So, what do you do when you have a group that just isn’t very imaginative?

So, what do you do when you have a group that just isn’t very imaginative?

So, what do you do when you have a group that just isn’t very imaginative? You ask them questions and you get pretty lame answers that even they don’t like. It’s not a hypothetical question BTW. And, not to be defensive, but I don’t think it’s my questions. I work very hard to ask interesting/evocative questions. Example:

To the druid, first session. “Druid, in your homeland you live in a very unsual house. Tell me about it. What is it made of and what creatures live in it with you?”

Answer. “Ugh. I don’t know. It’s made out of bamboo. Aaaand, there’s like some mice and stuff in it.”

Me. “Is it like living bamboo, still growing, that you have trained to grow into a house or is it just like cut bamboo used for lumber?”

“Yeah that.”


“The last one.”


I mean it’s not all like that. I have one player who is kind of good at it. I keep hoping the others will catch on and I keep asking questions, but it’s kind of sucking the joy out of DW for me. 

17 thoughts on “So, what do you do when you have a group that just isn’t very imaginative?”

  1. True. So what do you do? Does it just fundamentally break DW? I mean that is a huge amount of the fun – ask questions and use answers, draw maps and leave blanks. How would you go about trying to fix the group or the game in this case?

  2. In my experience, some groups as not as imaginative as others. Sometimes, they are having an off day (normally, they are quite creative, but perhaps, not today). Sometimes, however, you just may not have a group of creative players.

    In the first situation, you may either need to ask more leading questions or give them suggestions. In the second situation, you may want to consider whether story games are for them. Not everyone enjoys the creative freedom the players are given (and required of them) in story games.

  3. All you can do is incourage creativity. There will always be someone who i

    s just interested in the dungeon crawl and dealing their damage. Actualy im that way some days. Just keep asking your questions, asking for details and go ahead and reward creative players. “Thats awsome, mark an xp” or “im not going to make you roll for that, it happens just like you described”

  4. I was on the same line of offering suggestions when people are having trouble coming up with something but I have stopped doing that. There is a great article explaining why suggesting something is a bad idea. (I thought it was from Microscope but couldn’t find it…)

    The main idea is this: 

    When people need to come up with something and you offer them an idea they are now glued to that idea. 

    “Are the dwarfs following a Moon-Goddess or pray to the big earth mother?” 

    Now the person can choose between two of your ideas. Not theirs. Even if they say “No, actually it is a father god of the forge” then they still have an idea that is directly coming out of yours. You are limiting their view of possible things in a lot of ways. 

    Yes, limitations breed creativity but you shouldn’t enforce your ideas on other players. Let them come up with something that comes completely out of themselves. The limitation breed creativity thing comes in the question. 

    Instead of “tell me something about dwarf culture” you ask “so what is the dwarfs religion?”. That is already guiding them someplace. Don’t guide push them further. Let them get there themselves. It is okay when it takes a short while. It is no race. 

  5. I see what your saying but i do not totaly agree. Yes it can be hard to think of anything else once someone gives you an idea. You should probably give them a few seconds before tossing me a suggestion. But if im stuck and have just been stairing off into space, or if i realy dont care, then we should move on. Assuming i play regularly i will get another chance and maybe be better prepared for it.

    I commenly turn down or alter, suggestions from the dm or other players. Thats one idea but would that apeal to my guy? If it takes to long go with the suggesstion and add detail later to make it your own.

  6. Also, try focusing on things that are about to come up in the game. (Remember the principle is “ask questions and use the answers”.)

    Your house question is about whimsical backstory. The Druid player obviously wasn’t super into whimsical backstory so you had to drag him or her along. But for the purposes of play, their house back home didn’t matter very much.

    Ask about why they’re here, what they want, what they think of the characters right in front of them, who they know that can help them out with a problem, what makes the cultists they’re about to fight so dangerous.

    They’re pretty much guaranteed to be invested in answering because they’re already committed to caring about the situation they’re in right now.

  7. You might try non-leading questions. The Druid player, for instance, may not envision an unusual house, rather a very nondescript and spartan one, or perhaps they envision no house at all, living in the wild. The example question leads in a specific direction or to a result that may not appeal.

    So, instead you might ask, “Druid, tell me about your homeland – where do you live and what is it like?”

  8. Was the druid in his homeland ? I mean, how was the druid’s house connected to the situation at hand ?

    Maybe it wasn’t the questions themselves, but the timing of these questions. In the first session, I tend to start things right at the entrance of the dungeon or with some obvious immediate threat. The questions I’ll ask are mostly about why the PCs are in that bad spot, how did they manage to put themselves in peril. Or questions like : How did you learn about the Orb of Jelinek ? What powers is it supposed to possess ?

    I guess I’m missing on some of the context of your example, but my impression is that questioning the druid about his house mostly feels like you want to establish some background about the PC that we might not see in game any time soon. When I get to create my PC in DW, picking up my moves and stuff makes me all itchy to jump right in the action. If you then ask me questions about my house, I’ll be like : Uh… I don’t know, the last thing I had in mind was daydreaming about the animals whose forms I’ll take during the game and how to use that to great effect. Ask me again when I actually get home in the fiction.

  9. Some great thoughts so far! Don’t get too focused on the example, I ask all kinds of questions. Leading and non-leading. Context specific and not. (Though I really like that bit of advice; I’ll have to watch what I’m doing and try to stay more focused, question-wise, in the moment. The question above was from session 1 and it was indeed an attempt to add color and to establish some of the creatures the Druid had studied for shifting.)

  10. I think it should/can be up to the player to make it important to the current events.

    “hey Ray, remember how I told you my home was made of living bamboo that grew constantly and supported its own ecosystem…  Well during the make camp my druid walks off a short distance and uncorks a small vial of bamboo milk/sap and inhales its fragrance.  causing a brief awareness of the life and energy there to flash through his thoughts,  this reinforces his bonds with his homelands and removes his stunned condition”  later after they complete their current quest, ray can use this bit of fluff to tell the druid that his home village is being attacked…

  11. I’ve tended to do something similar in all Powered by the Apocalypse games I’ve run, and that’s ask questions based on what we’ve learnt in the first session. I think in DW in particular there’s been a bit of map drawing in the first session, a bit of world building where each player describes where they come from, and marks it on the map, then talks a little about who rules that area and then together flesh out some of the regions in between, but essentially the first session has been all about that first adventure and seeing the guys in action NOW to get a feel for them. Remember also that you have to be fans of the player characters – through extension you have to be fans of the players and respect their decisions about the character/game they want to play (if you give a player two options you can’t really decide one is the ‘wrong’ choice – they’ve got plenty of opportunities to make wrong choices in the game itself, when it’s actually fun and nerve-wracking to do so).

  12. If I ask a question and they don’t know it “right now”, I tell the player to “think on it for a while” and move onto others. Maybe my conversation with the other people will stir something in his imagination. 

    Or maybe the Druid’s house just isn’t that important to begin with (at least not to the Druid), so it might not have any impact (obviously, I’m using the druid’s house as a placeholder for all of these types of “dead questions”)

  13. Again, don’t focus too hard on the example. It’s just one example out of dozens and dozens of questions. I could always do better. Of course. But honestly my technique works great with most groups and I am a pretty experienced GM with lots of tricks in my bag. It’s just this one group that has me a bit stymied (teenage boys, some of them my own kids, are the members). The general point is I have a group that isn’t very giving or inventive (yet) in response to questions. Answers I have heard so far that make great sense to me are:

    > move the focus to another player to give the first one time to think and come back to him later. Chris Rouillard 

    > just record the answer and wait for the player to make it relevant/useful. Daniel Fowler 

    > try to ask more questions that are relevant to the immediate context. Don’t ask too many questions about things that don’t matter in the fiction right now . Dominic Claveau Russell Williams 

    > reward good answers with xp or skipping a die roll “Yeah! It happens just like that.” Daniel Fowler 

    The other answers have been good too. I just found the above the most immediately useful — given that I know the exact situation better. 

  14. Great thoughts, Ray Otus  (especially since one was mine 🙂 ) (I actually liked your example — it would help tell a lot about the world)

    BTW, when I said “come back to the thought later”, I also meant you could come back to it LATER… later in the session, later in the adventure, later in the campaign. Plant the seed, see if it grows.

    Especially with kids/teens, especially if they’re inexperienced. A lot of the “backstory” type of things might not interest them — yet. But ask the same kid to describe how he obtained his sword and who might be looking for it, and you’ll probably get better answers.

    With your example, I would actually wait a while and, if it happens in the adventure, have them end up in the house of another druid:

    “You enter this house, and it immediately feels familiar, Bob the Druid. In fact, it looks an awful lot like your house. Tell me what you see.”

    By that point, they’ll have been playing the adventure for a while, so their imaginations will be “warmed up”, and this could also lead to an interesting hook — why does this other druid have a home like Bob’s, which he’d always assumed was unique?

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