When you wrote your adventure, you took cues from your favorite movie, or comic book, imagining the big showdown would have all the powerful exchanges between the heroes & villains that make those scenes iconic. But when it played out, all those things seem to disappear from your mind, and all you managed to blurt out were a few awkward taunts. Yeah, that happens, but you don’t have to be Tarantino to come up with clever banter to bounce off your players.
There will always be the min/max players that are more interested in the roll rather than the role playing in D&D, but the memorable moments from your games that everyone will tell each other hardly ever have to do with that time you rolled a natural 2 (I guess that says more about my experience, anyway, as I do that on the reg). At its heart, this game is collaborative story-telling, and you can definitely nudge even the most withdrawn player at your table into interacting with any of your NPC’s with a few pointers I have to share here.
About half of DM’ing involves planning, but far too often things go awry in game, all those plans go out the window, and suddenly one hundred percent of being dungeon master means IMPROVISING. Being able to think on your feet and adjust is what you’ll need when the players encounter your NPC’s. Those impromptu remarks and answers to difficult questions will lead to the stories you’ll reminisce about.
Your players will ask the NPC’s questions, but it’ll amount to much more if you consider what the reason behind their line of questioning is and respond to that.
Encouraging them to make an Investigation or Insight check without telling them pointedly to do so requires you to demonstrate your attitude toward the character. Is the NPC calm & confident, or nervous? If so, deliver it with poise, or a bit of a stutter.
You might be tempted to answer those questions right away like a first time parent picking up a baby every time it cries, and you rush in & stick your foot in your mouth. Buy yourself some time by repeating the question aloud thoughtfully, and let the question hang in the air. Every moment you buy can give your brain some time to process, and come up with pertinent information that will help.
Of course after each session you will no doubt think of the perfect thing that you COULD have said, and made it better, but its a waste of time. Concentrate instead on how better to build that bridge between the question they asked, and what you want to talk about. Politicians are masters of this, and if you’ve ever watched a debate, you’ve seen them swerve the answer away from the question where they want it effortlessly. This would be obvious if done all the time, but if you utilize this for off-topic questions, they’ll get the hint.
Make sure your notes have traits listed next to the NPC’s name to remind you of how their demeanor would be, maybe even the name of movie or tv show characters you’d imagine them sounding like. This is the time to ham it up and draw them into interacting by responding how their characters would, but try to keep your time in the spotlight brief, and allow each of your players to emerge. Spend your time between sessions acting these characters of yours out in your head, and drop them in different scenarios to see what kind of range you can assign to them.
All these things are keys to making your game as interesting as it can be, but don’t forget the point of it is to have fun, so sure, use that outrageous accent, or sing off-key. Whatever you can to transcend some make-believe game into cherished memories of you & your pals gathered around the table once again.
Thanks again for reading, and hit me up with your questions/comments below in the comments section!