Background first: we're several casefiles through a Dresden Files RPG. We're a small group and new to the FATE/Dresden system, but most of us have some RPG experience. I'm the co-GM (I do most of the admin) so although I can't directly influence this situation, I want to learn so that I can fix it if it comes up again!

And the problem: One of our players is having problems with his character's motivations. He's struggling with the realism of the setting (which makes me want to shake him and yell, "Dude, we have frickin' sex vampires, it's never gonna be real-life..."), and he's also struggling with his character's reasons for being involved. In the last few casefiles he's almost deliberately opted out of the plot; he's "done paperwork" while the rest of us went chasing after baddies. He's also jumped on a side quest that was only meant to be a pretext for getting him somewhere (the GM rolled with it, so it was fine) - so it's not that he doesn't want to play the RPG!

His character does have background that fits the world, and does also suit the game; it's not a case of a complete mis-match for the setting. The campaign and city politics have also been adapted to suit him; we've set up a specific role for him to give him a reason to be involved in the cases. One of the problems of the game is that with the group we have (two werewolves, a White Court vampire, a mortal reporter, a policeman, a wizard and a pirate/thug) there is no realistic way that all of us would be involved in one plot: I personally think the GM's done a really good job so far in finding casefiles that we do all have a reason for being involved in, and he's done a good job in working our individual characters into the story.

So my questions are (I apologise for having two, but they are sort of bound up together):

  • To what extent should a character/player adapt to the setting, versus how far should a campaign be adapted to suit one particular character? What should the GM do versus what should the player do?

  • Does anyone have any advice on how to deal with players who aren't buying into the RPG scenario? What else can we do to involve this player more?

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Have you talked to the player in question and asked them what they think would need to be done to get them involved more? You've mentioned struggling with the realism of the setting but also that he is engaging in some parts. \$\endgroup\$
    – Chris
    Commented Jan 4, 2015 at 19:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ We have spoken to the player, which is where the changes to actively involve the character came from. The player isn't entirely sure what the problem is (but did highlight the lack of character motivation) and both GMs are reluctant to immediately challenge him to be involved/change if there's something we can or should do instead. \$\endgroup\$
    – Houdini
    Commented Jan 4, 2015 at 20:58

2 Answers 2


Your first question is about half a GM problem, and half a player/PC problem. I've been on both sides of this issue: GMing for a character who had little reason to participate in the story with the other PCs, and playing a character who had no reason to participate in the story and every reason to run wildly in the other direction. In both situations, the solution has two parts:

The GM finds ways to include the PC in the plot.

It sounds like your group is already doing this, but for posterity: this means that the GM must look for ways to actively involve the PC in the story, by using their background hooks, talking to the player about what the character might find interesting, and otherwise looking for ways to help the character find motivation within the story to participate in the story.

You do need to be careful not to change the story or the game's focus so much that the other players begin to feel excluded or ignored, but this is a matter of understanding your group, finding a balance, and getting buy-in from the player of the problem PC. Which brings me to part 2 of the solution:

The player finds ways to include their character in the plot.

This is the much harder part of the solution: the player must meet the GM halfway, otherwise the game becomes "The Problem PC Show!" and no one else has fun. This may mean the player has to bend or tweak the character in some way - not enough to compromise the core of the character, but enough to keep them with the group when otherwise they wouldn't stay.

This is, admittedly, difficult to do. Some people are so attached to their characters that they're unwilling to compromise; or they simply can't see a way to bend the character on an issue without breaking them completely. However, it's absolutely required in order to solve this problem.

Why player buy-in makes a difference:

When I played a character who had no reason to participate in the story, I looked hard for ways to make her want to be there. But all logic dictated that she run far away, find a hole, and pull it in after herself, so any other choices felt wrong to me. This showed in my roleplaying, and ultimately caused much frustration for our whole group as session after session became centered around getting her involved when she didn't "want" to be.

I put "want" in quotes there for a reason. Players with especially strong "my guy" syndrome (which I know I'm prone to) will insist that they're "just playing their character" and that "the character can't be changed". But when I GMed for a character who had no reason to be there, his player was willing to meet me halfway, and the result was a fun campaign for everyone where that character even made a large part of the highlight reel.

The reason it worked was because the player was willing to say, "he has no reason to come along, but does anyway, because that's how group-based RPGs work." We hand-waved it a bit as "he has nowhere else to go and nothing better to do", but really that character should have been as long-gone as mine wanted to be. But because the player was willing to take the meta option and bend his character enough to say "screw it, he's participating" without looking for a story reason, it worked. It kept the game from focusing too much on that character, but meant he was still there when story developments happened that he was interested in, thus giving him the time he needed to organically grow interested in the plot.

When the player isn't interested in the scenario

This part is a little trickier. If the player doesn't buy Dresden's world, including all the magic elements, what's he doing playing a Dresden Files game anyway? You and your co-GM need to talk to this guy privately, out of game, and ask him why he's playing. If he just wants to hang out with your group and doesn't care much about the game, then you need to address that. Maybe give him a character with a minor support role, so that he doesn't need to participate much in the game and can just hang out; maybe say that if he just wants to hang out, the game isn't the time for it and you'll find other group activities he can participate in. It's up to you and your group to decide what's best here.

If he insists that he wants to play the game, then you need to find out why he's actively sabotaging it. Tell him that his actions suggest he doesn't want to play, and in fact are making it harder to play. It's possible you simply have an attention hog on your hands, in which case you should deal with him appropriately. (I'd suggest going through the problem-players tag, as there are a number of questions and answers you may find relevant depending on your exact situation.)

TL;DR: The GM and the player need to meet halfway on adapting the character and the world. But if the player isn't buying the game's scenario in the first place, then that must be addressed first.

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ +1 for saying that the player might need to metagame a bit and just have their character go along for whatever reason. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 5, 2015 at 3:25
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ We do have one character who doesn't particularly have a reason to be in the plot, but comes along anyway...so your suggestion about metagaming and actively playing is a good one. Thank you! \$\endgroup\$
    – Houdini
    Commented Jan 7, 2015 at 22:10

As a character - within the mechanics

Aspects are your friend here. Because you specified that you are playing , you should have multiple aspects that can provide leverage for involving a PC in a scenario.

Each character should have aspects tying them to the setting and to other characters. The ties to other characters in particular are good for getting PCs involved where they otherwise might not be. Murphy, for example, does a lot of things just because she knows and trusts Harry.

Aspects are part of the secret sauce of Fate that makes sure that characters and settings engage meaningfully, that the game is adapted to the PCs and vice-versa. If you as GM aren't offering fate points for compels on aspects that should bring the character into the action, remember that other players can point out opportunities for compels too.

If the aspects just aren't coming into play, maybe they need to be retuned (even outside of a milestone adjustment).

As a player - outside the mechanics

Fate Core actually does a great job of spelling out player responsibilities. Better than DFRPG, but the same principles apply - the intent was the same in the earlier game, but the explanation wasn't as clear.

Fate is about a world where:

the characters are proactive, capable people leading dramatic lives.

If your player is doing paperwork, that's failing on proactive and dramatic.

Both players and gamemasters also have a secondary job: make everyone around you look awesome.

By refusing to engage, by not participating meaningfully, your player is failing at that job.

DFRPG and Fate provide lots of ways for this kind of problem to be overcome, but you have to follow the precepts for them to work.


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