Gamer… Engage!

A GM wears many hats in most typical campaigns. Among their varied responsibilities are setting the scenes, creating the adversaries, keeping the world in motion, and adjudicating challenges the protagonists face. However, the players, in the Forged Front’s opinion, are the most important part of the whole equation… they are the main stars. Without the players, a GM is effectively telling a story by themselves.

Comedy_TragedySo what happens when a player doesn’t engage? Well, at its simplest roots, the player doesn’t take an active part in shaping the story. They might be along for the ride, but the net effect of this is they might as well be listening to a story their friends are telling. The GM can try a variety of things to try to engage the player from scenes that should help the player’s character shine to discussing with the player where they might want to go.

With that said, it really is more of a question of what the player wants from the game. When creating a character for a setting, the players together figure out what roles they are each going to take. Once a role is taken, they shape the personality and a high-level background that brought the character to its current state at the start of the campaign. The GM doesn’t set this up for the players … they might put certain limitations on the characters (like the characters have to be heroic – the nerve of that GM!), but at the end of the day, if the players are interested in the campaign, they pick their characters’ personalities and what they are going to bring to the role and story.

So, as a player, if I’m contributing a significant factor to the overall story, I have to do some analysis on my own on why I’m not engaging. While bad luck with the dice may make encounters a lot harder, if my character isn’t part of the story, it is just window-dressing like any NPC. In one case I observed, the player’s understanding of the setting made the story feel not right to him. It was a low-magic setting, yet they were finding plenty of magic in the world. Every time that happened, it created dissonance that dumped him out of the narrative.

In another case, the player had a couple of roles he liked to play within that type of setting. Each of those roles had a default personality that the player tended to use for that type of character. The player decided to take one of those roles and come up with a new personality, but struggled because it didn’t click. (For instance a flamboyant swordfighter and a scholarly priest were the default roles and personality types.) One of my recommendations would have simply been to switch up the personalities with the roles – for instance, a flamboyant priest. Another way to tackle that would be to look for inspirations in books, movies, etc, that have characters playing the role that you are about to take on. Pick a few traits that you really like in those characters and bring that to your character. A failsafe way to deal with this situation is to simply ask the GM to play a different character in the campaign given what you know of the group and the on-going story to help you feel more comfortable in the campaign.

At the end of it all though, a player that is engaged in the character they are playing makes it easier for the GM because they feed off that engagement.

My question to all the players out there is this: How do you go about coming up with personalities and backgrounds that make your characters click and thus easy to play within a campaign?

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