Monday, March 27, 2017

Don't Just Stand There - Do Something!

WARNING: Rant-y. Snarky. Not about you.

Has anyone ever experienced a situation in which a player in the group often has their character hold their actions, defer to NPCs, or says that there is nothing that they're character can do at the moment?

This may be the result of the player feeling that their PC doesn't have the 'right' skills, or abilities for the situation at hand, that the NPCs outrank them [and therefore the PC shouldn't, logically speaking, take charge of the resources at their disposal over the head of the NPCs), and/or that it isn't 'in character' for their PC (personality, or perhaps 'role' wise) to act at that particular time.

Have you come across this gentle readers? I have. Sometimes two of these players will be in the same game at the same time, though that is rare.

What do you do about it? 'Cause frankly, my gut instinct - Punch them in the face - seems to be frowned upon in polite company. Go figure.

Why would you do nothing in a game? I can't fathom it. At least not originating from ones own self. What I mean to say is that if the GM is railroading you, if there is nothing to do, because nothing can be done to change the situation, OK that's out of your control.  That's bad GMing in my opinion, although I guess if you let the players know this in advance, or find someway to cloak it in the illusion of choice its not so bad. 

On the other hand, if it is possible to take an action, be it physical, mental, social, or supernatural, why wouldn't you do so? What is the purpose of inaction?

This is such a pet peeve of mine because it irks me from both sides of the table.

If I am the GM, I have to wonder why you are wasting my time coming to my table to make no significant impact on the game. It says you came all this way, to this get together in the age of easy communication, and difficult in-person meetings, to make me wait for your turn in the initiative order just to have you not fully participate. Why are you there? Stay home. 

Worse, it says to me that I'm doing a bad job as GM. It tells me you don't understand, or aren't enjoying the session. I've obvious created a situation so poorly thought out, or so uninteresting you feel your involvement, or lack there of, will have no effect on the outcome. Although I have depicted it as a life, or death situation, you seem to think it so trivial that it's not worth your time. Fine. I'll go home and re-think my hobbies. I hear stamp collecting is enriching. 

If I am a fellow player in your group, why am I, and the other active participants doing all the heavy lifting in the scenario. I have to wonder why you aren't helping your teammates out. Why did you bring a non-combatant into an action/adventure game? Can you at least talk us out of our current dilemma? That at least would be interesting. Honestly, a clever stretch of dialogue is every bit as interesting to me as a good fight scene. An in-character conversation is still an action in my book. 

I'll tell you this; if at the end of the session everyone gets the same X number of experience points, you can be rest assured I'll be plenty miffed that you got the same as me, and I rarely give a damn about that kind of thing.

Lights, Camera, ACTION!
Please! ACTION Already!

Part of my issue with this is that I am incapable of not thinking of dozens of ways to approach a give scenario. Seriously, I'm not boasting, since in my mind this is normal. I do not believe myself gifted in some way, but rather that this is what most people experience. 

I am learning now that for many it is not the case.

A large number of players require a few moments to come up with a single decent idea. For some their own thinking gets in their way of coming up with a response to the problem before them. 

The most typical situation I have seen (though by no means the only one) is a social character being caught in the middle of a combat situation. 

Blaster bolts, bullets, or arrows zip through the air, as tactically skilled characters engage in battle across the local landscape. Combat abilities, and/or feats fly fast, and furiously to give both individuals, and groups an edge over their opponents. 

In the middle of it all is a diplomat, bureaucrat, or business person PC with nary a weapon proficiency to their name. When the Gamemaster gets to this character in the order of battle and asks the player what their character does, the player responds with:

"I'm not a fighting character. There's nothing I can do."
"My PC isn't in charge here. I wait for the [NPC] group leader to tell me what's needed."
"What can I do? What is there for my character to do?"

When this happens, I have to resist the urge to tell that player to go home. Thank you for playing, we have some lovely parting gifts. Actually no, you don't deserve parting gifts. Just leave.

One of the key elements of gaming is to game. I'll let that sink in for a moment. Don't want to go to fast. Caught up? Still with me? OK.

As such, a bunch of friends get together and interact with each other, lead by one player serving as the editor-in-chief/director/master of ceremonies/referee who paints the bigger picture, keep things moving, and helps to arbitrate disputes using the rules of the game and their best judgement. 

Yes there are RPGs that don't work this way. Yes, there are GM-less games, and Solo Games. FOCUS. Stay with me here people.

The point is, every game is a group effort. Not just between the individual members of a party of players dealing with GM governed, and orchestrated events, but also between each player, and the GM. 

Does the GM stop GMing for a bit during your game, right at a key moment to say, "Well, I have nothing for you to do"? Of course not! If they did, I would hope someone else would take over as GM.

So if the Gamemaster doesn't stop gamemasting during dramatic moments in the game, why do some players stop playing? 

So to sum it up...When the GM comes to you on your turn in the initiative, do something. Contribute. Be entertaining. Participate. Find the thing to do in the situation, that your character would do, and just do it. Possible suggestions include (but are not limited to):

  • Contact a contact. Call in a favor. Owe a favor. Get back up. Call for help.
  • Climb a tree, or a tower. Get a bird's eye view.
  • Con the enemy. Confuse the enemy. Coerce the enemy.
  • Dive for cover. Then dive from cover to cover. Go somewhere using cover.
  • Fight.
  • Flee while firing back behind you.
  • Give an impassioned speech.
  • Jam their comlinks.
  • Put on your big boy/big girl pants and take charge.
  • Use that secret ability/power you've been hiding/saving. Don't worry, no one is looking.

Just. Do. Something.

Barking Alien

1 comment:

  1. Yes, many times. Sometimes they get better, sometimes they don't. Current one is a spell-caster in a campaign I'm playing in where half the time he doesn't want to cast any spells or use any magic item charges because "he might need them later". On top of this he won't carry any weapons beyond a dagger so he spends a fair amount of time in combat in "I can't do anything" mode. He has gotten better over the last few months but it still shows up now and then.

    There are some sub-classes of the do-nothing.
    - The "I'm going to reject all of the adventure hooks the party finds while my character sits in the tavern and drinks" guy. He's the reactive fun-ruiner. He's not going to propose actually doing anything, he's just going to nay-say everything.

    - The "Don't touch it you might scratch the paint" guy. He builds an incredibly optimized character for the game, usually for combat but not always, but then doesn't want to actually use it! When he finally does, if it doesn't go completely his way, he throws some kind of tantrum about it as clearly the rules, the GM, or the other players are doing something wrong.

    - "The overhealer" who is there mainly for social reasons (in my experience), not so much for the game, and plays a character who they think is only good for healing. When you're not in combat or in some other danger, they basically go on passive mode and are just kind of there. Sometimes they get interested and start taking a more active role as the game goes on, sometimes they don't. Usually there's not much memorable about their character other than "oh yeah they played the healer".