I started this post a while back, but with my recent schedule I haven’t been able to finish it.
In response to my previous post, arrefmak had pointed out that an engaged group of players that are not on camera can also serve as an audience. I’ve had mixed experiences with that in the past and I’m not really sure how to adapt that, from a GMing point of view, to other ideas I’ve had about engaging the players.
The crux is that sometimes, as players, you are totally into the whole damn thing and at other times you aren’t. There are times where you’re really digging the other players and their characters, everything is all very exciting, you’re on the edge of your seat for fear of what will happen to other characters. There are times where you are bored to fucking tears and you just want to bring out the book you’re reading.
After mulling it around, the only great idea I’ve had regarding it is: Sometimes you’re just not into watching what makes other people happy. We all have things that make a game more sparklypoo for us. Some of my friends love intense, prolonged in-character conversations. Other friends love what I’ve heard called “sandwich making”: the exploration of the minutiae of their world. (For some people making a sandwich is a casual background element of the game, but for others they really want to put thought into what sort of contents their character would put on a sandwich.)
From the big picture, “everyone’s a special snowflake” perspective, that’s all well and good. It’s a challenge to cater to the different tastes as a GM and I don’t know that I’m really up to said challenge. But that’s beside the point. But to take this back to the original topic: That shit is boring as hell to watch. Getting the rest of the players into what the on-camera player is into means making that interaction entertaining. You wouldn’t watch a TV-show that was both slow paced and uninteresting. Why would you want to hear someone spending 40 minutes having a casual conversation with an NPC? (“Are you going to the ball?” “Oh, I don’t know…”)
So these are solutions as I see them.
On a certain level, there’s the need to recognize that you can’t please all the people all the time. In any game there’s going to have to be some level of compromise between what you want and what is needed to keep the whole group generally having fun. Which kinda sucks if you’re wanting all sparklypoo all the time… but sometimes I think you need to make that sacrifice for the greater good.
I’m all about getting players to get their roleplaying fix between each other. I’m not that strong of a roleplayer and I don’t really feel I do NPCs that well. Pointing the players at each other means that they can get their roleplay fix from each other and I can then focus on providing interesting story elements instead.
I like to move the camera around pretty quickly so that no one’s left out in the cold for very long. Which frustrates the people who love prolonged camera time, but it fits in well with my feelings about the first two aspects to my solution.
I’d be interested in thoughts other people have.