In this episode, we are going to talk about one of the best ways to end your sessions, engage your players, and keep them thinking about their characters between sessions. This is STA Engage

Welcome to the show. I’m your host, Dr RPG, Jeff Harvey. Last episode we talked about how you jump start your game sessions. This is part two of that episode, where we are going to talk about how you can end your sessions, and how to keep players engaged between sessions.

But, before we get into all that, please welcome, once again, my illustrious co-host, the luminous Michael Dismuke.

The goal of this show is to help fans of Star Trek, and of role-playing, better engage with the Star Trek Franchise, the Star Trek Adventures RPG, and the community at large. 

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How to wrap up a session

  • Wrap up is at least as important as the opening if done right.
    • If your story is going to span more than one session, try to end on a cliffhanger.
        • You are gonna use cliffhangers for some scene changes, cold opens, session ends…eventually they don’t mean as much.
          • This term comes from the “Happy Days” TV show… it basically means you overreach and use too many stunts to “grab ratings”, in this case, player attention…and it can really single the beginning of the end.
    • Take some time to wind down. Let players talk before you all split up for the night.
        • Much like with letting them do the recaps, you can get a lot of story ideas listening to all the things the players missed, or misconstrued about the session.
      • Do wrap up questions.
        • This is one of THE MOST important parts of my GM style. I use it, or some variation of it, for EVERY SINGLE game I run… 
          • What moment stands out most to you.
            • Ask this of the group. They all might have different answers, but some players might have the same as another.
            • It’s a great way to gauge how they are seeing the story you are telling, and what they like about your game. If it got their attention, it’s normally a good thing
          • Who best embodied their character.
            • Ask this of the group too. It feels great to be the one players pick, and it can motivate some players to try and be picked
            • Don’t force this question. Sometimes, nobody wants to answer because they are all hoping someone else will say them… You can pick a player that you really thought stood out. That might break the tension.
            • This ends up, a lot of time, with players praising each other. It’s a great way to build player confidence. 
            • DO NOT let a player name themselves…
          • What role-playing moment best exemplifies the other person’s character to you.
            • This is a lot like the “who best embodied their character…. But it is a little different.
            • Ask EACH player to name one moment where they felt they saw another player play their character in a way that they were able to “get” the character, even if just a little.
            • Go around the table. You may get some same answers…but give everyone a chance.
            • You can skip this one, or you can skip the “Who best embodied their character” if it was a light RP session… but I encourage you to do them both if it was a heavy RP session.
          • What motivated your character during this session and how have those motivations changed.
            • This is the question I skip the most often, just because there are some sessions where the answers are obvious, or the players didn’t really have a  lot of “motivating” factors. 
            • If a player really has a great, heavy session, or a stressful story, this question is a GREAT way to let them boast a little. Let them…and you get to hear exactly what is motivating them going into the next session or story arc.
          • What did you, or your character learn today.
            • I like this one because, much like the cool down time, and the recap, you can get a sense of what the players are seeing, and what they are picking up on.
            • It also lets you hear the things they might be missing, and either change the story, or drop some bigger clues next time so they can get the hint.
          • Good idea. Bad idea.
            • This comes right from the Tom Bodette skits on Animaniacs…. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you had a terrible 90s… the show is coming back though… 
            • Anyway… the basic idea here is to let players cool down a little more. The Good Idea and Bad Idea are often the same thing, just depending on the perspective, or the outcome. 
              • Like, Good Idea, Visiting the Circus. Bad Idea, having the Circus visit you.
              • Or, Good Idea: Volunteering to join your friend for his Klingon honor ritual. Bad Idea: Volunteering to join your friend for his Klingon honor ritual that involves you being hit with pain sticks.
              • This is a fun question, and it can be a great wind down.
          • What did you see from another player you would like to see more of.
            • This is a PLAYER question… you don’t need to ask everyone, but put the question out there.
            • The real purpose of this question is twofold, and you can steer it how you need to to get the results you need.
              • One, it’s a great way to reinforce positive player behaviors.
              • Two, it’s a way to help a, less than good, player’s poor behaviour be called into attention in a positive way. 
                • This is tricky…and is not a substitute for just straight talking to your player about the issues you may have, but this is a way for the GROUP to help that player better themselves.
                  • I’m going to get into how to be a better player, and how to deal with bad players, in another episode…. That’s a big topic…
          • If you could change one thing about the session, what would it be.
            • I like this one because it’s a way for players to give you negative feedback in a positive way. You are phrasing the question in a way that invites the player to not only say what they didn’t like, but also forces them to consider your position…
            • It’s also a great feeling when you start getting sessions where players honestly don’t have anything they would change.
            • Answer this question yourself… you can address it to something you could have done better, or something you would have liked to see a player do different.
            • ALWAYS be positive… These questions, and this in particular, are meant to HELP everyone improve. Don’t bag on anyone.

So…what about downtime?

  • This is the easiest part of this episode.
    • Ask players to write personal, and/or duty logs.
      • In other games, I ask them to do journals. 
      • These aren’t mandated…they are optional
      • I often tie some XP boost to this, but in STA, I actually attach Determination to it.
        • You do a log, you get 1 point of Determination (still can’t go over the max)
        • If they have determination, or if the entire crew do logs, I’ll give them momentum to start the game with. 
    • Encourage players to RP between sessions. 
      • I tend to have them do it in chats, or a google doc…something the other players can see if they choose. 
      • Let other players interact if it makes sense. 
      • Have them write letters “home”, or to some pen pal…and WRITE BACK, or have the person they are writing to show up at some point.

There are a lot of ways you can engage the players at the start, and end of your session. Sure the RP that happens during the game is the most important part of the game, but a strong start, and introspective finish, are just a couple of ways I have improved my games.

It’s mostly about helping players, and game masters, feel more comfortable as themselves… around the table, and in their second skins. Your job as a GM isn’t just to know rules, dash the aspirations of the Player Characters, or laugh maniacally behind your screen as you TPK the world! Your job is to connect to the people around your table, sharing in your vision, and telling your stories.

Maybe your most important job as a GM is being a positive part of the experience you are all sharing together. We only have so many hours in this life, the fact that you are spending them doing this thing, with these people, and that they are spending what little time they have being a part of your experience… don’t waste that. Don’t be the reason someone has a bad time gaming.

Start strong, play strong, end strong. Use the time you have to listen to your table and to be the positive memories the other people at it walk away with. If you’re a player, or a GM, you are a storyteller… that’s how we exist in the world; after all, “We’re all *just* stories in the end.”  Make your characters, and yours, a good one.

And on that note, we are gonna call it a wrap. Next time, we are going to talk about crafting new Aliens, and how to introduce them to your unsuspecting players. 

So tune in next time for: First Contact or Don’t you shoot that green shit at me!

Until then, If you like what you hear, and you want to help this show, share this episode with one other person who might enjoy what we’re doing. I’m your host, Dr RPG Jeff Harvey, and on behalf of myself, my co-host Michael Dismuke, and everybody that works behind the scenes, Live Long and Prosper. 

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