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My friends and I started playing RPGs at the same time without the help of any experienced person.

I am the GM but I struggle to make the players focus on anything that can progress the story in some way.

They enjoy being chaotic, so they are not motivated simply by the moral good of the action itself.

For example:

  • not forming the party, and fighting and arguing instead
  • ignoring people who need help or are injured, just for the fun of it

The sessions end up being fun, but it takes ridiculously long to progress and it gets frustrating for me.

What I used to do is make it clear that they will gain something that interests them.

I want to play Call of Cthulhu. What I can do to make the game serious that does not take away the freedom of choice from them (without me having to beg for it)?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Have you asked the players, if they are actually interested in playing this kind of game? Not everyone is interested in the horror genre... \$\endgroup\$ – fabian Feb 21 at 23:01
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    \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to rpg.se! Take the tour and visit the help center to learn how things work around here. This seems like something we should be able to give you advice on but I'm not certain exactly what you are asking. If you can give a detailed example of the problem and what you want to happen we can give techniques to help you achieve that. Thanks for contributing and happy gaming! \$\endgroup\$ – linksassin Feb 21 at 23:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ Also, what edition of Cthulhu are you running? Adding the appropriate system tag can help get better answers from our experts. \$\endgroup\$ – linksassin Feb 21 at 23:05
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These sorts of issues are very common, particularly among newer players. A mismatch of expectations between the GM and the players can cause a great deal of frustration for both, and can easily kill a game because neither are getting what they're looking for. One of the best ways to deal with this is what's generally called Session Zero, a designated time for all the players and GM to sit down and lay out what they're looking for from the game before it starts. If the GM wants to tell a relatively serious story, make regular progress or deal with serious issues, this is the time to let the players know that and gauge their interest in playing in that kind of game in the first place. Likewise, if the players would prefer to make things more light-hearted, wacky or silly, they can express that before it ends up disrupting the game. This also establishes expectations of what type of characters are appropriate for the game before players spend time making them, what sorts of topics might be too uncomfortable for players to deal with, whether the game is going to be a player-driven sandbox or a more on-rails experience, etc. and compromise on issues so everyone is on the same page.

That said, you're already in a situation where things are not going the way you'd prefer. While doing a Session Zero before the game starts is generally ideal, at this point it's still not a bad idea to sit everyone down and talk about stuff. Let them know that you were hoping to take the game more seriously, and that you're not really enjoying things as they are going. From there it's a matter of determining whether your players are willing to change. If so, you could restart things or rework characters to be more in line with the tone you're going for, or even start a new game entirely. If not, you may have to just roll with things and accept that your players are looking for something different.

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For Call of Cthulhu specifically, I can see three possibilities:

  1. Do players want to engage in an investigation game? If they don't, trying to force them into it will not work. All RPGs, and specifically Call of Cthulhu require players who actually want to play the game. It is quite hard to get into CoC for really new players, compared to heroic-fantasy settings - players need a better sense of what they can do and a higher level of liberty for CoC than for D&D.

  2. There is a Cthulhu style called "Pulp Cthulhu". If you want to mow down hordes of cultists and even some monsters, let them make "heroes" investigators. They have experience with the Mythos and have decided to fight against it with full might. Shotguns with silver bullets ? Enchanted swords ? Probably some magic ? Let them have it and fight their battles, until they face something too big for them. That will also help make them more familiar with the Cthulhu universe.

  3. Maybe you can have them play the bad guys, cultists... Your guys are chaotic ? Want to watch the world burn ? Try to make a reverse scenario, where they actually try to perform horrible rituals and summon bad things, while NPCs are trying to stop them.

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