Sunday, 25 June 2017

Dungeon Master: Shy Players

Players come in all different personalities. The outgoing and social players can come with their own challenges, but what I found more difficult was dealing with shy players. There are many different reasons for a player to be shy and different methods are usually needed for each. It's also generally easier for a social player to realize they need to yield the stage compared to making a shy person take it.


One of the things that can make a player shy is circumstance. It can be hard to find a gaming group, and when you do the group has often been around for some time. Jumping into that can be a challenge even for social people. You don't only need to step up and take part in the game, but also get to know everyone in the group. Public play has a similar yet different problem. There, you also often end up playing with a group of strangers but you might not run into the same people next time. This could keep things constantly in that early stage where you need to be getting to know the players as well as stepping up in the game.

The public play option is probably the hardest to deal with. If you are shy in those kinds of situations but don't have another way to play, there isn't an easy solution. You usually just have to push yourself to get involved. In a small group, however, it might take a few sessions but once the player feels comfortable things tend to run much smoother. Those sessions between joining and feeling comfortable, however, can be rocky. In those cases it's important to have something that they can contribute to. This means they need to play a part and aren't completely ignored. However, you shouldn't be dragging your player into the limelight when they don't want to be there. That balance is a hard thing to find and varies depending on the person. As they feel more comfortable, the balance can shift as well.

Are They Happy?

The amount a player needs to contribute to a session to be happy varies depending on the player and even the overall campaign. Players are there for a multitude of reasons. Some want the tactical grid combat and dungeon delving, some want the role-playing and some are there to be part of and listen to a story. A shy player might be happy with contributing to combat like everyone else, and role-playing a little bit but not as much as the party's natural actor. If they are happy, that's fine. The thing I will mention is that power gamers/min-maxers tend to not go well with shy players unless they also have such inclinations from my experience. It could be just the luck of the draw but min-maxing can threaten to push a shy player out of their niche. Of course, it also depends on the nature of the min-maxing and if they share the same class. It's just something to keep in mind.


From what I've seen, comfort plays a big part for shy players. If they feel comfortable even a shy player might end up speaking as often as anyone else in the group. Part of this is the understanding that failure is part of the game and tells a story. Getting mad at someone because a combat encounter did not go well will create discomfort and worry generally. It does so even for not shy players on occasion. It's also important to remember that once they get comfortable, one new player could be enough to make them self-conscious.

They Want to Be There

If they came to your game when they are shy, they want to be there. If you are all strangers, you can be sure they really want to be there since they are fighting their shyness to do so. They might not always succeed, especially at the start, but I find keeping that in mind generally helps. You don't want to blame them for it or for not contributing as much as some other party members and you don't want the other players to do so either. It might take some time, but I've found generally things work out if you are patient, give them a chance but don't push too hard. 


What I find helps quite a bit is making sure the shy player has a niche and their own role. This means that they have a particular role in the group. Of course, this will put them as the centre of attention for at least a little but of time. It's along the same lines as what I said last week. However, in this case the focus will be expected so it tends to go over better. We don't want to dwell on it longer than we have to though. What that means in practice can be difficult to pin down but at the very least we don't want to focus on them heavily just because they haven't had focus. There should be a reason relating to their role or character and then take it off when it makes sense. 


This is of course based on my experiences. If you have different experiences or something you disagree with, I'd be happy to hear about it. This is a short, general article and some specific situations may need specific measures.

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