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Backstory: I recently started DMing a D&D 5e campaign with my college friends. It is my first time DMing and most of their first exposure into DnD. They are all video game players so they are all very knowledgeable about the material.

Problem: I just finished running the second night of our beginner campaign using "The Lost Mines of Phandelver" from the Starter Set. Our first night was longer as players got used to combat and I got used to DMing certain things (checks, rules, etc.). Our second night went great, a total of 15 goblins, 1 bugbear, 1 wolf... SLAIN!

We have a very large party (6 members) as I tried to be inclusive to my friend group and give everyone a shot who wanted one. Combat at lower levels and "dungeon crawling" can be a bit of a slog and boring. Some of the players were involved and coming up with inventive things all night (WOOOO!).

A few members seemed almost to not care and were multitasking another game most of the evening (we play online using Roll 20).

How should I handle talking to these members to see if they really want to play, or if they were just curious and aren't feeling it?

I suspect they are still playing to feel included with the friend group and would feel left out if 1 night a week they weren't "playing" with everyone else, but I still think they just aren't enjoying it.

TLDR: How do you handle players that don't seem interested? Do you talk to them 1 on 1 and see if they want to stop, try and find ways to involve their specific PC skills, etc.?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Do the "disinterested" players still participate in combat with a will? \$\endgroup\$ – user40081 Feb 27 '18 at 16:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Ash not really. He tried to "attack that guy" which was another PC, and then "the guy in front of him" who was a frozen goblin from rounds prior. He also just kinda veered off and shot at some other goblin in another area. Seemed super "out of it". \$\endgroup\$ – Walls Feb 27 '18 at 16:32
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First of all, congratulations on noticing that some people are having a problem and trying to find a solution to it. Most of the dungeon masters I meet just ignore the quiet people who are not enjoying the game and focus on the party's face.

I had similar players before and I spoke with them in private and asked them what I could do to make the game more enjoyable for them. One of them said they just 'weren't feeling it' while another one said that I was not paying enough attention to people who were shy.

In any case, my advice is to speak with them or try to make them feel included by tailoring encounters where their character will shine should you prefer to not to directly confront them.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I am not shy but If the group is too large I zone out, or if one small group of players is being amazing, handling everything really well, why interrupt. \$\endgroup\$ – WendyG Feb 27 '18 at 17:38
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Every Character Needs a LifeQuest!

Make sure that each of your characters have something or things from their past that they want to accomplish through adventuring. Talk with the players ahead of time to get this set up. Think of these as their Main character quest besides just the module you are running.

I like to make sure that everyone is included. Usually there is something I can insert into any module that links the characters back story into the current adventure.

Try to set this up ahead of the game. Go through the module and think about the different hooks you have from each of your players characters. I try to spread the encounters out through out the course of each adventure. And then when the players seek out the NPC's(or information on their quest) and find them I award inspiration for finding them. I try to include 1 or 2 of these for each player in every adventure.

When the players miss their chances I usually will make sure that the players get the information anyway, but no inspiration for the DM pushing their person quest further. Once the players get into the habit of ferreting out the information you can have more fun by providing puzzles and side quests inside of the adventures you are running.

Make sure that each of these little encounters are short so that no personal quest overrides the overall adventure. But once the players realize that there is at least 1 or 2 opportunities for inspiration in the adventure as well as moving their characters story forward, you will find more people engaged in your games.

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There are two possible in-game approaches based on your players' personalities - draw them into the narrative, or motivate them with rewards.

If your players prefer a strong narrative and character development in a game, then introducing a narrative hook that directly involves your less-engaged players may bring them into the fold. This can be a mysterious stranger that knows a terrible secret, a personal promise from a local noble, a prophetic dream, or any other narrative device that fits the setting. Create a danger or opportunity that specifically engages their character's alignment or back story.

If your players want to battle, level, and get loot, set up encounters that play to the character's abilities, where the party would be in danger without their active input. This will also motivate the other players to engage with them, by asking for their help. Provide monsters or traps that play to their strengths, and then reward them for participating with equipment or other drops that are tailored to their build.

Of course these approaches aren't mutually exclusive. Since you are using a published adventure, you may need to tailor these approaches to fit with the module, but in the interest of a great table experience, it's in the DM's purview to change an encounter or introduce an additional NPC or reward. If the group stays together and you start writing your own adventures, these techniques will be very applicable.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I am perfectly fine changing the script a bit. I'm impressed at how these players are thinking outside the box and I'm rolling with it (within reason). They captured one of the Goblins and became his "friend" and now he's gonna travel with them as an NPC. I perfectly understand the module is really a guideline/starting point and I can make it shine by reacting to the players. :) \$\endgroup\$ – Walls Feb 27 '18 at 17:07

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