This is going to be an awkward post. Not awkward because of what I'm covering, at least topically, but awkward for what it means. See, one of my friends runs a game that is very much a "if we have folks together and want to we play this game." The game is a Star Wars Edge of the Empire game using the beta rules and other stuff we've found online. Now, the game is still in it's first few sessions where everything is getting set up, but parts of the game are stagnating. I'm not saying this to take a shot at the GM either, the problem is actually more on the players' side of the screen than the GM. However, it's something I want to go over because it does happen from time to time.
Boring Characters Make Boring Choices Make Boring Games
The problem with the game? At present the players are being too safe and, well, boring. We have acquired a ship, we are fixing the ship up, but aside from that we're not doing anything to cause waves. The PC in charge of the buying and selling of cargo is staying legit business, the PC in charge of being the mechanic is staying on the ship to do mechanic things, the pilot PC goes around and runs their mouth at times but never to the tune of too much trouble, and the bothan PC is very careful in what he does and also isn't starting trouble. Now, granted, at any point any of the 4 could start trouble, but the problem is that the game is stagnating partially because the PCs are fighting what the core concept of Edge of the Empire is.
What does that mean? Well, Edge of the Empire is supposed to be about living out in the outer rim of systems where the Imperial Government has weaker ties and a more "shoot first ask questions later" attitude. Gang lords like Hutts and criminal syndications run everything and the PCs are supposed to be people who, while good people at heart, live beyond the law and have interesting adventures. Effectively you play Han Solo and Boba Fett and have fun on Tattooine. Only, our players are trying to keep everything above board. In a lot of ways, and part of why I feel bad about this, is it's like we're playing a super hero game where everyone's primary goal is to make sure that no one else can prove or know that they have super powers. To the point that when someone needs help they don't get helped. Maybe not that extreme, but you get the point.
What Can the GM Do?
Now, like I said, the game is still early. But usually it's when things are early that the silliest and strangest things happen. Still, if you see this happening in your game, what can you do? For starters, I'd consider discussing it with the players. If you think it is going to be hard to move them, believably, into the path where fun adventures wait then you should talk to them. Point out your concerns - "I see this game getting very boring fast and I'd like to run something more than a merchant simulator for you guys" - and ask what the players want to do about it. However, early in the game - like this one is - you can also just start making things interesting and seeing what happens.
For example, and based on a conversation with the GM, it would be a real shame if an Imperial ship captain got a grudge against the ship and made it hard for legitimate business to be done on a level worth talking about. It would also be a shame if a member of the Hutt organization or Black Sun, or any of the myriad other organizations decided to nose in on this new freighter making the rounds and not paying protection money to anyone. Cheating a bit - not really though - it'd be a shame if the GM mandated some obligations come up and make things harder for the PCs. Lots of things, or multiple things, can come up and make things interesting. Than it is on the PCs to react. How long before they get a price on their head and have to dodge customs on the nicer planets like Naboo? How long before it comes down to doing an illegitimate deal or not being able to provide money for one of those debts we have? It could work.
What Can The Players Do?
On the other hand there are the players. Now, playing the characters is our primary job but we can still do stuff tohelp. For one, we can take those more dangerous jobs and, y'know, actually do them. We can cause problems, get into fights, and run our mouths. In effect, we can be PCs and cause problems and give the GM stuff to work with. Or, we could keep going on playing safe and boring and see what bricks the GM throws our way. With the characters we have, I don't see it staying a "safe and boring" game for long if something starts to shove, but only time will tell I suppose.