I’ve been playing various tabletop RPGs since the early 90s. I’ve attempted to run a few games since then, only really getting into it about 10 years ago when I started running my Norse inspired Pathfinder game. Sadly it’s kind of stalled out since I’ve become a parent, finding time to plan and run these games have gotten to be a luxury that too often has to stand by the wayside as other responsibilities devour my time. Not to say that I don’t still run and play tabletop RPGs via video conferencing with my friends and my wife at my side… but I digress.
Over time I have played with my fair share of players and personalities on both sides of the DM screen, some have been a pleasure to roll dice with, others… not so much. Of these, the ones I like to play with most all share one common trait… engagement. They ask questions. Relevant questions as to what’s going on in the story and what’s around them. As a Game Master, this does wonderful things for me. It’s encouragment, engagement, and feedback all rolled into one.
I enjoy telling a story and putting on a performance just as much as the next GM, but if I’m getting no energy back from the players, that’s just anxiety-inducing. When a player asks questions about what’s around thier characters that signals their involvement. They’re telling me “This is interesting and I want to know more!” It eggs me on to keep going as I feed off that encouragement to keep going. If the player is engaged then I know I’m on the right track and I can relax a little and focus on providing the best experience I can for them.
A GM that doesn’t listen to what kinds of questions the players are asking are doing everyone involved a huge disservice. When a player asks a question it also tells me something very important. Any question that a player asks is telling the GM what exactly that player is interested in. If a player is asking about what you assumed was just an inconsequential horse, they’re telling you, horses or that particular horse is important to them somehow. Well guess what, that horse has a name now and a basic history. The player might lose interest after a while but, then again, that horse may end up being the prize war stallion that was stolen from a knight during a battle and is now offering a significant reward for its return. A story starts as an amorphous fog with only a few vague details. Neither the players nor the GM really have an idea of what the final story will be but each question the players ask about what’s going on shines a little light, revealing more and more details as they go along.
So players, please please PLEASE don’t be afraid to ask your GM questions. It may seem like your character might not know the time of day if you do so but I promise you, it’s not only helping you but it’s helping your GM ask well and moreso than you realize.
GMs, by all means don’t discourage your players from interacting with the plot, especially if you’re an improve-style GM. Rules questions are one thing but plot questions are ESSENTIAL for you and your players. Being able to deal with these questions will not only help you become a better GM but everyone will have more fun as well. The only window into the game world the players have is literally coming from you. Art is meant to be shared, spread it around.