Tabletop Roleplaying: Getting your players to care
If you’re new to roleplaying or just curious, take a look at my tabletop roleplaying 101 post before reading this one.
Tabletop roleplaying works best when everyone at the table is fully invested in the world that the characters you’re playing exist in.
Everyone at the table should be fully bought in to the idea of all of you roleplaying together.
Here’s a few tips on achieving this and, in doing so, getting your players to care.
Tip 1: Get on the same page ¶
When you first start playing, it’s unlikely that everyone will be on the same page on what the world you’re imagining looks like, what the people in it care about, etc.
No matter how much you prepare yourselves by reading books, watching movies, or playing games in preparation, everyone at the table is going to have a different idea of the kind of world you’re playing in.
And, that’s ok.
Building your shared vision of the world together is a fun part of roleplaying.
As your characters perceive the world around them and change it based on their actions, you’ll be bringing this imaginary world to life, together.
To make sure this whole thing runs smoothly, I recommend discussing with your players what kind of tone the game should have.
It doesn’t matter what you decide to play, whether it’s a goofy game about planning and executing heists that go terribly wrong or a game about superheroes trying to solve world hunger by killing all the billionaires and redistributing their wealth.
Anything is possible, as long as everyone is on the same page on the kind of world you’re going to be building together.
Tip 2: Pick a setting you already know ¶
If you’re new to the world of tabletop roleplaying, you should choose a setting that most of your players are familiar with to help you get up and running as quickly as possible.
You might be new to roleplaying but all of you have been exposed to a wide variety of media throughout your lives that you can use to ground yourselves in something familiar while learning something new.
Here’s a few tabletop role-playing games with settings that your group might be a good fit for:
If your group loves shows like Supernatural and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, then you might enjoy Monster of the Week where you play as a group of monster hunters who seek out monsters causing havoc in the world and stop them from being a threat.
If your group loves Scott Lynch’s The Lies of Locke Lamora book/series or the universe of the Dishonored video games, then you might enjoy Blades in the Dark where you play as a crew of daring scoundrels seeking their fortunes on the haunted streets of an industrial-fantasy city.
If your group loves Hong Kong action cinema, then you might enjoy Feng Shui 2 where you play as ragtag group of action movie archetypes who travel through time to four different key points in history (the Tang Dynasty, the Opium Wars era, contemporary Hong Kong, and a post-apocalyptic future) and, by doing so, save the world (probably).
If your group loves fantasy and wants to play something like DND, then you might enjoy Dungeon World where you play as a group of heroes venturing into the most dangerous corners of the land in search of gold and glory.
Whatever your group’s interests are, you should be able to find a tabletop roleplaying game that is a perfect fit for you.
Tip 3: Yes, and ¶
Now, you’ve found some people to play with, you’ve chosen a system and setting that your players are interested in and maybe already know a bit about, what’s next?
I recommend become completely receptive to the ideas that the other players are bringing to the table.
This is the classic “Yes, and” idea found in the improv world.
When someone brings an idea to the table, silence your inner critic and instead of shutting them down, just roll with it while throwing your own ideas into the mix. Through this back and forth process, eventually, you’ll build something completely unique, together.
Are there exceptions to this? Absolutely. Hopefully, you’ve reduced the likelihood of this because you’re all on the same page but if someone brings an idea to the table that you’re not comfortable with, speak up and discuss the issue as a group.
But you should lean heavily towards accepting the ideas brought forth and building on them.
The more each player can contribute to the narrative and play an active role in shaping the world, the more they’ll be interested in the game and the more fun you will have together.
And that’s it for now.
If you’re just starting out, it’s not going to be perfect, no matter how many tips and tricks I give you. You might struggle initially as you slowly discover what kind of roleplaying you and your players enjoy.
I’ve been roleplaying on and off for over a decade and I feel like every session is an opportunity to learn something about myself, something about someone at the table or something about the world we’re building together.
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