So you’ve got a grand adventure planned out. Set up the initial scenario to draw the players in with the appropriate hooks. And none of them are willing to bite. Nope, they just rather head off to somewhere else and forget about what you’ve planned for the night.
Something similar popped up with the new D&D podcast. The DM laid out a notable quest, resulting in interest with some of the players, while others in the group were adamant about not getting involved. There are a few things to get around this. But laying out some quality bits of information and/or situations can help a lot in drawing the players in.
I’ve got a secret – I love this method. I really like parsing out small rumors or background information a few players beforehand. Typically I contact my group via email before the session to make sure everything is ready to go. If needed I’ll drop some info on one player. It can be a rumor, or just some background on a particular NPC or organization. Usually having one player armed with a bit more knowledge can smooth over party distrust to new NPCs. If Lord Fancypants wants the group to look into the Pirates of Black Death. When one player has heard about how rotten those pirates are, they can really help getting the other players get over that hump of trusting information from Lord Fancypants.
Make it personal – Take some information from a player’s background and use that to lure them towards a quest. That evil warlord that crushed your family? Yeah, he is across town running a group of mercenaries for merchants now. Expect one player to be chomping at the bit to make a beeline for those mercenaries and take them on, This ties a lot into the above point, but having a player have a personal stake in a quest can really work. This can load a lot of personal drama into the group dynamics, depending on how far apart views are from the party on which direction they should go. Still it is an effective tool in getting a group motivated to take on a quest.
Give the phat lewt! – Having a desirable item, large amounts of treasure, or at least the rumor of such a reward, is also a fair way to spark interest. There is typically at least one player with a more financial perspective on accepting quest in a group. They are likely the first to be asking what a job pays and what are the rewards. Dropping a juicy rumor of a large haul can sometimes be enough to get that player on the side of taking a quest. Don’t be afraid to fall back on greed of a player to get them interested.
Drag them kicking and screaming – Sometimes you can leave choice out of the matter. Put the players between a rock and a hard place, forcing them to move towards the adventure. Have them falsely accused, pursued by forces, or presented with a situation where they are compelled to act. It’s one thing to hear that the Pirates of Black Death are bad guys. It’s another thing to have the group see women and children being slaughtered before them by the hands of these pirates. I use this trick pretty sparingly. It definitely can cross into the territory of railroading the group. But it can be an effective means to push a group into tackling a greater danger because of the danger hot on their heels.
So have you had your characters just flat out refuse to follow a hook?
(Side note: I’ve been listening toe the Penny Arcade/PvP podcasts for a while now. I’ve noticed this one by far has more RPing from the group than previous episodes. It’s interesting to see how a group of new players are getting more involved with their characters. The new series is a hoot so far, I recommend giving them a listen.)