Over Reliance On The Game Master To Have Fun
Everyone comes to a role-playing session with a different mindset simply because we have varying perspectives about things according to how we were brought up, the sum of our experiences, etc.
Of course, it is also very hard if not impossible to quantify or evaluate imagination as well, for example if I say the word "Leaf" that will mean a different picture for everyone that hears me say the word. Therefore, I need to narrow everyone's imagination a bit by saying "A green leaf". Yet again even more precise with, "A green oval leaf from an olive tree". See how much the word "Leaf" has changed for you since I first said it?
The same thing happens in role-play. If a Game Master says, "You camp for five hours in the clear moonlight..." then what could that mean for a party? It could mean that they want a fast forward button that goes past that so you can ultimately know what happens next. For me that is a poor take on role-playing because 'what happens next' means that you do not know what to do with the time so you want the Game Master to carry on events for you.
A better option would be to role-play that 'five hours' with Character building. For instance, one Character can describe how he sets his tent, what superstitions he has about the moon or his contempt for the earlier actions of another Character in the game. Mind you, do not take over the setting the Game Master has set - you work with it. For instance, in this example you cannot role-play that it is raining if the Game Master has not said it is raining - you role-play within the limits of the scene created.
By doing this you will build a better relationship among Characters / Players by being able to relate more with each other so when the Game Master does update the story it flows in a realistic way rather than action-stop, action-stop, etc. A good example of this is if a Character has a liking for another Character of the opposite gender and the GM describes that you are passing through a forest then it can provide an opportunity for the romantic to look for a flower, climb a tree and serenade, etc. This is better than saying, "OK we keep walking through the forest until we see 'something'". Thoughts?
This is definitely a problem when a player believe that their only responsibility to the game is to basically show up and be entertained. Role playing is a cooperative experience, a team effort if you will, and its success does not and cannot hinge on the abilities or efforts of one person whether that person is the GM or another player at the table (Virtual or otherwise).
A GM can do things to try and prompt more involvement and investment in the game, but it kind of refers back to the issue of dependability and motivation combined with an understanding that the GM and the players share in determining the entertainment value that they will receive from playing.
Perhaps some of the problem stems from our experiences as players with GMs who have certain styles. A player who started out with, and has only experienced, a GM who tends to railroad the game is probably going to be fairly hesitant about doing much to help guide the story because in their experience the story is going to be spoon fed to them anyway and their reactions have little to no effect on the outcome or flow of the game; it's the GM's story and they are simply along for the ride.
I tend to see it as part of my job as a GM to prompt the players, and sometimes this means being fairly clear about your expectations of them and how much you expect them to participate in developing a scene in the game. I think even experienced players need some time to feel out the GM though and eventually understand how much input is appropriate in the game. As a player you don't want to take over the entire scene and essentially supplant the GM and this can happen if the player misreads or simply disregards the GM's prompts.
Part of the game ends up being the process of the players and the GM learning to prompt each other and cooperatively develop the game, because everyone does approach it from a different perspective when they first arrive at the table and it takes some time to hash all of this out and learn to adapt to each other. Players don't know what is expected of them unless the GM specifically tells them, or they figure it out as they go along.
In a sense we enter into a social contract of sorts when we get together to play in role playing games, whether that be in person, online, or even play-by-post. We have to come to an understanding of what is expected of the GM verses the player as well as what authority the GM has verses the authority of the players. What elements of the world/story is the GM responsible for and what elements are the players responsible for?
In my view the GM is often responsible for setting the scene and acting out the NPCs while the players are usually exclusively responsible for describing the actions of their characters. I personally prefer, both as a GM and a player, that it go beyond simply describing an action that the player is taking; I like to know why that player is taking that action or what they are feeling at the time because this adds to the experience for me in both cases.
I also think that part of the player's responsibility is to recognize and respond to the prompts provided by the GM. If the GM is ending his post with something like "You camp for five hours in the clear moonlight..." to me that is a prompt as a player that the GM has set this scene, now it is time for the player to add to the scene either through character action or some form of descriptive narrative. In a similar manner the GM needs to be aware of when the player is prompting the GM. If the player ends their post with an action that requires some form of reaction from the environment around him/her then the GM needs to recognize that and describe that response/reaction.
If the player is simply ending the post or scene with "I feel this way..." That doesn't necessarily require a response from the GM. The player, though, always needs to look for the prompts by the GM because regardless of how the GM ends his/her post it will require some form of reaction from the player in order to move the game along. I.e. You and the members of your party killed the owl bear; hooray! Now what? If the GM ended with the description of the owl bears death the player needs to recognize that the next move is on them, where are they going now? What do you want to do now that you've killed the owl bear. If the player doesn't describe this then it places the responsibility on the GM to decide for the player what the character would do next, and that is not the GM's job, that is the player's job/responsibility.
The GM is there for your guidance. A proper campaign / scenario is really about the players' choices, the GM just says the result. If you are only interested in the result then its not as much fun as if you role-play along the way. Just waiting on the result is like asking a question, getting an answer and then asking another question and getting another answer. After some time that can seem tedious if not boring. Role-playing outside of waiting on the GM allows you to take the game to another level, you become part of the game rather than an investigator or experimenter of actions or cause and effect.
Funny, I was commenting on this today. My analogy of this is the same as being at a party. The host (GM) provides the spot, the decorations, music, drinks and stuff. The guests (Players) are the ones who have to eat, mingle, dance and enjoy themselves. They can't wait for the host to pull out some kind of schedule and say next we dance, then next we do speed dating, then next we have desert. The host provides the setting and now players take the initiative to work with what they have and make for a good time!
Play By Post suffers in the same way most written communication suffers. Human communication is so much more that just the words spoken. Vocal intonation and body language are just as or even more important than words, but on the Internet, we lose all that additional context.
If a Dungeon Master posted, 'You camp for five hours on a moonlit night,' I'd need more as a player. I need context. Is the Dungeon Master ending this scene and starting the next? Are they providing a quiet moment that we can fill as we see fit without worries of Stirges suddenly descending and feasting on our juicy bits?
Now, I can get that context from a prior understanding of what this Dungeon Master favors, but if I have no other information to go on, I'd need to ask for clarification. I'm happy to vamp it up and get up to some shenanigans, but I want to know it's the right time and that I'm not throwing a monkey wrench into the game's plan.
That's why I feel the most powerful tool in my Game Mastering Arsenal is asking questions.
'Alright, the moon is bright and high in the sky by the time you folks make camp. Tell me, what does the campsite look like and what are each of you doing to both help set up or secure the camp, and once that's done, what do you do with this downtime?'
Then, I can ask refining questions based on the answers I get back. Things like:
Who do you do that with?
Who sees you?
Anything strange about this time?
What's that look like?
Asking those sort of questions and reincorporating the answers back into the evolving story makes for a much richer experience and can help draw out more laconic players.
If a GM is saying we are camping for the night then I think the push being made here is that its the party's turn to decide what's going to happen next in the context camping rather than say, "So we sleep and get up, what happens next". That's fairly easy if you have equally enthusiastic players willing to do the same but if they aren't its way harder as your post ends up looking like a blog entry and theirs the bare minimum.
It could happen both ways, some Dungeon Masters may contribute by pushing forward with the game and not allowing players the time to role-play. Its not likely for a player to say to the Dungeon Master that he shouldn't move forward because he wants to role-play a scene at least not in my experience.