Portal Tip: Getting Your Players To Use The Tools

Dungeon Masters on Obsidian Portal are often faced with the problem of how to motivate their players to use the online tools available. Today I’d like to share some ideas and approaches that will hopefully help in that regard.

Now it’s true that DMs spend much more time on their campaigns than most players do. After all they are responsible for entire worlds while players only have their characters to worry about. Add in factors like day jobs, lack of time between games, and other real world concerns and it can be hard to get them to take the time.

FemmeLegion talks about the concrete benefits of participation in her campaign’s wiki. Here is the key quote:

Please don’t discount the importance of at least occasionally making some sort of “diary entry”, even if you’d rather handle it privately over email rather than putting it up here. They’re a great way for me to keep tabs on what you guys as players think is important in the game. This, in turn, helps us all to avoid situations where you guys really want to go chase after MacGuffin B, but I’ve put all my effort into fleshing out the storyline for Main Plot A and thus I’ve got very little for you with regard to MacGuffin B. It also helps me see if you guys overlooked a clue or plot detail that ended up not being as obvious as I thought it would be, so I can try to deliver it another way before you get too frustrated.

Sometimes this isn’t going to be enough though. This is usually the point where incentives come into the equation. Opinions differ on what is most effective, which is only natural. Every gaming group is a unique collection of personalities and will require different motivators.

There are a number of excellent approaches already in use within the Obsidian Portal community. The carrot on the stick ranges from granting action points or XP to small but permanent abilities. Here are some of my favorites.

FrankSirmarco runs a fantastic Call of Cthulhu game in which he has instituted his own Mythos Point system. When his players make forum posts, create adventure logs, add to the wiki or otherwise contribute to the online world building they get Mythos Points. These can be redeemed for one time adjustments to skill rolls, automatic success on sanity rolls, and other tangible in-game effects.

Arsheesh has probably created the most sophisticated, but easy to implement Prestige Points system. I think the thing that really makes this one impressive is the array of possible rewards.

What are prestige points? Well in short, they are acquired points that your PC’s can spend for a variety of purposes to gain abilities that affect game play. Some of these effects are temporary in duration, such as Round and Encounter Abilities, while other abilities are Permanent in effect. How do you gain prestige points? Simple. By contributing to the creation of our campaign site. Exactly what this contribution consists in will vary. However the typical way of earning points is to keep an updated character journal.

My own S.E.X. (Submissions for Extra Xp) system is a bit more freeform, but has given me great response. By giving it a racy name (originally found on the OP boards, I must admit) I’ve at least ensured that I have my player’s attention.

No matter what incentives you offer, the response will vary according to the individual players involved. Some people will never really interact with the game outside of sessions. Don’t let it stress you. There are others who will participate, and some that will get really gung-ho.

One thing that can really help, at least in my personal experience, is if you get your players to write-up their contributions and email them to you. Often players will have a perceived barrier when it comes to working with the wiki, but will write lots of content if you offer to integrate it into the site for them.

I’d love to hear your thoughts, ideas, and success stories. Leave us a comment!





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