How to interest Passive/Uninterested player in D&D

passive/uninterested player phone

Sometimes there is that passive/Uninterested player in D&D. They just do not feel invested at all. These players can run a wide range from shy to openly disruptive. I will tackle three types of uninterested players in order to help you enhance your Dungeons and Dragons game.

YOu have a distracting, quiet, and personally passive/uninterested player in D&D.

These players all have separate issues and should be dealt with in different ways. That does not mean that these methods are mutually exclusive since a distracting player can turn into a quiet or personally passive player, just use these methods based on the player you are trying to help.

Interest a passive/uninterested player in D&D by taking away distractions, speeding up gameplay, giving roles, and letting the player deal with Real life issues.

Curing distractions

What causes a passive/uninterested player in D&D? Is it their phone? Ask players to keep their phones put away for the time being and only let them use it to check D&D beyond if you are using that app. You are not stupid. You know when your players are typing texts, posts, or something else. Make sure they don’t use other applications and only use D&D beyond if you are using D&D beyond.

Are you not using D&D beyond? Great! Get rid of phones. Explain that phones can unintentionally cause us to not pay attention to the game. This explains why you don’t want them to use phones, and you are not accusing anyone. No one will get defensive, so it is a simple solution to an annoying problem.

Phones are but one part of the many distractions that players can suffer from which causes them to not pay attention. Phones are usually the biggest problem, but people still do need to check their phones. We crave it as a society, and many players will want to check ‘just in case.’ They may be trying to get an online deal or some other personal reason.

If there is an issue, have the player talk to you. These issues should not come up every, or every other session. If they don’t respect the game or everyone there enough to play, then they most likely do not want to be there.

With all of this said, please do allow for a break. I have had Dungeons and Dragons games last for 10 or so hours without a break. Please do not do this. Take a break every hour or two hours. Make your sessions only three hours if you have to in order to avoid breaks, but let people have some time to check on the real world and then get back into the game.

Other distractions

Headphones or music not by the dungeon master or specifically requested from the dungeon master should not be allowed. If a person has headphones in, even one headphone, they are not truly paying attention to the game and the setting. This should not happen.

Make sure that your players do not have headphones in at any time, and if there is music not sanctioned by the dungeon master make that music stop. It is at best a nuisance to everyone else, or at worst a distraction to everyone else. Come on you are here to play Dungeons and Dragons not listen to music. Do that separately.

Television in the background. This can be a youtube video on a computer screen, a show, anything that is playing in the background. Turn it off. There is absolutely no reason why this should be on, and everyone should be encouraged to imagine the scene and show what they are doing with words and actions.

Television can in no way, shape, or form, end up helping your game. If you have found a way where a show can help you while you are playing Dungeons and Dragons, please leave it in the comments below. I would love to hear something positive, but I highly doubt it.

On a related note, if a person wants to show you ‘something cool’ say no. Do not disrupt the session to watch a video. You will all forget what you were doing before and the session will now be prone to any distraction. These distractions destroy the game, so politely say no or ask for the person to stop since you are all there to play Dungeons and Dragons.

Allow an alternative. You all have breaks or can arrive early to the game. Ask the player to show the cool thing at break or after the game. Never during.

For more on distractions, watch this video!

Speed

“Jim it is your turn. What do you do?” “I’m sorry, what’s going on?”

This is the absolute worst in my opinion. Most of the time this is caused by a passive/uninterested player in D&D being glued to a phone, or some side conversation. If this happens, that means the player is not invested in what is happening. Aside from electronics and side conversations, there are a few reasons why this is happening.

You may have screwed up a lot as a dungeon master. If you have, read this article. We all screw up, so don’t feel alone.

Your combat is boring. If so, read this article.

Okay, enough with the other articles. If the problem is not with you and everyone else is engaged, take that player aside and talk to them during the break. Figure out what is going on and try to work with them or fix it. Most likely this is a personally uninterested/bored player so go to that section.

One more thing to force players into staying on their toes is to make combat faster. Implement a 1-minute rule. If the players don’t do an action in one minute, they forfeit their action. This forced the players to pay attention since one minute is easily doable for a person who pays attention. One minute for a person who is not paying attention is pushing it.

Last thing, I promise, is to have a board showing who is up next in the initiative order. You will be amazed at the transformation your players have once they know who is up next. They can plan, gauge their time efficiently, and be ready when it is their turn.

Quiet players

These players can puzzle and frustrate many dungeon masters. Us dungeon masters want every player to enjoy the game. That is why these quiet players who seem content to do nothing frustrate many of us.

The truth is that not everyone needs to have a front seat to the action. Some players are fine being support or are just there to have fun.

That does not mean you should give up.

Encourage the player to do a few of these things below and see if the player wants to do less, or is just unsure of themselves. If they are being held back, encourage them with the techniques below. If the player is not being held back but just wants to play this way, then please do not force them. Let them have fun in their own way if they are not causing distractions.

Players feeling left out

Sometimes quiet players are being spoken over. One player might be boisterous and wants to always make decisions, have fun, and enjoy the game. This is great, but the quiet player feels differently. The quiet player in this instance feels like they are unable to get a word in edgewise.

Do not try to encourage the quiet player by talking to them outside of the game, or discourage the enthusiastic player by talking to them out of game. Instead, encourage the player in-game. Have an NPC talk to that player first. Make eye contact. Make sure that when you ask, what do you do? You focus on the quiet player and listen to them. It will be hard, but you need to make an effort to include that quiet player into the game.

That quiet player will eventually become a little bolder and possibly boisterous. If they do not become bold, then still pay attention to them. That player will feel included and contribute much more.

Detail

Make that quiet player, and every player, have a background. You can have these players use the books random rolling sections for a background or the player can write their own background. Either way, they need a background in order to feel connected. Once they feel connected, the player should feel more immersed and naturally want to interact more.

Have your players give better detail. “I hide.” Isn’t enough. You need to follow up with “Hide where?” in order to get the player invested in giving detail. If the player is discouraged from expressing themselves, they will not express themselves. A novel thought I know, but make your players give detail. If detail is given, they will feel more immersed in the world around them instead of detached.

You need to add detail. Perhaps the players are quiet because you didn’t give enough detail. They are confused, wondering what the room is like, and what course of action they should take. Give enough detail on your side so that the players are encouraged to do so.

Personally passive/uninterested players in D&D

These players are not just unsure of themselves or distracted by external factors. These players have a personal problem that stems beyond the two easy to solve problems.

In these instances, don’t be too pushy.

Show that you are wanting to help them play the game, and talk to them outside of the session or during the break. Ask why they are not into the game. You can generally see these players by the deflation in enthusiasm. At one point, they were excited and happy, but now they are just bored and fiddling with dice or anything that does not involve the game.

You need to talk to your player and figure out the problem that they are having. Deal with it in the best manner that you both possibly can, and figure out what to do next. If you want an example of a few instances of what to do, look below. The subsections are dedicated to specific issues that may be plaguing these players

Personal life issues

If a person is having a personal life crisis right now, let them know it is okay to fix their real life first. Real life should always come first, and if there is a pressing issue encourage the person to go and take care of it.

If the issue is not pressing but continuous, ask if they need time away from the game to sort their life out. A great example of this would be work. If a person is constantly stressing about work you can with your group either try to find a new time/day to play the game or ask that person if they need to take some time off for a little bit. Make it clear that this is not a permanent arrangement. Encourage that player to come back after their life is sorted out.

Personal issues happen. Just try your best to work with that person and let them know it is okay to leave for a little while if they need to. This alone can help a person who feels trapped make their life better. After two weeks, they will want back in and bam! Your player is focused and having fun once again!

Bored of the PC

This is a tricky dilemma. Most dungeon masters do not want their players to start a new character. The fear is that if the player swaps this character for another, they will want to do so again when they find an even more powerful or better build.

I get it. This will happen. I have tried to give players the option to make new characters and every time except for a few times, it has been a disaster. That player is not invested in the character and views them as stat blocks. Other players now want to do the same and become infected. Soon no one care about roleplaying and everything is horrible since the game just turned into Diablo and you did not want to play Diablo.

There are ways to make this not happen. First, make sure that the player is not just trying to power game. If they are genuinely bored of Billy the one-note bard, let them re-roll the character. If the character is level 5 and below, let them change classes without penalty. These are learning times anyway.

If the character is above level 5, leave the offer on the table but don’t give them magic items or tell them that they will only get one magical item given by you. Do not let the player pick magical items, or buy magical items. That only encourages them to start a new character. If you do it, then the player is less likely to change characters and will only do so if they really are tired of that character.

Find out why the player is bored with the character. If you can find out why you can solve the issue without changing characters or at least make sure that the new character does not suffer from the same issue.

Lastly, the character does not have to die. The character can be retired, become an NPC, or be used by you the dungeon master. If you do any of these, then please treat that character with respect.

Conclusion

We covered how to deal with passive/uninterested players from distractions, to quiet players, and finally to personally passive/uninterested players. The last section was a little bit vague, but I hope that I delivered a good guide and examples on what to do if your player is a passive/uninterested player in D&D.

I once again hope that this information was helpful and that you gained something out of it.

This has been Wizo and keep rolling!

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