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Referee's Lounge Discussion of how to (and not to) Referee Traveller and Cepheus Engine games. No edition warring allowed.

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Old September 25th, 2017, 09:36 AM
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Default How to play with passive players

I just finished up a mini-campaign with two friends. Both were fairly passive players and rarely took any initiative on their own. While this works if you have a few active, outgoing players, what do you do when the entire group consists of players that don't seem to really engage yet want to play?
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Old September 25th, 2017, 10:24 AM
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There seem to be two types of protagonists in story books. There are those who seem to have a drive to get themselves into trouble witout any outside help at all, and there are those who are carried along by the adventure.

I suspect that there are different sorts of books because there are different sorts of readers. Some want to imagine themselves sticking their nose into every hornet's nest they encounter because that is where the adventure in life is. Others wany to be swept up in events and react to them, deriving their pleasure from the surprise and the interaction with the unexpected.

Start by talking with the passive players about what they want and expect.
Then perhaps a little bit of events catching up to them and sweeping them away might be in order (like "The Patriot" or "Narnia").

If you find a better answer, LET ME KNOW!
(I've struggled with the same thing at times.)
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Old September 25th, 2017, 10:50 AM
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Originally Posted by coliver988 View Post
What do you do when the entire group consists of players that don't seem to really engage yet want to play?
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Originally Posted by coliver988 View Post
But while I give a pretty good overview of the world and work up the key people they may meet, I always thought we'd ad lib the actual play and let things unfold with a few plot points they may take. They never took.
With this new piece of information, I have a slightly better piece of advice. This is probably not a great way to describe it, but it is how I visualize the concept.

My game world has 'Plot Threads' flowing through it and I have a time log that tracks these plot threads. Most plot threads start out as random events with a random time frame that form a barest of outlines. [Two crime syndicates will begin to struggle for control of a city on X date, it will erupt into gunfights on the streets on Y date and Side A will win on Z date.] is a typical thread. There may be anywhere from 3 to 5 threads at the start of a game. The characters may pursue or ignore any and all threads, but the threads do not disappear. As they do whatever they do, the ignored threads continue to chug along silently in the background until a planned date arrives, then the thread again becomes part of their lives. They ignored the rumor about tensions on the street, then a few days later, there is a gun battle involving rival gangs near their hotel and they witness a bystander shot by a stray bullet. They have a second chance to get involved in this thread or not.

Each day, I roll to add another random thread to the bundle. Something unpredictable that they can run across. So they have a constant stream of rumors and events to choose from. The issue is, both actions and inactions have consequences and they see the results of what they do and what they ignore. It is not a punishment/reward, it is just part of life. Big D*mn Heroes have the ability to impact events.

Any 'Thread' the character takes an interest in, becomes more detailed. In addition, the actions of the character will often trigger the start of a new 'Plot Thread' (good or bad) that is tracked in general outline forward in time.

What I am always looking for is "what threads are they in a position to intersect at this time and location?" What rumors does each person they meet know about that the players can get a glimpse at what is happening out of sight.

The players have lots of plots to choose from, the plots do not go away, and the longer they ignore some things, the worse the situation becomes ... eventually, they can't ignore it any longer.

That's what I have tried.
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Old September 25th, 2017, 10:55 AM
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Originally Posted by coliver988 View Post
I just finished up a mini-campaign with two friends. Both were fairly passive players and rarely took any initiative on their own. While this works if you have a few active, outgoing players, what do you do when the entire group consists of players that don't seem to really engage yet want to play?
Train your players to say where their characters are, and what they are doing, whenever they open their mouths at the table. Just saying those two things will keep the action going and give the Referee/Players plenty of ideas for what can happen next.
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Old September 25th, 2017, 11:23 AM
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I tend to be a passive player. I think asking what the players expect, and that they want to get out of the game, or perhaps what their characters want to do is the right place to start.

If they didn't want to play in the sandbox, they wouldn't have brought their plastic sci-fi toys out in the first place. Figure out their style by asking questions and coming to an agreement... make up a list of maybe seven overarching things they want to see. For example...

I want...
* some ship combat
* an evil empire to fight
* ruins to explore, Indiana Jones-style
* gadgets, neat gadgets
* a planetoid that I can carve a safe hideout/base into
* Chamax bugs to shoot

...and so on.
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Old September 25th, 2017, 12:58 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by coliver988 View Post
I just finished up a mini-campaign with two friends. Both were fairly passive players and rarely took any initiative on their own. While this works if you have a few active, outgoing players, what do you do when the entire group consists of players that don't seem to really engage yet want to play?
How much did you involve them in the discussion about what you were going to run for them? If they're in from the ground up I've found in the past that the players, even passive ones, have a stake in the game and are a little more engaged.

Then again, you may have just rolled double ones on this one.
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Old September 25th, 2017, 01:50 PM
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what do you do when the entire group consists of players that don't seem to really engage yet want to play?
first, ask them what they want. they may have forgotten what they want.

second, chances are they're just along for the ride and the scenery, so give them a ride and some scenery. maybe they'll remember what they want.
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Old September 25th, 2017, 04:59 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by coliver988 View Post
I just finished up a mini-campaign with two friends. Both were fairly passive players and rarely took any initiative on their own. While this works if you have a few active, outgoing players, what do you do when the entire group consists of players that don't seem to really engage yet want to play?
It's happened to me more than once. To me it says they really don't want to play. The truth is they may just be intimidated and not really know how to play, but I'm not a therapist, and I'm not there to try and prod them into taking more action ... though I have tried a few times, and in a friendly GM sort of way.

Anecdote; I used to game with a hardcore D&D type way back in 88 or 89. He found his religion through D&D (shudder), and played clerics and wizards. A very nice man who buttoned his plaid collared shirts all the way up to the top button, but never wore a tie. His personality was diametrically opposite to the martial arts crowd I gamed with at the time.

The story is that we were in some cave complex infested with the usual; orcs and undead, and we wandered into this sacred crypt with some kind of bejeweled chest and other goodies ... golden candlesticks and the like. It was a short cut to a place where the nasty evil king's castle was, who was sending black flying demons to harass the town we had defended (successfully). So, one of our guys just starts to approach the thing, and undead skeletons come up out of the ground.

Our clerical/wizard type shook his head, made some comments, and said his character was backing away. I had had enough of this guy, so I told the DM that my character (an 18/100 Str warrior) grabs the "the clergy" (I made up a new religious name for the dude every time I talked about him ... he was that annoying) by the collar, and throws him into the front ranks with his holy hammer (or mace .... I can't remember).

At which time said player ran up to a skeleton and did his darndest to inflict physical damage on an enemy, and, for the first time in the entire campaign.

There's other instances. The guy who bought me Traveller was more of chemistry type, and also played passively. And that too got annoying, and I did something similar during a Traveller session just to get a point across. I can't remember what it was. He was playing a defected Zho working for the Imps, and a fire fight broke out somehow, and he took cover so he could save his skin or somesuch.

Those kinds of players really do get on my nerves. And typically I don't invite them back anymore. Of course now that I've written this, watch my next gaming session be filled with those kinds of players, and I'll be forced to throw all of them out and what? Give up gaming? I don't think so.
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Old September 25th, 2017, 05:15 PM
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Those kinds of players really do get on my nerves. And typically I don't invite them back anymore. Of course now that I've written this, watch my next gaming session be filled with those kinds of players, and I'll be forced to throw all of them out and what? Give up gaming? I don't think so.
I refuse to be that Referee that says, "What do you guys do?" or "Are you sure you want to do that?" I'd rather start a Traveller game with players new tabletop gaming, than act as a facilitator to a group that just wants to sit and be entertained and be told what awesome things their characters do.
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Old September 25th, 2017, 05:53 PM
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