"Great game! Wake me when it's my turn." --Advice for a confused GM--


Advice

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Let me throw this out to the community and look for insights.

My friends and I have been gaming for several years, among other activities (movies, card games like Munchkin, a board game or two, etc.). When I run Pathfinder, the players tell me it's a great game and they love it.

EXCEPT... during the actual session, they're all heads-down staring at their phones. Checking email and Twitter, updating Facebook, browsing webcomics, etc. Their heads jerk up only when I directly address one of them by name.

Now, to me, this is a clear indicator that they're bored. If the game actually interested them, they'd be paying attention automatically, without prompting. But when I ask if there's anything they want to see, or what should be changed, I get the same response: "Loving it! Very cool game, can't wait till next session."

Obvious interpretation: they're bored stiff and just being polite to me because I'm a friend. But a couple of them, in private emails, have said

1) they really are enjoying the story, and
2) all the OTHER players have a bad habit of playing with their phones and should really cut it out.

So what's going on here? Am I just dealing with phone addicts? Are my friends being nice to me over a dull-as-dishwater game? They've never been shy about offering criticism or advice for other games....


They like it, but if their characters can't do much then they zone out. As long as you're not having to repeat yourself telling any details then they are paying attention. I doubt that they are bored, as this is something I do as a player, even in games I like.


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Make the gaming table an "electronics free zone" except for potentially looking up rules, etc. Make them bring printed out copies of their character, take notes using pencil and paper, and make sure to roll actual dice.

I have a friend that use to bring a laptop to "take notes" (he was quite good at it), but I banned the laptop because it got in the way of seeing each other. That and there were other laptops creeping in that were definitely not for note-taking-purposes.

This past week, my wife and I marveled how addicted some people are to their phones. We were playing tennis next to a couple of late teen to early 20s guys playing the same. Between points (not even games), one of them would be checking his phone for something. Between games, they would both sit down and look at something on their phones. Crazy.


I agree with Rory. If anybody at the table is a surgeon or has a spouse that will be giving birth soon then it's ok to have a phone on. Under no circumstances should the phone be out at the table.

It can wait.


Our table instituted an "all phones on this pile until the end of the game" rule. It worked pretty well.


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how many people are in your player group
how many animal companions, familiars, NPCs, GMPCs, etc are part of the group
how much turn-based combat are you running on avg, time-wise, per session
how well does your player group interact with each other as people
do they roleplay much, either with NPCs or each other
how are you presenting your table and your NPCS
--maps
--visual aids
--handouts

needs moar informations before any advice can be given

Grand Lodge

I would like some more information about when exactly they are doing this. Is it during combat or during exposition? When talking to NPCs?

If combat turns are taking a long time, then it is understandable (as in more than 2 minutes for someone), if during exposition I would find it very rude and if during talking even more so.

I think you would notice if they didn't pay attention though. The giveaways are generally that they don't know what they want to do on their turn, don't recall key points of information that were frequently repeated etc...


I used to be bothered by it until I realized people were there to play a game and that in games with multiple characters, not everyone needs to be on screen at once.


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Rory wrote:

Make the gaming table an "electronics free zone" except for potentially looking up rules, etc. Make them bring printed out copies of their character, take notes using pencil and paper, and make sure to roll actual dice.

Yep, but also speed up combat. let everyone know not only who is up, but who is next up, and that person has to be ready, with that page open for their spell or the monster they summon, etc.

Cut down on cohorts, summons, etc. No more than two combat ready things per player.


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It's a sign of the times.

Modern entertainment is right at our fingertips all the time. We carry it with us and access it whenever and wherever we are.

RPGs, on the other hand, tend to be slow. The GM is the usual bottleneck - everything that happens must go through him. If you have ONE GM and FIVE players, then each of those five players gets about 20% of the GM's attention which leaves them having little or no interaction for 80% of the time.

Ages ago, we just sat there because we did NOT have constant portable entertainment at our fingertips. We amused ourselves by watching the other players get their 20%. Spectators to their mini game while we waited for our own 20% to come around. To build upon Rory's tennis story with an analogy, imagine playing tennis and after each game, you had to step off the court and let one, two, three, four other pairs of players enter the court and play one game, then you could get back on the court and play one more game, then off the court again for those four other groups to play their games, etc. Doing that would make tennis fairly slow and boring.

Today's RPGers have a solution to the 80% virtual down-time; they provide alternate entertainment in the form of portable electronics. Apparently, this is more entertaining than being spectators.

It's not even entirely their fault; they're suffering from an inherent flaw in the game - the GM bottleneck.

Because it's inherent, it's hard to overcome. There are little tricks, though:

* Giving each uninvolved player something game-related to do during their 80%. I find that since this happens most often with combat, dishing out other combat responsibilities like tracking initiative or moving miniatures can drag people out of the 80% and into more active participation.
* Picking up the pace by insisting that each player be ready on his turn to immediately take his actions or give up his turn really helps. Players who zone out with their phones during the combat and only look at the battle when someone tells them its their turn, end up wasting time by having to figure out where everyone is, what's going on, which monster should they attack, what spell should they cast, etc. But those same players could be making those decisions during the 80% rather than during their own 20% which really speeds up gameplay (reducing the length of time of the 80%) and keeps them engaged for part of that shorter 80% time.
* In non-combat situations I bounce back and forth to every character rapidly. I don't let one guy go off and spend 20 minutes roleplaying with an NPC while everyone else is whipping out cell phones. That guy can have his RP, but usually only for a minute or two before I say "Hold that thought" and bounce to the next player. Rotating quickly keeps everyone on their toes and focused.

In the end, we're all fighting the system here. But small victories add up.

And ultimately the best solution I've found is to just ask everyone to set aside their electronics and participate more.


This happens at our games all the time. One player plays WoW or Star Wars the entire night while we are gaming. I occasionally find my mind begins to wander and I find it helpful to play solitaire to refocus (it's weird, I think I've trained myself to be unable to focus on one thing at a time when I used to chat online, read comics, watch Netflix and play video games all at the same time... ah, college!).

Personally, I never mean it as an insult and I do enjoy the game, but I can see how it might not come across that way.

All I can say is it's easy to get distracted and caught up into something and not notice it but notice that someone else is doing the same thing.

I don't agree, however, that the table should be an electronics-free zone. Not having laptops out is one thing (I agree that they can take up valuable table space), but phones can be necessary even if you don't have a spouse about to give birth. I have two kids and my wife sometimes needs to get a hold of me. I can't tell her "I'm gaming, don't bug me." when she needs me.

But to each his own.

Sczarni

Calybos1 wrote:
Am I just dealing with phone addicts? Are my friends being nice to me over a dull-as-dishwater game? They've never been shy about offering criticism or advice for other games....

They're just addicted to their phones. The addiction of that "social" connection is pretty bad, especially since the smart phone came along. My girlfriend is constantly on that f***ing thing, even during movies and shows SHE LOVES. She'll whine and whine about making me watch one of "her movies" or shows with her, she is on her phone on pinterest the entire time, then I get to call her out repeatedly until she puts it the f*** down.

Bump up your GMing experience. Grab a projector, wire it up nicely in a room from the ceiling or top of one wall, angle it down so it displays on a table(may need some sort of white poster/board with sticky things), load up Roll20, make things more interactive and include fog of war! Music wouldn't hurt either.

It's a hell of a good time and much prettier.

It would also possibly help, to remove electronics from the table. The problem these days is that there are far too many distractions. Make them "suffer" with pencil/paper only :) It feels good that way. Be careful with removing electronics though, as they'll obviously know why you did it. If someone asks, just say you feel the crew is too distracted and it's quite tedious of you to have to remind everyone every round to "wake up!".

Edit: Also, they're not just playing a game, they're spending time with you and bonding in a unique way. It's technically disrespectful to just whip out a phone and goof around on it while someone else is trying to bond.

Human beings could use a break from being that actively social, or just actively scouring the internet for stupid s#%~. It'd be healthy to boot.

Grand Lodge

To be honest, I haven't encountered this that often (at least that I've noticed).

In rounds I play, generally people comment on others actions, remind about active modifiers, suggest tactical alternatives and such... maybe if you get one or two of your players to do that during others turns the others will follow?


I would add to some of the above points that it is worthwhile to examine if their behavior is affecting your enjoyment of the game. If you feel like it is you need to have an honest conversation with them. Tell them how you feel and see what they say. Since you are friends I think this is better than a authoritative "no phones" GM rule.


If everybody is looking at their phones at least they aren't delaying the game with hour long discussions of TV shows.

If you can get your players to roleplay the interactions between their PCs that should liven up the table a bit. If they're not that into roleplaying in character you could at least try to get them commenting on each other's actions (and perhaps even offering possibly unwanted tactical advice)

There's also a chance that making the encounters a little more dangerous would cause people to engage and "stay on their toes" a little more.


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DM_Blake wrote:
some great stuff

I wish I could favorite this twice.

These days, you may not even be playing in person, thanks to sites like roll20. Would you penalize a player for checking their phone even when you cannot see them? Why does that matter?

My players use digital character sheets on their phones, along with pdfs of the rules they need to play. I'm not about to turn back the clock 10 years and say they need to use paper and pencil only along with the 20 pounds of books a long time character might need for various rules.


DM_Blake wrote:
If you have ONE GM and FIVE players, then each of those five players gets about 20% of the GM's attention which leaves them having little or no interaction for 80% of the time.

Well, they can interact with each other. Giving advice, commenting the events, discussing tactics... Works well in my first Pathfinder group, but most of the players are of age 45+ and don't even consider putting their phones etc. on desk. For 'generation smartphone' it might be necessary to introduce a 'no electronics' rule though.

I guess over the years this generation will learn to value their offline times - already saw a few signs for that. Being online all the time is stress, after all, and in times where you are forced to be offline you learn to embrace the positive aspects of it.


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haremlord wrote:
I don't agree, however, that the table should be an electronics-free zone. Not having laptops out is one thing (I agree that they can take up valuable table space), but phones can be necessary even if you don't have a spouse about to give birth. I have two kids and my wife sometimes needs to get a hold of me. I can't tell her "I'm gaming, don't bug me." when she needs me.
Thanis Kartaleon wrote:
My players use digital character sheets on their phones, along with pdfs of the rules they need to play. I'm not about to turn back the clock 10 years and say they need to use paper and pencil only along with the 20 pounds of books a long time character might need for various rules.

I would not suggest banning the phones from the room, or making players turn them off. And I definitely don't mind electronic game aids like character sheets or digital copies of the rule books (I always emphasize buying official .pdf copies to pay the developers for their time and effort).

When I mentioned "set aside the electronics and participate more", I wasn't referring to game-related uses nor suggesting players should be unreachable during games. I was just referring to the distracting uses like playing video games or facebooking or general texting. I mostly assume the others who have suggested reducing the electronic presence were more or less on that same page too, except the one who also mentioned requiring printed character sheets instead of allowing electronic sheets.


DM_Blake wrote:
I mostly assume the others who have suggested reducing the electronic presence were more or less on that same page too, except the one who also mentioned requiring printed character sheets instead of allowing electronic sheets.

I'm on that same page too.

I suggested the printed character sheets specifically due to the OP's players showing notable addiction signs to the electronics. Remove the temptation completely as it were.


DM_Blake wrote:
haremlord wrote:
I don't agree, however, that the table should be an electronics-free zone. Not having laptops out is one thing (I agree that they can take up valuable table space), but phones can be necessary even if you don't have a spouse about to give birth. I have two kids and my wife sometimes needs to get a hold of me. I can't tell her "I'm gaming, don't bug me." when she needs me.
Thanis Kartaleon wrote:
My players use digital character sheets on their phones, along with pdfs of the rules they need to play. I'm not about to turn back the clock 10 years and say they need to use paper and pencil only along with the 20 pounds of books a long time character might need for various rules.

I would not suggest banning the phones from the room, or making players turn them off. And I definitely don't mind electronic game aids like character sheets or digital copies of the rule books (I always emphasize buying official .pdf copies to pay the developers for their time and effort).

When I mentioned "set aside the electronics and participate more", I wasn't referring to game-related uses nor suggesting players should be unreachable during games. I was just referring to the distracting uses like playing video games or facebooking or general texting. I mostly assume the others who have suggested reducing the electronic presence were more or less on that same page too, except the one who also mentioned requiring printed character sheets instead of allowing electronic sheets.

I use digital sheets too. I get a lot of enjoyment out of programming excel (or more recently Google Sheets) to update things for me. Especially when I am playing a character that could potentially slow down gameplay due to decisions made in combat (my current gestalt Skald-Master Summoner comes to mind...). It's amazingly helpful to have the stats of all of the potential monsters I can summon and, with a check in the right box, see what happens to them when they are under the effects of my raging song. But I realize that's more for me and I _can_ have paper sheets (A LOT OF PAPER) at the table to play.

At the last game, I used the Google Sheets app on my phone for my character, and pulled out the laptop when I really needed to (and then put it away), just so I wouldn't take up the space. But before my laptop would always be on the table (along with almost everyone else's) and it did end up looking crazy. To be fair, however, it just mainly took away space for food since we have a big enough table to have the map and dice on even with laptops.

Sovereign Court

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Other peoples addiction is pretty much why I do not have a cell phone smart or otherwise. I find not giving the people I'm with my full attention to be extremely rude. Though modern mores make it A-ok for folks to be on their phones everywhere and at all times, so this is sadly now a thing.

My group typically uses tablets for rules lookup and digital char-sheets. Everyone gets quite into the game. Sure we have moments where one person has the spotlight, but I never felt 80% downtime. Perhaps its because we are older (30's and 50's) and don't relate as well to millennials that we dont experience phone-out at the table. I'm not sure how one goes about combating it.


The other thing you can do is put a timer on combat rounds. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 30-60 seconds is reasonable for each turn. If a player can't finish their move during their allotted time they either end their turn right then or get delayed until after the next person in the initiative order.

This will introduce some consequences for dilly-dallying which has two knock on effects: less down time in which to get bored and motivation to use your down time effectively. If the mere threat isn't enough to get people to pick up the pace you can get a digital chess clock for 30 or 40 bucks.


Pan wrote:
I'm not sure how one goes about combating it.

To ask university lecturers I've spoken to dealing with it in recent years? Change medium. Simply talking at people who are constantly bombarded with information they have to sift through means a complete sudden shift of tack when GM'ing styles demand honing in on, and logging, every detail.

Brains are annoyingly plastic. If something is your normal experience, it will literally physically wire up to work optimised to that experience.
Now, I'm not saying the OP should get a screen and play by firing clickbait at their players (that'd be silly) but visual references, particularly visual references they've had to contribute to (because drawing a whole map yourself isn't fun, and fortunately not the best way anyway) the presentation of is going to provide something more normative to the "smartphone generation".

Also: DM_Blake's point about speeding up combat up-thread helps. Every large game I've ever known be run required a rule like "declare your actions this round in 6 seconds or less, or do nothing". It's also not an absolutely awful method for smaller games. Pushing on a harder pace.
Out of combat? If someone is giving a monologue that manages to be entertaining, let it roll. But that's not that common, and really - why would an NPC let an absolute bore hold their soapbox for several minutes? People generally try to find any polite means of stopping that in real life, so it's perfect verisimilitude to turn to the next party member. :P


He hasn't said when people aren't paying attention. For all we know it's the non-combat where people are zoning, with each person doing some solo thing. Like we have no more details of the issue.


Yeah, just tell them to put away their phones. They really don't need them at all time.
I remember this being a problem in high-school, "students" never putting down their phones in class. Some of them seemed to think that they need to be available to the world at all time.
"Because what if something happens and I need to know?". In most cases, they really don't need to know right away, maybe not at all. Unless you're a person with responsibility (aka you have kids that you're responsible for) you really don't. What is so important to be notified about asap enough so that you can't EVER lay down your phone and have a moment in peace?
What if someone dies? Well... why would they call ME of all people? I can't do anything about that. They probably should call someone else and not me. And I'll probably get notified later about said person's death, so I'm not really missing anything.
Point is: your RPG time is more important than others' lives... wait...


Chess Pwn wrote:
He hasn't said when people aren't paying attention. For all we know it's the non-combat where people are zoning, with each person doing some solo thing. Like we have no more details of the issue.

This is true. But without that information, it seems valid to just fire at a dartboard for anything that might be useful against short attention span players.

Out of combat, all I can think to say is you never split the party. At that point, every interaction has the potential to drag in every player when you need to.

Rub-Eta wrote:
Point is: your RPG time is more important than others' lives... wait...

Wait for what? Sounds perfectly sensible. Joking aside: Beyond major personal news (in which case, who texts/emails you that? Wait for it to ring or something), it subjectively probably won't be that important. Subjectively - I feel a need to stress that.


I usually ask people to pay attention, dating back before smart phones existed and up to today. We've had players that wanted to vanish to play pool when we played at the rec center or go into another room to play Playstation when someone else was doing things at the table.

While I can understand the allure of the little electronic screen, I don't excuse it. I'm not in the habit of calling someone's name repeatedly to get their attention for their turn; if you are that focused on whatever it is you are doing, you aren't "here" with us. I'll readily skip your turn and have you take only defensive actions if you are that busy.

I prefer, especially in combat, for people to be in the here and now and paying attention. I don't want to have to explain where and what everyone is and what they are doing to each person at the table every time it is their turn. That's tedious and disrespectful to those that ARE paying attention.

And yes, there are special circumstances -- I'm not a monster. Doing homework or working from home for your job and have to dedicate attention to that? Tell me. Your wife is having a baby? A family member is undergoing surgery? Tell me. But trolling facebook or looking up cat videos or whatever other idle pursuit that you're doing shouldn't require so much of your attention that you cannot multi-task and pay attention to the game at hand.

Before smart phones were a thing and it was just cell phones, we've asked people to leave during games and even during social events or get togethers. No one in the room was interested in looking at the top of your head or hearing half a conversation while you ignore other people in the room. If it is that pressing, maybe you should be elsewhere.


I'm running a homebrew for 7 young adult players, and I was worried about this at first too. After the first game, I wasn't sure the game would last. Players constantly check out mentally, socialize, or play with their phones. But they say they enjoy it, and they keep coming back. They're currently at 12th level, and when I said I had a rough outline taking them to 20th, everyone seemed excited to see where it goes.

I agree with a lot of the suggestions above on efficiency in combat and decision making. I accidentally allowed a really tough problem / combat take up an entire 4 hour session (for example) when I should have dropped clues (they didn't need to defeat the 4 mythic fire elementals, there were ways around them).

I keep combat moving as quickly as possible. I find it especially helps to declare the two people who are up, and who is up on deck. I don't mind if they roll their attack rolls in advance (they've been honest to a fault).


Fair point on needing the timing of the zone-outs. Here's a rundown:

Player A: Jumps on her phone during every combat until it's her turn. Usually has to be prompted by her boyfriend, who then suggests an action to her because she has no idea what's going on. (He also helps her figure out which die to roll and how to calculate damage. Every round.) Is happy to roleplay, solve puzzles, talk with NPCs, etc.

Player B: Has his phone glued to his hand and switches to it whenever the spotlight shifts away from him for at least ten seconds, in combat or out. Any scene where another character is getting some face-time is his cue to wander off to Netland--sometimes to look up rules or spell ideas for his caster, but just as often to look for YouTube favorites.

Player C: Sincerely tries to pay attention, but has his phone set to auto-chirp, beep, and tweet every time any of his dozens of friends posts anything, anywhere (i.e., randomly). He must always check it because "it might be important." Conveniently, at least one or two of his dozens of friends is always facing a crisis....


I understand the problem I know the problem but as a GM you can't do anything about it.

A anti - Electronica - field gaming table that is a big No no.
We are not living in the 80's anymore. On the other hand the focus of the evening must be the game not some message of you girlfriend on Facebook (Gaming night is Holy even for outsiders, but it takes time for them to understand :) )

I was wandering why can't you not use those (smart)phones to send them some personal text messages of some pictures etc during the game. Writing notes for persenal information is the same.

And maby i've it really find it annoying (because as GM you also like to get the some attention during the gamesession) You can alway's introduce a pause in the game so that they can check there status combining that with some ones smoking break and you have higher focus on the game.

Also (I was once as a theacher) it's only human to have somekind of parabool like form of attention (even to the best game on earth) for 1 hour you must take 30 to 45 minutes of full attention in a class room enviroment. So during game night.

To make a long story short. Talk to your players about it.


Player A: I think the points on rushing combat above may help.

Player B: Other than calling them out on it (passive-aggressively having NPCs asked them pointed questions is a fun way). Honestly, I know of, and can fathom no method to grab a player like this out of their behaviour other than just asking them to stop everytime they do it.

Player C: I'd recommend just talking to them about it. As other people have put above, the reality is that there's little sitting on a phone can do. So to claim: If a facebook/twitter post can make someone's problems OK; they really were never a problem of any real scope. More harshly: Tell them to either leave their drama at the door or stop coming.


In addition to what has already been stated, character design can have a huge impact.

The fact that many characters can't do anything except when it is their turn is why reactive abilities are so crucial to good game design.

Swashbuckler's Parry, Bodyguard, Snake Style, Draw Fire, and other similar abilities make people have to pay attention when it isn't their turn.

Just rule that if a player misses an opportunity to use one of their reactive abilities, so does the character. Do it like Cribbage. You only get the points if you count them up yourself.

Encourage players who are prone to boredom to make characters that require them to stay engaged. Something as simple as Combat Reflexes and a Reach weapon will go a long way towards getting someone to pay attention.

Another good way of drawing bored players back in is to give them control over a non-PC party member, like a Cohort or NPC, or another players summoned monsters, animal companion or familiar. Then they effectively get to go twice a round, and they have to engage with the character who is the creature's master.


I personally wouldn't mind if my players acted like yours.

At least they are being quiet.

Mine will be surfing Youtube and showing stuff to others DURING combat.

Actually, it's just one guy.

But still... damn annoying.


In a lot of games there's a convention of, "You have to decide what your character does in combat, discussing it is cheating."
Maybe this is a bad thing? If everyone debated what everyone else should do, it might help maintain concentration on the game.


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Matthew Downie wrote:

In a lot of games there's a convention of, "You have to decide what your character does in combat, discussing it is cheating."

Maybe this is a bad thing? If everyone debated what everyone else should do, it might help maintain concentration on the game.

I've always hated that mindset.

First off, how are inexperienced players supposed to learn how to best use their options if they can't ask for help or get advice?

Second, players are not their characters. The character is having to decide what to do in a split second. The player is not. Any player should be allowed to take a little time to make sure their character is doing something useful.

I'm all for snappy gameplay, but putting players under needless pressure just to try to speed things up just smacks of a toxic "GM vs. players" play style.


Matthew Downie wrote:

In a lot of games there's a convention of, "You have to decide what your character does in combat, discussing it is cheating."

Maybe this is a bad thing? If everyone debated what everyone else should do, it might help maintain concentration on the game.

I actively encourage my players to discuss tactics with each other mid-combat.

It increases immersion in the game, and makes sense (higher level characters SHOULD be better in combat, this is part of that power increase).


alexd1976 wrote:
Mine will be surfing Youtube and showing stuff to others DURING combat.

Have you ever tried simply turning off the internet, sitting down with your players, and hitting them?

Doomed Hero wrote:
I'm all for snappy gameplay, but putting players under needless pressure just to try to speed things up just smacks of a toxic "GM vs. players" play style.

Honestly, while I share your reservations about forcing such a move on new players (and non-communication seems a bit far): There is an element in which one can ratchet up the challenge for players because they find it fun. If it promotes engagement (making it more fun for the GM) without adversely effecting the players' fun - then why not do it?


Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path Subscriber
alexd1976 wrote:
Mine will be surfing Youtube and showing stuff to others DURING combat.

That'd be my one pet peeve. When one player distracts the rest. I've got a large group (6 players), and many times the only one paying any attention is the one person whose turn it is. As soon as they're done, they jump into the YouTube fray and I have to try to extract the next player.

Problem is I get it... this is the one social outing every two weeks for many of these guys. They don't see each other except game night, and they've got two weeks of steam to blow off. But sigh.


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Damn nerds! *shakes fist while looking in mirror*

Funny thing is, this player is OBSESSED with the game, he is constantly texting about this rule or that, asking advice on what to do when he levels...

He just seems to like the books more than the people.

Ah well.


There's also the possibility that someone using a phone during combat is looking up an enemy monster to work out which spells will be most effective against it...


Matthew Downie wrote:
There's also the possibility that someone using a phone during combat is looking up an enemy monster to work out which spells will be most effective against it...

Yeah, I stopped caring about that a long time ago.

Sometimes I just change stats and don't tell them unless they roll the appropriate knowledge check.

You know, that kind of troll where electricity affects it's regeneration?

Yeah... must be new. ;)


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There's also just the basic courtesy point. I guess this marks me out as an old man but when I'm hanging out with my friends the point of the evening is to hang out with my friends. I can surf the web on my own time. It's rude to do it when I have somebody there in front of me IRL trying to talk. Being in a structured game type environment just magnifies things.


Try using a program that will roll initiative order for each round. We have found that doing this holds player attention as the order changes from one round to the next. Players have to be ready at a moment's notice!

Keep things moving. Pacing is very important.

If people are not paying attention, be dynamic with the obstacles. You might feel silly at first, but try using some funny accents for the bad guys/npcs. Go over the top, and vary your performance - whispering at one moment, shouting and pounding the table for emphasis the next (all in game of course!). Get out of your chair from time to time to move around a bit and raise energy level in the room. Call out threats from monsters to the PCs to increase tension. Ask the PC's questions and expect in-character responses.

Make sure that you are prepared so that you don't have to have your head down during the game either. Make quick rulings rather than search rule books. Try to stay in character rather than just being a narrator. Start on time and end on time. In general, model the behaviour that you want to see.

If after all of this, people are still glued to their distraction of choice, get someone else to run a quick adventure. During your time as a player, show the rest of the group the amount of engagement you expect.

Banning all electronics is not practical in our group as nearly all of our group is using HeroLab to manage their characters.

I remind myself that I can only expect my players to match the excitement that I bring to the game. So I try to keep my level of enthusiasm very high.


Pappy wrote:

Try using a program that will roll initiative order for each round. We have found that doing this holds player attention as the order changes from one round to the next. Players have to be ready at a moment's notice!

Keep things moving. Pacing is very important.

If people are not paying attention, be dynamic with the obstacles. You might feel silly at first, but try using some funny accents for the bad guys/npcs. Go over the top, and vary your performance - whispering at one moment, shouting and pounding the table for emphasis the next (all in game of course!). Get out of your chair from time to time to move around a bit and raise energy level in the room. Call out threats from monsters to the PCs to increase tension. Ask the PC's questions and expect in-character responses.

Make sure that you are prepared so that you don't have to have your head down during the game either. Make quick rulings rather than search rule books. Try to stay in character rather than just being a narrator. Start on time and end on time. In general, model the behaviour that you want to see.

If after all of this, people are still glued to their distraction of choice, get someone else to run a quick adventure. During your time as a player, show the rest of the group the amount of engagement you expect.

Banning all electronics is not practical in our group as nearly all of our group is using HeroLab to manage their characters.

I remind myself that I can only expect my players to match the excitement that I bring to the game. So I try to keep my level of enthusiasm very high.

Two questions:

Do you live in Ontario?

If so, do you have a spot open in your game?

:D


You have me correctly pegged as a Canuck, but I'm in BC.

Otherwise, you would be welcome to come check out our group!


It could be a difference in game style. I've played with people who went on "smoke break" after every combat and didn't return until "roll for initiative". Their characters often didn't have names (or any other indentifying characteristics) and were "retired" in one way or another after about 5 sessions so the player could try something else. There is nothing wrong with that style of play, it just wasn't for me.


Back when I smoked I felt that outdoor smoke breaks were a great idea, especially since most people wouldn't have wanted me smoking in their house or forcing them to inhale second hand smoke.

Recently during a game played at another player's house his nephew's girlfriend came down to hang out and observe the game for a little while and started blowing huge clouds of "vapor" which spread over the combat mat like a vanilla scented obscuring mist. It was kind of weird since smoking indoors has long been considered pretty rude. I'm not sure if the same etiquette applies to vaping or if I've just become an old curmudgeon.


I think that it is fine to have some players in a group be all about the action, while others like the acting/roleplay most.

Where it breaks down is when the one group refuses to participate in part of the game that is not their favourite aspect. If the action people leave the table as soon as dialogue with an NPC begins, that is insulting to the acting camp.

When different play styles can't coexist respectfully, it may be better to split the group into two (or more) and enjoy two groups completely dedicated to what the players and GM enjoy most.

Our group is full of mature gamers who are happy to let each other enjoy the game in their own way. I'm boasting about them again, but hey, they are awesome people and I can't help it.

Where things get really interesting is when the biggest action player says to me how much fun he had in a acting heavy session. Success! Players can and do change their game style preference. I think that a lot of this falls on the GM. When you are GM it is up to you to create opportunities for everyone (yourself included) to get maximum enjoyment from the game. It is a big responsibility, but worth it.


Sometimes, this can actually be quite all right.

I have one game that's basically the nine of us meeting weekly to goof off, sit around looking at the internet and rules and stuff, talk about whatever we want to, see if we can tweak out our character builds, and maybe smack some storm-troopers around once in a while. Also, we end up digging holes or getting stuck places with surprising regularity given that it's a star wars game. The DM is pretty laid back, and it's wound up as something we nick-name Star Wars 40K. This is a fun game, wouldn't change it for the world.

Then there's another, smaller group where we meet about once a month (if we're that lucky) where we totally get into the characters and the story. This is also a fun game, and it's a marvel to watch the growth of the thing.

Your players might be assuming that it's the first kind of game they're playing. They might not even want to 'get into character' and that might be okay.

Or maybe not. I don't know if this perspective will be helpful at all actually. That said, if it's bugging you, maybe take a break from GMing a little, let someone else pick up the reins for a while?


Two things.

DM_Blake wrote:

It's a sign of the times....<stuff>

It's not even entirely their fault; they're suffering from an inherent flaw in the game - the GM bottleneck.

Because it's inherent, it's hard to overcome. There are little tricks, though:

* Giving each uninvolved player something game-related to do during their 80%. I find that since this happens most often with combat, dishing out other combat responsibilities like tracking initiative or moving miniatures can drag people out of the 80% and into more active participation.
* Picking up the pace by insisting that each player be ready on his turn to immediately take his actions or give up his turn really helps...<snip>
* In non-combat situations I bounce back and forth to every character rapidly. I don't let one guy go off and spend 20 minutes roleplaying with an NPC while everyone else is whipping out cell phones...<snip>

In the end, we're all fighting the system here. But small victories add up.

And ultimately the best solution I've found is to just ask everyone to set aside their electronics and participate more.

Good ideas but I upended the initiative system based on my experiences as a player at my first game. When I GM combat rounds are run by in-game seconds with each PC getting some reaction each second. Even if it's only a 5'-step.

This mode of play mimics all your suggestions and allows players to divine NPC/BBEG/Minion intentions before their actions are complete (the reverse is also true) and that makes combat hold everyone's attention equally for the duration. YMMV :)

alexd1976 wrote:

I actively encourage my players to discuss tactics with each other mid-combat.

It increases immersion in the game, and makes sense (higher level characters SHOULD be better in combat, this is part of that power increase).

It just makes sense in general. I let my players "meta-game" actions all the time. The PCs are living the game world and understand things intuitively that we the players call "rules". So even at 1st level PCs are going to be better served by allowing the players to hash rules prior to actions being announced.

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