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Plot Development

Source GameMastery Guide pg. 61
In real life, players might be justifiably suspicious if a stranger approached them at a bar and offered them money to perform a dangerous task. In a game, however, players who scrutinize plot hooks too closely can cause a GM a lot of stress. These players sometimes make the case that blindly accepting a plot hook (or rushing into battle, or delving into the dungeon) when their character wouldn’t likely do so goes against the whole idea of roleplaying. If the player knows the GM wants him to follow the hook and the player accepts, isn’t that metagaming?

In a way, yes. While a good GM is often capable of presenting incentives and circumstances that allow PCs to float seamlessly and justifiably from encounter to encounter, sometimes the GM needs a little help. In these situations, it’s important for the players to remember that the rule against metagaming is subordinate to the rule about having fun, and if you as the GM need them to work with you, it’s their responsibility to do so.

Thankfully, no matter what the situation, there’s never a time when a creative GM can’t help his players find a believable way to undertake a given action. Though it can be frustrating to deal with a player who stubbornly proclaims, “My character would never do that!”, take a moment to look at the character’s backstory and see if there’s a potential rationalization, or a previously “unrevealed” aspect of the situation that can get the character invested once more. A paladin might normally reject a sinister dark elf ’s offer, but perhaps in this case she pretends to accept in order to find out what the dark elf is up to. Conversely, maybe the drow forgot to mention that there’s several innocent lives at stake, making accepting her offer the only righteous option.

This doesn’t mean that players should always bend over backward to accommodate the GM—if none of the players take to the adventure hook for some unforeseen reason, you’ve failed to adequately read your party, and it’s up to you to repackage the adventure in a more appealing way. Alternatively, if a player genuinely can’t think of a good reason for a character to work toward an adventure’s ends, saying so might spark a lively in-character discussion and lead other characters to convince him.

Obstinacy, however, is one of the quickest ways for a player to kill a campaign. A player who refuses to play his character any way but his own, fails to accommodate other players’ wishes and interests, or insists on heading off on his own is forgetting the cooperative nature of the game. In this case, it’s the GM’s responsibility to intervene and speak privately to the player. If working together to add additional plot elements, or coaching the player in more team-based play, doesn’t succeed in bringing him back in line with the rest of the group, then it might be best for him to create a new character or resign from the gaming group altogether— perhaps taking his headstrong character on a solo adventure.