I have been playing D&D 5e for the better part of three years now, and normally I have had a blast: everyone is engaged in the game and wanting to play.
In November I started DMing for the first time and I started up LMOP for a group of my close friends. We played through Phandelver, but I would usually have to pull them back from side chatter quite a bit or go find them as they wandered off to go smoke a cigarette or something. Now we have finished and I'm starting to go through Princes of the Apocalypse.
We are three sessions into the game and the party have:
- Had one player waste 2 hours going to three shops to buy a dress, sexually harass the staff, then say he never wanted to buy the dress in the first place.
- Gone to a tavern and decided they wanted to get drunk and go to sleep (with a brief threatening of homicide on a random tavern patron) rather than follow any of the numerous plot hooks I threw at them.
Go to a carnival (made my own plot hook to get them interested rather than the shoddy Mirabar delegation) that gets attacked by cultists and instead of talking to their savior (feathergale knight killed some earth cultists) decide to rob the carnival staff and then question what they are supposed to do next.
All of this has taken approximately 13 hours because they are constantly having side conversations, not paying attention, being disruptive, or walking off to take solo breaks for 10 minutes in the middle of a block of story.
I've never dealt with a group that is like this. It just seems like they don't even want to play the game, however, when I ask them, they insist they wanna keep playing.
How can I get my players to:
- Be more engaged in the game and stop messing around OOC
- Focus on the game rather than treating it like a poor tabletop life simulator
(less important, but still a thing) roleplay more rather than feeling like they are using a joystick to play a roleplaying video game?
Or should I just take the one guy who seems to enjoy being involved in the game to find another group and just scrap the whole thing?