That was said to me by some of my players last session.
Maybe not verbatim but definitely that meaning. They were done doing stuff and were ready for whatever I had in store.
This really disheartened me. And in some ways it confused me.
During my last post I talked about how they finished the first quest and they were free to roam the Koronus Expanse. And I was really excited about this because it means I didn’t have to railroad them. I didn’t have to explicitly control what they do.
I wanted them to feel slightly underpowered in the beginning. I gave each of them a boon (kinda like a wish) and they each got some totally bitching archeotech (analogous to magical items) equipment. So now they are powerful, they are much richer, with a spaceship that they had to work together to protect.
It also meant that I could slow down the missions and take more time to write them since my players have the option of fucking off around the Koronus Expanse. I prepared a lot of star systems to explore so that there were real things they could encounter.
I wrote missions and populated a job board for them with options. Quests they could take to represent people coming to the party and looking for explorers to hire.
I prepared a lot for the first session of freedom in the Expanse. We sat down and I presented them with their badass equipment. I was eager to see what they wanted to do. After most of an hour they all sort of just looked at me.
“We’re ready for whatever.”
You can do whatever you want? I’m taking my hands of the wheel for the first time. Does no one have anything they want to do? I think in the moment my façade broke and my exasperation showed. Not a single player in seven had something they wanted to pursue. The players talk a lot but I was hoping this was the moment that character building moments and events could take place.
After I prompted them they finally decided on a mission. But I’ve been thinking about that moment all week.
Maybe the issue is that the world is too big? The ‘blue sky’ problem definitely comes up. When someone comes up to you and says, “You can do whatever you want!” you get far more intimidated and stumped than when someone says, “Choose A or B.”
A bit of it must be that the people aren’t familiar with the Universe. And there isn’t shit I can do about that. The lore is all available but I’m not going to demand that they read it all.
Also the fact that its a sci-fi universe is more difficult as well. Dungeons and Dragons should just be called “Familiar and Safe Tolkien Fantasy Tropes.” Its way easier to function in DnD campaign because its much smaller in scope. A sci fi universe typically involves spaceships and galaxies. You don’t have magic to rely on, you have to get clever with your thinking and how you use technology.
Part of the opening missions was teaching them about the various things that can be done. How to information gather, negotiate, evaluate stuff. I was hoping that would carry over but maybe they thought the only reason we were doing this was for a specific events. I suppose I can still be explicit about what needs to be done but I want to put currency back in the players hands by pitting them against interesting challenges. If I write the challenge and then prompt them on how to beat it its less satisfying for them.
I think in my effort to teach everyone first and let them free second I’ve accidentally set up a standard of “you don’t need to do anything because its all preordained.”
On another level I think that some of the players aren’t really fully invested. No one asked me to run a campaign because they wanted one. I decided to run one and asked who wanted to play. And that distinction is important.
Ellis is going to run a Dungeons and Dragons 5.0 campaign and some players seem to be much more excited. They are really diving into the rule books and looking at how their character is going to develop. This is a campaign that people asked Ellis to do, so they are far more excited.
This isn’t a bad thing but I think my Rogue Trader campaign isn’t necessarily a huge deal. Saturdays (when we play) isn’t necessarily “we play Rogue Trader on Saturdays” as much as it is “we all hang out on Saturday and play Rogue Trader.” It seems the same when its written but the difference is that for some of my players they don’t care if we play or not. Hanging out is what we do on Saturdays. They don’t look forward to playing Rogue Trader, they look forward to hanging out.
Hell, one of my players brought board games to play when he came to session on Saturday “in case we didn’t play.”
In the end we have fun and that’s what I prioritize. I have fun and I think most of my players do. Their personal engagement might not align with mine but in a group of seven players its probably hard for all of them to be on the same page. Writing for Rogue Trader has been a fun and unique challenge. Learning to manage my players and expectations will just be a new challenge.
And don’t get me wrong, some of my players get really invested in certain scenarios and that’s so much fun for me to write for. Its a mixed bag but hopefully with time everything will be sculpted into a deep, rich campaign.
I just wasn’t ready for, “We’re done. We’re ready for whatever…”