“Okay, what does that look like?” is a question which has become a constant in my games. I love it as a prompt and I’d only really noticed that I keep asking it recently.
In some RPGs you start to get that thing of, “use whatever skill, just roll something,” but that’s not great. As an example, in Trophy Gold one of my players asked about checking out a statue of Saint Hester for anything untoward. He had ‘Gods’ as a skill, but also ‘Trances’. He originally said whether either of those would do, so I said they would but he’d need to tell me which one and explain what searching the statue looked like as there would be potential narrative consequences. Gods could be knowing how the statues are carved, what the symbols mean and whether anything interesting’s there. Trances would be sitting, meditating and trying to get visions about something out of place.
Games like Blades in the Dark are great for that sort of conversation. As the GM can’t ask for an action roll, it’s up to the players. If they ask for something potentially quite unorthodox you can always ask what their action will look like to sort out the settings for the position and effect. Action rolls are a negotiation in BitD, so the narrative needs ironing out a little just to know where you stand.
Finally there’s the glorious, “What does that look like?” when a player character messes up an enemy. “What does it look like when you destroy this skeleton?” lets the player know they can go hogwild with how to describe what they’ve done.
So if in doubt, ask your players what the thing they’re doing looks like, whether it’s to ascertain better what they’re doing or to add flavour & grounding. I mean, asking players in general is fantastic and should be encouraged, but this in particular has become a mantra for me of late.