Expected levels of engagement and interest

Strange Visitor

Grumpy Grognard
Validated User
At this point, we've had forty years of argument about what role-playing games are and how they should be played, with the consensus being that we should just try to keep the arguments friendly.
And even that fails sometimes. But yeah, once you start defining it too specifically, the discussion always goes bad places.
 

Aesthete

A for Aeffort
Validated User
If someone was consistently on the phone or otherwise engaged during a game I'm running, I'd consider it a failure on my part. Clearly the game isn't engaging enough, and I need to step up my GM game a bit to pull them in.

Generally, I try to make sure to have some sort of interaction with everyone at the table at a good frequency, to avoid long periods of dead time for any given particpant.

I frequently use the a mixture of the following techniques:

1) When there are rule questions that can hold up the game: ask someone else at the table to look up the rule and summarize the rules and the possible interpretations while I give GM attention to other players and keep the game going.

2) When game play focuses on something that's heavy engagement for some of the party but not others, get some light side action going with potential real consequences or tension but light on rules to engage the non-centre characters. F. ex. if there's a long combat going, but there are non-combat PCs standing about with little to do, I may do things like:

2a) Use non-combat NPCs to interact with the PC, e.g. "the young lad you hired to watch your pack mules come to you with a panicked look about him. He says 'what should I do what should I do are they going to kill us ohmygodweareallgoing to die!' - how do you respond?" or "the scholar you're escorting sidles up to you, looks at the melee and asks you 'so, who do you think is the best fighter in your group'...?" (and otherwise provide brief running commentary on the fight in the form of questions to the non-combat PC).

2b) Give the non-combat PC ways to interact with the stakes of the combat in an appropriate way, e. g. "as you're hiding under the wagon you notice that the goblin who was downed by arrows early stir. Slowly he pulls himself towards the edge of the clearing opposite... looks like he's trying to escape" (and no, none of the others have noticed at this point).

3) If I know there's an upcoming scene with lots of role playing where focus could be on a few PCs, prepare some lines of side action (of interest to the player in question) that can be run via notes and a few dice rolls while the main action goes on. F. ex. if the main scene is about the Noble and Bard PCs negotiating at a noble's court, I might hand out prepared notes like this:

3a) "During the discussion notice two courtiers - one a young blond in a black doublet, the other an older gent with one eye and a short grey beard. They are in an alcove engaged in an intense discussion. You'd guess they're trying to be discreet, but they keep casting dark looks at one of the ladies in waiting behind the Duchess. After a while they reach some sort of conclusion and the old man hands the younger one what appears to be a potion bottle. They look around furtively then split up."

3b) "A young fairly handsome man - looks like he could be the court wizard from the way he's dressed - approaches you seemingly by chance. He gives you a wink and quietly says 'this is pretty dull, eh? Do you want to come up to my tower and look at my library? I have a copy of De Gustibus Non Est Disputandum with a complete the Goblin Apocrypha appendix... [how do you respond? Circle one of [I go right now], [I say: "sounds good, let's do it later"], [other: please describe]"

If, say, the PC goes with the wizard I might call for perception rolls for the rest of the party to notice - but it'd just be "you notice [PC] leaving with what looks to be the court wizard through the North door - and I'd have a prepared note for the subsequent events in the tower.
 
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Knaight

Registered User
Validated User
After I've finished my current game I'll give people at my gaming group a list of things to choose from that I'm interested in running.

Anyone who responds with "I'll play whatever" will not be welcome at my table. I would like at least a little enthusiasm from my players.
There could easily be enthusiasm - If the list of things is all good, I could easily see going with "I'll play whatever", saving commentary for when something is either perfectly aimed at me or very much not my alley. Plus it all comes down to implementation anyways.
 

Francis Helie

Member
RPGnet Member
Validated User
I'm not actually the GM currently.

Actually, what kicked off these thoughts was a youtube video by RPGPundit where he commented that Critical Role exaggerated the excitement and engagement of the players compared to real roleplaying.
Ah there's your issue right there. Don't listen to RPGpundit, problem solved'
 

Strange Visitor

Grumpy Grognard
Validated User
Except in this particular case, the Pundit is probably right for the majority of gaming groups. Not all, but the giant collection of hams on CR are going to be very much outliers in how their play goes.
 

downer

Fairy Tale King
Validated User
Except in this particular case, the Pundit is probably right for the majority of gaming groups. Not all, but the giant collection of hams on CR are going to be very much outliers in how their play goes.
Okay, so roleplaying isn't like it's depicted on TV. Which puts it in the company of courtroom trials, car chases, open-heart surgery and sex. I guess even RPGpundit couldn't get that one wrong...
 

hyphz

Member
RPGnet Member
Validated User
Sure. But there is a standard for what happens in a real life court - a very specific one actually. That inspired the question, what is that standard for RPGs?

And yea, I get annoyed by the “I don’t mind” player mindset too when GMing. I’m offering to run a game for you, not asking you to play it for me.
 

ESkemp

Registered User
Validated User
Just to throw another variable in the mix, I've played with people who explicitly did not pay any attention to any scene their character wasn't in, because they didn't want out-of-character knowledge affecting their decisions. That's definitely roleplaying, even if it's a quirky approach -- but it illustrates that there's a whole lot of difference between "participating in this scene," "participating in this game," and "participating in the hobby." Heck, people who talk online about the game elements of Critical Role are participating in the hobby by exchanging opinions and theories and discussing techniques; they're just not active participants in Mercer's game.

RPG sessions aren't courts. They explicitly lack that legal standard of having to do things one proscribed way or it doesn't count and your case is thrown out. I cut my player with heavy ADD a lot of slack when it comes to her digressions or getting on her phone or doing knitting, and while I might hold my wife to a higher standard, she just spent time cooking a meal so I know she's already going to be a bit tired. Yet change those circumstances -- to, say, a game where everyone's in their early 20s and you scheduled time for a weekend RPG retreat and someone else has provided food and necessities -- and yeah, maybe a higher level of engagement is reasonable. But gaming tables as a whole probably have to get a lot more homogenous before you can say "This is it. This is the average."
 

Random Goblin

Esquire
Validated User
That inspired the question, what is that standard for RPGs?
Right, and so people keep answering the question: there isn't an absolute standard; it really depends on your group and what people are comfortable with.

Why is that not satisfying to you?
 

downer

Fairy Tale King
Validated User
Sure. But there is a standard for what happens in a real life court - a very specific one actually.
A very specific one for each country. And just as a courtroom in Japan looks different from one in Germany, the US or Nigeria, so will the standard for RPGs vary with region, age of the participants, actual game played and so on. Why are you looking for the one gold standard for RPGs, when there's thousands of gaming groups around the world, all coming from different backgrounds? Do you genuinely not understand that people have different ideas about that in different places? To make matters worse, while legal systems tend to be country-spanning, roleplaying game groups are mostly isolated. I grew up in a town of 30.000 people, and I never realized there was another group of gamers there besides my own. When I met them, they had a totally different playstyle from what I was used to and we never got together for a game. That's the standard really: everyone does it as best they know how.

I suspect you're waiting for the quote that you can show your group, either as an excuse to leave ("See, roleplaying games suck, no one is ever really engaged and enthusiastic") or to call them to order ("See, your engagement is way below standard, pull yourself together"). You will not find that here, sorry. I've seen people get all lost in the game and hang on the edge of their seats. I've seen people crack jokes and make Monty Python references all night long. Often the same people. That's how it is.
 
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