as it indicates a systematic, formulaic approach to your adventures and campaign that just works very well for your players. Chances are however, that they aren't having as much fun as they could and you probably aren't either - simply because it's the same thing over and over again. In that case I would suggest to try something radically different. This obviously depends on your situation, but in a DnD setting an example could be the following:

Say your players are fond of sneaky characters and a general backstabbing approach. Then a campaign that is focussed on undead or constructs will render this strategy useless. If some kind of magic is highly favored by your players, you would remove it - in a way that does not seem random but is an integral part of the story perhaps.

The important part here however is of course to tell them what to expect ahead of time. Don't let them run blindly into a campaign that will destroy they mismatched characters, but inform them in rough strokes of what they can expect and advise them to prepare accordingly. This way, you are challenging your players to come up with new approaches instead of forcing them to do it.

2014-09-19, 06:33 PM
I agree with what Binks said.

If you want people to branch out, sometimes you have to plant some trees. :smallwink:

... ... I'm sorry. I'll show myself out. :smallredface:

2014-09-19, 08:16 PM
If you just generally want to encourage your players to try new things, I think the best way to do so is to set up a deliberately short-term situation with some kind of extra structure, and see if your players think that'd an interesting thing to try once. For example, how about a one-shot where one of these things was the character creation set-up:

- Everyone makes a character, then the character sheets are drawn out of a hat and you play what you draw (maybe with a rule about trading if you get your own)

- Everyone plays two characters each, who must be different classes, races, and/or alignments from each other. (This would obviously work better if you have a small group to start with. I once had a 2nd edition group that went from 8 to 4 players when a new school year started, and we decided to just assign the characters of the people who left to the remaining players since we were in the middle of The Temple of Elemental Evil module and the remaining 4 player's PCs were missing some kind of key character classes. I ended up with a character I would have never made myself in addition to the kind of character I usually play, which was kind of a fun combination. This takes players mature enough to have characters who don't cooperate with their other character for no good reason, though.)

- Everyone has their class/race/alignment/backstory or some other element drawn out a of a hat or rolled on a table (probably just one or two of those traits, not all of them, so you get at least vaguely coherant character concepts or maybe everyone gets two draws from a hat that contains statements from each of those things and has to make whatever two things they end up with work such as "ok, I drew 'chaotic' and 'elf' so I guess I'll play...", "ok, I drew 'cleric' and 'wanted in three kingdoms' so I guess I am probably..." or whatever.)

Or other similar gimmicks. There are a lot of things that can be done along those lines. I think the key here is to pitch it as a one-off thing you're doing just for one day, so people don't feel like they're committing to it and can maybe step outside their comfort zone knowing they're not stuck long term. If they enjoy it, maybe they'll branch out for a longer game as their own idea. If not, well, you tried. The key is to get your players excited about (or at least some level of buy-in for) whatever gimmick you choose, rather than any specific gimmick.

You might even bring it up by saying that you've noticed that people tend to play similar characters, and ask if the group would be interested in switching it up a bit for a single session. Their responses would tell you a lot about whether they really, really want to just play whatever or if they're just in a rut and would welcome trying new things.

2014-09-22, 07:58 AM
Another thing would be to prepare a thematic campaign where in order for the story to work, the characters all have to have certain traits in common. For example, if you want them to try out casters more, you could give them a story set in a magic school, where they're all students, and obviously students in a magic school need to be casters.

Prince Raven
2014-09-22, 09:11 AM
The best way is often the hardest way: Get them excited to play as different race/class combinations to what they usually play.