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My friends and I have started a 5e campaign. I'm one of the players, and aside from the DM, have by far the most tabletop RPG experience. One of my friends, Bertha, who also has some RPG experience and a lot of improv experience, is also playing. During our first two sessions, which were just a practice scenario to get the other players up to speed, Bertha and I found that we were unfortunately taking up a lot of the roleplaying time: if I had timed it, between the two of us, we probably talked more than the DM and the other players combined. This is partly because I'm so used to other players actively working to roleplay that my instinct is to take up as much unused 'space' as possible: if there's a silence, I try to fill it.

I want to get the other new players to be willing to push back more against that, but when I tried just being quiet, I felt a lot of awkward silences where no one was stepping up to do anything. What can I do as a player to encourage the other players to participate more, roleplay more, and get into their character's heads more? I want to have fun, but I want everyone else to have fun, too, and while this site has a lot of advice for DMs trying to engage their players, there's less for players. Help!

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This advice comes from my experiences as a player.

  1. Direct Engagement: throw the spotlight on another character. Find a reason to use another character's expertise or involvement. Ask them for help on things. "Can you open this door?" "Can you convince the wizard?" "How do you want to approach that giant enemy crab?" The key here is that you're putting the focus on the other party member, forcing them to respond. At least you'll get dice rolls, at most they'll step up and you'll have to fight for RP time again.
  2. Silences are not awkward: it's thinking and courage-building time. Players occasionally need time to recognize that now is the time for their character to shine. Awkward silences can give people plenty of time to think about stuff, and new players need this time. Some people (myself included) have a rough time RP'ing in first person, and may want to do so in a slightly different way, which is all right. Especially if the other players are new, as in very little experience, because table-top RPGs take some getting used to.
  3. Give Kind, Out-Of-Character Suggestions. Never be bossy, but ask the other players to do stuff. How does their character feel about something? Wouldn't their character care about this thing, and want to act? This gets new players thinking about what their character should be doing.
  4. Remember: The Group wants fun, not just you and Bertha. They may expect something else, and if you feel like you're taking too much RP time, stop. Just stop and let them (the DM and other players) take the reins. It's good to have a little self-awareness and appreciate that your fun may come at expense of other people's idea of fun, and at least try to balance it out.

The final bit of advice is that some people tend to dominate RPing or drive the plot and so on. That can be okay. If the problem goes really far, talk about things from the same-page tool. Maybe this group isn't as much into RPing as you'd like, but is just there to kill monsters and get loot?

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  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ I like this answer, seems pretty clear and complete to me. New players often are a bit shy / afraid of sounding ridiculous. For this, forcing them a little bit with advices 1 and 2 from the answer is good. But I think a good method to understand how to help them better is what my friends and I call "the after-game council". After the game, the GM often ask something along the lines "So, guys, what did you think about today's game ?". With beginners to Rp you can add "What did you think of this first RP ?" their responses will often show good ways to help them. \$\endgroup\$ – Grey Oct 30 '17 at 11:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Grey I've never had an after-game council, but it sounds good! \$\endgroup\$ – PipperChip Oct 30 '17 at 13:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ Once everybody is exeprienced answers are often "nothing special, it was good". But when the GM or some players is new it's a good moment to talk about the rythme of the session or the difficulties encountered. \$\endgroup\$ – Grey Oct 30 '17 at 14:07
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First answer so hopefully helpful but I am in a similar situation.

I am fairly new to role-playing but have been background reading for years so have a fair bit of knowledge. I recently joined a group and after a few weeks brought my very quiet 15 year old nephew along — as much to help him socialise (with an s, no matter how much the spell check disagrees) as anything.

The first session he was very quiet so I had to work out ways of engaging him better in the second session.

Common reasons why people are quiet

  • Shy – they may be afraid to speak, not necessarily an RPG specific issue but a group dynamic issue

  • Lack of knowledge – they may not know what their options are

  • Quiet – they may just be quiet and quite happy for other people to take the lead

  • Slow – they may be trying to formulate a plan but just can't do it very quickly

Potential solutions

The first lesson comes from my own recent experience above; I was all about trying to get him more engaged and it turned out he had the time of his life despite me thinking he was ignored all night. So as with all things effective communication is the key — there is no point trying to fix a problem if it is not an actual problem.

Assuming it is a problem I would try to encourage participation, maybe working with the DM to plan things where the others can shine, and if the other players don't speak up make vague suggestions such as "Can you do anything to get us out of this room?", follow them up with more specific questions if you need "Does anyone have x skill that can help us here".

In the first place try not to suggest the full course of action, simply hint at it. This gives people the feeling that when they do act it was their solution not yours.

If this still doesn't work then try and come up with more specific options such as "Can anyone either blow that door up or pick the lock?" and hope someone steps up.

Last step would be to provide actual direction "Locky McLockface, can you please open that door?" which takes away a bit more agency than I like, but people who have difficulty making plans might appreciate it.

Overall it is about making people comfortable that when they come up with a solution it is well received. Never be negative and, at the discretion of the GM, even possibly let bad ideas work just so they don't get that feeling that speaking is useless. Again that is about effective communication with the GM, it is their call but as a player you still have the ability to engage them about it.

TL;DR

Aside from very few instances it boils down to confidence, you can help instill that confidence by teaching, showing, directing and when they do suggest something; trusting. Nothing will put someone back in their shell faster than someone saying "No that is a bad idea".

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to RPG.SE. Thanks for your answer. Please take the tour and visit the help center (you'll get badges! :-) ) to get a feel for how as SE site works -- it's a little different from a discussion forum. We hope you'll enjoy participating here. Once again, welcome, and happy gaming. (And great to see you helping your nephew enjoy the hobby). \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Oct 30 '17 at 13:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ Good first answer! It's especially good in coming from experience. I gave this a small polishing edit; hope that looks okay. (Also: "-ise" solidarity! Never give up. :) \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Oct 30 '17 at 15:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ You have socialise? As in, bugs in your hair that like to get together and complain about the exorbitant price of tea these days? Or perhaps you mean 'Socialize', with a voiced consonant at the end of the word? \$\endgroup\$ – GreySage Oct 30 '17 at 16:36
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I mostly GM, and rarely play, but this is my experience of what I've seen seem to work at my table:

  1. Lead by example. Which is basically what you are doing. The best way to teach new players how to behave is to see what other players do, by seeing you interact and make active decisions they will see what is expected of them
  2. But give them space to act. New players may need a bit longer to think about what to do. Make sure you don't jump in but let them act. Hopefully your GM is making sure they regularly check in on the new players and ask what their characters are doing.
  3. Engage with them in-character. Have your character talk to them, ask them to do things, ask them about random things, and seek their agreement for plans and actions. This brings their character into the group of characters, and help the player get used to acting in-character.
  4. Don't criticise their actions. Let the new players find their own way to play. Being overly critical of their plans or characterisation may stunt their growth in confidence and tends also to make them less interesting players in the long run.

New players can take a while to find their feet. To us grizzly grognards it may not seem like it, but roleplaying - and playing roleplaying games - is a skill that takes time to learn and perfect.

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TL;DR - character-participation brings player-participation.

This is not a full solution, but I've observed that expertise and participation by some people will render the shyer, newer, players quiet. Even as a very strong player, the loud and active players (and GM) always make me feel like I'm interrupting or being shut down.

To that end, one of the things that helps is when the active players rein themselves in. You've seen how that will create those moments of silence. While this is an opportunity for participation it turns out the shy people still aren't filling those gaps. They will in time, of course. Instead, think of those quiet moments as opportunities for the active players to engage the less active players.

I say the players, and not the GM, because when the GM does it, it will always feel like they're feeding ideas from on-high. Suggestions from other players will mean that in-character the characters are socializing, bringing the players in along with their character.

To help this along, it's important that the characters become well-bonded, even if it's a little contrived. Character (and therefore player) bonding will become more firm when they collaborate, risk their lives for one another, etc.

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The general scope answers are spot on.

For a specific tactic, I might suggest that you, Bertha and the GM have a private word for a one-shot plot. In broad strokes, the fix is in that you and Bertha are taken prisoner or otherwise incapacitated. Not in a major way to intimidate the newbies, but a simple rescue scenario. The two of you are sacrificing the evening, or part of it, by being silent observers so the the rookies have to huddle up and save the two of you. Hopefully the rookies have the RP Right Stuff to blossom into the challenge.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Since we're starting a new campaign, maybe it's even a good idea to not have my character join the party until past the midle of the first session. \$\endgroup\$ – Daniel B Oct 29 '17 at 23:46
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    \$\begingroup\$ @DanielB I think you shouldn't wait, because you can bring your contributions and help in early on. Remember that this is an opportunity for your growth as well as theirs. There are two elements, yours and theirs. You've prompted conversation, which means you're working on you. Bring yourself to those circumstances and you can also help them. \$\endgroup\$ – spiralofhope Oct 30 '17 at 1:40
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Blaze I concur, a one-shot is a good idea. "Contrived", in a sense, but maybe an afternoon of fun and growth. \$\endgroup\$ – spiralofhope Oct 30 '17 at 1:43

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