Do you find that your players are unhappy, constantly distracted or just not engaged as you want them to be? Well, ask yourself, are you giving them what they want? Do you know what they want? Many times you’ll say giving them what they want (especially problem players) will ruin the game! That’s because you give them: what they ask for. And there lies the crucial difference.
Whenever I introduce a new player into the game, any game, I make them a profile in my “Players Binder”. This profile is universal for every game, no matter the setting or system you play. Everyone has a page (or sometimes two) about what interests them, what captures their attention and other insights about them. Each aspect is gathered as you play with them, and requires you to take notice WHEN they engage and WHEN THEY DO NOT engage. As GMs we already do take this into some account when planning (or improving) sessions, but having it laid out so cleanly is far more useful than you can imagine.
And for players, do this to your fellow players. You can cater to their desires and in turn they’ll want to engage more with you, this fixes more problems then you at first may realize.
So here is my Formula:
DESIRE: What does this player want out of their game? What category of challenge or entertainment appeals to this player the most? To find this, listen to what the player Talks About and Remembers the most. Their “Desire” is the current reason that keeps them playing the game.
QUESTION(S): The game is not just for fun, there are times when the game is not fun at all but is absolutely Satisfying. That is what this section is about. I direct my games to answer a moral or life question, this doesn’t need to be overbearing but allows the player to explore something meaningful to them. For every character the player has or has had, make a question out of the main idea of the character. I prefer at least two questions, one which is the focus of their character and the other which is for even deeper meaning.
NEEDS: Your player is always complaining about this, is discourages them when it happens and they get super frustrated when they can’t overcome it. This is not the kind of frustration you want in the game, frustration within the game setting is wonderful when used correctly. Frustration with the game destroys someone’s enjoyment of the game and can cause them to leave or worse: give up. Ask yourself what the player needs to not be frustrated or left out of the game, what kind of encouragement they need so they can keep playing.
NOTICES: When your player looks away, is distracted by something or is simply lost in thought, what makes them spin their head, focus their eyes on you and go: WHAT?!. This can be one thing or many things, write each one down as they react to it and try & find the general reason they snapped back to the game. If something caused a player to be fully or mostly involved for an extended period of time, what was it? Write those things here.
FAULTS: We all have them, and when you’re playing they can come out. What are the most striking faults that your player possesses? Some aren’t very confident, some like to dominate other players, others will never engage or cooperate with the other players, Find as many of these as you can and make a list, we’ll be using these in the next section.
FIXES: There is always something you can do to help someone. It may not always be much, but every little bit you can do it helps. Write here what you can do in-game that will help the player overcome their faults, overlook or avoid unneeded frustration with the game and be fully engaged in the game. I make a section for each tabletop system that I have played with them. These can be little details to system breaks. If a player keeps rolling badly- let them automatically succeed as much as possible on little things. Is you’re player nostalgic because of their time playing AD&D as a young person? Read over some of the material and let the nostalgia wash over them. You can find ways to implement these things into your game without compromising that beautiful story you’ve written.
TWISTS: These are meta plot twists you can use to cause drama or knock a player down a titch when they get too excited and hog the spotlight. They cause the player to rethink and question everything around them, this may seem to be unhealthy at times- but it fully engages the player. ———————————————————————————————————– Remember that you’re goal is the same of that as a writer: any emotion that your listeners feel, good or bad, is a sign of your success. If something makes your players sad, amazing! Do they feel taken advantage of by NPCs, wonderful! Drama is not caused by always staying fun, there must be dips in fun for there to be highs in enjoyment. I do hope that this helps you learn to work with your players, and this creates an addictive gaming atmosphere.
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