1
\$\begingroup\$

As mentioned here, I started running a full blown campaign of The Dark Eye after about 4 or 5 sessions to make characters and learn the basic rules with a low impact preliminary adventure set around Greifenfurt in 1009 BF, before all the debacle of the third Ork invasion. Up to that saturday, I had to fight more with the player with ADS - let's call him Adam - to keep the attention at the table and let me finish my sentences, but he did pull himself together most of the time and warned me when he needed a short timeout from lengthy telling .

On that saturday, one of the players - let's call her Berta - did start with a pretty new behavior she didn't show before: just about every time i was about to tell something about the situations they find themselves in the Battle on the Silkwiesen (an atrocitiy of scipted 15 page scene - more here, abberated there), Berta asked something either trivial or otherwise derailed concentration. Atop that, she breeched the table contract blatantlysee below. Rule questions were not an issiue, as all are pretty new, I do explain the rules regularily on request. Some examples:

  • Berta out of nothing started talking about Pokémon, resulting in a derailment for about 15 minutes until we could return to the game
  • Despite cellphone ban at the table, she did pull hers out to text somebody.
  • When I used "Haufen" - a description for a small group of people (~mob) or pile/heap of items - she started to giggle maniacly, as she thought I was talking about a pile of excrements.
  • For just about every term she didn't know, she asked for an explanation there and then by interrupting. Normally I am very lenient and explain those words on request or try to make them clear out of context, but I dislike very much being interrupted for it. Some of the words she asked to have explained were not that uncommon.
    • The first... couple incursions I did answer the question, then went back to trying to repeat the narrative from where she interrupted me. Later in the evening I got a bit harsher in tone, telling her "In a moment. Let me finish this passage first."
    • She did appologize for this behavior on sunday.
  • About 10 or more times she asked me to repeat something a NPC did say. After the 4th time (or such) I ruled: "If you didn't catch it, your character didn't catch it. Keep your head at the table please."

As noted, this behavior is new for her, before she did wait for her turn to ask, and kept her talking at the table/in the game. I did - in contrast to the sessions before - not repeat the table contract before starting.

Our table contract

  1. Nobody may interrupt another player verbally or demand silence but the GM
  2. No cellphones but for checking time or emergency. Only calls are emergencies.
  3. In case of squickgore, erotic, whatever, make a Timeout-T with the hands, and the player/GM shall stop.

Question

What type of problem player I deal with here and how should I address the issiue?

\$\endgroup\$
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ Asking for explanation on the meaning of some words can avoid incidents as the Dreadful Gazebo. \$\endgroup\$ – Anne Aunyme Nov 6 '17 at 10:13
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Was Berta high? \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Nov 6 '17 at 13:31
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @sevensideddie unless leek soup would have that effect, not that I know. She doesn't smoke at all, and I didn't see her take any meds between noon and 8pm. \$\endgroup\$ – Trish Nov 6 '17 at 15:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ The fact this is listed with a system is fine. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Nov 6 '17 at 16:56
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ 15 pages of exposition? I think that I would have given it to them to read. I have a bit of ADD and I don't think that I could have read it to them let alone listen to it unless you are a really great story teller. \$\endgroup\$ – ShadoCat Nov 8 '17 at 0:02
3
\$\begingroup\$

The problem is less in the player, more in the scene

As you note, she did not display this behavior previously, but started during a long, narrated battle scene. To me it seems she got bored. She sat down with the expectation of doing things and has been sitting without doing anything of importance for 25 minutes or so (which is around the time needed to read 15 pages aloud, it might be more). I'm not disputing that what she did is still rude, but identifying the source will help us resolve it.

Possible courses of action

Option 1.: Tell them beforehand that this will be a long, narrated scene. This will not stop anyone from being bored, but might stop them from trying to change how the game flows or demanding attention and bothering you.

Option 2.: Change how you present the battle. Instead of narrating for 20+ continuous minutes, spread out the information. Tell them only what they can perceive in their close surroundings. Cut out scenery, battle cries in the distance, minor shifts in the tide of battle, etc. If they need to know about something that happened in the battle, give them the information later, e.g. when speaking with another soldier who survived the battle. This will keep the action focused on the players.

Obviously, you could employ both options too.

\$\endgroup\$
  • \$\begingroup\$ if it had been just a 15 page narration interrupted by "Bertha", I could have just read it out, asked her to let me finish the paragraphs and then ask questions. That would have been fine. But she did interrupt the 2-3 paragraphs that interrupted the different scene parts between where the players were expected to act (the reason why I asked the linked question: the fake chances of doing something ticked everybody and me off). Including the interrupts, the players discussing what to do, a few rules explanations and repetitions, looking up spells and other such stuff, this was a 5 hour session. \$\endgroup\$ – Trish Nov 6 '17 at 11:44
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @Trish Then this might be a compound problem with the meaningless choices you bring up in the other question. If you realize that your actions have no results, you may as well not act at all. Solving that one may solve this too. I do not know the module in question to give specific advice about that, though. \$\endgroup\$ – Szega Nov 6 '17 at 13:44
1
\$\begingroup\$

Prior to starting the next session, set aside some time to discuss the session you describe above.

Remind players of the table contract they agreed to. Then ask them, outright, what's going on. Don't make this an attack or accusation or anything that intentionally places them on the defensive. But try to explore what could cause the behavior. And be willing to accept potential criticism without becoming defensive yourself.

Some possibilities that come to mind include:

  1. Boredom. Hopefully this isn't the case. But it is possible your players were bored. Maybe the scripted text wasn't exciting. Maybe they were wanting more combat and less text. (Or more NPC/PC interaction or whatever). If this is the case, you can work with your module to trim down the scripted text and try to bring in more action or more of whatever they want.
  2. Understanding. You mention that they are often interrupting for "what does that mean?" type questions. That can disrupt the flow and bring the entire session to a dead halt. Ideally, this will get better over time. But in the meantime, you might can make some sort of glossary hand-out sheets for each player with terms you think they might forget or not know. For recurring NPCs, either write up a "Cast of Characters" (a list of the named NPCs and maybe a sentence or two about each, or a pic of them if possible, etc.), or ask the players to write up their own cast of characters. If you have them write up their own, be prepared to exercise editorial control and correct any blatant errors they make, should the errors be false PLAYER and not false CHARACTER assumptions.
  3. Non-Game Distractions. This the hardest for you as GM to control. But it is possible the players are struggling with real-world issues that are bleeding over into game time. If these are cropping up, be prepared to serve as a friend more than as a GM -- to the extent you can -- and help them set aside those concerns. Maybe then the game can be a needed, temporary, escape from those concerns rather than something that's distracting them from dealing with whatever is going on.
  4. Play Style. Maybe your adventure is more combat-focused than character development focused (or vice versa). Maybe it is more railroad-ish than they prefer or too sandbox-y for their tastes. There's some Venn Diagram-like overlap here with Boredom, as the "wrong" play style can lead to player dissatisfaction which leads to boredom. (Wrong in this context means subjectively not what the player wants, not wrong objectively or wrong for all players...) But it is possible the adventure isn't the kind of game your players want to play. Worst case is that you have to scrap the pre-written game you have and go off on your own adventure. Best case is you just need to set some long term goals for yourself / the group, and let the players know this story line is setting the stage for those goals. Or maybe you just need to tweak the encounters a little to push the plot in the direction the players want. Or maybe the players don't all want the same things, so you need to include some of multiple styles in each session to encourage their participation.
  5. Off-Topic Time. Maybe it would be useful to provide a 15-minute window at the beginning, middle, or end of the gaming session that is set aside for non-game chatter. Time to discuss other things of interest like Pokemon or the latest sci-fi / fantasy / etc. movie or book or comic. A brief intermission to check phones, get snacks, use the restroom, etc. before diving back in. Set some time for these off-topic discussions, so they have a place within the peer group you're creating, but it isn't killing the game itself.

Or maybe it is something else entirely. But talk to your players. Figure out what they want / need to be more involved and less likely to wander off topic. Try not to attack them for being off-topic. Likely, it isn't their intent to be rude. Also be willing to accept criticism from them, if that's what comes. There is a high probability that they aren't really consciously aware of how much their interruptions are impacting your enjoyment of the game, or how much effort it takes to create and run the game for them.


A tool I've used to help encourage players to keep their focus is the concept of an Adventure Journal. This is a diary / journal written by the players. But it is written as a first-person narrative voiced by their character. So it is 100% in-character and has either zero game stats, or at worst has footnotes that explain the mechanical bits the character is describing non-mechanically.

I've played in groups that do this. It helps players keep up with plot points, NPC names and interactions, and the equipment, events, etc. they've gone through. Writing these can be quite humorous (we had a player who's PC was an illiterate barbarian. So he drew all of his journals as pictures. Using crayons. It was awesome.). It gives you a chance to see if they picked up the clues you left. It gives them a chance to record those clues so they don't get lost. And it helps with character development, since it gives the player a chance to record thoughts rather than just spoken words and deeds.

If you decide to try this, I would suggest providing some kind of XP award as an encouragement. We used a house-rule that said you got 10% of your session's XP for writing a journal entry for that session.

\$\endgroup\$

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.