An RPG for new and more reserved players


#1

I was thinking today about my game I created and was running at KublaCon and out of 4 players in the game, 1 had a harder time contributing to the story. You could tell they wanted to but it was a little hard to be creative on their feet like the other three players.

I was considering a PBTA system that was more stripped down that married Golden Sky Stories with playbooks. I think the playbooks would have to be very user friendly explain how to play the character and how to interact with other characters. I want to try to make it easier for people who are not fast on their feet. Generally people who are experienced and are fast on their feet have a tendency to take control of games and other people just let them because they don’t want to cause a log jam. I know GMs are there to balance and give spotlight but a spotlight can only be useful if a player can stand up to shine and for a new player that can be hard.

So what if the playbook taught how to be a good player too. Take for example Masks, Pierce the mask has a set of questions to ask, what every move had set of options like that. The simpler the better. I know this is antithetical to the Indie Genre of giving more reign but we should build games to elevate the player without having to lecture them or make them feel bad.

The playbook moves would be the most necessary moves in most games. You run into a wall what do you do? Start from the fundamental, some players think oh I need to be creative, what if every player had a skill that could get them through it and it was outlined. Climb, break through, jump etc etc. The more players see possibility the more they understand that there is no right way to do something.

I think creating a game that teaches players the world of a sandbox will elevate them to go beyond it.

I also think we could create modules for new GMs, that give direction on how to play NPCs, and come up with what happens in case of dice failures.

Just thinking out loud. I’m in the middle of my other game and getting it tested but this may be a side project or something I may want to work on next.


#2

There are some simple techniques a GM can use if a player is struggling to come up with move ideas or answers to direct questions I would suggest the following:
-First, when you ask a world building type question, or when it’s their turn and after you’ve asked “what do you do?”, BE QUIET, and be sure the rest of the table is as well. Give the person time to think without distraction. Give as much time as you feel is necessary, then give a little more.
-Second ASK if the player would like some help. If they they’ve almost got something on their own, give them a little more time.
-If they say they’d like some ideas, the GM can give one or two SUGGESTIONS, and poll the table for some more. Get about 3-5 options, and let them choose one.
-ENCOURAGE them to modify or add detail to that option. Ask qualifying questions, something you’re curious about or find interesting. Allow players to do the same. This makes the less confident player feel they’ve contributed more than just choosing A B or C, and it stretches those imagination muscles to help them become a more contributory player in the future.

B.A.S.E.

Be quiet, Ask if they’d like help, give Suggestions, Encourage them to add detail.


#3

If you haven’t, I’d recommend you read the GM sections of as many PBTA games as you can. Apocalypse World, Dungeon World, Monster of the Week, MASKS, and as I understand though I haven’t ran, Monster Hearts all have great GM sections that should help with what you’re asking about, how to play NPCs and come up with hard moves for 6- and soft moves for 7-9, and much more.


#4

Definitely make a new game to address this, because that’s how good, interesting games get made.

That said, in my experience this isn’t a rules problem, it is a system problem, meaning the culture of play can support this sort of player regardless of the rules. If everyone is paying attention and focused on providing a really positive experience for everyone else at the table, the reluctant or slow-to-spout-nonsense player is loved and supported with time, validation, suggestions, or whatever they need to thrive. Establishing this expectation at a convention table is hard but not impossible.


#5

I know all of this as a GM and everyone on the table was supportive and we did all the things to aid a player in the game that you mentioned.

A game isn’t just decisions, it’s the reactions and the banter back and forth. The RP aspect is also very much part of the experience.

Good we helped them make a decision but interaction with the other characters is a different thing. We ideally want all players to be involved equally and enjoy the game. We don’t want a player to be mostly observers. How many games have we as GMs sat in watching 4 of 5 players role playing while 1 out of 5 is trying to figure it out and feels lost. I’ve talked to many players who feel intimidated by experienced players and don’t want to “ruin” the other people’s flow and fun.

The rules teach you how to play the game but not “play” the game. Which is why I created this thread. A fully newbie friendly game to help them learn to think/interact from a character perspective. What would that need to look like?


#6

The January 22nd The Gauntlet Podcast episode features, Karen Twelves, the writer of the book “Improv for Gamers”. The book might be a great place to start. It’s full of little games to work the improv muscles.


#7

I have been both the player who wasn’t fast enough to get a word in edgewise, end the player who maybe was contributing too much before and crowding someone out. I think @Jmstar is largely right about culture. However, there are games that feature explicit turn taking which can help with this for players who aren’t used to this style of play but want to engage.

At the extreme The Quiet Year has a lot of explicut mechanics that give slower players time.


#8

I believe that roleplaying game should be designed after how we normally hold a conversation, with someone holding the stick in a replay race, and handing it over to someone else that builds or responds on what the first person said. Some people will be more inclined to take the stick more often, and the reasons for this can differ:

  1. They have high energy at the moment.
  2. They know about the topic.
  3. They burn about the topic.
  4. They know a majority of the others well.
  5. They got a clear agenda (vague description from my part).
  6. They got the confidence.
  7. They got a safe social role in the group.
  8. They are normally outgoing.
  9. They are normally listened to.
  10. They want to get heard (as opposed to, they want everyone else to talk first)
    • some other reason

… and people that don’t contribute as much for the opposite reasons.

As for the first three, I don’t think it’s fruitful to create a round-robin initiative system because that would choke the ones who has energy and wants to contribute. A round-robin initiative system for talking is not how a conversation is normally held. If you have high energy players that want to contribute, let them. That can even create a time to think for low energy players. Sure, one high energy player could take over but that’s an exception, not a rule, and I would say it only happens if the game master (if any) is continuously responding to that player.

Point four could be solved by creating some sort of warm-up exercise, or by just socializing before a game meeting, like cooking together or talking online for a while. A clear agenda could be created through the character, but you could also give the player an agenda. Talk about what they want to play and how they normally play. Lift up points in their preferred game style that your group is missing at the moment, and make the player(s) feel appreciated when they bring that into play.

As for 6-9, that’s up to the person themselves, but I think it’s important to keep things at a slow pace. Not every time, but sometimes pull the brake to give everyone a breather. If new information comes flying in faster than strobe light, it will never give people that likes to think about the situation a chance to contribute.

Also, always give positive verbal or in-game feedback. If low energy players do something, react to it by describing something positive they get out from the fiction, or give praise. One mantra I was taught during a soccer trainer education was to always give each player praise at least once during a session. I brought that into roleplaying game sessions as well. Further on, if you want to create challenges, only do that with high level energy players. Also, check in with the low energy players. If someone hasn’t talked much, give them time to round things off, or switch focus to them when you think there has been too much high energy interaction going on.

One thing I can’t do anything about, however, is point 7 - a safe social role. One player was the youngest player in one of my group, the only female, most inexperienced and also shy as a person when being in a group. Everyone gave respect to her; when she talked everyone just stopped with what they was doing to listen to her (to give her space). However, that just made everyone laser focus on her and created a somewhat uncomfortable atmosphere. I never got around solving that one during the years we played together, but she enjoyed playing so perhaps it wasn’t an issue to begin with? I normally tried a couple of side things on her, and went with whatever she felt comfortable with (read: what she continuously interacted with).


#9

hmmmm… I am totally on board with the don’t force people to talk if they don’t want to talk. BUT, for me, when we let the people who want to talk a whole bunch and in general have a more laissez-faire attitude we end up in a situation where more reserved folks get stifled out. Lots of people don’t want to grab the talking stick, or have different etiquette.

For instance, I have lots of times where someone has talked over me, interrupted me, and kept on speaking when I wanted to add to the conversation. Whether they even noticed that I was trying to add to the conversation, I don’t know. If I do what I’ve been culturally trained to do and wait quietly, I may or may not ever get the opportunity to speak.

I’m an Japanese American man. For better or worse, I’ve got the “soft, quiet, unobtrusive, not noticed” thing, but I’m also a man, so I’ve definitely got it better than many other folks. I know for me, I often find it easier to interrupt someone when I notice them continually talking over someone else, to hear the other person, than it is to interrupt for myself.

Like I said, I’m all for not forcing people to do things they don’t want to do, but I think really actively listening and being patient can go a long way to help.


#10

For instance, I have lots of times where someone has talked over me, interrupted me, and kept on speaking when I wanted to add to the conversation. Whether they even noticed that I was trying to add to the conversation, I don’t know. If I do what I’ve been culturally trained to do and wait quietly, I may or may not ever get the opportunity to speak.

I’m an Japanese American man. For better or worse, I’ve got the “soft, quiet, unobtrusive, not noticed” thing, but I’m also a man, so I’ve definitely got it better than many other folks. I know for me, I often find it easier to interrupt someone when I notice them continually talking over someone else, to hear the other person, than it is to interrupt for myself.

But is it common that people speak over other people? I think it’s good to have extremes in mind when designing (a conversation) but not to design for/against the extremes.

Or perhaps it’s a cultural thing? I’m Swedish and we really respect each other’s space. I really love the Italian saying “You got two ears, but one mouth” and try to have that in mind, and teach that, when we play.


#11

Yes, I’ve noticed here, in the USA, that it’s extremely common for some people to speak over others. It’s one of the reasons, why having systems in place for letting other more reserved players IN THE RULES can be an important thing, because the culture here is often the person who is loudest and most insistent and listening the least will often completely dominate the “conversation”. Often the way to “stop” that from happening is by interrupting yourself, and many folks, especially those who are marginalized in one way or another, are hesitant to do that. It’s for those folks that the systems for the reserved players are so important.