Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Nuts & Bolts #12 - Blogger Roundtable #1 - Inclusivity

Starting this month I'll be taking part in a round table of sorts with other bloggers who work within the Cypher System. It's all organized by +Lex Starwalker and with luck it'll be a really cool "discussion" of sorts each month.

This Month's Topic:
How would you, as GM, encourage role-playing in a player who doesn't role-play as much as you'd like, whether it's role-playing with NPCs, being more descriptive in combat, or referring to themselves in the third person. If you want to take the role-playing at your table to the next level, how do you get your players on board?
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Hmm, how to encourage a player to role-play more? Well in my mind I can see a couple of ways ...

Set some ground rules/expectations up front

This works well if you do it for the whole group, even if the other players are already on board, and if not it reminds them as well and sets things up. If you are going to run your game a certain way and expect a certain degree of role play this is probably the right way to start. This let's you set the stage for the next couple of suggestions as well.

If you are going to treat table talk as a in character talk unless the players call a halt that sets an expectation, it will probably tamp down on the goofball comments and lead players to be a little more on task but it might also kill some of the fun and be a little too "all in" for people new to the hobby. Likewise is you expect the players to speak as their characters and elaborate on in character actions and tasks telling them up front helps to prime the pump.

Lead by Example

This probably (maybe?) goes without saying, but players will take their cues from the GM. If you are telling them what an NPC says they will tell you what their character says, but if you speak as the NPC (stutters and accents optional) that will help encourage players to act as their characters and speak to the NPC rather than to the GM.

Similarly if you want more detailed descriptions of combat actions then providing the same for the monsters will only help. "The orc hits you" is not the same as "[bellow of triumph] the orc's maul crushes in your breastplate and sends you reeling backward!" Putting the effort in on your end should encourage the players to do the same.

Co-opt the Other Players

Players take their cue from GMs, but they also take their cues from the other players at the table, for both good and ill. Most GMs probably have seen how certain players can sway a game to greatness, or drive it straight to the land of Monty Haul. If you have access to one of the former ask them to help you get the rest of the group (or a specific player) to step up and role play more.  If they are already inclined to such play they may already be on board without being asked, and if they are on the fence you might be able to sway them simply by asking nicely (or you can resort to the tactic below).

Regardless if you have four players and three are heavy into the RP that will help the fourth to find their footing.  It may not be instantaneous but hopefully with time and encouragement from you and the other players it will happen.

Encourage Through Rewards

When all else fails try a little bribery.  Offer a bounty of bonuses or experience (depending on the style of the game and system) for good RP.  Grant small amounts of extra damage or bonuses to attack for well described actions.  Give small discounts for good interaction with NPCs and vendors. A little goes a long way, but make sure that the rewards are immediate and tangible.  A 1% discount wont cut it but 10% will.  Depending on the system a +1 might work, or and extra die, or some other such bonus.  Given them out for good examples of what you want to see and as the group responds up the ante on what it takes to earn the bonus to help drive them to improve. 

Unfortunately bribery has a cost and it's that in the long term you will be stuck giving out such bonuses and discounts, but if the players are role playing better for it, it's still a win.

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Want to see some other blogger's takes on this subject? Check out:

+James Walls - Love 'em or Leave 'em - RPG Players who Don't RP at http://ilive4crits.blogspot.com/

+Scott Robinson - Encouraging Role-playing at Your Table at http://strangeenc.blogspot.com/

+Lex Starwalker - How to get better roleplay from your players at http://www.starwalkerstudios.com/blog/

+John Marvin - How to encourage roleplaying at http://dreadunicorngames.com/