Posted by Viriatha, the Bard of Valiant
Saying yes to players is something we all know we should do, whether it be a hard skill challenge or finding that unique cool item in a shop. Much has been written on this principle and how it works with game mechanics, and I’m not going into all of that here.
Instead, I want to ask, if we’re all saying yes why am I reading more about punishing players for not roleplaying? Isn’t that saying no?
I understand most people are on limited schedules, with families and kids. I understand that everyone is getting together for a small amount of time each week or even every other week for the very purpose of roleplaying and accomplishing in-game goals.
I also understand that this one night of the week might be the only time some of these people ever see each other.
So why are you saying no? Learn to say yes.
Balancing the social aspects of game night with the actual goal of playing the game can get tricky. We’re all just friends getting together to have a good time, after all. But is it a good time if we’re not actually playing the game?
One obvious solution is that instead of punishing players for not roleplaying, you consistently reward them for it instead. Say yes to good gaming instead of saying no to being a friendly member of the group.
At the end of the night, give them person who contributed most to keeping the game on track, while in character, some extra experience points. If more than one person did this, reward them both (or all three, etc. – whichever applies). Be careful not to reward a player who hassled the group. Don’t punish that but don’t reward it, either. Reward positive behavior with a positive reaction.
And be consistent. If you do this each game for the same behavior, the group will get the idea.
That’s why punishing social interaction that’s out of character can backfire so badly. Most players see this as positive behavior. If they get negative results, game night loses some of what makes it fun.
That’s the most obvious way to say yes. What are other ways you use in your game?
I can affirm that this approach works. No one likes to be called out during game for "playing badly". But rewarding players for roleplaying well acts as incentive to everyone at the table. That said, cater things to your individual players as well. One of my players feels awkward trying to roleplay heavy, with accent or emotion and the like. He often describes his action "Rufus will appeal to the Duke's sense of family history" rather than plays it. That's how he plays "in character". Another of my players loves to ham it up, uses accents, will stand to put forth a speech, etc. I reward them for good roleplaying based on what I know they are like and what is extra effort for them.
I really like the idea of a specific reward for the player who helped keep the game on track the most. My group often jokes about how easy it is for us to get distracted or off-topic and a reward like this might play out very well with them. I won't have to beat around the bush with the reward – "this is for whichever of you d-bags puts in the best effort of keeping us on game," will work just fine. I'll definitely have to try that out.
It's worked pretty well for me, so far 🙂 Anything I want players to do, I tell them I'll award points for – whether it's behavior of some kind, snacks, diary writing, whatever.
When they see other people getting the prize, they jump on the wagon pretty quick ^^
And I completely agree, make sure you're rewarding them for what they're able to do, instead of making them feel bad for failing to do something beyond their capabilities.
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