So, I don’t mean offensive in the sense of actively causing pain or anger in another. This is offensive as in being active, being in possession, being engaged. Being on the offensive. Overcoming challenges that the DM puts in the path. Changing the game world.
This isn’t just about combat, either. A passive player accepts the world as the DM presents it. It’s inherently reactive, waiting for something to occur. An active player chooses a presented path, and then without further prompting chases that goal. An offensive player forges their own goals, brings NPCs around to their point of view, works with the group to establish roots in the world. Name level play, back in 20th Century D&D? That was for Offensive Players. Passive players want to play on their phone. Active players want to play the adventure. Offensive players want to work at the game. They know they aren’t safe; they revel in that fact.
How I Could Just Be Offensive
Here’s an example, just a little sample, on how to be offensive.
DM: Last week, the cult of the Gods Below have kidnapped members of the town council and have taken them to their underground lair. What’s the party doing now?
See? What the hell is this? We all have bad days where we can’t engage, but passive players won’t engage. Now I say passive meaning will not make an active decision, not low energy. That level of passivity is death for games.
Active: Let’s get a few more hirelings to guard our encampment, buy those potions we talked about, and set out for the cave entrance.
Yesssss, we’re getting there. Adding details, preparing, planning. Games at this pace are great fun, but can we do more?
Offensive: Hey, remember those dwarf miners? I bet they know some secret passageways into that cave network. Then we can sneak in and save the council. But before that, we should talk to the guard captain. How did the cultists get inside the council chamber? There might be a mole in the city watch…
So Much This. Engages with other parts of the story, builds the details of the world, provides extra plot hooks. It’s not staying with the adventure completely but is still connected and leads back in.
But I’m Not Offensive! I’m a Nice Hobbit!
Now if you can tell the rest of the group isn’t super keen on an offensive style of play, this could be a difficult sell. In my experience, passive players will still go along with it, but will balk at not following a main quest or plot idea from the DM. And again, I’m not talking about tired players, I’m talking passive; they don’t want to engage at all. The player who will never remember their spells, their bonus to attack, hell, they don’t remember their character class.
Active players are your swing vote. Players who want to engage with the whole game world will start coming up with their own little details, plots and plans. They will become offensive. Active players who want to engage with the adventure will want to keep the game on track. They’ll find this extra hogwash to be detracting from the game. They might think it ruins the game. The DM needs to show flexibility and trust that the players won’t completely sandbag their ideas.
The offensive player will need to be mindful that they aren’t steamrolling the party. Players that won’t work as a team, and go their own ways aren’t offensive, they’re disruptive. They are gronks, they are so focused on their own agendas they stomp all over other players, DM and the game. In that case, you’ll need guidance for the group, someone who can coordinate all the various machinations and offensives. Essentially, this is where a social contract kicks in; within the bounds of that contract, the offensive player can shine. _