[RPG] Helping a player who states “I have very little imagination” enjoy the game more


I have a friend in a couple of my role-playing groups who just isn't enjoying the games very much. (We are currently running Exodus in one campaign and an D&D retro clone in the other.) This player is in their late 20s and started playing RPGs about a year ago. They play other card and board games with us as well, and seem to enjoy them. (Things like Magic, Small World, Munchkin, etc.)

Both of our games are very casual; there's lots of joking and laughing. They very much enjoy the social aspect of playing RPGs: sitting around and talking/BSing with friends. They also tend to get more involved during combat and skill checks, i.e. any time there is dice rolling involved.

The role-playing is another story. They will say the minimum required by the story, like a "Yes" or a "No" to accept a quest. Because they seem to be uncomfortable with it, we haven't pushed them into trying to "come out of their shell" more, but we still make sure that they have spotlight time. We definitely enjoy having them as a player.

I've talked to the player about this, to see if there's anything we can do to make the game more enjoyable for them. They stated that they have "very little imagination", even going back to childhood. They talked about playing pretend with siblings and friends and just not knowing what to do. They have mild Asperger's syndrome, which may be coming to play here. (I say "may" because I just don't know.)

I have a great imagination so I'm not sure how much imagination is needed to enjoy an RPG. How do we help this player enjoy the games more, so it's not a chore to play with us?

Best Answer

Some people like to "act" in RPGs, some like to tell stories, and some want to roll dice. Most players I know expect all three activities, but in different amounts. It is unlikely you will ever be in a group where the balance is the same for each player and the DM.

In my opinion you have already done the right things by not pushing too hard, and having a chat to see if there is any problem. I think to follow that, you should accept the player for who they are, and make the best game you can with how they currently contribute.

Where you can, take a "yes" or a "no" from the player, and treat it as if the PC had said something a little more in character. Don't have the NPCs react to the lack of social niceties, but respond instead as if the PC controlled by this player had given the essence of what they said, but more appropriate to the situation. If you want, cover that with a little description (but avoid temptation to voice the request as the PC, narrate it instead).

If the player has a character with good social skills on the character sheet, and the system allows for it, let the player state intent without acting in character, but narrating desired outcome: "The fighter explains that he is a veteran of several wars, and worth more money than the merchant is offering. I want to persuade the merchant to offer more for the quest."

Continue to give them opportunities to contribute further, but don't make a big deal of it.