Dungeons & Dragons Online

I’d like to reward my players’ curiousity, but instead I feel like I’m punishing a lack of it

tl;dr: players never search or investigate anything, and are missing out on rewards. I feel like I'm punishing them, but they don't even know it.

Background: I'm a new-ish DM, 7 sessions into running Princes of the Apocalypse (definitely the wrong module for a first time DM), having taken over from our groups old DM who was feeling burned out and wanted to be a player after finishing LMoP. The group are all co-workers & friends. We're also pretty laidback about player behaviour, so long as people aren't completely detached I'm cool with a couple of players who enjoy doing unrelated craft projects while we play. We're also a bit of a pretzels & beer (some people might have something stronger) group, so the tone is fairly loose, with a reasonable (I think) mix of exploration, combat, and social interactions.

I think the party all does a good job of getting into their characters' headspace: some like roleplaying in-person, others prefer just narrating what their PC would say/do, both approaches are perfectly fine by me. However, I also feel like they're committed to roleplaying terminally incurious people. A few of examples spring to mind:

  • on the road they see a flock of carrion birds circling a little way off the road (in the adventure, this marks where the ambush of the Mirabar delegation happened, and the party has been explicitly tasked by the Zhentarim & Emerald Enclave to seek out what happened to them), and the party quickly agreed, and I'm quoting, "not our circus, not our monkeys" and kept moving.

  • while trekking through the Sumber Hills, they came across an abandoned hut, where I had stashed some minor treasures (a handful of GP & a healing potion) along with some clues indicating the inhabitants had been taken by earth cultists. None of this was plot or game critical, so I didn't mind locking it behind a DC10 Perception or Investigation roll, but I had decided beforehand that I wasn't going to just tell them that, I wanted them to ask for it. Nope, there's a hut, we go in, we leave, keep moving. No questions, no searching, no investigation. For something plot-critical, I would not have run it like this, to be clear.

  • I kicked off the campaign in Triboar by adapting the attack from Storm King's Thunder, where two fire giants were killed digging up a massive chunk of adamantine from the ground. The party asked what it was, I told them they wouldn't know what it was for, but one PC recognises the metal as adamantine which is incredibly valuable. Lucky windfall for the town I guess, as the party took that information, were impressed by it, and then just hit the road with no indication that they were going to try & profit off this themselves. In retrospect, I should have had a PC offer to buy it off them, or ask them to take it out of the town to prevent further attacks, or something. This was my second ever session DM'ing, and I was struggling to think on my feet.

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In general, nobody loots bodies of fallen foes, nobody tosses a room for treasure or clues, nobody tries to push an NPC for more info than what they are openly providing. This is becoming an issue, because the party is starting to struggle with funds, and I feel like people might be getting antsy for some nice loot. I am more than happy to provide such loot if they do the work to search for it, but that is consistently not happening. Hence the title: I feel like curiousity would be rewarded, but instead the players don't realise that they're being punished for a lack of curiousity.

This is on the verge of impacting the structure of the campaign too: they know elemental cults are up to something, they know where all the surface outposts are, they know the delegation has gone missing and the members are in active danger. "Cool, looks like we've solved it, what next?" "I dunno, Goldenfields sounds cool, will we go there?". My solution to this will be to have an explicit quest-giver there say "I will pay you money to go and clear out the bad guys in (rolls a d4) Riverguard Keep."

But from the point of view of the players finding loot (and I am happy to run basically Monty Haul to give them cool magic items), I need them to meet me half-way. I've spoken with the group out-of-character before the last session saying "you guys missed out on a pretty big windfall by not taking that adamantine, if you want to get cool stuff and coin in the future, you'll need to be a little more proactive about taking it". But a couple of hours later, everybody is a little buzzed, and they forget to ask, and I forget to suggest it.

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This isn't the biggest problem in the world, obviously. I'm still having a great time, and I'm pretty sure they are too. Partially, I just wanted to vent a little because it feels like a portion of the prep-work I'm putting in always goes to waste. That said, is there anything I could be doing differently to encourage more curiousity in the world around them?


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