In our group there's me (85% of the time as GM) and two other players. We have played for about three years, approx. 20 times a year. Sometimes we see each other outside sessions as well, we're childhood friends. We all have extensive background in fantasy & sci-fi literature and movies. The problem is that I have a hard time to get them to speak their minds. Sometimes I'm frustrated but in general I have come to terms with it.
My games range from mysteries to action, from political fantasy to space exploring, horror, dragons, agents, real world. Part of the reason I have always changed the world and style is because at some level I need them to say something. I'd be delighted if either one of them would say that the game tonight was dragging. They always react the same, doesn't matter what kind of game we are playing That has me thinking about the game being just a way for them to be with friends. But at the same time they give me mixed signals because they often talk rhetorically about the potential of RPG games and the game types and worlds we could play.
As players they are very reactive, I as a GM have to usually carry out the plot. Or bring in something that will help them resolve.
The one player likes to roll; everything is pretty fun when he just gets to roll some nice dice. Every situation and challenge seems to be okay, it just has to present itself to him.
The other player likes rules and mechanics. He's in a habit of optimising situations and occasionally thinking so much that it freezes the table. It's the con of having only two players.
(I'm in a search of a third, more proactive player who could take the plot reins so that the other two could play the game as the kind of players they are. The search has started only recently so we'll see what'll happen. I have no interest in changing anyone's playing style, I just want everyone to be happy, me included.)
I am the kind of GM who gets his rewards from unpredictable plot turns, imaginative solutions and new character motivations. I'm quite creative as a person and I really like to improvise. But often I seem to already know precisely how my players are going to react in certain situations. The improvising feels to be for naught.
But our game nights surely amount to having fun. I just think there's free, unused space for more fun if we just communicated better. But because I use countless hours making storylines, reading pre-mades, making my own worlds etc. I want to know why and to whom and to what kind of play I am making them. Roleplaying is also more fun (or so I have read) when people get to play the types of adventures they really like. I'm thinking that maybe my friends would open up if they'd get to play something they really identified with. But as they are now, they smile and shrug. Everything goes. It just doesn't matter.
- Did I just stumble on the answer myself? Can it really not matter to someone what kind of style or genre the game is?
Sometimes I write them in length, trying various questions that could ease their minds open even a bit. But they have trouble expressing themselves in writing (which is odd because the other player also writes RPG campaigns and even fantasy short stories). But nevertheless, short answers would be okay. Even one word ones. We have gone for a beer and there they open up a little: roleplaying is cool fun and so on, but they still struggle when I ask them what kind of games they would want to play.
In my opinion we get stuck playing mediocre games, sometimes even low quality games, because "everything goes" and the players really do not have any opinions on anything. Perhaps my question is irrelevant because they seem to have fun. Sometimes I just feel bad imposing my own ideas upon them. I would want this to be more of a group effort. I'd be ready to serve their needs but I'm just left to serve my own. Perhaps I need to find more fun in myself.
What are the ways to understand your players' tastes? Do I just have to experiment more with gaming styles and make a mental note every time their spirits elevate?