The Player’s Perspective: Proactive v Reactive Players

dice

Hello there folks, I am back with another viewpoint from the player’s perspective. Today I want to talk about a topic that made me decide to start writing these articles in the first place. When it comes time to sit at the table and play are you proactive or reactive?

Let’s start at the beginning, all players fall into one of these two categories. The proactive player takes charge of the situation and takes action. In doing so, they move the plot forward and keep things rolling. The action taken does not need to be relevant to the current plot hooks. Simply by taking action they are causing an event to unfold that will move story along. Examples of this can be as simple as a warrior inquiring about available mercenary work in a local tavern. The point is, rather than waiting for the GM to sink the plot hook in and pull them along, they go and look for the hook. On the other hand, the reactive player often waits for the GM to prompt them into action. This player is still making things happen; however, they are not the catalyst of change.

The players are the protagonists of the story, which implies a certain level of necessary action. If the hero of the story just sits on their hands then nothing happens and that is not much of a story. I cannot count the number of times I have heard a player complain of being bored or feeling left out; meanwhile, during the game they took no effort to integrate themselves into the action. The PC’s in any game are always amongst the most significant people in the world, which is why we are telling a story about them in the first place. Long story short, you are the hero SO DO SOMETHING!

As a player I cannot help but be proactive, it is simply in my nature. At times this can create issues at the table. Taking the proactive urge too far can come across as selfish and start to deprive others at the table of a good time as one player dominates the spotlight. If you have this issue at the table it is most likely the result of one of two things. First, you have a GM that is either playing favorites or needs to work on pulling everyone into the spotlight. This is most common amongst inexperienced GM’s. Let’s be honest, running a game is a juggling act and takes a certain amount of finesse to pull off well. The best way to fix this is to talk with the GM, if they address the issue and attempt to fix it then you are in a good game, if not just find a game more in line with your needs. Second, and probably most common, you have a one proactive player with slot of reactive players. This combination can give the appearance of one player stealing the spotlight.

For example, I was playing a Pathfinder game being run by my brother. The campaign had been running for roughly 9 months before I joined the game. At my first session I quickly found myself embroiled in plots that had nothing to do with me and quickly felt out of place. Naturally the other PC had a lot history and back-story driving things that I had no part of because it happened before I joined. Instead of being a spectator I started making a place for myself in the framework I was given. I took actions that made sense for my character and found ways to integrate myself into the story. Instead of waiting for the GM to write me into the story I wrote myself into the story. Eventually I started becoming a center point of the story because I was doing things to progress the story, I was taking action. This resulted in the others players at the table complaining about what they called “the Jason Show”. The thing was that the GM was not writing this plot for me specifically, I was only at the center because I was taking action and interacting with the world the GM created. There was nothing special about what I was doing; I simply took action instead of waiting for the GM to tell me where to go next.

Quite simply, I guarantee, that if you are proactive as opposed to reactive both you and your GM will have more fun. By taking a proactive stance you are providing everyone else more to work with and it can turn into a domino effect. A group of proactive players is crucial to well executed collaborative storytelling. Even if the players don’t always agree on what to do, the conflict between them can make for great stories, provided it remains in character. Even if you pay no heed to anything else that I write just remember, be the hero and DO SOMETHING.

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