#RPGaDAY 2019 - DAY 3: "ENGAGE"

While D&D 4th edition wasn't the favorite of many people, I truly believe that it had one of the greatest DM guides of all time. It had so many practical tips, not just for running 4e itself, but legitimately good tips for just being a GM.

One of the topics I remember most clearly was a section about engaging different types of people at your table. This is such an overlooked aspect of games, and I remember being impressed that they included it as an explicit topic. RPGs, at their heart, are about collaborative storytelling, which means that having everybody engaged in the story is essential.

Here is what I've done over the years, to keep people engaged.

Ensure the story is something people want to be playing. For a campaign, I find out what kind of game people *want* to play. The concept of Character Arcs, from Monte Cook Games, is a great boon to this, as it causes players to make their goals not just known but a core part of the game. But even without, players often have an idea of what they want to do, and I can either theme the story after their interests or at least ensure that their needs are being met.

Ensure that I spend time with everybody at the table (and the virtual table, too, in our case.) If everybody is together, I make sure to ask each person what they're doing. I encourage the person who quietly agrees to do what everybody else is doing to describe how they are contributing. If everybody is not together, I try to give each group equal time, if possible. This is especially important if they don't seem to be as invested in the story. But at the same time, I avoid putting introverts on the spot--especially at Cons, where I don't know the people well.

Ensure that the story is truly collaborative. I provide hooks, but let the players follow the hooks in their own way, or adjust on the fly if they want to do something else. They will generally try to follow the hooks, but a "yes, and..." approach can really help them to feel their choices matter. And some of our best sessions have involved things the table felt was interesting, that I just threw in for flavor.

When die rolling is involved, I try to make each roll meaningful, especially if the person is having an off night. This may be describing a partial success, a description of the result (good or bad), encouraging self-teasing if the roll was especially bad, and of course celebrating the great rolls.

Finally, I encourage an atmosphere where everybody pays attention to what everybody else is doing, so that not just the GM, but the whole table cares about the decisions, actions and die-rolls of the other players...so that everybody not only gets a chance at the limelight but also celebrates the other players when they get theirs.

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