[RPG] How to deal with a group of passive and non descriptive players


I run a D&D 5e game for my SO and her family. They are all first time players and agreed to try it on my behalf.
The group consists of:

  • Me (25M) DM
  • My SO (25F)
  • Her father (54M)
  • Her mother (49F)
  • Her sister (16F)
  • Her sister (14 non binary)

We started off playing LMoP with a custom side quest starting with the burning of Phandalin.
We are 5 sessions in (2 years) and the last session went horribly.

I know there are many posts out there trying to figure out how to engage players but I feel the problem I encounter is a mixture of the following:

The players seem to want to be entertained by me and my characters / descriptions and do not participate in telling the story.

I can't quite put my finger on it (which may be the reason why I didn't find any helpful threads) but this leads to a game with only situations like this one:

DM: You see far off the distance the towering shadow of Mount Keep. As you glance along the shape of the mountain you see smoke coming out from behind the trees

Group: … I guess we go there …

DM: all right.. on your way travelling the narrow path that leads up the hill an arrow cuts through the air and group of 4 goblins emerge from the shadows. Everybody roll Initiative.

Group: I hit the goblin… I hit the goblin … I hit the goblin ..
We go on the road.

DM: you arrive at a small clearance where the remainder of a still smoking fireplace catches your eye.

Group: we want to roll Perception to see what we find.

This leads to a game that stretches like chewing gum

So players lose focus, get distracted, need to be addressed and then the need to search until they find whatever to roll or add.
This lengthens the game and it goes on and on.

Every time I described the death of an enemy in a cool way or a NPC has a funny voice or character everybody seems to be enjoying it. But a game where I have to go from one NPC to another and act like a puppet is incredibly exhausting.

Has anybody dealt with a group like this before? Do you have any other advice for me?

I feel this happens because they never played TTRPGs before and simply do not know better. I thought I might have another "session 0" to explain the ideas of a game like this. But what should I say or point out?

I feel kinda lost now but I'm sure there's someone out there who has a better insight modifier then I have 😉

Best Answer

Maybe D&D isn't the right game?

You're 5 sessions (2 years) into this, with first time players who agreed to try it on your behalf.

Maybe it just isn't going to work.

You've got some challenges:


My observation, D&D doesn't work very well played very infrequently. Sure, it could work well, played infrequently, but it usually doesn't. It's easy to forget what was going on when it's been a couple of weeks, much less months, between sessions. And that makes it hard for players to really identify with their characters, when they don't think about them much for long stretches of time.


Are they all fantasy nerds? I'm guessing probably not. If not, D&D is a huge, huge lift. From inside the hobby, it's hard to understand, but the truth is, there're are lots and lots of people who just aren't interested in wizards, and magic, and dragons, and epic battles.

Age Range

You got yourself a challenge there, trying to find something that's going to entertain that wide of an age range. Sure, it's possible, lots of people play in groups with wide age ranges, and it works fine. But it's a challenge. What's going to interest and engage a 14 or 16-year-old may not be of much interest to a fifty-something. My experience, even just finding a movie that whole group will be interested in can be really tough.


Families can be complicated. You're dealing with people who've known each other for a long, long time. That can add significant complexities.

Maybe have a chat

With the group

It's pretty reasonable to have a chat and ask: "Hey, gang, we've been at this awhile. What do you think, has it been fun? Would you like to keep going? Maybe there's another game we can all play? Maybe we should watch movies instead?"

Or even better, with your SO

"Hey, light of my life. We've been at this awhile. I'm not sure it's going all that great. I really appreciate that your family is willing to spend this time playing this game I love so much. Can you and I talk about how it's going?"

She might really appreciate a chance to brainstorm with you some other activities that would be really fun for you, her, and her whole family. Some activity where everyone is super-engaged, not looking at the phone or the clock.

To stimulate the discussion, you might try some internet searches for family game night, and engage your GF in what sounds like fun. There are LOTS of games that can be played in a few hours, aren't hard to learn, and can be played by varying numbers of people. If you can get your GF as your co-conspirator, you'll score points with her, and have a leg up on something to do with her family that everyone will think is fun.

In the end, you might find it more satisfying to see everyone engaged and enjoying family game night, and knowing you helped it happen, than trying to drag people who really aren't interested, however much they're willing to try, in a super-complex game that takes a huge commitment and a huge amount of time.

You don't have to give up on D&D

Maybe try playing with just your SO, with an outside group, if she's really interested.

Or maybe try running some adventures with just your SO and one other family member or two, if they genuinely want to. A smaller group can be much easier to manage.