How, as a GM, can you engage your players with your tabletop RPG game and with your campaign setting? It’s a question that we get asked by Dungeon masters and GMs ALL the time!
There are three main solutions, with lots of options to implement them. Below is a brief summary of the talk we gave on this subject (which you can catch on VOD right now, right here).
You can download the slides for the presentation here. A big thank you to Caeora for letting us use his beautiful illustrations and tokens! We’ve also added some “homework” assignments, so you can put your newfound knowledge into practice!
Engage your players’ curiosity.
This is something you can do to engage players in your ttRPG game right from the get go. Start by telling the story of your world with a World Primer. This lets themget excited about it and understand how their characters might connect to factions. Giving them secret knowledge of the world makes them feel special. It can encourage roleplay and excitement about your world, too.
After all, players play RPGs for immersion, which is what gives the game excitement and drama. Making things personal and more emotional, makes it more dramatic! And you need to connect PCs to things before they can feel personal.
On World Anvil, don’t feel you need to create a massive campaign setting in advance to engage your players. This runs the risk of overwhelming them. Keep it simple and lean to begin with – on a need to know basis. Early on, providing only the basics helps evoke curiosity and desire to explore your world.
Consider creating a subscriber group for your party! With one for each player, you’ll can give secrets from player backgrounds exclusively to those players. Then, reveal knowledge incrementally when they need or acquire information.
Homework: Share a player primer for your campaign.
In the comments, share a primer you have created for a specific campaign for your players. Don’t know what a primer is? Check out this post which explains all!
Create engaging NPCs to guide players.
If you want to make sure your players care about your lore, make it the answer to their prayers – literally! Establish early on that not every problem in your world can be solved by the character sheet. This is a great strategy to get them excited about unveiling more of your world’s lore.
To establish this, make knowledge rolls count and give PCs significant bonuses to rolls if they have acquired relevant knowledge (books, rumours, ancient tablets). Reward NPC questions with at least rumours and tidbits (a friendly NPC may refer them to a friend), and consider them important encounters in terms of character progression (XP).
Another way to approach this is to make knowledge gathering exciting. Knowledge can be part of the loot of an adventure, and this makes it feel like valuable treasure. Create NPCs as memorable as quest givers and make the interactions expensive in terms of effort. Ask for things in return or coin or favours.
Connect plot advancement to unlocking lore.
We mention a lot more ways to do this in the talk itself, but there are too many to add here. The key thing here is that almost all players want to advance level and plot! By making world knowledge a gateway to this, this motivation can engage players with the world, because they need it to solve the problems they’re currently facing.
In terms of World Anvil, use secrets in articles, and make them specific to those that know it. You can even gamify unlocking them with password protected articles. By making the unlocking of knowledge feel like an achievement or a milestone, you’ll be encouraging your players to dig for more lore in your world.
Also, make sure there’s a clear list of known NPCs the players can refer to for information. This will help them target the best NPCs for each question. And for yourself, keep a list of articles to update or create (check out our Agile Worldbuilding talk for more on this!) so you can keep track of what needs to be amended!
Homework: Share an adventure plot which uses world mysteries and lore as key plot beats.
In the comments, share an adventure plot (use the Plot template on World Anvil) which makes use of mysteries, secrets, intrigue or other information as key plot beats. The revelations should be an integral part of the resolution of the adventure. Be sure to add ideas of how to make the revelations dramatic and meaningful!
Become part of the world and be immortalised in its history
Player agency a key way to engage your players with your ttRPG campaign and get them excited. So why not go one step further, and weave the results of that agency into memorials and celebrations in your world?
You can start by showing statues of heroes from ages past, to give your players something to aspire to, or festivals of grand victories. Once your players start doing noteworthy things, celebrate those victories! Erect a statue, name a tavern after them -anything you think they’d enjoy! You can also use reputation – with reactions and even rumours – to make your players feel more involved with your world, and value how your world views them.
Make sure, too, that your world feels alive and ever-changing. A location your players revisit should show the passage of time. Reveal gradual changes on repeat visits (this might be positive or negative). If these changes are related to the players’ actions, this is a good way to show long term consequences. If the changes are unrelated to the characters, then make those changes feel significant! Fires might break out, babies might be born. Give them emotional impact.
On World Anvil, this can be shown by inscribing your players’ names across the world wherever their adventures take them!
Homework: Share a landmark or festival created in honour of a past hero or party.
In the comments, share a landmark (the building/landmark template) or a festival (World Anvil tradition article) you have created to celebrate a victory of your players. Or if you’re just starting the campaign, why not choose a legendary hero to celebrate with a statue or a celebration? This will give your players something to aspire to!