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I recently started to make my own homebrewed RPG which is based off Pathfinder with the Monster Hunter games' mechanics.

One of the mechanics I tried to add is the idea to farm monsters for materials that you use to upgrade your armor and weapon in order to hunt bigger monsters and advance through my scenario.

We play tested it yesterday and what happened is my players avoided every monster I put on their path (even when a whole group of adventurers were already fighting the said monster and they just had to help).

They then set fire to entire villages and tortured the local population (which is supposed to be in relative peace with the PCs' city) and plundered a desert caravan for a few monster resources.

They then proceeded to the entrance of the boss lair. A monster with 94hp and hitting 1d6+2 twice every turn against the PCs with 14hp at best and dealing 5hp in the lucky event they'd get a hit through...

No need to say they got slaughtered and the session ended there. (One of the players also tried to run away from this fight, failed his escape roll with a 1 and got smashed to bits)

I'd rather my PCs would try to upgrade their equipment a bit rather than having to lower my boss fight difficulty because they avoid every single fight

How do I incentivize my players to gather resources in order to upgrade their equipment ?


I don't expect very precise questions on my game mechanics to be relevant so I spared you the details but if it is actually necessary I will edit the post.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk Jul 31 '17 at 18:06
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    \$\begingroup\$ Maybe the title of this question needs to be re-worded? The title says to me "How do I get my players to use this cool mechanic I built?", but the content of the question says "My players and I have completely different ideas of what an RPG looks like, how do I fix this?" \$\endgroup\$ – Barker Aug 1 '17 at 17:08
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    \$\begingroup\$ You HAVE incentivized it, quite heavily actually. They suffered the consequences of ignoring your existing incentives. Have a talk with them, and if they undertand what they should be doing now, they will probably play a lot differently next time through. \$\endgroup\$ – wedstrom Aug 1 '17 at 22:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ Kind of off-topic, but you wouldn't have to have a copy of your homebrew ruleset lying around? I'd love to give it a read. Been looking for a Monster Hunter inspired RPG for a while now \$\endgroup\$ – Valthek Aug 2 '17 at 7:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ I have a draft of some rules lying on a git but it still needs a lot of fixing and part of the lore is written in French. I am currently in Japan and will not work on it until some time but feel free to give it a read. \$\endgroup\$ – Liquid Same Aug 15 '17 at 12:28
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Have a Session 0

Seriously, have a session 0 and discuss what kind of game you're wanting to run versus what kind of game they're wanting to play. There's a clear stylistic mismatch between you and your players, and that should be talked out OoC, not with in-game incentives. No amount of in-game incentives are going to make me want to play Halo when I was expecting League of Legends, and similarly, no amount of in-game incentives is going to stop your players from playing Dark Souls when you're offering them a grinding game.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This. Reading the question I felt compelled to ask the OP "Did you actually tell them they could harvest monsters?" \$\endgroup\$ – Dale M Jul 31 '17 at 21:19
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    \$\begingroup\$ @DaleM it doesn't matter how many times you tell your PCs they can do something if that's not what they're going to want to do when they sit down to play. \$\endgroup\$ – godskook Jul 31 '17 at 21:32
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Straight answer: Put in gatekeepers.

The easiest answer is to simply TPK them, tell them it was because they were unprepared, and let them try again. After all, that's what happens in video games all the time. It looks like you're not satisfied with that approach, though.

Therefore, we can borrow something else from video games: gatekeepers. In many games, there are frequently highly frustrating gatekeepers or locks that keep you from progressing until you have a certain ability or equipment or whatever. This forces players to do whatever quest they need to do first. Without such gatekeepers, players will blithely forge on ahead. Consider games like Zelda, Metroid, Pokemon, etc. etc. As you have discovered, without a hard stop like this, players will often ignore requirements and go straight for their goal.

In game, this could take various forms: magical barriers that can only be broken by certain items, impassable crevasses that require special wings to traverse, or even a guide that refuses to take the party somewhere before they're equipped. Importantly, it can't be something that the party can just kill through sheer force of will.

As an aside, such gatekeepers let the players know that they are indeed appropriately geared for the upcoming fight. Otherwise, they will only know that they haven't upgraded their equipment enough while they're getting murdered by the boss.

Your players might hate this tactic, and it's definitely railroading. But if you really want your vision to work, you might be forced to implement such obstacles.

Frame Challenge: You have a party that wants to play an evil campaign.

Honestly, it seems like your problem is less with the mechanics than with the style of campaign.

It looks like your players did get the message about improving their equipment, but they decided to get the monster parts through another method (plundering that caravan). They aren't totally unwilling to fight--they're just going for easier targets. Your comment that you had this same issue in Call of Cthulhu shows that this problem is totally independent of any homebrew game mechanics.

The usual suggestion here is to look at the same page tool, but your players have already definitively told you that they want to be evil. In fact, I suspect that you already have all the information you need to make a campaign that they would find entertaining.

One of my groups has had a similar experience. After some decidedly evil acts, everyone (including the DM) decided that we would start an evil campaign. In reality, it was pretty much the same structure and mechanics (kill this thing, find this item), except that our quest givers had evil aims and we would knock down the occasional village. In an evil campaign, perhaps your players can get upgrades by raiding traders and caravans, and their fights would not be against monsters in the wild but with the increasingly powerful guards that caravans would start hiring.

Most importantly, if you're not willing to run this kind of evil campaign, you are not the right DM for that party right now.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I like your suggestion about instead of monsters per se that you have it targeting caravans, while defeating the cards. By that token, a caravan could have monster guards. Or perhaps the caravan itself may fall victim to a thieving monster, which you will want to track and kill \$\endgroup\$ – user1675016 Jul 31 '17 at 20:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ Does sound good. And it would fit with the fact that they basically started a war against the trading companies and tribes \$\endgroup\$ – Liquid Same Aug 1 '17 at 1:10
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    \$\begingroup\$ Seems like the PCs are the real monsters... \$\endgroup\$ – Anne Aunyme Aug 1 '17 at 8:20
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It seems like your players have a different mindset on how they want the game to unfold. Burning villages? Plundering caravans? They may not be interested in playing a Monster Hunter-esque game in the first place. It seems like you are turning a video game RPG into pen-and-paper, "equipment grind" and all. I would recommend the Same Page tool to make sure that you understand what the group wants out of the game.

If they are on the same page, the biggest thing is providing agency. I recommend reading this post and this answer. Give them a reason to go along with what you have planned, and a purpose to act on it.

PCs are still burning down villages? Give NPCs the ability to craft gear from the materials that they obtain. Even if the PCs can do it themselves, give some sort of bonus that they can get on their gear from having it crafted by a master smithy. Villages will become nice to have around.

While this is a homebrew mixup of a video game, it's really a standard pen-and-paper at heart. The differences are that instead of typical 'loot', you use the loot to enhance your armor and weapons (crafting gear from materials instead of a magic weapon drop from an encounter), and you will be fighting more animals and monsters than humanoids. Some people will like that, and some won't. It's as simple as that.

Note that if maintaining the way they are playing is really what your group wants to do even after trying different ways to approach your campaign, then your group really isn't on board.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Upvoted with one additional point. Killing and looting gets old in a hurry. Give your players a goal. Tell a story. Get them involved. Let them play roles, not just lists of attributes and weapons. \$\endgroup\$ – Ralph Crown Jul 31 '17 at 18:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ I did. There is a whole story behind and the crafting is just a mean to get there. \$\endgroup\$ – Liquid Same Aug 1 '17 at 1:12
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I agree with @Godskook that you need a Session 0 to talk about this; it sounds like your players want a different game, and you don't currently know how to provide that. One option I'd suggest for a new system would be Shadowrun. Compared to D&D (as a middle-of-the-road system), Shadowrun is:

  • Much more friendly to an evil campaign. There are no GOOD shadowrunners. But some of them have standards... and not having standards has consequences, good and bad.
  • Much more amenable to actions having consequences. Your characters are supposed to die relatively often, and so inflicting natural consequences on someone is reasonable.
  • Much more structured. The Johnson and Mission system means that your players pretty much always have a short-term goal. This helps prevent players being lost in an epic-scale quest.
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The question you should be asking is 'should' you incentivise that?

It sounds like you're basing your game off video game mechanics (such as grinding low level mobs for exp and loot) rather than more traditional RPG mechanics where the point is to progress the plot, with level just being something that happens if you do this.

Is that the sort of game that your players want to play? Or one that you want to DM?

Characters wouldn't naturally think "Instead of saving the world like that wizard asked me, I'll go kill 17 angry boars to level up".

Players are also likely to think that you intend for their characters to complete the quest assigned to them. If they are killing monsters to level up, presumably the big bad boss is doing something with his time? Is he leveling up? Is he killing sidequest givers or raising an army?

So, to incentivise it, tell your players, or their characters to do it. Don't expect that players will respond to fights getting too hard for them by seeking out more fights. Outside of World of Warcraft, it's counterintuitive.

Either tell your players before the session exactly what sort of game you intended, or provide some plot reason why their characters should delay their main quest to go kill monsters.

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You could try letting them find one set up upgraded gear. A single player wears/uses it and says "wow, this stuff if great!" and the rest might want to know how they can get similar gear, which will give you the opportunity to get them to board your plot train.

The question is legit though, it sounds like the players might not be looking for the same type of game style you had in mind.

Or maybe they can avoid them all, get the loot and then buy the same upgraded gear. Experienced players will usually be hesitant to jump into a fight that is clearly beyond their level, assuming you gave them some hints that they were jumping the gun here. If it's just an inexperience thing, dying might be part of the learning process about how the world works. About how it's not a video game that won't let you run ahead to things beyond your ability and about how the world is dangerous and adventurer's lives can be rough...

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The short answer to your question is, it depends on the kind of characters your players have created!

Characters should have their own motivations for doing something, you have to know what drives the players characters by asking for some background in order to be able to use the right carrot (and sometimes the right stick).

The long answer...

It's important to establish the tone of the game early on. Godskook is absolutely right about session 0!

In my experience the first session is character generation and introduction (if you are bringing in new players this is a good opportunity to break the ice somewhat before the game starts). In addition to this it is important to mention a few salient points about what kind of game you are intending to run, the tone and ethos of the game etc.

As a DM I tend to ask for character backgrounds before the game starts, I think this is good practice for a number of reasons. For starters it means your characters are engaging with the setting (you can see who is putting thought and effort into it, and make sure they are actually going to roleplay and not just roll dice), you can make sure the characters are suitable for the style of game you're running, but you also get good DMing information about how to incentivize the players and good ways to enmesh their character concepts with your game world.

Players always care more if their characters are truly part of the world you create by having it interact with them in a way which speaks to their character concept.

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You clearly have other problems, but to answer the question posed...

You TPK them in a boss fight so they see that they needed better equipment.

Oh wait, you did that!

So fine, next set of characters will, ideally, be smarter and realize they need to gear up or they'll get TPKed again.

You can guide them down this path with either friendly NPCs, or just you as GM, saying "Hmm yeah too bad you didn't have better weapons when you went and tried to kill Billy Bad Ass. Next time maybe do that."

But otherwise, you're on track. As a GM you try to influence PCs, but then you let them reap the consequences of their actions. Rinse and repeat. If they don't listen to the telling they may listen to the showing; if they listen to neither they just get to die a lot, which is also fine.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This is a good answer generally, and normally I would upvote it. In this context though, I really think that doubling down will only lead to dysfunction and unhappiness. \$\endgroup\$ – fectin Aug 1 '17 at 2:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ Why do you think he has to double down - have they not learned from this? His question ends with the TPK. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk Aug 1 '17 at 3:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ learned what? His players seem like they did not want that kind of fun. Advice, even good advice like yours, on how to reinforce that kind of fun will not help. The lesson they likely learned (and correctly) is that the least fun-for-them thing they can do is engage with the DM's vision of the game. \$\endgroup\$ – fectin Aug 1 '17 at 3:51

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