New GM here (to everything not just Dungeon World)  I have a lot of trouble encouraging creativity and involvement…

New GM here (to everything not just Dungeon World)  I have a lot of trouble encouraging creativity and involvement…

New GM here (to everything not just Dungeon World)  I have a lot of trouble encouraging creativity and involvement in my game so far.  Asking questions feels like pulling teeth.  As an example, we have a fighter in our group.  She only wields brass knuckles.   During character creation I tried to ask questions to use the answers, but I was stone walled.  “That’s pretty neat, sounds like an orcish weapon, did you have a master who taught you to use those or something?”  I taught myself.  “So how’d you get those 22 coins, did you maybe sack a windsail caravan, kill some wandering spiritbinder?” I looted them of dead bodies.  “What kind of bodies?”  I don’t know.  “Why did you become a mercenary, what do you want from life and adventure?”  I like to punch things.  Combat’s the same way.  An elven man fly’s out of the darkness, murder in his eyes, and what looks to be antlers sewn onto his head, fresh blood oozing from the wounds.  What do you do?”  I dodge.  I punch him.  Later…  “He sinks his teeth into the side of your face, worrying the flesh, actually biting off a chunk of ear.  What do you do?”  I punch him.  “You don’t yell or anything?”  I punch him”  its like this with all the players, even though they’ve played dungeon world before, in multiple different campaigns.

Is this even an issue, or am just projecting my on desires for how I want the game to go onto my players?  If it is a problem, how do I fix it?  

7 thoughts on “New GM here (to everything not just Dungeon World)  I have a lot of trouble encouraging creativity and involvement…”

  1. The book Play Unsafe suggests telling them to give you an intentionally boring description of thing x

    People make more interesting things being boring then being interesting

  2. Firstly, be objective – as much as you can – and think if it is them or you. They may be lacklustre because your style doesn’t work for them. Talk to them, find out what they think of ry game. What they like and don’t like. Be prepared for responses that are all positive though, as most don’t feel comfortable criticising others.

    Tell your players ahead of time what you expect of them. You can’t expect them to behave in a way complimentary with the game you want to run if they don’t know what that is. Don’t forget to find out what type of game they want to play in. It should be fun for all and no one should feel forced to play in a style that they feel uncomfortable.

    Ask straight out, “I could be misreading but you didn’t seem to be getting into the game, I was expecting more description and excitement from you” <-- state your expectations not what you think their behaviour was, that way you talk about you and not about what you think is wrong with them.

    Reward behaviour you want and punish behaviour you don’t. Give bonuses to good descriptions and make it harder for ‘meh’ descriptions to have the desired effect. “You punch them? Ok it bounces off their armoured torso, you don’t think that’ll work on this guy”. Make sure you let the players know you’ll be doing that and why. Never make the punishment harsh, just enough to signal what you’re expecting.

    Change the game your playing, maybe DW isn’t doing it for them right now, change genre or settings or rule set. Try to find something all are interested in.

    Lastly, be prepared to have things not change and either live with it or walk away from the game. Some people just play that way and no amount of encouragement will change it. Your better off looking for a group that suits your preferred style more than sticking with one whose style you don’t enjoy.

  3. I don’t think this is something you can fix in game. The players don’t seem want to get descriptive, either because they don’t want to expose themselves (there is a certain level of comfort I have to have with people before the purple prose comes out). Alternately, they may not be interested in it at all; some people play tabletop game to beat challenges and problems, they get satisfaction in getting past something more than engaging it. Some people feel that spontaneous declarations like that add work to what they consider leisure.

    I think your only chance at a solution here is to sit down outside of the play session and tell them that the game isn’t fun for you on these terms. It might not work, they might not be interested in that style at all. At that point, you’ve got to decide whether the effort is worth the payoff. One reticent player is not necessarily going to ruin the whole game; a group doing it might get exhausting.

    If all of the players are doing it, like you say, it might just be group culture. Nobody wants to be the first to do it. You can ask them straight out “I want to try playing this way, will you try it out?” Some may, some may not. 

    PS: Have you had different experiences other games? Has there been anything where they have been more active and engaged? 

  4. It might be worth sitting down with people and having the old “This is more fun if we make it interesting.” talk.  A lot of people apparently have this weird fear of being wrong or being punished for stuff so they keep it boring (This is the old “All my family are dead and I have no friends.” chestnut).

    If it can be made clear to them that, no, really, making up crazy stuff makes the game MORE FUN FOR EVERYONE maybe they’ll get more involved.  A lot of people just don’t realize this necessarily.

  5. Hello! I read your words and sound like my own. I call this the “Elder Dragon-spitting Demi-Lich King (EDSDLK for short)” situation, because the first time the players could collaborate with the creation of the world they said all was caused by such a creature, and it was cool but then they keept on answering the same… i.e. Why are you from the wood? Because the EDSDLK killed my home town. – Ok, and what is your favorite color? The color of the EDSDLK. -Do you have a pet? Yes, a EDSDLK (giggles). etc. I told them to correct this as absurd answering and the sense of collaborative creation and then, after a while, they began thinking more and EDSDLK’ing less. It became a legend in the group though and we want a T-shirt that reads EDSDLK just for the kicks.

  6. i don’t know your players but i found that many popular games, like d&d and call of cthulu, reenforces these behaviors, as the gms usually don’t care about what you add into the care, so the players stop trying. i would get them used to the idea by slowly forcing them to create the world. for example, you enter a town and ask each on “what is the first thing you notice?” make this the first thing you do after entering the town so they have to rely on imagination. also, with the “i punch him” situation, use it as a hard move base. if you do punch him, he is latched on to your face, you will be scarred and take a permanent -1 to charisma. by putting out a logical punishment, they, if they care about their characters at all, will think of something else. at the very least, “i punch both sides of his jaw at the same time in order to attempt to get his jaw to release.” small improvements are still improvements.

  7. also, you could totally use those dead bodies against the fighter. they were king’s men or something and someone saw her. she is now being blackmailed or when she enters a particular town, she is arrested immediately and brought before the king.

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