So the DM, after reading the previous post, thought the part about how we believed the kids was interesting because he didn’t think it’d be figured out so quickly.
I think it’s an interesting issue for tabletop RPGs and probably for all story-based games. Our group isn’t that good at roleplaying (or maybe I should say, isn’t that experienced). If we were, our characters probably shouldn’t have believed the kids, even though as players we did. The thing is, as players, we come to the world with a lifetime’s worth of meta-knowledge about how stories work. Stories that would work in a book don’t work as well because the player characters do not act like characters in the world would, and can’t be directly controlled.
I think some roleplaying can be engendered by the apparent depth and vibrancy of the world and the characters in it, as Shamus Young has described in his advice posts. I think maybe if Cassandra had screamed and run, trying to find a place to hide, and Billy had frozen with fear and wet his pants when the monsters showed up, it would’ve made them a little more believable as kids. If they were not reacting for a reason, that’s fine but that should have been obvious also for believability (“oddly enough the kids don’t seem to react to all of this”). And when they told us what happened with their toys, maybe it should’ve sounded like a childish excuse that didn’t make much sense.
I’m not saying we wouldn’t have figured it out, or even that definitely we would’ve played our characters as not buying it. But I think things like this might draw some of the more hack-n-slash players into the roleplaying a bit better.
Otherwise the players treat it like a story, and treat every NPC as just a way to talk to the DM, who knows what’s going on. Anything out of an NPC’s mouth is believed or is seen as just another part of the story (or the game quest, as the case may be). (Which story-pattern does it match? Is this guy talking to me the betrayer? The exposition? What are the quest requirements and rewards?) And then it becomes a game about the players vs. the DM, and who gets to drive the story where they want it.
For the players to buy into the world, it needs to be believable, and it needs to pique their curiosity. If it can do that, they might just be more interested in becoming a part of it, rather than just playing it like a game.