May I Have Your Attention Please - Recognizing Not Every Inattentive Player Is The Same


Gamer Life General Discussion


So we've had some issues with players being inattentive in some of our recent games. And while this doesn't make people necessarily bad players, it is an issue that has to be addressed. So I look at why some players are inattentive, because not all players lose focus for the same reasons.

Do you have inattentive players? Players who just lose focus easily? How do you deal with the situation?


I have a player who has focus issues because of ADD. He's perfectly capable of focusing, but can't always control what he's focused on. We've learned to get his attention and give him a very brief summary of what happened when we notice that problem kicked in.

It's also fun when this problem kicks in related to some random campaign detail.


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Good article, well written. I agree that inattentive players are not all the same. There's a category you haven't mentioned though, which I sometimes fall into: someone who is concentrating so hard on taking notes and recording things that he/she misses what has just been said/just happened.


I've sometimes had players turn to their phones during a session when the pace of the game slowed, their turn was taking too long to come around (because another player ahead of them was indecisive or in the restroom), or their character couldn't meaningfully contribute (a low level spellcaster in an encounter against a Caryatid Column for example).

I have yet to find a satisfactory solution. I verbally discourage distractions at the table, but I don't press the issue because I don't want to cause strife, that isn't fun for anyone. However I've generally found the behavior punishes itself. Typically I rule that if a player missed a detail that more than half of the group caught, then so did their character (even if it was a painfully obvious detail). I don't allow players to retcon poor decisions just because they failed to pay attention to the situation.
Players who don't pay attention frequently miss the important details which I include in my descriptions. Such as that the arrow doesn't just break, but magically explodes into fine powder when it strikes the Caryatid Column.
The obvious exception being when class features trigger perception checks against traps and the like.
The less obvious exception is when I speak too softly to be heard, r a player didn't understand how their class feature worked. When this happens, I will repeat the missed information and allow players to retcon their actions if possible.
Such as allowing a swashbuckler to use their parry if they didn't realize they were the character being attacked when I rolled the attack roll (for this reason, amongst others I always roll behind a screen).

Liberty's Edge

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I switched away from a 3x based game, the problem just about disappeared.


I can be captain oblivious. sometimes I to fall into concentrating so hard on one aspect of the game I completely miss something else. I tend to be pretty lenient about the whole thing but sometimes it just gets in your craw as the GM.

As for switching systems I'm glad that worked for you but I don't think its a universal thing. I pay a lot of pathfinder but I also play oWoD, Deadlnads Classic, Fate Dresden, CoC and L5R regularly and I've seen this problem crop up in those games as well. I go to quarterly gaming days where I try and try new systems and I've seen in crop up at tables for games of games I don't play regularly too.


houstonderek wrote:
I switched away from a 3x based game, the problem just about disappeared.

That might work for some groups and play styles. For my group, the World of Darkness games were definitely the worst culprit as far as players not paying attention.


I had a table with two wallflowers. And I tend to dominate the table a bit. So, I read sometimes, in order to stop walking over them.

Scarab Sages

I've been the inattentive player sometimes, and also have experience of other inattentive players at the table.

Like HeHateMe, I take lots of notes during games, which I use to turn the game sessions into campaign journals or blog posts. As a result, sometimes when I'm writing I miss things that the other players are doing.

I also like to post photos of the props or funny quotes from the other players on Facebook, which occasionally leads me to start reading my Facebook newsfeed when I really should be paying attention. #shameface

My husband has a health-related reason for being inattentive. He suffers from sleep apnea, and as a result can fall asleep almost anywhere. He drinks gallons of Mountain Dew and energy drinks before game sessions, but sometimes if his character isn't directly involved in the action and his brain isn't engaged, he will fall asleep. It is not a commentary on his enjoyment of the game, or a sign of laziness on his part. He simply can't help it.


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houstonderek wrote:
I switched away from a 3x based game, the problem just about disappeared.

I hate to nitpick, but it seems to me that if you were really looking to contribute to this this thread (instead of just taking the opportunity to potshot), it might behoove you to give examples of RPGs that make attentiveness more common. Y'know, be constructive, not just deconstructive.

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