EmmahSue (es) wrote in dungeonmasters,

Out of Character Distractions

This is kinda spammy, thus a cut.

Many of my players are at the game first and foremost to socialize, followed closely by gaming itself. They tend to hare off onto conversational tangents in the middle of the session and let themselves get distracted away from what's happening in-game. Unfortunately, I am not a particularly loud person, so my efforts to get attention focused again don't always do the trick.

After speaking with a few of them after the most recent game, we've come up with a few ideas on how to help the group at large. Advice and further suggestions from the community would be appreciated.

1) Placement around the table. I will be moving my seat to a more central location. The pair who need the most help will be... mentored is the best way to put it, by two of the more experienced players. If they have questions, they'll ask their mentor, and hopefully that will cut down on people debating cross-table about whether the warmage should cast lightning bolt or fireball next.

2) One of the players I discussed this with suggested that we find a way help during combat by engaging more than just hearing to get attention. He thinks that if we find some physical object, something palm-sized that can't be lost easily on the table, and use it to mark whose turn it is in the combat round, it will help focus. Kinda like a talking-stick, though with less authoritarian issues built in. Someone shoving something in your face makes you tear attention away from your discussion of the relative merits and flaws of the new d20WOD system -- that's the hope, anyway. If JoeBlow glances up and sees that Jimmy has the Thing, and knows he's two initiatives after Joe, he'll have a better idea of where things are in the round without asking "Whose turn is it again?"

To do no. 2 properly, rules will need to be put in place. No throwing the Thing, for instance. Or, It Must Be Handed To A Player or GM, Not Set Down. Are there any others you can think of?

3) This one is held in reserve -- free speech during combat rounds. I'm told that they talk during combat because it takes so long to get to their turn. I don't really understand it, because when it's not my turn I'm thinking about what I'll do next and trying to keep track of what others are doing, but that's what I'm told. They suggested that if they're allowed to speak In Character freely (rather than only on their turn) during combat, at least the distraction will be in-game rather than Out. I'm hesitant about this one. It makes me twitch, because in the back of my head, I'm annoyed that a round is 3-6 seconds and you're fighting, so there's hardly time for banter. What says you?

- ES
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Re: free speech actions, it's a matter of style, both the GM's (hopefully the players' favored playstyles match his) and the genre's. Superhero games almost seem to require the free speech actions during megabrawls. But if you're trying for a more realistic feel, or more serious game, I can see why the idea doesn't excite you.

Makes sense to try it out though doesn't it? You may not dislike it as much as you think, plus it may actually help the way they think. Just reserve the right to go back later if it turns out to be a worse distraction than the ooc chatter.

I like the Talking Thing rules. Seems like they cant hurt.
I agree.... we don't have many distractions.. but having it easy for everyone to know who's turn it is would be nice... Something to think about.
Um, hello and stuff -- I am new here :)

In my own experience, the OOC can be cut down quite a bit by implementing a Talky Thingy system. The best part is after a while you can actually wean most groups off of it, as it becomes second nature for them. Not that I am condoning conditioning your players like Pavlov's dogs or anything... :)

As far as the in-character chatter goes, I am all for it--within reason. I'd try to discourage the wizard from telling the fighter how to best resolve a tricky issue, even in character, if her character wasn't actually there. Other than that, I generally feel that anything that leads to pure role play and inter-character dynamic can't be a bad thing.

Granted, my group is all older than myself, and consists of my husband, a best friend and her husband, and a cousin and others. They may be a bit more settled than younger groups. I *do* have a plushie four-sided that I threaten them with from time to time tough. :)
I suppose it depends on the players. I know that in my group we have a house rule in what you can say during combat. If I remember it right you can't speak more then 6 words. The problem arose when we felt there was too much "meta gaming" going on and I think that's what you're nervious about. It seems some how "wrong" that the players can discuss a whole strategy that's communicated to everyone in 2 sec.

Honestly, it never bothered me too much. You could find that it really enhances the game. I'd say try it out, atleast having people talk in character keeps them focued on the game.