Question: What do you do if you have players who refuse to engage the game? You’ve prepped a bunch of interesting content, but they aren’t biting at any of the scenario hooks.
I have occasionally run into individual players who do this. (Sometimes for legitimate reasons.) The most common variant is, “I set up a safe house and hole up.” The second most common variant is, “I want to be a special snowflake and go off by myself.”
The latter don’t tend to be a problem for me any more because (a) I actually enjoy running split parties, (b) I balance the spotlight time among players not groups, and (c) I don’t run “this is your path” scenarios. So the behavior isn’t disruptive and the “special snowflake” loner actually finds that they end up having LESS attention because they’re not getting penumbra spotlight from other players. So it either works out fine or they adjust their behavior.
The former is often perceived by the players as a legitimate recourse: “Oh, fuck. Let’s go hide.” Resolving that course of action simply requires the GM to practice good pacing habits. You need to move the action ahead to the next interesting action, which basically boils down to one of two things:
1. What do you want to do?
2. Something happens to you.
And this, ultimately, also goes back to the original problem: You’ve got something boring happening in the game world. That’s not really a problem. It just means you need to skip ahead to the next interesting bit. And, ultimately, that boils down to either:
1. Asking, “What’s the next interesting thing that you do?”
2. Looking ahead and seeing what the next interesting thing that is going to happen TO them is.
You should be able to look at your scenario notes and pretty quickly figure out which option applies. If you can’t, you’ve probably prepped your scenario wrong. Stop prepping plots.
If the PCs have simply failed to engage the scenario in the first place, that problem is ALSO solved by simply saying: “What do you want to do?”
The only way this should become an intractable problem is if they keep choosing to do things that you find boring. (This is the most likely version of the problem, since players generally pursue activities that they find entertaining.) If that’s the case, you need to have a frank meta-game conversation about what kind of game you can run that EVERYONE would enjoy.
Where the problem can be particularly frustrating is if they’re taking actions which they think should be resulting in entertaining activities, but because of how you’re interpreting those actions as the GM the results are boring for everybody. When this is happening it can be difficult to diagnose exactly what’s going wrong. But, again, the solution is the frank meta-game discussion.
Taking a further step back, you can also address this issue by encouraging the creation of characters who are (a) highly motivated to go out and do interesting things and (b) who have strong connections to the world around them (which can be used to motivate them).