Rabbit Holes and Murder Hobos

Something that I don’t see talked about nearly enough regarding roleplaying games is how players approach the game differently, in that, they are all there to get something different out of the experience. A DM’s job is to attempt to manage all these different wants and needs and provide an entertaining and fulfilling adventure for everyone at the table, themselves included.

So, I’m going to be covering some of the various tricks of the trade I’ve developed in my forty years of Dungeon Mastering in a series of blog posts, as time allows of course.

elmore2Today I want to look at how to handle those players who want more playing time, and how to not mishandle this for those who don’t.

One of the things I’m trying to do is not punish players who are less interested in “story and roleplay” and who are at the table to enjoy the company of their friends and kill monsters by rolling dice and crunching numbers.

There is no wrong way to play. If that’s how you get your kicks, then so be it.

One way I used to get around this, to satiate the desires of my players who wanted more story and more roleplay, was to play online in between table sessions. However, what we soon discovered was that the players less interested in the deeper story felt left out and left behind, that too much emphasis was being placed on these sessions and they had too much effect on the game itself.


How to solve that conundrum?

Make all of the online play revolve around a player’s background and focus on character development.

I’ve taken a real shine of late toward playing out prequel scenarios for these players hungry for more. Yes, there’s an element to this style of play that removes the danger from the action, but then, these players are here for story.


Often times, there’s little or no need for combat at all.

These online or extra, one-on-one sessions are ideally suited for fleshing out the world, building the underpinnings and introducing a wealth of npcs that you can parade about at later dates.

Your hack and slasher murder hobos are fine with it. Here’s another merchant or noble, there to parcel out a quest or some such. Fine. But to the rabbit hole player, well, this is a person you’ve dealt with in the past. Maybe you owe them money, or they did your family wrong, or maybe at some point you helped them out of a jam by chasing off bandits or repairing a broken wagon wheel.

It plays out however you wish and you get to feed both player types by giving them all what they want and need from the game.

The key is to keep the online or between game sessions distinct and separate from the campaign. Limit the influence it has on the overall story. Address the character, not the plot.

It’s a juggle, don’t get me wrong, but when you realize that everyone is at the table for one shared reason — to have fun — then the juggle is worth it.

Much more on this topic later.

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