# Encouraging a shy player to immerse themselves and play their characters

I've been struggling to find various ways to help one of my players immerse themselves more into their character and the world at large. A little bit of background, I'm running DnD 5e, and this is my first time DMming a big campaign. I'm leading a campaign for a group of five, with three veterans (two very seasoned players with plenty of campaign experience), and two people who are entirely new to DnD. One of the new players is a naturally quiet person, and insisted on joining and playing with everyone, which is great! I wanted to create a really good first experience for the two of them. Overall, everyone enjoys the experience (i've talked to each one extensively outside of the game), including said person. I feel like since it's his first time really doing any of this, he's struggling with playing and immersing himself in character. He is usually extremely reserved and doesn't open up to a lot of people, and has low confidence when it comes to improvising and playing a character.

However, during our sessions, he talks very little, and I've been trying a lot of different options and methods to get him more involved, ranging from giving him plot hooks to asking him directly what his character would be doing. He gets flustered and gives back an extremely vague and directionless answer that, frankly, make it a little bit hard as a DM to keep a pace going.

For example, the group gets into a small town to rest before scaling a large mountain. Everyone else starts to look around and see what the town has to offer. I asked him after everyone has gotten a lay of the land what he wants to do, and I end up having to give him examples of what he could do. Keep in mind this is after the rest of the party has deliberately tried to show their own initiative in exploring the city. He decides to follow the cleric to the marketplace.

"You part the folds of the tent and your eyes set upon a wide accoutrement of weapons that line the shelves. In the center of the tent, lay a forge, whose chimney protrudes out of the tent. A man in your typical blacksmith attire works on...etc. What do you want to do?"

The Cleric immediately pipes up and says "I want to search for any sort of magical implements or weapons, maybe something similar to my spear."

Then I turn to him, who plays a ranger, and ask "you watch as the cleric scrounges sloppily through an array of pikes and halberds. What do you want to do?"

"Oh you know, nothing in particular. Just looking around...at stuff."

During encounters, I ask my players to describe how they attack, and he keeps to very simple answers and responses, but understands mechanics well enough.

I'm not saying this in a comparing way, but both me and my other players give great, detailed and rich descriptions and make spontaneous/fun choices, so I know that we are providing good opportunities to observe us and our choices. I've tried a lot of different things, and I'm a bit at the end of my rope.

How can I encourage, without being overbearing or threatening, a player to open up and help them immerse themselves into their character?

• – eimyr Aug 10 '16 at 16:08

How can I encourage...?

First, though not tagged D&D5e, the answers to these questions contain much valuable advice. I suggest you peruse them:

However...

## There are many different games we play.

WARNING: AngryGM liberally salts his excellent advice and analysis with rude and vulgar language.

It sounds like you want to play the game where "we throw ourselves into someone else's shoes and talk like them."

It doesn't particularly sound like this player wants to play that game.

That's okay.

At any D&D table of $$\N\$$ players there tend to be at least $$\2N+1\$$ games being played, in my estimation.* Not every player equally enjoys each of those games.

The key steps for you to take are to discuss the following with that player, possibly with the entire group participating:

1. I don't see you engaging much in "acting" scenes--do you enjoy that time? (The player may just enjoy watching the show play out.)
2. Do you want to be more active during those scenes?
3. Are there parts of the game you wish we'd be spending more/less time on? (This is a good question to ask all your players, every session.)

And then use the answers to these questions.

## Coda: System Matters

I feel I'd be remiss in not adding this: recognize that you're also playing in a system that's not really optimized for that game. Sure, D&D handles it, but it's not built around the sort of roleplay you're describing.

If your player really does want to expand their acting-game, and the things you can try within D&D don't work out, then you may want to consider fantasy-adventure roleplaying games that are built around play-acting.

* - note that number snuggles somewhere in between "more games than players" and "not as many games as pair-interactions" for $$\N>3\$$. $$\N=2\$$ and $$\N=3\$$ are special cases.

• I'll tell you, as a shy physics major who lived with all drama majors: it can be a hella-lotta fun sitting and mostly-watching them play. That said, mxyzplk's right: if this player's current style is bringing down the table, you-all are well within reason to address it as such. Personally, I don't think it's terribly important whether everyone's playing the same game; just that we understand that sometimes we're playing different ones. – nitsua60 Aug 10 '16 at 20:43

It may be important to understand why your player appears shy before you can both address if and how to overcome it. The following are not at all meant to be comprehensive or authoritative, merely as sample thoughts to show how large a space this issue inhabits.

One thing to consider is whether the player is shy as a matter of personality, or shy mostly in regards to the game. If it is his basic personality, then pushing him against his natural grain may just be irritating to him.

Another thing to consider is whether you are dealing with shyness or introversion. Shyness has a connotation of apprehension or fear or (in the extreme) social phobia. Introversion is a subtler matter of having a different internal reward structure. I am personally not shy, but I am introverted-- I am not afraid to talk to people, I often simply do not want to talk to people because it costs me more mental resources than I gain. (Gaming may seem an odd hobby for an introvert: A 4-6 hour GMing session leaves me socially exhausted well into the next day. It's like running a marathon with my people skills.)

So if your player is quiet due to apprehension-based shyness, it will probably help to get to the root of the apprehensions: Fear of being "outclassed" in role-playing, fear of not having mastered the rules, fear of wasting your time as GM with irrelevancies, etc. All of these, of course, may be entirely unfounded.

On the other hand, if they are quiet due to introversion, then you need to look at maximizing the player's internal reward for participation, and without being in his head that is going to be hard. But he may feel differently about first-person vs third-person descriptions, or feel differently about gestures vs speaking, or it may just mean you have to pick your moments because he's only up for so much before his internal reserves run out.

From the perspective as a new player in a similar situation.

My GM has been extremely patient with me and others in my group that are new to roleplaying. Becoming a character instead of narrating my actions isn't something that I'm used to. It doesn't help that all of my RPG experience is video games so it took me some time to realize that if I make the wrong decision it won't kill the campaign for me.

He's chosen to grant XP based on story advancement instead of encounters. At the end of one of our sessions he gave everyone bonus XP because we happened to have roleplayed a lot more than usual.

He encourages us to ask questions outside of the game to understand where we want our characters to go.

It took me roughly 4 sessions to get into that mindset (we meet once a month).

When it was time for my character to level I asked for suggestions on what skills to add and he suggested linguistics. I couldn't decide which language to take so he suggested Binary (possibly unique to this world setting) and then set up a scenario where my character would act as translator. I naturally translated everything he said without being prompted and it was a huge hit.

Out of context quote: "The checkbook says we can't talk to it anymore"

TL;DR

Roleplaying isn't intuitive for everyone since it can make you feel vulnerable. It can take time to break out of that shell.

• Welcome to RPG.SE, and thanks for your experience based answer to a role playing question. Please take the tour and visit the help center to see how this Q&A site works ... and Happy Gaming! (I made a small edit to your answer. If you like the edit, great. If not, you can revert it to your original form or edit it a bit so that it reads the way you want it to). – KorvinStarmast Aug 11 '16 at 16:47

### We play these games to have fun.

Fun is where you find it, and fun is how you find it. This answer is made under the following premise: there may not actually be a "problem" to solve here.

If the player is having fun, even in an understated way, then it isn't a problem. Without getting into the matter of perceiving someone else's play style as bad wrong fun, multiple styles and ways of finding joy in the game can fit at the same table.

As @nitsua60 suggested, discuss with the player whether or not (s)he is having fun. If there is joy in being the understated one, in being the "strong and silent type" in this group, then as DM you need to roll with it. In time, a "toe in the water" mode of experimentation with a more immersive style may arise by osmosis due to being exposed to such by the rest of the group.

Late bloomers are still beautiful flowers.

I am someone who is pretty big into roleplaying my characters, even going so far as to have conversations with the other PCs outside of the sessions (with the DM's blessing, of course). However, I can recall even in my first session, I was pretty quiet. Unlike this person you are talking about, I am very talkative in real life. Partly this was due to my character (at the time, she basically didn't trust anyone), but it was also because I was just so new to the experience. To be clear, I was playing Pathfinder and I have not played DnD 5e yet, but I still think this could be a part of it. This does not even take into consideration that the player might not want to play this way, or is not comfortable doing something like that yet.

I would say that if he says he is having fun, and you think that is true, then I wouldn't push him anymore than you already have. You already mention that he has gotten flustered when you have asked him, which suggests you have already been a little overbearing to him (even if such a thing for someone else wouldn't be a big deal at all). If this really is a problem for you, maybe talk with him about it outside of a session, and see if you can get on the same page. However, remember that as long as he is having fun, you are succeeding at being a GM!

The vast majority of the answers say "well if they're having fun, it's not a problem." But, it is. RPGs are like a cross between an acting troupe and a team sport. The dynamic of the game overall, and the fun of all the participants, is based on the contributions of everyone. If one person is either being negative - or even just not contributing to the level of the other players - it can bring down the overall experience. We (I) don't run games as some charitable public service for anyone who wants to play, I run them so I and my fellow gamers can have a great time! New people need some time to learn, but it should definitely be a process of learning.

In my current long-term campaign I've had two cases like this. One player, who joined at the start of the campaign, is a veteran gamer but is just naturally more quiet and introverted. If other players are being too active he simmers down - though still paying attention and having fun. What I do with him and shy folks like him is:

1. Make sure and give him opportunities to do things and have interactions, especially things that the other players can't interrupt. I made a hook where his sister had married a nobleman and needed help with a magical-shadow-plague-threat-thing. The locals would listen to him, but not to the rest of the murderhobos he had along with him. This helps the part of introversion that's fear of being too 'assertive' by taking the spotlight.

2. Have the other players also encourage him and feed him ideas. I usually frown on table talk especially of the "you should do this!" sort, but it can help prompt the shy folks. "Hey, you should see if she wants to meet you after she gets off work! Hey, you should ask if he has any jobs he needs done!" This helps the part of introversion that's just not coming up with ideas as quickly as others.

3. Give them "cool" options for an introverted character to do. Fantasy parties have their strong silent types, they don't have to be "talky" or even be initiating action. But they can be standing back making Perception checks watching the party's back while they yammer with a merchant. Offer options that allow being an active, vital part of the story and reward being attentive and involved, but avoiding the part of introversion that's just plain afraid of talking in front of others.

And in general do all the things you do with someone who's learning anything. Give them opportunities, celebrate their successes and build their confidence, use team spirit... It's like having a noob on your soccer team or Clash of Clans guild or whatever.

With these techniques, Player 1 is a great part of the team. He's the cleric, so it's a natural support role, and I can mix people just going to him for healing with going to him for "priestly wisdom" to push him into a bit more RP. (As the least obviously psychotic in a PC group, NPCs actually tend to like him the best and trust him more because while he's quiet he has never beaten anyone to death for annoying him.)

Then we have Player 2. She joined mid-campaign, and was also super introverted. But none of these things worked. It wasn't just interacting with NPCs or whatever, we'd ask "Ok, so what does your character look like?" "...". "Orcs attack, what do you do? "... twelve?" "Points of damage? To which one? From what?" "...". She even wrote in such miniature crabbed script on her character sheet we couldn't figure out what her deal was by just reading it. We tried luring her out of her shell for two months, and it just wasn't working. So we parted ways. She wasn't comfortable with the level of interaction our game required and her inability to participate brought the overall game experience down for others. I wish her well and hope she finds a game that fits her; mine isn't it.