We as Dungeon Masters put a lot of work into our worlds. We slave away countless hours adding details that the players won’t even see because we think it is fun. And then we let the party into our world and none of them care about the world and feel like there are no stakes. Today I want to talk about how to get your players to care about the world around them, and make them feel like they are not only in the world but also a part of it.
The most important element that the PC’s will ever interact within your worlds are the NPC’s. A setting by itself can be cool, but the people that inhabit it are the lifeblood of any plane and are primarily what the PC’s will be interacting with. In order to make the players care about your world, you need to make them feel like their actions have consequences.
Showing these consequences is simply a matter of having the NPC’s say something about it. When the players kill all of the local rats, have the local barkeep say something about how nice it is not having to deal with vermin all the time. Have people thank the players for saving them. Show the party that they made the world a better place, and they will want to make the world even better.
You can also heighten the tension of a story by showing that the party’s actions, as well-intentioned as they may be, are ultimately bad for the local townsfolk. If the party is going after a local mob boss, you can show how ruthless the boss is by having the mob attack the party even with other innocent people there. They can get hurt and even killed, and you can drive the point home by saying if the party wasn’t going after the mob boss, nothing bad would have happened.
The point I am trying to make here is to have consequences for what the players do, both good and bad. If all of the consequences that the players see are negative, they will start to develop a sense of apathy for the world around them. If all the consequences are positive, the story will lose its dramatic tension. A proper balance will help the party to feel that what they do matters, and hopefully, drive them to do their best.
Give Them a Home
Give the players a place that they can modify as much as they want, and they will love it. In my first campaign the players cleared out an abandoned castle that was full of undead, and after they had killed everything there they surprised me and asked if they could keep it. Considering the previous owner was lying dead at their feet, I said yes and they immediately started asking so many questions such as “how much it would cost to fix?”, “can Mending be used to fix the entire castle?”, and “what is the surrounding area like?” They were so excited about this abandoned building, and once I started letting them make changes to it they become extremely invested in the world.
Giving your players a place to live and make their own is something that they will really appreciate. For many players who are new to Dnd, the idea of taking a location and doing anything they want to it may not even occur to them. Give them the idea that they have complete freedom, and you’ll get them thinking about the game even outside of the session.
After they have had it for a while, you can start to introduce NPC’s and build up the area around them. Once they become attached to it, you can even threaten it a little and send an army into the area that the players feel like they must stop because their home is in danger. Don’t be too aggressive about attacking their home, however, as they may begin to resent you for it.
Showing your players that the actions they take have consequences does wonders for a world. It increases the verisimilitude and makes the players feel empowered about their actions and decisions. Having NPC’s comment on how the world is safer thanks to them, or giving them a great big castle that they can modify however they want makes the players feel awesome and empowered. If you want to get your players attached to your world, make them feel like they can change it. Thank you all for reading, I hope you have a great week and an amazing Tuesday!