Mr. Meek. The quiet kid. Anti-social man. All of these names represent that one player who sits quietly in the back corner of the group and only replies once they are directly asked a question. Troubling thoughts are the offspring of this character as the GM tries to weave the thread of the story while including that character in some miraculous way.
NPC, the classic non-player character. This is an imaginary person of whom the GM has invented. On occasions this will include a detailed backstory, character sheet, family tree, and the type of vehicle they drive. Other times all that they have to run off of is a name and home town. The GM then has to try and make sure that they are included in the plot even though many players are bound and determined to forget them and go on without worrying about them.
Are you beginning to see any similarities?
When running a game the quiet person can be the biggest block to a GM who wishes to have fun. As such there are several things that a GM can do to make it more interesting for that player, the other players, and themselves.
1. One Backstory To Rule Them All
Many times when working on your game you will hear people say, “Introduce the player’s backstory for more engagement.” This is a great piece of advice but let’s face it, as soon as that player is done with their “role” in the story they will simply hobble back to their corner and twiddle their thumbs. One thing I make a practice of doing is weaving together backstories. Like a fine rug, the combined backstories of every player makes the campaign look like it was made with love and warmth. It will help to make sure that every player has an equal part in EVERY session and will keep the quiet player on their toes due to not knowing when they will need to react.
2. To Side Quest or Not To Side Quest?
There always seems to be a person who will ask if they can go into the mountains to fight a dragon, leaving the rest of the party behind. This can often take hours and is a really bad thing to do if you’re trying to keep everyone interested. To solve this and help the Mr. Meek in your group you can do one of two things.
You can either pass a note asking the player to bring everyone along with him, which will make it so you have party cohesion, or you can pass a note to everyone but the quiet player asking them to go. This will leave you the opportunity to put the quiet player in the hot seat. Make sure you let the other players know that you are not trying to make their game less fun but the quiet player’s more enjoyable as you inform them you are going to glance over their sub-plot. This gives you a lot more time to work with Anti-Social Kid and hopefully break them of their habit.
3. I Hate Disapproving Glances
People generally don’t want to upset their friends. They try to keep them in good favor because, when it comes down to it, we care about what those who are close to us think. If you have tried everything you can at the table and you still see no progress with your quiet player then go up to them at the end of the session. With it just being you two, tell them how their quiet attitude is affecting your game and mood.
Ask if there is anything that you can do to make it enjoyable. If there is then go out and do it! If there isn’t then ask him that it is really hurting your perceptions of the game and make sure to say, “It’s like you don’t care about the game.” Though that may sound like a really weak way to address the issue to you men, I have personally done this. In a game I was playing I went through this exact process to a quiet player and lo and behold in the next session they became the out-of-the-closet thespian of our group.
A session where everyone is playing equally is loads of fun. A session where you feel like you’re going to have to control one player to get them to do anything is not. Why does it seem to be the standard for people to have to stay quiet at something that is supposed to be a social experience? If you’re a player, ask yourself what you can do to be a better part of the group. If you’re a GM, follow the instructions above. Hopefully after you do so you will not have to refer to your Mr. Meek as an NPC, a Non-Passionate Character.
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