Dear Roar Cat,
I am a new DM, and I find it difficult to manage my players’ different social styles. Some are eager to jump in, but others rarely speak up unless I ask them something specifically. How to I make sure both my quiet and my performative players are happy?
I Just Want Everyone to Have a Good Time
Dear I Just Want Everyone to Have a Good Time ,
Group dynamics is one of the most difficult things to navigate in D&D, both as a player and especially as a DM. Ideally, you want all of your players to be equally engaged and contributing to the story. However, we all know that in reality, this is hard to achieve!
The fact that you are already asking questions about this is a good sign. You are aware of your players and you care about making sure they are having fun. When you notice that some players are contributing more than others, ask yourself why there is a disparity. In general, it will be one of two reasons:
Personality: People are different! A quieter player might be happy to sit back and let others drive the story, or they might wish they had more room to contribute. Those who are more gregarious love to take center stage to fill the necessary role of building story momentum, and they may or may not be happy to cede time to others when necessary.
Conflict. In any group of people, conflict is inevitable. Learn to look for its early warning signs (passive aggressive behavior or comments, one person always getting their way, multiple players ganging up on another) and address the conflict as soon as possible. This can be as simple as a light-hearted “Wow, things are getting pretty heated here!” or addressing a specific player with, “How did your character feel when everyone did x?” Unaddressed conflict can build, leading players to become less and less involved in the game.
Once you have identified the source of the disparity, you have a few options.
- Keep checking in with your players, both in-game and out. During the adventure, ask your quieter players, “What is your character doing while Loud Player is acting?” This gives them the opportunity to contribute as much or as little as they like. Similarly, it never hurts to send a message to your players after the session, asking if everyone was happy with the amount of play time that they had.
- Encourage quieter players. Intentionally make space for them by designing part of the session especially for them (a puzzle only a wizard can solve, an NPC from their character’s backstory who distrusts strangers, etc). Think about where that player has shown interest and enthusiasm in the past, then try to build adventures with similar hooks in the future.
- If your showboater keeps talking over others or playing for them, this is a boundary issue. Start with a gentle reminder that the louder character is not involved in the scene or that they need to make space for others. If this doesn’t work, you might need to flex your communication skills outside of the session. These conversations tend to go more smoothly if you bring them into a positive plan rather than shutting them down. Try something like: “Help me bring ___’s character out (not as your sidekick); I think you would be really good at it!”
As the DM, it is your role to manage social dynamics as well as the story. If you ask your players how they’re doing on a regular basis, and speak up for those who are quieter when necessary, you should find that everyone has the chance to contribute and have fun!
Wishing you high charisma rolls,
Roar Cat Reads
Send your D&D questions to Dear Roar Cat Reads at firstname.lastname@example.org.