So, recently, I've been thinking about motivating players. One of the most important things I could tell a new GM is: make your players (and their characters) care about the world you are setting up. If your players don’t care about the world you have created, they won’t care about where the plot is going. Some ways to avoid this are:
1. If you are going to have NPCs, make sure your players, and their characters care about them. I’ve seen way too many GMs fall into this before, and there are easy ways to avoid it. First, if you are going to have an NPC, make sure there is plot significance to why they are there. Second, have a reason for the characters to care about the NPC. If there’s NPC conflict, what do the PCs have to do with this? As my co-GM says, the easiest way to make a PC care about an NPC is to make them do battle with them. However, NPCs can also be allies and other important parts of sessions.
2. Fit the genre, and its plot with what everyone wants. Again, it is important to know what your players want out of a game and what they are capable of. (I know this is harder in one-shots.) Don’t suddenly stick a mystery session into a political game unless you run it by your players first.
3. Remember that your PCs are the main characters in the story you are trying to tell. Think about an session of RP as a novel, a movie, a television show, or a video game for a second. If RP were any of these things, PCs would be the main characters, the ones the cameras follow, the ones who get the spotlight. They should be the one changing the world and events, whether they succeed or fail. If NPCs are getting too much spotlight or too many events are happening behind the scenes, where PCs can’t see it, that may be a problem.