My girlfriend is fairly new to roleplaying, having tried a bit of LARP as murder parties (one INSMV and one XFiles-style game, she loved each one), and playing in a Cthulhu campaign I have been GMing for the last few months from a book I bought.

She told me she liked it, but something was off. She didn't know if it was the game itself, or if it was something else. She also told me it wasn't me. We also started playing some Vampire: The Masquerade, also GM'd by me.

One night we had a game session planned for our Cthulhu campaign, but one of the players could not come. We fell back to a one-shot Cthulhu scenario I knew quite well, with pre-made characters, that I could let them play on-the-spot without needing much preparation (The Hallowsay lighthouse, not that it matters). Some time after that, she told me she found out that she prefers one-shot scenarios rather than 'long' to-be-continued sessions or campaigns.

Can it come from me as a GM? She might have told me it does not only to be kind. Will some people actually never like campaigns or long stories, or can I get her to like them better?

If yes, how do I go about doing that? How can I deal with her not being too interested in a longer story when she did like a short one? Should I give her time to get her bearings as a roleplayer? It's been quite a few sessions now, and while her attitude has improved just slightly, there could be a lot more interest on her part.

Are there any GM or storytelling techniques (or any kind of technique, really) aimed at getting people excited about living a great adventure rather than preferring short I-will-never-play-as-what's-his-name-again stories ?

During sessions, she is not very active. She mostly follows other, more experienced players. She also sometimes uses her phone or even macbook while we are in session, so I'm looking into that too, but I think this is a different matter altogether.

PS: I used the Same Page Tool for the first time for the Vampire game, thinking that it could be of good use while having a really experienced player (his oldest not-destroyed/not-lost character sheet is older than me), a new player (her), and other moderately experienced players. We all agreed on what the game should be in order to be fun for everyone, so I don't know why she is not that active during sessions, other than still being fairly new to roleplaying.

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    \$\begingroup\$ If she's like my wife, perhaps she has difficulty remembering critical details from one session to the next, which makes long, complicated, multi-session stories difficult for her to immerse herself into. If that is the case here, then adjusting your campaigns to make each session as self-contained as possible might help. \$\endgroup\$
    – Perkins
    Oct 21, 2015 at 23:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks, though she writes everything down (even the name of that NPC that didn't have one before the PCs asked for it, and never will see them again :-p) \$\endgroup\$
    – Eregrith
    Oct 21, 2015 at 23:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ Having to dig through six weeks worth of notes to find the one, critical piece of information she needs might be what puts her off... In some of our complicated campaigns we add a "sense motif" skill for players to help them sort out what's worth taking notes about and what's just flavor text. It cuts down on the volume of notes and the amount of time that must be spent consulting them, and, when done properly, doesn't break the fourth wall too much. (You want to work the results into the game itself as the character's innate sense of how the world works and what its patterns are). \$\endgroup\$
    – Perkins
    Oct 21, 2015 at 23:46

3 Answers 3


It sounds like you're asking "Is it possible to get people excited about something they have explicitly said they are not interested in?"

Yes, it's very possible!

If you want to get someone excited about something they've told you they don't like very much, the most straightforward way to do so is to make the thing you want them to like, more like a thing you know they already like. So in the case of long-form vs one-shot RPGs, you make your long-form RPGs more like one-shots.

What that means in practice depends on why she prefers one-shots over long-form. Does she enjoy creating new characters, but get bored with actually playing them for more than a session? If so, create a long-form game that allows her to switch characters often. Does she prefer bite-sized stories rather than long, plot-complex epics? If so, structure your game in an episodic or "monster of the week"-style with little to no overarching plot. And so on. In other words, figure out what she likes about one-shots, and incorporate that into your long-form games.

By making your long-form game incorporate her favorite parts of one-shots, you're giving her a chance to experience the longer form, while still making sure it includes things she enjoys. If she warms to the idea, then you can start gradually pulling back on the one-shot elements and focusing more on the long-form aspects of the game. (Emphasis on gradually - don't do it all at once, or she's likely to get annoyed and stop liking it.)

A Caveat

Be careful not to push too hard. It's possible to get someone to like something they say they don't - otherwise few adults would ever eat brussels sprouts or green beans - but you have to be careful how you do it. If you just say "But long-form RPG is more fun/awesome/enjoyable/whatever! You should enjoy it and I'm going to convince you to!", she'll probably just double down on not enjoying it, because now you're forcing her. Be subtle, go slow, and respect her personal likes and dislikes.

If you try multiple things to get her to enjoy long-form games and she doesn't warm to any of them, stop! She may just not like long-form games, the way some people prefer reading short stories while others enjoy multi-book epics. Continuing to try to convince her to like something she just doesn't enjoy will ultimately make things no fun for either of you. If she just can't get into long-form games, then spend your game time with her playing one-shots, and look for other players to satisfy your long-form game needs.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for your reply. It was simple indeed, too simple maybe XD. I asked her what she liked in one-shots that was not in my long-forms. She told me mostly she doesn't like the idea of "signing up" for something that could represent multiple 4-hours-long sessions, with no clear ending date in sight. She prefers a one-session game when you know you will see all of the story in one go. I think she's what you call a "casual gamer" then :). I'll try your idea of the 'monster of the week' style long-form (that's what I was going for with my Vampire games anyway ^^) \$\endgroup\$
    – Eregrith
    Apr 24, 2015 at 7:34
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    \$\begingroup\$ Judging from this comment and your other question, I think your girlfriend simply has a short attention span. The best thing to do in such an event is...ooh, shiny! \$\endgroup\$
    – Theik
    Apr 24, 2015 at 11:49
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Theik I figured. I also had a bathroom break revelation earlier today, thinking about the "Monster of the week" proposition: Why wouldn't I handle each session as a TV Series episode? This way I could have mostly one-shot style stories staying in the same sub-universe comprised of the players and their environment, with sometimes plot-advancing 'important' scernarios, just as a TV show. This would help with time-to-time missing players. She told me it could be interesting. I'll propose this to my players tonight as they'll finish the first Vampire scenario. \$\endgroup\$
    – Eregrith
    Apr 24, 2015 at 13:03
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Eregrith It occurs to me now, after looking back at the comments, that the suggestion you wrote here is exactly the suggestion I made in my answer. Since you posted it here first as a comment, I invite you to write it as an answer to your own question - it's a good answer, and you deserve credit for it. I'll withdraw my own answer if you choose to do so (and my apologies for answering in almost the exact way you commented - I hadn't read your last comment before submitting my own answer). \$\endgroup\$
    – Zibbobz
    Apr 24, 2015 at 16:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Zibbobz It's okay as I feel my own answer has been largely inspired and seeded by this one too :) \$\endgroup\$
    – Eregrith
    Apr 27, 2015 at 7:35

If your girlfriend has trouble holding focus on a long-winding campaign, consider implementing an episodic storytelling mechanic - have each session be a continuous storyline, but also self-contained, so that they start with a premise and end with a resolution.

Consider doing it 'monster-of-the-week' style, such that you can play through encountering, confronting, and overcoming a single foe each session, while continuing a long-running battle against a larger force behind the scenes.

In structuring the game this way, your girlfriend will get the resolution she seeks each session, and you'll get the satisfaction of a long-running storyline making progress.


Based on this answer and my comment on it, someone suggested I write an answer as well.

I think I'm going to go with a "monster-of-the-week" style of campaign. I think that because she likes to have closure on each story rather quickly, I can mimic TV Series as to provide players with 1 to 2 (tops) session(s)-long scenarios, using PCs as the "main cast" of the show. A few scenarios will provide plot-advancement on a bigger arching plot, appealing to everyone backstory (I'll try to anyway), from time to time, and the ending of the campaign might be the closure of some arching plot and the opening of a bigger one. I'll try to find scenarios that can provide such meta plot advancement and that can fit in their environment (with some adjustments at the worse).

Not only will this help with her need of one-shot-like closure every session, I might also squeeze in a few tropes that'll appeal to everyone. This also helps with occasionnal absences: If I have a few "filler episodes"-scenarios in my bag, not everyone needs to be her for them and I can wait the complete table for the "important" ones.

I think this also suits Vampire perfectly as everything is described as a story-telling game, with "scenes", "stories" and so on. This will drive my scenario-writing too I think, as I'll try to write them scene-wise.

Now, "all I need to do" is to find an overarching plot, get a lot of short scenarios (I'll write most them I think, maybe getting help from writer friends, I'll post a question here too), and insert metaplot-advancement into these.


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