So, I believe I know what you’re thinking…
“Leviathan, you have finally lost what was left of that feeble mind of yours.”
And, while you could be right about this, it has nothing to do with the idea I bring you today. I want to introduce you to a marketing theory titled, AIDA. For those of you that are unfamiliar with AIDA, it’s an acronym that stands for Awareness, Interest, Desire and Action. It’s also a model widely used in marketing to describe the stages from the time a consumer first finds out about a product or brand to when the consumer decides to give it a try and buy it.
When put to use, its actually expanded into six different stages and should be strictly followed by those wishing to sell their product to the customer.(Or in our case an adventure to a Player)
What’s That Got To Do With Game Mastery?
Well, if you’re like me, and most of the GMs I have ever had the pleasure of knowing, one of the most nerve wracking issues you deal with, on a regular basis, is getting the Players in your group interested and actively participating in your adventures and campaigns.
What I’m suggesting is that you can use this method to, in effect, “sell” these stories to your players in the same way that Billy sold us Oxyclean and Vince used to sell us the Sham-wow. Ok, maybe a little less annoying than Vince…
I’m so glad you asked. (Yeah, I know you didn’t really ask, but you came here to read the post so just go with it, K?) First let’s start by breaking the acronym down, and how you will go about using it, so that we can really understand. The way this is used in gaming is as follows:
Stage I. Secure Attention:
That seems pretty simple. Your Players have shown up to this session with the intention of having an adventure. But how can you insure that you have it? My advice is to go BIG. Have something happen that simply can’t be ignored.
- A Monster or Villain sets fire to the tavern in which the party is staying
- The Prince of the Space Imperium has decided to defect. He shows up at the Space station which the Party is currently stuck on.
- Coming back from an adventure, the Party finds a dead body in their home.
Stage II. Hold Attention Through Interest:
The problem with stopping on the first stage is the same problem some Movies and TV shows run into. They have this awesome intro. It catches your eye with a bunch of flash, action, and tense conflict but it doesn’t live up to its promise. So therefore, you have lost all interest five minutes in.
How do you keep this from happening in your game? Same way they do for those commercials. You make sure that your Players understand what this has to do with them and more importantly, to some Parties, what’s in it for them.There is nothing more devastating to Player participation in an adventure than them feeling like it has nothing to do with them and they are simply a background character.
- If they want to survive, they have to escape the tavern. And, was this fire intended to take them out?
- If the Prince isn’t returned within the allotted time, the Space Station will be destroyed, killing everyone. And the Fleet is offering a huge reward.
- The Townsfolk are already aware of the corpse. And, since the dead man is known to have had hostilities with the party in the past, the local Magistrate is wanting some answers
Stage III. Arouse Desire:
Now that you have them fully involved, the Players start to have goals that they want to accomplish. These are going to be different for each Player Character. But its important that you listen to your Players and play the story toward each one of those desires. Sometimes this can make the game even better by causing conflict between the Characters themselves.
ie. In the case of the Space Station, some of the Characters may want to be noble and find a resolution where the Prince gets to stay. while others may have no motivation, other than those beautiful credits clinking into their backpack.
(Be careful with this approach however. Character vs. Character can be fantastic. Just be sure that it doesn’t descend into Player Vs Player. that can bust up a gaming group fast.)
Stage IV. Create Confidence and Belief:
There are times when I present my Players with situations that are more than a little intimidated by. They’re facing down a dragon, they’re surrounded by an army that out numbers them one hundred to one.
Why don’t they just give up? Why not just let the characters die and start over?
Simple, I make sure to always have a way out of every situation. They have to use their brains, they have to search for clues, they have to use the skills of their characters. But they know that there is no way that I’m going to just roll over them and their characters. RPGs are cooperative story telling after all.
Is it possible that they could all get wiped out? Sure. Whats the point of a heroic story that has no chance of failure?
My friend, Brian Feister (The Creator of Open Legend RPG) and I have had many a heated debate over this subject. We have neither one, been able to change the views of the other. But, I’m not one to say that someone else’s fun is wrong. So you know what? If your way to produce confidence from your players is to have your players know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that they have no chance of failure and you all enjoy life with the airbags on, good for you. Keep it up.
Stage V. Secure Decision and Action:
Then pull the rug out from under them. No, I don’t mean a TPK. I mean the Limited Time Offer. Call now and you can get two for the price of one. Or, in terms of the RPG adventure..:
- Sit around too long and the tavern is going to burn to the ground. Breathing in all that smoke is also going to make it less and less likely that the characters are going to escape.
- That reward payoff for the Prince only lasts so long. The Imperium can’t afford for word to get out that he has defected. If he’s not back within the hour, they will blow you to bits.
- The Magistrate will give you a chance to prove your innocence, but they are not going to allow you to run free forever. Someone’s got to hang, after all…
Stage VI. Create Satisfaction:
Hopefully, the adventure is going to end in success. After all, if they completely fail, they aren’t the heroes. They are one of the many ordinary folk that are folded into the legend before the true hero comes along and saves the day.
Make sure that when they have achieved their goal, that the reward is commiserate with the effort they had to put in to get there. Even a first level fighter is going to be disappointed if he gets to the Big Bad, after weeks of death defying adventuring, to find that their only reward is the twenty copper he had tucked away in his pouch.
Even if the reward isn’t monetary, technological or magic it can be social. You would be amazed the things that Characters and Players will do simply for fame, freebies, and special treatment.
But That’s Not All:
It should be noted, that this process can also be used in reverse. A good example of this in real life is politics. Public attention recedes, people’s interest starts to decline (or they become so sickened with the process that they start to ignore it all together) and their desire for a change to the status quo is drowned out by pessimism and belief that, no matter their decision, change cannot truly come, “Both sides are terrible. We’re screwed no matter who we choose.”
Remember that these type of decisions can be used in your adventures as well. Sometimes great campaigns can come from one decision where the party aren’t happy with either choice that they have.
You can also use a mix of the two methods. As you would find in a society where the people were oppressed by the government and their military representatives.Then the party becomes involved by joining the Resistance and, eventually, leading the Revolution
Well, I hope you enjoyed this article and it gave you plenty to think about. If you have any questions, or want to talk RPGs hit me up on Twitter @DMLeviathan.