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6 Ways to Bring a Shy Player Out of Their Shell

Written by Janna - Published on February 9, 2009

Janna discovered D&D at the age of 16, and she's been rolling the dice for 16 years. (You do the math.) She is fond of intelligent villains, drow society, and campaigns that explore the Dark Side.

The gaming table is a microcosm of life. Around it, you will find examples of different personalities – some cool, some annoying, and some unremarkable. When a very shy player joins your campaign, it can be hard to tell if they’re having a good time. They might not speak up or even make eye contact.

If you think a player’s painful shyness is getting in the way of their good time, there are some tactics you can use to help draw the player out of their shell and into the action. Here are six tips to get you started.

Get to know them.

First, you should identify whether or not the shyness is actually a problem. Some folks are just quiet, and that’s okay. Others wish to get more involved, but lack the confidence or know-how. A quick one-on-one will reveal which type you’re dealing with. Just keep things friendly and casual. You could start by telling the player that you’re glad to have them in the game, and then ask them if they’re having a good time. If they want to be more interactive, you can help. If they’re fine with the status quo, let them know that you’re available if they have questions or suggestions about the game.

Get to the heart of the problem.

Sometimes player shyness is caused by an underlying factor. If the player doesn’t know the rules very well, they might clam up to avoid looking like a newbie. In this case, you could hold a few “learning games”, where the goal is to have fun while the player learns the rules. I’ve even held “combat clinics” that were open to all players who wanted to become better butt-kickers. These types of games give players more one-on-one time with you, and are generally lots of fun.

Give their PC a starring role.

A quiet player will have more opportunities to get involved when their PC is a central plot focus. There is a balancing act involved with this approach; you want to engage the PC without persecuting the player. Use your impeccable DM wisdom to decide how best to proceed. For example, a player who is very shy might not appreciate you turning their PC into an NPC’s love interest. Then again, they might. It all depends on the person, which is why it’s helpful to get to know your players outside of the gaming sessions.

Single them out.

No, don’t point an accusing finger, put the player on the spot, or hum the theme from Jeopardy. But do engage the player by asking questions. For example, let’s say a party member suggests a course of action that runs contrary to the personality of the shy player’s PC. You could encourage the shy player to speak up by asking, “How does your PC feel about that?” They could have some brilliant insights that no one else thought of.

Have between-game social gatherings.

Shy players will be more comfortable around the rest of the group if they spend more time together. Try coordinating some video game nights, movie nights, or just a simple pre- or post-game dinner. The goal is to increase familiarity and put shy players at ease among the group.

Give it time.

You can’t force a player out of their shell. All you can do is offer them guidance and opportunities. As they attend more game sessions over time, they’ll probably loosen up. Or the group will simply accept that the player prefers to stay quiet. If you need an indicator that the shy player is enjoying the game, solicit some written input that doesn’t require them to speak in front of the group. Remember, the strongest indicator of their enjoyment is their continued presence at your games.

Have you helped a player overcome their shyness? Tell us about it in the comments section!

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Written by Janna

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Janna discovered D&D at the age of 16, and she's been rolling the dice for 16 years. (You do the math.) She is fond of intelligent villains, drow society, and campaigns that explore the Dark Side.

 

 Comments

7 Responses to “6 Ways to Bring a Shy Player Out of Their Shell”
  1. Nicholas says:

    I think this article takes the prize for strangest pictures.

  2. The Mente says:

    My first DM experience is going to start, this article was very clever.
    I’ll try to watch out my players.

    @Yax: don’t mind about Serpentcoil Mountains, it’s a detail too tiny to care.
    ^^

  3. AlphaDean says:

    It’s funny that you write such an article Yax. In the all the years of my DMing (and that’s quite a few) no ever tried to give helping hand to us DM’s with he dreaded shy player. Good Call. I’ll tell ya though one of my favorite tactics with the new guy (or gal) is to give them a family hier loom with some history that plays a huge part in the story I’m trying to tell. This normally breaks the ice cause I’ll give them an item history with some plot points and then in my smooth DM fashion I’ll make a mistake or two or forget a point of interest and wham bam thank you maam I have them right in the thick of session. It works like a charm.

    Hey Yax I never got my Dice

  4. Janna says:

    @ Nicholas: The pics are a little strange. It looks like the kitty in picture 2 is stalking the chicken in picture 1. Easy pickings, I guess.

    @ AlphaDean: Glad you liked the article. :)

  5. Nicholas says:

    A good cheap trick for subtly giving the shy player a starring role is to throw in an NPC who only speaks a language that player’s character knows.

  6. coggro says:

    Hey, just StumbledUpon this article. My gaming group has a tradition that tends to work, although it was only just before I moved and went to college that we established it.

    What we do is we have everyone do something really nerdy or awesome, like we all recite a cool movie speech together or something. Last time we got to game together, we all took turns shouting “BLOOD AND THUNDER!” as loud and gruffly as we could. My friend’s girlfriend was visiting that weekend and was trying out her first gaming session ever, and I think it really took her by surprise, but it worked: that session we were in the ZONE. When everyone does something that would normally make them feel stupid and turns to see that everyone else has a smile on their face and is doing the same thing, it helps them to realize exactly how much lee-way (spelled wrong, I’m willing to bet) they’ve got.

    Just something to consider, in addition to all of your terrific advice :-)

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