Paizo Top Nav Branding
  • Hello, Guest! |
  • Sign In |
  • My Account |
  • Shopping Cart |
  • Help/FAQ
About Paizo Messageboards News Paizo Blog Help/FAQ
Pathfinder Roleplaying Game

Pathfinder Adventure Card Game


Pathfinder Society


Starfinder


Starfinder Society

help! I need to get my PCs in character!


Dragon Magazine General Discussion


hey, I'm and ametuer DM (I'm only 16) and i need to get my PCs to stop screwing around and get into character. It was never really a big issue until my best friend announced that he wants to quit playing with our group becuase he is sick of everyone screwing around when were playing. The jokes people crack really slow down the entire campaign, and I am preparing a challenging adventure to try to get them to pay more attention, I have also trimmed down the size of our play group quite a bit. Do any of you seasoned players/DMs know any way to get into character?


(I'm pretty sure table rules was discussed in a recent issue of either Dungeon or Dragon, anyone remember which?)

The biggest thing is something you've already done: trim the group. In the group that I play in right now there's one guy who I'd never allow to play if I were running the game. Great guy, close friend, smart, clever, quick-witted, funny, etc... but he's not really into the game. He's constantly doing things because they'll piss off the DM, half of the time he's working on homework during the game, etc. It slows things down for everyone else and completely disrupts the flow of the game.

Most gaming groups start off with at least one guy like that -- often more. I find it's often easier to just start playing without them. These kinds of people aren't really all that interested in the game anyway, so they aren't particularly offended at not being included. Some even view the gaming sessions as a chore and are glad to be reprieved. If that's not the case... there are options.

First and foremost: table rules. Lay down the law if required. Table rules cover things like duration and frequency of breaks, appropriateness of off-topic discussions, whether dice that fall to the floor need to be re-rolled, etc. The groups I game in (up until this most recent group) normally agree on certain standards. We're all there to play D&D (or whatever other game), so no doing other things, watching TV, playing video games, doing homework, whatever. Concentrate on the game. Breaks are taken as needed, but I'm an old guy so I generally only get to play a couple hours at a time anyway so we don't normally need a break. Joking is encouraged as long as we continue to make progress; if the game stalls, joking stops and we get things moving again. Off-topic talk ("Did you guys see South Park this week?", that kind of stuff) is generally frowned upon during the game. We set aside a bit of time before the game for that kind of chat -- if we meet at seven, we don't start playing til twenty after or so, and that time's used for chatting. Once the game starts, off-topic talk ends unless it's particularly interesting or funny.

The other thing to do is make sure that the adventure is interesting to your players. Some people really love the fighting aspects of the game, and tune out quickly if there's any sort of intrigue or character development or anything of that sort. Others come alive when there's intrigue -- throw a mystery at them and they're engaged for hours, days, or weeks at a time, pestering you even out-of-game and between sessions for more information, bombarding you with ideas, and the like. Throw that type of player in a fight, and they become a dice-rolling robot with no emotional investment at all. There are other archetypes, and of course most people are in between. If everyone in the group likes the same kind of stuff, you have an easy time adjusting the adventures to include a lot of what they like, which will definitely keep them playing intently. If you have a mixed group, you have to find a way of balancing the adventures so that most of the time, everyone's got something to do. For example, maybe the dungeon itself is a form of mystery, with each inhabitant being a unique variation on a specific creature type with a special weakness that can be determined through careful study and deep thought. On the larger scale, the players have to determine the origin of all these unique creatures, their ultimate purpose, and the fate of the creator. The fighters get lots of straight-up action while the thinkers get to puzzle things out and piece together all the clues. :-)

There's a lot to it. DMing is hard, no doubt about it. Once you get the players involved, though, they tend to be better even than you are at policing things and keeping everyone in character. After all, if the DM cuts off the off-topic chat and says, "Back to the game!" he can sound like a domineering jerk; if a player does it, he's just being excited and engaged, and the other players react better. See if you can recruit people like that or encourage those tendencies in people already in your group. You could even be blatant about it: give extra XP awards to the player who stayed the most in character each session.

(Wow that's long. Sorry. I type fast.)


I've been running games for 4 years now, and I still consider myself a new DM. However, it is your job as the DM to sit down and let people know that their screwing around is detracting from the game experience. Not everyone is the best roleplayer, but at least some of them should be in character.

The best way I know of to try to keep the players in character is to use XP as an incentive. If only one player is acting in character and taking the game seriously, then only that player should receive a full share of the experience for that session. But be sure to announce this to your other players that you will be doing it. There have been times in my games where the roleplayers will receive full XP and...at worst, the rest of the players get NOTHING!!! This should only be used as a last resort, however. But deducting as much as 50% of the total XP that would have been gained would not be too unreasonable. It is not to punish the others, just to encourage roleplaying.

Check out some of the recent articles in Dungeon for this matter. There have been some really good tips in there as well.


Keeping your players in line can be pretty tough.

One thing you can do is to play in character as well as you can yourself. See if your best friend will do it too. Talk in character voices and everything. It makes the game more immersive and will capture their attention better. Also, without thinking about it, they may follow suit (if they are comfortable voice-acting around everyone).

You will also have to work on your use of tension and comic-relief and such. Next time, when they start getting too distracted and talking amongst the others, let them start to feel a little safe and then create a little bit of paranoia (you can also use it as a break to think ahead a little bit). You can use their own moment of tension-relief to enhance your story. Turn to the player who isn't too into the conversation or is waiting for the game to start going again and tell him something that is happening. Depends on you to get the game back on track. It can be an ambush by a group of enemies, to hearing some noise that sounds suspicious (which may or may not be the character's ears playing tricks on them--switch it up some), to spotting something unusual. Put them at a disadvantage for not paying attention. Some of the talkers may even hear what you say and turn to listen (causing the rest to stop and listen too); and, eventually, they'll pay attention more if they realize that they may miss something important. (If they stop and start chatting in a middle of a fight, you have to keep it going and pick up the pace some... Use vivid descriptions like jumping onto bar tables and swinging from chandaliers hehe--keep it interesting.)

Breaks are very important. If you notice your friends shifting around alot or losing alot of their attention span, it may be time for a break. 15 mins every hour or two is not unreasonable and will keep everyone from getting mentally worn out. If you all haven't even thought about taking breaks, that might be part of your problem. They might be taking breaks in-game without thinking about it.

Matteo was right about XP awards helping people role-play. I've used this many times and it works like a charm. Don't cut out people's xp tho, unless they don't show up. Instead, give them a 5-10% bonus to whatever they already earned, otherwise, you will be punishing certain players (when they just may be shy about the game or whatever other reason), instead of awarding the good ones. They earned the other xp even if they weren't doing the best job, you want to award the players who did well, not punish the ones who didn't. (or you can give the good role-players 50xp/lvl after a session, not a whole bunch, but enough to notice).

Finally, remember to end your game in a way that makes them want to know what is about to happen. :) That way they'll be bugging you between sessions and will be ready to play before *you* are, when you are all getting together next week. hehe

WHEW! *takes a breath*


oh yea, another idea--nice and sneaky :P Just kind of leave out a few dragon magazines on the table you play at, so that while you are getting ready they pick one up and start looking at it. They'll most likely find something they think is kewl and come up to you and be like, "can my character get such-and-such prestige class, such and such item, ect."

When they start planning ahead with their character and feeling like they are in more control of it, they'll be alot more interested--especially when you have players who have never touched a rulebook in their lives. They won't really know what to look forward to, but that will get them excited about actually making decisions and caring about the game; instead of just waiting for the next level to roll hp's and change a bunch of numbers on their sheet.


As a follow-up to my earlier post... Dungeon 117 has an excellent Dungeoncraft article on page 84 talking all about table rules. The set of rules Monte Cook describes is actually the same set of rules that have been followed by every really devoted gaming group I've been in -- which are all the same groups that had a ton of fun. :)

It's like when you play a sport. Yeah, running around kicking the ball is fun, and standing around talking for a while is fun too, but neither of those have much to do with basketball. If you're there to play basketball, play basketball and save the chatting for later. Role-playing is the same. If you want to role-play, then role-play. A half-assed game of basketball isn't nearly as much fun as a really intense game; a half-assed roleplaying session isn't nearly as much fun as a really intense roleplaying session.

Just keep in mind that it's all about the fun, and don't be TOO strict with the rules.


thank you for all of your advice guys! I plan on taking this stuff to heart, and I realized thanks to taricus, that we don't actually take official breaks, someone gets up to get some pizza, someone else leaves to go use the restroom, we don't actually pause play, I know plan on doing this. Another thing i agree with is EXP rewards, I will definitely award roleplaying with EXP (and maybe throw a little extra loot their direction)

On getting people into character, I plan on having a roleplaying session pretty early on so that the PC's can get into character, develop their characters a bit, and maybe figure out how their characters interact. this should not be a problem for anyone since I cut all of the power gamers out of the party a while ago, my goal is to make the roleplaying session intrigueing and vivid to draw the PC's in, and hopefully eliminate side-excursions. My PC's aren't crazy about combat, but they do enjoy it, and to make it interesting I am developing the things they fight quite nicely to try to keep them fresh, I am also making them challenging so that combat will captivate them by being more about problem solving and strategy, as opposed to hack-and-slash.

The most important thing I will do is to let them know, right before play starts that side conversations will not be codoned, that as much as I enjoy our play group it could very well fall apart if people aren't taking the game seriously, I will let them know that I am rewarding roleplaying, hopefully this will all work out nicely.

thank you for all of your advice, and please let me know how you think my "plan" sounds.


yeah, i forgot to mention that i dont actually have a subsciption to this lovely magazine. my friend just let me borrow a pant-load of back issues, i do, however, plan on subscribing asap.


I've been running an all-comers game at my local gaming store and I found that in addition to the previous suggestions have them write a history for thier characters. Give bonus XP for it. It will cause them to be more invested in thier characters, and mabey want to role-play them more. It worked with the several players who never played the game before in my group.


yeah my aforementioned best-friend gamer found a thread about the very same thing on wizards.com which was very helpful. i am giving it to all of my pc's and requiring that they use it. two cool tips for character development were to do as stormwalker said and make a history for them, but also it said to make a day in the life of your character. it is very helpful.


Stormwalker wrote:
I've been running an all-comers game at my local gaming store and I found that in addition to the previous suggestions have them write a history for thier characters. Give bonus XP for it. It will cause them to be more invested in thier characters, and mabey want to role-play them more. It worked with the several players who never played the game before in my group.

I actually tried that before.. Didn't work tho... I even upped the xp award for it. All the players' eyes grew wide and excited about it and they were rambling on amongst themselves on what they might write... still, they didn't do it. LOL oh well...


i had a PC turn in a five page character concept yesterday(typed). it was beautiful. he weaved a tale about his rejected half-drow who shunned the drow society and lives as a recluse in a cave. he talked about his character watching the sunrise every day and wondering if there were better gods out there besides the evil lloth. then he went on to talk about how he would love to worship pelor because the sun is so beautiful, but he didnt think it would be appropriatte for a fighter to do so. it was beautiful. the concepts are building, and hopefully this should be pretty cool.


Sounds like things are going well for you already, and you probably don't need my leguminous advice ... however, if anyone keeps up the wisecracking and etc., you might want to rule that anything that isn't just general description of what the character does is something that the character says. If what the character says is totally out of context for the game, then NPCs will start to think that the character is insane, or speaking in riddles/cant, and treat them accordingly. That's what I do when things start getting out of control. "The Troll King hears you joking about something called a 'helicopter' and begins to wonder if this is some strange magical item whose location he can torture out of you ...." ;-)


Carnivorous_Bean wrote:
Sounds like things are going well for you already, and you probably don't need my leguminous advice ... however, if anyone keeps up the wisecracking and etc., you might want to rule that anything that isn't just general description of what the character does is something that the character says. If what the character says is totally out of context for the game, then NPCs will start to think that the character is insane, or speaking in riddles/cant, and treat them accordingly. That's what I do when things start getting out of control. "The Troll King hears you joking about something called a 'helicopter' and begins to wonder if this is some strange magical item whose location he can torture out of you ...." ;-)

ooh! that is devious, i like that!

if anyone still reads this, i am thinking of buying a campaign setting, which would you recommend for a budding DM such as mydelf?


sushi lives! wrote:
if anyone still reads this, i am thinking of buying a campaign setting, which would you recommend for a budding DM such as mydelf?

It seems from your posts that you are relatively new to the game, this makes the choice more difficult. Greyhawk and Forgotten Realms are excellent settings, but so much material has been published for them that they get rapidly overwhelming. Personally, I would suggest Eberron. It's new, with only one published sourcebook beyond the original setting. That means you don't need to worry much about what you DON'T have. Also, as a new setting it is currently getting a lot of support from both Dragon and Dungeon. A new setting is new for everyone, so there isn't as much worry that you have a player who is an expert in the setting, and many of the ideas in Eberron are just plain cool for players and DMs.

The down side is that there isn't a lot of published material on it to pull from, so you will need to have a lot of your own ideas. Published adventures for other settings can be more difficult to translate into Eberron than from (for example) Greyhawk to the Forgotten Realms, which can also be a concern.

If you are willing to look outside the officially supported settings into d20 supplements, there are a number of excellent choices, but the quality of the settings varies considerably depending on the press and the author. Unless you have a good reliable friendly local gaming store, or a supportive online community who you can trust to make suggestions, you probably want to avoid that.


Koldoon wrote:

Personally, I would suggest Eberron. It's new, with only one published sourcebook beyond the original setting. That means you don't need to worry much about what you DON'T have. Also, as a new setting it is currently getting a lot of support from both Dragon and Dungeon. A new setting is new for everyone, so there isn't as much worry that you have a player who is an expert in the setting, and many of the ideas in Eberron are just plain cool for players and DMs.

The down side is that there isn't a lot of published material on it to pull from, so you will need to have a lot of your own ideas....

Don't forget RPGA is getting ready to start up the Mark of Heroes Campaign which is set in the Eberron Campaign Setting.

Patrick Jacobs


actually, im thinking of going with forgotten realms because it has so much material. 90% of the 'research' ive done (which involved reading novels and playing pc games) have taken place in forgotten realms so i have a lot of ideas and a slightly better than basic understanding of FR's political and religious workings. also, since there is so much out there, if i get too overwhelmed to properly plan, finding an adventure will be easy. my only concern would be having to fork over fourty bucks every month for some new book i need to run the setting. i hardly ever buy the books simply because i can never afford them. let me know what you think.


sushi lives! wrote:
my only concern would be having to fork over fourty bucks every month for some new book i need to run the setting. i hardly ever buy the books simply because i can never afford them. let me know what you think.

Try ebay.

Patrick Jacobs


Ebay isn't a bad idea if you need to get books on the cheaper side of things... often the condition of the books is fair and the price can't really be beat.

Forgotten Realms is an excellent setting, and certainly most of the pc games for D&D have been in this universe... but don't let the research part disuade you from Eberron, since there's only one book to need to research really, with Sharn being something of a bonus, if you want to use it.

If you would prefer to go with Forgotten Realms, decide on your scope early... pick an area of the realms to start with and try to keep the characters there.... this will help you limit the number of supplements you need to buy, at least in the short term.


sushi lives! wrote:
my only concern would be having to fork over fourty bucks every month for some new book i need to run the setting. i hardly ever buy the books simply because i can never afford them. let me know what you think.

In addition to ebay, another good place to get books is alldirect.com. They usually have books at 20-30% off. I buy all my new roleplaying books from them.


i will probably go with e-bay just because i can get them around half off used. also, thanks to koldoon for the awesome idea. all i have to do is find an area in FR that i am comfortable holding the setting in. i figure that way, when the pcs finally do leave that region it will seem way more special.


In my opinion, one of the best places to use in the Realms is the Silver Marches, home of the famed Drow Ranger, Drizzt Do'Urden. It has a wealth of information in both novels and it has its own supplement book. It has orcs, dwarves, a city of many possibilities, giants, trolls, a semi-barbaric people, and lots of places to explore. Many opportunities exist in its region. Check it out.


i need more detailed maps of certain parts of Faerun, like neverwinter and icewind dale. does anyone know where to consistently get detailed maps/regional descriptions?

Paizo / Messageboards / Paizo / Older Projects / Books & Magazines / Dragon Magazine / General Discussion / help! I need to get my PCs in character! All Messageboards

Want to post a reply? Sign in.
Recent threads in General Discussion
Greyhawk

©2002-2017 Paizo Inc.® | Privacy Policy | Contact Us
Need help? Email customer.service@paizo.com or call 425-250-0800 during our business hours, Monday through Friday, 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM Pacific time.

Paizo Inc., Paizo, the Paizo golem logo, Pathfinder, the Pathfinder logo, Pathfinder Society, Starfinder, the Starfinder logo, GameMastery, and Planet Stories are registered trademarks of Paizo Inc. The Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, Pathfinder Campaign Setting, Pathfinder Adventure Path, Pathfinder Adventure Card Game, Pathfinder Player Companion, Pathfinder Modules, Pathfinder Tales, Pathfinder Battles, Pathfinder Legends, Pathfinder Online, Starfinder Adventure Path, PaizoCon, RPG Superstar, The Golem's Got It, Titanic Games, the Titanic logo, and the Planet Stories planet logo are trademarks of Paizo Inc. Dungeons & Dragons, Dragon, Dungeon, and Polyhedron are registered trademarks of Wizards of the Coast, Inc., a subsidiary of Hasbro, Inc., and have been used by Paizo Inc. under license. Most product names are trademarks owned or used under license by the companies that publish those products; use of such names without mention of trademark status should not be construed as a challenge to such status.