[RPG] How to motivate players to do character sheet updates outside of session


I run a weekly campaign with one session every Sunday. My core group (4-5 people) always show up, with the occasional person who joins from time to time (either playing a new character they wanted to test, or playing NPC's/monsters/etc). This composition works great for us.

Generally I have been holding experience until the end of the session and awarding it in bulk at the end of the session, which then levels people up afterwards (this was generally done to save time, keep people focused, etc). However what I am finding is that they typically walk away form the session and forget to level their characters (after having added the exp/etc). This has been leading to one of two situations.

(Please also note: I do this for a number of other things such as saying mundane items/common items are always available when inside a city, so please purchase them outside of campaign — again, to keep things moving at a brisk pace.)

  1. They remember when they come back, and proceed to level their character at the start of the next session (effectively delaying the start).
  2. They totally forget and only remember when they have something reminding them (similar to: wait, shouldn't I be level X?)

This means that it doesn't end up saving time. Session time is generally flexible, however I would rather use flexible time to do more campaign rather than updating characters/etc. I'd rather it was done outside of the campaign's time-slot so that we can play more.

My question: How do I motivate players to take care of their characters outside of the campaign's sessions, so as to not slow down the actual campaign? (e.g. leveling, healing, buying mundane items, etc)

It is worth noting that I am not giving the players additional work. Just simply the basic requirements to be able to play the game (e.g. updating their character as required).

My only thoughts so far would be to give Inspiration at the start of session for anyone who does not slow the campaign by having to level during a session, or by giving some sort of reward in the campaign (for instance, maybe if everyone was ready for the next session, I'll give them an extra 100gp per person as a reward in the dungeon).

I have already seen How can I get my players to do extra “homework”?, but it is more focused on additional outside work (homework), while character sheets (or other required mechanics/etc.) are much closer tied with just being able to play the game in general.

Best Answer

Sometimes, rewards and incentive are motivational enough on their own. In a tabletop RPG like this where bonus exp, gold, or any other non mundane item gifted to a player for doing something that is largely required by the player as a means of character maintenance after each session and before the next is going to lead to unfair advantages when 1 or 2 of your average group of 5 end up majorly ahead in exp or currency or wealth measured in possessions (items obtained). Even Inspiration is something not to be handed out lightly.

So when rewards and incentives create imbalance? What's left is rules and regulations. My group always does their leveling at the end of each session, after XP is awarded, if said XP is enough to progress them to the next level. Sometimes our sessions run for 5 or 6 hours and everyone is too tired to do all the math and additions required for level up. No worries, they have a full 7 days to level their character! Seven days is plenty of time. There should be time in anyone's schedule over the course of 7 days to level up a character. Minds can be slippery sometimes, however, and reminders are required.

So how do you effectively go about this while respecting your players time restrictions and motivate them in the process? You make a hard rule. Session start time is Session Start Time . Character leveling up is the players responsibility. Anyone not sufficiently leveled up by the start of the next session 7 days later uses the character they have as represented on their character sheet. If they didn't go buy manacles and a chain, and the start of your session doesn't allow for shopping? If they didn't add all the nifty new things they gained for reaching level 4 and the session is starting? Well they're missing out.

You might say "Well that seems harsh, Airatome, where does the madness end!?" Well; you supplement that with reminders, if possible. Our group plays over skype so there is a consistent group chat always active. Whatever forum you use to bring your players together as a group has a method of messaging your group. So remind them at the end of each session to level up and shop. Remind them a few days later to level up and shop. Remind them the day before your next session to level up and shop. Anyone failing their responsibilities to keep their character sheet current after positive reminders and reinforcement is then stuck adhering to the rule of Session Start Time.

They can then level up their character if there's a break, or after the end of the session, and catch up to where they belong. Additionally, time allowing, you COULD have a soft session start time 1 hour before the implemented hard start time for those who need to catch up in levels and spend gold and such. This will not only give the people who already have done so time to make it to the session's actual start time, allow you as the DM to help any players who need it with their level up and HP rolls, but also allows everyone to start on an even note after the soft hour has concluded and the actual session begins. No delays. No giving out gold or items or Inspiration to those who should earn them in the game not out of the game because of a character sheet.

Regardless of the optional 'soft start time' being used, implementing a 'Hard Start Time' along with positive reminders after, in between, and a day before sessions should motivate them in a way that does not sow discord or advantages/disadvantages among the players; because after all is said and done, they DO gain the level they were missing; it's simply their responsibility, not yours, to keep their character current.