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  1. #1

    Player Engagement Online

    Hey all,
    My friends who are GMs and I have been noticing a trend in our online games that was not present when we were playing face to face.

    Outside of combat, in exploration or role playing, some players who used to be quite engaged at the table, now are taking a back seat when we play on FG. This means that one player might be more likely to take over "to get the story going". This seems to then create a downward spiral where those quiet players interact even less.

    We are thinking of using something like initiative order to ask each player directly what they are doing or how they want to react. This might be a good solution, but it could get tedious to do all the time.

    What do you do to keep players interacting with the game, the setting, and each other? Do you have any good tips or suggestions?

  2. #2
    No idea what the size of your group is, but mine all fits easily onto a video meeting. When you can see everybody, its harder for people to sit back and go silent.

  3. #3
    When I notice that people are starting to fade out or not interact as much I do indeed have them roll initiative. Them pop through the order and ask what they are up to. This tends to give them a bit of a sense of nearby danger and kinda puts them on alert a little. If it is just one or two (of my eight or nine depending on the game) I may just check in with them to see if they would like to have any input. If one or two players are taking over thats when I roll initiative. If the majority of the party is still sleeping I may roll some dice just to mess with them, or drop a random encounter to wake them up if it persists.
    Sorry for the rambling, been a long day.

  4. #4

    Join Date
    Jan 2014
    It does take adjustment to transition from face to face to online. I have noticed sometimes players just target and click without verbally indicating what they are doing and don't role play as much. When they start doing that I remind them to declare their intentions or I engage them directly with a role playing situation to snap them out of their shell and it usually works well. Just remember it isn't as interpersonal so you have to work a little harder sometimes but it's generally worth it.

  5. #5
    damned's Avatar
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    Call characters out by name - "Bolan - what do you do?" "Scadi you feel a vibration underfoot" "Kazad-Un the air is tinged with the faint smell of smoke" "You come to a T-Junction what do you do Cleetos the Wise?"

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  6. #6
    JohnD's Avatar
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    Mar 2012
    Winnipeg Canada
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    All good suggestions.

    Also remember that you may/will have the occasional player who is happy simply responding occasionally and the rest of the time blending into the scenery... nothing wrong with that as long as they're still paying attention and ready to respond when called upon.
    DMing since February 1979. FGC & FGU Ultimate License holder.

    Currently GMing:
    * Yggsburgh and Castle Zagyg - Castles and Crusades Greyhawk (Monday | Friday)
    * ToEE - Castles and Crusades Greyhawk (Thursday)
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    Thanks for 8+ years of gaming via FG my friends (AD&D 2e / 3.5e / Rolemaster Classic / Castles & Crusades / Pathfinder / Savage Worlds / 5e).

    There/Their/They're are all different words and do not mean the same thing.

  7. #7
    I find keeping the initiative order going out of combat helps.

    Don't spend too long with any one character, as the GM you need to shine the spotlight on everybody as equally as possible.

    Experiment with tricks to keep people engaged. For example in one game I'm playing in, one player is notably quieter that the rest but frequently interjects with chat messages and /emote. Maybe suggest that as the GM at the start of the session. For the right sort of game, /whisper could be an awesome engagement tool between characters (and horrible in the wrong sort of game).

    At the start of each session I try to give everyone a hint on FG features they may not have found yet. Encouraging people to explore the chat aspects is a good one because this means that while one player is "voice chat engaged, speaking, doing stuff with the GM" spotlight, EVERYONE else can participate in text-based exchanges.

    Ask more questions as the GM. This gets people more involved and active in the conversation. Do this as NPCs too. Ask rather than telling stuff, especially to the quieter players. Make sure the loud ones don't talk over them - request the group goes to push-to-talk for the scene or mute everyone else if it's a really big problem.

    If they've just scored a big kill or a crit or cast a spell which has really saved someone's bacon, ask them to describe how their character did it, what everyone sees happen. Let them contribute to the flavour text.

    Ask the quieter players HOW as well as WHAT their character is doing. Don't force it if they don't want to talk: as JohnD says above, some people are just happier in the hanging out mode and that's fine, don't force them out of their comfort zone. But making a mental note to get at least two or three sentences out of them every time you go around the virtual table can really get them engaged.

    More broadly, make sure to throw plot hooks and plot lines specifically targeted at the quieter players. If their character is not very proactive, present them with things that they cannot ignore. This doesn't need to be a whole quest - just make sure it is something personal.

    Encourage them to do a little something out of character between sessions. The very experienced online GM I'm playing a game with on Roll20 sends out short (10 questions) in-character questionnaires which I find have worked wonders for my own engagement.

    If talking really isn't their forte, give them stuff to DO. Spend a lot longer on what might be routine tasks. If the rogue is very laconic, set up a critical lock-picking task which is multi-stage and will require more input than just rolling a thieves' tools check. The rest of the party can jabber away for a bit while they get to make decisions. The old 4th Ed extended skills check stuff was OK, but if you can invent something more than "roll this skill ten times" that's great. Give them a lock to pick where at each stage they need to make a decision. Use acid on the lock or just tools? Press to the right or to the left? Get them asking you to make extra checks for clues. At each stage give advantage if they've made the right choice (or the dramatically appropriate one). Throw in a few bits where another character's abilities would really help but leave it to the quiet person to ask. You can say "Detect Magic might really help at this point" - have THEM decide to ask Fizzeg the mage to do it for them, and explain exactly why knowing whether the enchantment is stronger on the left hand or right hand side of the lock is important.

    You can probably find a similar "Spotlight" task for each quiet character. Make sure you plan one for next session for whoever seemed least involved or whose character had the least fun stuff to do this session. Ten minutes of their character getting to really shine and be awesome and do something no-one else in the party would even have the skill to analyse, less still solve, can generate confidence and get them thinking creatively. Maybe next time you describe a door with an ornate lock they'll start asking the questions themselves- do I think I should try acid or just pick the lock clean this time?

    Hope those help.


  8. #8
    Good advice already, I'll toss in that it is important to remember there are some players who aren't as active but who are just as engaged. I have a player who spends most of the game taking notes, and as a result he doesn't talk much, but he definitely knows what's going on. I have another player who really only enjoys the combat scenes and tunes out everything else, but he will pay enough attention to start causing trouble if the others take too long. He handles it for me so I don't need to have a random encounter or , which is fun.

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