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Here's an example from a one-on-one playtest I've had, to better illustrate my question:

My rogue player got a minor quest from a blacksmith to retreve an item. He instructs her that the road to the location is to the west. I had an encounter planned on the path halfway through, but she ended up saying something like this:

Rogue: Ok, I go there.

GM: Wait, ok, hold on, so you set off on the vaguely stone-paved path towards the [location]. The blizzard seems to be getting worse and worse, and around halfway there you see a couple of giant rats on the road. They are unaware of your presence.

What I wanted was a slower, step-by-step description of her actions to allow it to set in better, something along the lines of

Rogue: I shake the blacksmith's hand and let him know I'll be on it as soon as possible. Once I'm sure all of my equipment is in order, I set out on the stone path to the ruins.

GM: Great. Despite the blizzard worsening, it's all pretty uneventful until (etc.)

How can I encourage this kind of patience and roleplay? Here's why I think it'd improve our games:

  • game pace is more fluid
  • combat doesn't take up all the spotlight
  • players become more immersed and comfortable with the setting
  • encourages players to take some of the weight of creating and describing the world around them
  • provides many opportunities for more potential hooks and investment with NPCs, who are now people that shake hands and show gratefulness, rather than just be quest dispensers

I am sure that my players are interested in this change. I showed one of them this question just now (the rogue, actually) and she responded very positively. She likes the idea a lot, and she suggested that the habit is because they have "fast travel, do things, fast travel" as their default gaming mode, since they've played video games all their lives and tabletop RPGs only with me a couple times. (Makes sense, really.)

She said she'll try to be the "spark" and spread it to the others too. I would still find it very useful to know how to handle and respond to this kind of fast declaration when it happens, though.

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Take charge, respectfully

Treat your players' action declarations as statements of intent rather than a completed part of the narrative. Feel free to slow things down to insert details and intermediate steps when needed. What they are doing isn't always a problem. When a player says:

"Ok, I go there."

...treat what they said as:

"Ok, I intend to go there."

You don't need to scold the player for jumping the gun, just narrate the next thing that's important to your story.

Player: "Ok, I go there."

GM: "Great. You set off on the vaguely stone-paved path towards..."

Sometimes, there won't be anything in the middle and "going there" is a reasonable shortcut to the next part of the story.

Skipping to the Good Stuff

Your players can't read minds, and don't know that you have some cool encounter planned for halfway through the journey. From what they know, getting to the destination is the next short-term goal they have, and the endpoint holds the next thing worth stopping for. It's natural for them to set their sights there, and try to do it directly. We normally skip over things like eating, sleeping, and an uneventful walk down a familiar street.

When there's something worth stopping for, it's the GM's turn to say so. Don't worry about asking people to "hold on". Confidently narrate the next thing you want to focus on, and the player(s) will follow along with your story. If they don't, then they are trying to jump ahead and away from you, and you can tell them directly that things don't work that way.

Shortcutting Out of a Scene

You're in the middle of talking to the blacksmith. He describes a mission. After the description, the player says "Ok, I go there."

The problem here isn't that they skipped the mid-travel encounter. The problem is that they abruptly and prematurely ended a scene that you were roleplaying through with them. It makes the narrative feel choppy and disconnected.

It can be OK to short-cut through some of the details to wrap the scene up quickly, but only after the purpose of the scene has been resolved. The purpose of this scene was to tell the Rogue about the mission, and have her agree (or not, it's up to her) to do it. Think of a book or a movie. A scene might cut after the hero says "I'm the man for the job", because we can skip the details of him having more smalltalk with the smith and walking out of the shop. The scene won't normally cut immediately after the mission is described, because it feels unresolved.

When a player cuts ahead like this, you should ask them to wait or slow down a little. They should know better. With practice, they eventually will.

Blacksmith: "...and bring the rune stone back to me. I'll pay you $300."

Player: "Ok, I go there."

GM: "Wait, what? The blacksmith has asked something of you, and made an offer. What do you say to him?"

Point out the incongruity ("Wait, what?"), and then put the player back into the important part of the narrative.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Yes! A thousand times! This answer! \$\endgroup\$ – Mooing Duck Apr 23 '15 at 20:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ Much better than my answer. +1 \$\endgroup\$ – sillyputty Apr 23 '15 at 23:29
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    \$\begingroup\$ +1 for treating all player declarations as statements of intent. You wouldn't let them win a fight without complications just because they declare "I win this fight without a scratch," so it doesn't make sense to let them just declare away other interesting complications, either. \$\endgroup\$ – GMJoe Apr 24 '15 at 1:17
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Short version: Ask questions.

Abstraction

The first thing to be aware of is that everyone has a different level of detail that they want or are comfortable with in their narration. Both your version and the rogue's version ultimately accomplish the same thing: the blacksmith's request is accepted, and the rogue is on her way to take care of it.

Your way takes a bit longer, and makes the experience a bit nicer for people who like narrative details, but it ultimately doesn't add anything new to the story. No decisions have been made, and no new background information has been revealed. Some background image shows up (the rogue shakes hands after a deal, and checks gear before traveling), but it's pretty minor stuff.

In other words, you are both describing the same scene in the same movie. In the rogue's version, there is a quick cut between the conversation with the blacksmith and being on the road. In yours, there's a more gradual fade, showing more of the conversation and a few scenes of preparation. They have different feels, but they accomplish the same thing.

It's also worth noting that there is a lot more detail that could be added. I assume the rogue opens the door to get out of the smith's shop? How do the characters leave the city? Do they wait until dawn the next day, or depart immediately? Stop off for a drink before going on? Etc.

This is not to say that your cause is hopeless! Especially because you have the buy-in of the rogue herself. But it's important to understand that different people describing things at different levels is a thing that happens in RPGs.

Rule 1: Don't screw the narrative

Before we get into how to fix it, there is one thing that I feel you absolutely should not do: and that is compromise the narrative to make a point.

What I mean is this: When the rogue says "we go there" what they actually mean is: "a bunch of stuff happens that I don't care about and then we go there." What they do not mean is "I immediately spin on my heel mid-conversation and march in a straight line to the place."

I know this. You know this. The rogue knows this. Everyone at your table knows this. In the long history of role playing, almost everyone who has ever uttered the phrase "we go there" has meant this. As a story, it's kind of threadbare and lonely, but it's functional and utilitarian. It doesn't cause dissonance.

As the DM, if you treat it as though the rogue meant "I immediately spin on my heel mid-conversation and march out," you are doing a disservice to everyone at the table.

  • You are replacing a functional story that everyone basically understands with a non sequitur or farce.

  • Your other players could fill in the blanks the rogue left and come to a good story, but they can't as easily ignore your silly additions.

  • You are deliberately misunderstanding the actions described by the rogue.

  • If the rogue was deliberately being sparse, you're punishing them for focusing on the parts of the game they enjoy.

  • If the rogue is being sparse because she is inexperienced, you are doing almost nothing to teach her how to do better.

  • This is really just kind of passive aggressive.

That is a lot of collateral damage, to almost no good effect. Doing it once or twice if your table thinks it's funny is cool. Making it a general policy is counter productive.

Don't be afraid to inject narrative yourself

As the DM, don't be afraid to inject a bit of exposition into the narrative yourself. Let's take a look at the example exchange you gave:

Rogue: Ok, I go there.

GM: Wait, ok, hold on, so you set off on the vaguely stone-paved path towards the [location]. The blizzard seems to be getting worse and worse, and around halfway there you see a couple of giant rats on the road. They are unaware of your presence.

The only thing that's objectively problematic here is your hemming and hawing. Describing a journey in response to a character saying "I go there" is not only perfectly acceptable, but your job.

A player's job is to describe their actions. Your job is to describe the outcome of those actions. If a player says "I go there" you describe what happens along the way. The player doesn't get to say "we are there." That's your job.

This is a perfectly fine exchange in a role playing game:

Rogue: Ok, I go there.

GM: You set off on the vaguely stone-paved path towards the [location]. The blizzard seems to be getting worse and worse, and around halfway there you see a couple of giant rats on the road. They are unaware of your presence.

You could even add a bit of extra exposition if you wanted to:

Rogue: Ok, I go there.

GM: You shake the blacksmith's hand and let him know you'll be on it as soon as possible. Once you're sure all your equipment is in order, you set off on the vaguely stone-paved path towards the [location]. The blizzard seems to be getting worse and worse, and around halfway there you see a couple of giant rats on the road. They are unaware of your presence.

This won't solve your problem on its own. Players are a complacent bunch, and if you're providing the exposition they may not. But this does at least move in a productive direction (the narrative is richer), and sets an example to players of what you expect from them.

The good stuff; the solution: Ask Leading Questions

All right, that's a lot of lecturing. Here's how to actually solve your problem:

Ask the player questions.

As a DM, questions are your most powerful tool. They're a way of sending the focus back to the player, and guiding them to the very specific level of abstraction you're looking for in the infinite fractal of reality.

Here are a few examples:

Rogue: Ok, we go there.

GM: Okay. But what are you saying to the blacksmith? Are you just like, "yeah, sure, maybe if we get time for it?" Or are you a bit more assertive?

Rogue: Ok, we go there.

GM: It's getting on toward late afternoon. If you leave right away, you'll get there faster but need to either travel at night or camp in the wilderness somewhere.

Rogue: Ok, we go there.

GM: Could you give me some more detail? I need to know for, uh, reasons.

shuffles through notes, and makes hidden die rolls

You can offer the players tough choices, ask open-ended questions, lead the players on, and so on... But the important part is that you're talking them through to the level of detail that you want from your campaign.

You don't have to take "ok, we go there" as a command. It shows their intent, but you are well within your rights to ask for more details before moving on.

Just talk to your players, guide them, don't be a jerk about it, and remember that sometimes a given player just won't care about a particular interaction.

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There are two distinct possibilities that spring to mind when dealing with this particular problem. But, as was mentioned in the comments, make sure that this style of play will contribute to your players having fun, and not force them to do things that they don't want to do. To that end, the standard advice of "Talk to your players!" is applicable. With that out of the way, there are things you can do in game to remind them to describe what they're doing more definitively.

Weird, Mute Adventurers

One of the best ways to lightly chide players who blow past NPCs like they were nothing, or attempt to "fast travel" like in video games, is to have said NPCs react in minor ways to what they are doing. The blacksmith gives a quest and the PCs say "ok we head there". What does the blacksmith think when, after he's done talking to them, the PCs mutely turn and walk away?

"The blacksmith stares at you all as your turn to walk away. He seems hesitant for a second, seeing as you just left without saying a word. 'Um, so is that a yes? Are you guys...ok.' He begins looking for other adventurers to send on the quest."

It's silly, and it will make the players feel a little silly, but in a fun way. And then they may end up talking to the blacksmith. Allow this type of retconning. We're not here to trap our players in a "gotchya" moment. Just to help move their behavior into a more immersive style.

Cookies!

My standard for any type of behavior that you want to encourage. Positive reinforcement. "Cookies" in this context means any type of reward the players will find meaningful. Have a good roleplaying moment with the town chaplain? Have some xp. Describe your trek across the wilderness, and the preparations you're taking to undergo it? Take a Fate Point. Spend time at a bar just interacting with an NPC just for the role playing heck of it? That guy thinks you're cool and hands you a small trinket that has some minor effect.

Pretty soon your players will catch on that this type of stuff is not only fun, but beneficial for them as well.

Of course, these techniques are not mutually exclusive! I encourage you to mix and match. Just be careful not to give too many rewards out to the same people over and over again, or it may come across as though you're favoring some of your players to the detriment of others. Never a fun table to be around in that situation.

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Some games (mainly Indie-Games) involve the players in the job the game-master is usually doing: telling what is happening and inventing details of the world.

If you were OK with sacrificing your prepared encounter, but would have liked some colorful storytelling, you could have tried this way:

Rogue: Ok, we go there.

GM: Hm. OK. Four days later you arrive at your destination. You have never been so thankful to be hidden by heavy rain. It chills you and burns in the wounds that you suffered on your way. But it also washes away any of your tracks - and you are glad for it. Tell me - with which careless words did you enrage that foe that you could easily have passed?

Note: The GM does not ask (as a first question) which foe they encountered - the answer would have been pretty boring. By thinking about which words might have enraged him/her/it, the players will come up with something far more creative, something that relates to their characters (moking? prowd? greedy?) and with something that creates a story. And a small story might be far more interesting than another dice-fight.

And that is just it: develop a small story what, why, how they escaped.

  • Do it together with the players. Let them decide things. If one goes to far ("I did defeat the gold-dragon with one hand!") just ask the other players if that would believably fit into the story/game.
  • do not spend too much time on it. Make it intense, but do not roll dice and do not plan to use more then ten minutes.
  • Do make it canon. If you re-use a villain the players invented themselves, they will be thrilled.
  • Perhaps make a habit out of it to make those things "grim". Grim but not mechanically punishing. When the players learn that things might turn grim once they "beam" from one location to another, they might consider to ask before doing so :-). Do not use it as a hard punishment, though.
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