[RPG] How to ‘meet in the middle’ with two different types of player


I'm GMing a game for long-standing friends. I took over GMing duties last year, and in that time I've noticed that while everyone seems to be having fun and I can retain their interest, half of the players (there are 8–9 at most sessions) get more enjoyment out of the story-based elements I've used (I have an overarching plot and some side-plots going on) and the other half gets more enjoyment out of roaming and more mercenary play (picking up quests from a quest board, finding things on the way to keep them occupied).

To go into a bit more detail about the two types of play I'm talking about

  • I have one group who really want to keep following all the little trails and clues I leave around about the main and side plots, they really want to follow the story I'm creating.
  • The others don't particularly care about the actual plot points, they are just in it for the adventurer and combat.

Its not as simple as crunch vs. fluff, as both sides enjoy both of those, just a preference on how they play. I think it comes down to the point that the group who doesn't really care about the plot points wants that extra bit of player freedom to move around of their own volition, rather than going where the plot is.

So far I've been doing a bit of both types and each party can get some enjoyment out of the other, but I was wondering if there were a better way to bring the two groups into cohesion so they can get more enjoyment in the parts they don't prefer.

I appreciate that a ‘split the group’ answer would work here, but its more of a casual group that gets together to have fun with each other and want to stick together rather than play two separate games. As the GM I want to facilitate that as best I can.

Best Answer

I call this "Open World" versus "Story Arc." Obviously both styles are fine but I've seen this problem as well. The sides get a little tired of each other.

If you want to bring your wanderers into the story I suggest you tie some plot points to their characters' history. Or rather, add their history to the plot points.

Examples are to add in mid-crawl bosses that insulted/betrayed them earlier. Or scour their backstories for ideas. Did they know their uncle was a necromancer? That he stole your grandfather's shield from your father? That sort of thing.

The other way I handle this is by using the open-world players to advance the story. I've always felt these folks need to know the whole world is lush and interactive.

So, if they drop the quest to find the dragon's lair to get into the slave trade they'll naturally meet someone that begs for freedom in exchange for showing them a vast treasure. Guess where that treasure is?

Look, people are of course going to get wise to this sort of thing but we all have a tendency to like stories that tie together. Some folks just don't want to follow what feels like a paved road.