Encouraging Proactive Players


  • Pitcrew

    It seems to be a pretty strong consensus that proactive players--players who actively seek out things for their characters and the characters of other players to do on a game--are good for a game. It also seems like a bit of a no-duh statement.

    And yet, it feels to me as if the number of proactive players, at least on the games that I play on, has shrunk significantly in the last decade.

    Whether or not the second point is true, I would like to hear thoughts on how to find, cultivate, and encourage proactive players. Whether this is from a Staff perspective ("I was on a game and Staff did X and it encouraged players to be proactive") or from a player perspective ("When a game does/has X, it encourages me to be proactive"), I'm curious and interested.


  • Pitcrew

    @seraphim73 I think a lot of the new, young players just getting into the hobby are enthusiastic and proactive while most of the older, more experienced players are wary and cynical. I also think this creates friction - the new people don't get that some of that cynicism comes from a decade or more of shit going down. The older players see the enthusiasm and proactivity as attention seeking or trying to do everything. Neither has the whole picture.

    I think we need to encourage the enthusiasm and allow ourselves a bit of optimism again. I myself have been guilty of being wary of new players and new ideas, and I own that. We need the new blood if the hobby is going to survive and thrive.



  • @seraphim73 I see it it, too, and by a decline in proactive players, I mostly see it come in the form of players who don't ask for, seek out, or present options for RP. The last few years I've seen a lot of players wallflowering in OOC rooms waiting for other players to start RP, or events forming, but not a lot of hunting down RP and collaborating with others.

    Ideas: I think the more people dig into their characters for content, the better it'll be. I think these wikis having less sections about who your character is and more about where you would like your character to go would help. Things that could help (and I've seen some of these help) might be:

    • A wiki section on character pages for plots theyre involved in and help they're looking for
    • A list of plot elements that theyre hoping to find for their character (TBH, I don't see WHY saying openly that a player is hoping for a romantic interest for their character, or characters to help with a plot involving the disappearance of their sister would hurt)
    • Any other wiki sections dedicated to what the player would like to do

    I guess my mindset is that just details about the character or images is okay, but that sort of content tells a lot about the character and is less overt about ways to get into RP with them.

    So maybe a trend of these kinds of RP collaboration seeking content on character wikis could help with that.

    I truly believe that some of the lack of proactivity is due to shyness, not wanting to beg for RP, and a general difficulty with knowing how to arrange collaboration. If my theory is correct, this could help.


  • Pitcrew

    Things that I have seen work well for creating proactive players:

    Non-sandbox games
    Giving players tools to be proactive and Do Things (+actions over on Arx, for example)
    Putting limits on UberPlayers to do all the things (like with action points used on several games)
    Similarly, limits on number of alts - people are more proactive when they're more focused.
    Nudging players towards IC activity, through killing off of OOC rooms, encouraging the use of the grid, making finding RP easy and desirable.

    TLDR; Activity breeds activity. Games with an active RP scene will eventually lead to players who want to do things. This means encouraging RP and activity, it also means making sure that 1 or 2 players aren't sucking up all the activity.


  • Pitcrew

    From a player side: Impact!

    When something my character does has an impact on the world, a meaningful one, even if it is a /small/ one, it encourages me to Do More Stuff. An NPC rises or falls in their organization, a building appears or changes, a group is formed, dispersed, or changed, or there's some mark on the occult side of the world. In the first Darkwater, I still remember Cobalt letting an article my character wrote change the way people perceived a neighborhood, and thus gave everyone harvesting a particular emotion a boost in that neighborhood for a while. Tiny thing, but I really appreciated it, and it made me want to engage more with the world. Likewise, on Arx, something my character did mostly because I didn't know what to do with my personal money ended up getting my character a populist title (that he hates, and I adore). It doesn't matter at all, it's just a random folk title, but it tells me as a player that my actions don't happen in a vacuum, and that doing things can have good outcomes.



  • I remember when Denver had a submit a PrP log, everyone gets 20k and 2 karma thing going, and things were hopping for a solid 4 or 5 months. My group eventually ran out of steam, but being able to run a plot and know there was going to be some loot afterwards really helped.

    BSG Unification has essentially the same thing, where you can run a mission if you want without having to get editorial oversight, too, and I found that was great for keeners to get things rolling.

    What doesn't help is having to submit a plot in advance, wait for approval, and then try to find time to do it.


  • Pitcrew

    I think the most important thing has to come from staff:

    Give people things to do.

    This doesn't mean 24-7 staff has to be running something, but they need to be giving players some way to engage with the theme and their fellow players. I'm a big fan of Monster of the Week type deals, which can be one offs or things people can follow up on. Doesn't always have to be combat, could just be a big social thing. A dance, a festival, something to bring people together and give people a reason to be somewhere and talk to other people. Big A+s from me if it is involving EVERYONE and not just the same five people over and over again. If I think staff is trying to get everyone involved, I will go out of my way to try to give players who can't figure out an excuse to get in a way to do so. I'm a huge legworker. I LOVE investigating the shit out of things and then passing the information along to other people.

    That said, I think there's an ebb and flow to this kind of thing. Sometimes you get a group of people that wants to proactively chase down leads. Sometimes the current crew is the stand on the corner and wait for a monster to drop no matter how long it takes sort.

    Giving people something to do empowers players to entertain themselves and one another. Bar RP, okay, I can do it. Bar RP where we're all talking about That Thing That Happened and Making Plans? Way better! Even better? Allowing players to run PrPs. One off PrPs or PrPs tied to things that are happening in a major plot. Maybe zombies are attacking the city! Not every scene has to be a big staff plot. Let someone run someone's Aunt Edna coming back to kill her nephew for bad mouthing her fruit cake recipe!

    The saddest things are games with great themes that players can't ever interact with. I'll RP with anyone and try to drag people onto the grid, but being proactive doesn't matter if there's nothing to do.


  • Pitcrew

    @ghost said in Encouraging Proactive Players:

    A list of plot elements that theyre hoping to find for their character (TBH, I don't see WHY saying openly that a player is hoping for a romantic interest for their character, or characters to help with a plot involving the disappearance of their sister would hurt)

    We tried this on BSU and T8S alike and some players made use of it, but only those who are already prone to running after plot. Most players still just ignored it entirely. Even when it was made clear: 'Hey! STs can utilize these pages to generate plot ideas, particularly ones that will involve your character.'

    And that's even a passive way of signifying your interest. :\

    @lisse24 said in Encouraging Proactive Players:

    Non-sandbox games

    I see more interaction on sandbox games than non-, personally. Might be a YMMV there. But then, I consider WoD to be sandbox? So that might be why.

    I do agree with alt-limits, for sure. I don't think killing OOC Rooms is the point though. I find the more camaraderie I build, the more I engage. There's a couple people on the game I'm most engaged on who never interact with anyone else (either in the OOC Room or on channels) and I feel absolutely no draw to interact with them. They never ask to RP with anyone outside of certain people, they never chat, they never... like, who are they? What are their goals? They don't even have a wiki page. I have no idea who they are.

    I'm kinda extroverted in MU* terms, but I have no idea how to approach this person. I need some form of OOC engagement. NO OOC!!! would be a reason to never, ever touch a game for me.

    OOC engagement inspires me. I've had plots spark out of OOC joking around.

    But as an ST... it is so. freaking. disheartening. to run plot and basically have people disengaged unless I'm constantly holding their hand and leading the way. Show me you're interested? Please? Somehow?

    Like if you're enjoying what I'm doing, let me know. Somehow. Otherwise, why am I even doing it?


  • Pitcrew

    @auspice I have to second part of this. There are lots of players who will show up to events, but have zero interest in follow-up. You can leave a dozen threads for them to pull on and they just don't. It gets discouraging.

    I'm setting up my Whoniverse game around troupes in the hopes that these smaller groups will keep themslves busy and then metaplot can weave them together. It's early, but so far I'm optimistic.



  • @auspice Yeah, it's unfortunate. I see what you're saying.

    I guess my mindset is the best you can do is try to create a culture of fostering collaboration.

    At the end of the day, you can lead a horse to water, dump it on its head, push their face into it, beg the horse, pray to the horse gods, whisper it it, and learn to speak in centaur language...

    ...but if they don't wanna drink, no amount of prodding will make them do so.

    Edit/Afterthought: BUT...with these collaborative tools and ideas in place then it would be more apparent whether or not you're dealing with a player who isn't proactive or just needs help finding collaboration.


  • Pitcrew

    I think that's when you have to know the kind of group you've got, which can be hard to tell if it's the first time they're all together. Some people will NEVER legwork a thing. Some people need someone to actively say, "If people want to follow up on this there will be other things coming from this plot for people that put in research requests!" And some people will legwork that plot that had no followup because it was just helping an old lady cross the street, but hey, when that happened I'd throw something together because A+ for effort even if it was misplaced!


  • Pitcrew

    @auspice said in Encouraging Proactive Players:

    OOC engagement inspires me. I've had plots spark out of OOC joking around.

    But as an ST... it is so. freaking. disheartening. to run plot and basically have people disengaged unless I'm constantly holding their hand and leading the way. Show me you're interested? Please? Somehow?

    Like if you're enjoying what I'm doing, let me know. Somehow. Otherwise, why am I even doing it?

    This is HUGE for me as a runner of scenes/plots/etc. Just a simple, "I'm enjoying this," goes a huge way for me as far as being inspired to run more stuff. When people seem unengaged or bored, I do my best to try and figure out what's going on and then adjust, but if they're just terminally unengaged, my interest drops like a rock.

    Also, from the runner end on games - I will say that having too much mystery or strictly defined things that aren't well-explained will kill my interest in running plots. I don't want to break theme, or cause problems, but my style as a GM is pretty extemporaneous, so if I don't feel confident enough to be able to answer questions off the cuff, or take things in the directions the players head, then I avoid running plots.


  • Pitcrew

    @auspice said in Encouraging Proactive Players:

    I see more interaction on sandbox games than non-, personally. Might be a YMMV there. But then, I consider WoD to be sandbox? So that might be why.

    When I think of active games, I think of RfK, Arx, and Firan. None of them are Sandboxes, but in any of those games, you can take a char and find RP within moments of hitting the grid. F&L, for all it's issues, was also not-a-sandbox and also far easier to find RP on than other games of its size. I can't think of a single game that was a sandbox that I would characterize as active. I define active as logging on and being able to tell through +where (or similar command) that several scenes are ongoing, and also easily being able to drum up RP.

    I'm kinda extroverted in MU* terms, but I have no idea how to approach this person. I need some form of OOC engagement. NO OOC!!! would be a reason to never, ever touch a game for me.

    OOC engagement inspires me. I've had plots spark out of OOC joking around.

    I agree 100% that there has to be OOC interaction. I fundamentally disagree with the people who are all "keep it IC." It's all about balance though. I've seen a lot of games where people just hang out OOC and never do anything IC. I've never seen a game where people were gently encouraged to hang IC, where there wasn't also a good deal of on-grid activity.

    But as an ST... it is so. freaking. disheartening. to run plot and basically have people disengaged unless I'm constantly holding their hand and leading the way. Show me you're interested? Please? Somehow?

    Like if you're enjoying what I'm doing, let me know. Somehow. Otherwise, why am I even doing it?

    I feel like this comes from the nature of how plots are planned and run. Plots tend to be run top-down. PRPs lean monster of the week, but these things aren't necessarily what players want to do, which makes it hard for them to be engaged, even if they want to do things.
    I'll again point to Arx's +actions, which is a way for players to get STing for what they want. I know you tried to have wiki pages where players filled in what they wanted, but that's actually a very passive way to accomplish something (I'm going to write on my wikipage that Cerise is hoping to set-up a lab to study changelings and I really hope that someone might write a plot with that! as opposed to, Okay, I'm going to set up a lab to study changelings, lemme submit a +action and see what's needed).

    While I'm thinking about it, games where some measure of the results of plot actions/PRPs etc. are posted and emitted help drive action by keeping players informed of what's going on and by putting weight on player actions. It also reminds players that if PlayerA put in a request to do reallycoolthing they wanted to do, PlayerB can too!

    @botulism said in Encouraging Proactive Players:

    @auspice I have to second part of this. There are lots of players who will show up to events, but have zero interest in follow-up. You can leave a dozen threads for them to pull on and they just don't. It gets discouraging.

    Personally, I find it hard to reply in a thread or +request to a plot action until I know what to do. I need to sit down and talk with people and RP it out. In plots and PRPs, the people who sign up often have very little IC ties to my char and it's hard to get together and chat with them. Maybe schedule a post-action/downtime scene in between action scenes to give the chars involved a chance to debrief/talk/plan? I mean, when I want to discuss something at work, I either schedule a call or set up a channel on Slack when I know that everyone is at their desk. I never try to get things done through email, because it's such a horrid way to do that type of communication.


  • Pitcrew

    @lisse24 said in Encouraging Proactive Players:

    Maybe schedule a post-action/downtime scene in between action scenes to give the chars involved a chance to debrief/talk/plan?

    Why should that be on the ST? Why should the ST have to schedule time for the players to do their research? To do their planning? To do their legwork?

    If I'm running an investigative plot, should I have to:

    • Design the plot
    • Run initial +events
    • Schedule time for downtime hangouts
    • Schedule time for info gathering
    • Schedule time for brainstorming
    • Schedule time for 'what should we do next?'
    • Tap everyone on the shoulder to ask them if they wanna do anything else?
    • Walk them through every possible option for what they should do next

    ... at that point why not just skip those last six things and just jump to the next +event and go 'OK so you would have done X, Y, Z and gotten these results.'?

    And +actions are nice, but you're assuming all plot is run by Staff.

    Not all plot is run by Staff.


  • Pitcrew

    @auspice said in Encouraging Proactive Players:

    Why should that be on the ST? Why should the ST have to schedule time for the players to do their research? To do their planning? To do their legwork?

    Because the ST is the one person who absolutely needs to be on hand during that time in order to answer questions? Because it's more time effective to discuss in person than through a +job/@mail. Because if a player tries to do it, you'll have a char who ignores everything. Because if it's your typical PRP, the characters involved have been cherry picked according to who hit +event/signup first and not who might make the most sense to handle something. They probably don't interact with each other a lot or even know each other and there are probably a lot of barriers that prevented them interacting in the past, and if you're going to design a plot that caters to random players the least you can do is make it a bit easier for them to interact with each other. Finally, because what you're doing right now isn't working and this isn't hard and requires no planning on your part, so what do you have to lose?

    Note that I'm assuming your typical PRP/+event plot where people just sign up for a random thing with no knowledge ahead of time of what sort of plot it is or who is involved. If you're running a plot for the Circle of the Crone, or a similarly already affiliated group, and they can't be bothered to talk to each other that's a different story.

    And +actions are nice, but you're assuming all plot is run by Staff.

    Not all plot is run by Staff.

    No, I'm not. There's no reason that you can't design a +action-like system that is either just for people who wanna run plots or a mix of staff/player run plot. My point is that you need to allow players to actively work on their own goals, and begging on +boards for GMs or putting wishes on wikis isn't going to get that done.


  • Pitcrew

    @lisse24 said in Encouraging Proactive Players:

    Because the ST is the one person who absolutely needs to be on hand during that time in order to answer questions?

    If people want to do legwork, research, etc... I will gladly do so. But in recent plots I have run... I think I have had maybe two people, in the past six months (and a handful of plot threads, scenes, etc.) actually do so. Everyone else has just wandered off and never said a peep.

    I'm not going to drag and wheedle and beg people who show zero interest in doing anything else. I'm not going to go through the rigamarole of scheduling (we've had rants on how hard it is to schedule multiple people!) just to sit down and hang out to chat.

    If someone wants to do this, they can reach out. I will make myself available to join in, but if a player wants to do legwork? Wants to research? Wants to brainstorm? They should indicate wanting to do so. I am not going to drag people along who show zero interest in wanting to do so.

    And I have never seen anyone indicate an interest in wanting a special +event just to kick up their feet and brainstorm for a few hours. There's a reason downtime actions have always been submitted to STs outside of TT/LARP sessions. People generally don't want to waste RP time on going back and forth over 'But I wanna do X' 'Well I wanna do Y' 'Well I wanna do Z' - if you enjoy that, kudos, but most people don't. They want action, not sitting around dithering over what to do.

    It's why the best scenes start in media res. Want better than +mail? Start a gdoc or similar. Use a talk page on a wiki. I'm trying a new thing where I keep all relevant logs in one place and I keep a running summary (like a short story) of the plot so far, to keep people up to date.

    But sure, +actions/+request/+whatever people could submit to me as an ST? That'd be great. But I have yet to be on a MU* (except maybe one; I think BiTN had a system for it) with them without being CC'd onto a +request that also clogs up Staff jobs, sadly.



  • @seraphim73 Anytime I see Staff give public praise and throw resources at an ST that encourages me to do the same and to help draw more players into their plots as I can.


  • Coder

    @auspice said in Encouraging Proactive Players:

    If someone wants to do this, they can reach out. I will make myself available to join in, but if a player wants to do legwork? Wants to research? Wants to brainstorm? They should indicate wanting to do so. I am not going to drag people along who show zero interest in wanting to do so.

    @ghost said in Encouraging Proactive Players:

    At the end of the day, you can lead a horse to water, dump it on its head, push their face into it, beg the horse, pray to the horse gods, whisper it it, and learn to speak in centaur language...
    ...but if they don't wanna drink, no amount of prodding will make them do so.

    These two things go together in my mind. It's not really fair to expect STs or staff to bribe/cajole/browbeat people into playing. It's a roleplaying game. Freaking roleplay. If all you ever want is BarRP, knock yourself out. Otherwise, step up and show some initiative.

    Sadly I think most MU*ers come from a tabletop/video game experience where story is presented to them on a silver platter and all they have to do is show up and consume. Oooh look - a questgiver. Click. Do the thing. Job done.

    As for the original question, most proactive RPers will do their thing as long as you just get out of their way:

    • Don't put up artificial roadblocks. (like having to submit plots in advance)
    • Don't be heavy handed. (okay, the city guard probably should have responded in their scene... just let it go if you can, and if you can't? Try to deal with it as encouragingly as humanly possible)
    • Give them legitimacy. (explicitly encourage PRPs and publicly recognize them)
    • Let them impact the world, within reason.
    • Give them little nibbles to run with.

    I'm not a fan of offering XP as a reward, and most people don't seem to care too much about softer rewards. I'd say fully 75% of the plot-runners on BSGU never bothered to submit a request for their bonus luck point.


  • Pitcrew

    @quinn said in Encouraging Proactive Players:

    I Some people will NEVER legwork a thing.

    I think I am one of those people. I am more than happy to chase down plots through scenes but the second it becomes put in a request thing i tend to drift away. I don't mind RPing being in a library looking for things but the whole +jobs structure has always reminded me a bit too much like game homework so I tend to avoid it.
    Which leads into my thing for encouraging active players eliminate bureaucracy whenever possible.


  • Pitcrew

    @ThatGuyThere How do you do that though without having a staff member always be around in every room any RP is happening in just in case someone wants to RP researching something related to a plot? Seriously asking.

    I wouldn't mind doing library RP looking for things, but if I also put in a +request, I could then actually get something without the staffer having to be there in the scene and could just RP it with the other PCs around. It doesn't even have to be long "X PC is going to be looking in the library for things related to X in the plot scene the other night."