Some people are shy, plain and simple. They like to role-play, but their naturally shy nature often hampers their ability to interact with a group. What do you do? They are friendly enough, nice enough, pleasant enough, likeable, but just not very interactive with the group. This can lead to frustration and even resentment among the players, even if the shy one isn’t doing it because of any animosity or malice. Often thought of as snobby or unfriendly, shy folks are just shy, for whatever reason. The reason doesn’t matter, what matters is getting them to come out of that shell in a positive way.
The dungeon master bears the responsibility of making the game enjoyable for as many as possible as much as possible. This includes the shy ones. Your goal is not to pay all the attention to them, ignoring the rest, but to bring them into the fold and get them to join the group and play the game with everyone, including everyone. No one get ignored, no one gets slighted, no one gets more attention than the others. This might seem like an impossible task, but it’s a lot easier than it might seem. Here’s how:
Shy player doesn’t ever interject. So, as the DM, give the shy one glances with “encouraging eyebrows” to see if they want to interject without delaying the game or giving them undue and possibly embarrassing attention, causing them to shrink away even more. If they get the hint and begin to interject more, then the job is done. If this doesn’t work in time, then step it up a notch. If they don’t start talking more, then go to each player and have them comment on the moment. This includes the shy one and doesn’t bring them undue attention. This will help.
Remind everyone that the game is not a competition, that everyone is to support and encourage everyone else, and if there is trolling and griefing being done, that player or players need to be reined in before they ruin the game. Untold games have been ruined by those who only seek to do harm to others. Keeping the game a positive experience is of the utmost importance if you want to keep the game going and that might include the expulsion of unruly players in the most extreme circumstances. With enough encouragement and support, the shy turtles can be brought happily out of their shells and be happier for it.
Dr. Jeff Goins is the Founder and CEO of Dwarven Tavern. He writes lots of tombs, carves articles of stones, and publishes a wealth of knowledge. His latest books include Dwarven Tavern Short Hooks and Quick Start Story Ideas, Growing Up Haunted: The Tollgate, and Life In The Shadows.