In this post I’m going to assume you’re familiar with the terms I’m using. Ask for clarification in the comments if you like. I’m also going to address this in part to GMs and in part to players, but I’m coming from the perspective of someone who is almost always the GM.
As GMs, we assume players want to play. They showed up for a game, right? But this is not a safe assumption.
There are many reasons why someone who came for a game might end up recalcitrant and useless. Many roleplaying gamers are children, making them prone to rapid mood swings and erratic behavior. Some people may feel compelled by social circumstances to show up for something they don’t want to do, and play their characters as inert lumps. Sometimes a player is being antagonized by a crappy GM or other players, but doesn’t feel bold enough to quit the situation.
Those are all legitimate enough. It would be nice if people could just admit when they don’t want to be around and have the means and wherewithal to bail, but it’s not always the case. Still, there are some more cryptic reasons why players don’t play. I’d like to discuss those a bit…