We recently got a new party member, and she is ... well, extremely distracting if you catch my drift. As the DM it is frustrating, because all the guys are trying to flirt with her, and shower her with items in game. The whole thing is quickly becoming a mess. (One even attempted to grope her, In the game and real life, an issue being addressed in a separate question) Seriously, I have no freaking idea what to say to the guys, and how to do it, the whole thing just seems so ... awkward. Not only that, but I too have found myself attracted to her. How do I get my own, and my group's hormones to be put away so we can play the game and have fun; which is what I’m sure she is trying to do also. We are a bunch of 8th and 9th graders and we are all friends.

Can someone help me?

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    But first User92466 must clarify: is the girl doing anything to deserve the attention of the boys, or are they just fawning over like a bunch of smurfs over a disinterested smurfette? – Mindwin May 14 at 13:43
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    Per Good Subjective, Bad Subjective, good answers to this question should be based on personal experience: your own or someone else's that you can reference. In recommending a solution you should be able to demonstrate how that solution has worked out in actual practice to resolve comparable problems. In other words, the best answers to this question will be based on someone's personal experience resolving (or at least managing) similar situations with a teenage gaming group. – doppelgreener May 14 at 14:59
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    Can you help give a couple more examples of (or more details about) the issues arising because of this flirting dynamic that you want to prevent? Also, can you confirm whether the girl involved seems to appreciate/reciprocate the flirting or is she uncomfortable with it? – Rubiksmoose May 14 at 15:20
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    A bit more precision on the exact problem would not go amiss, "becoming a mess" is a bit unclear. Are specific people feeling uncomfortable? Is the story/game not progressing? Perhaps you are anticipating a problem that might come up? – ArtaSoral May 14 at 16:10
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    Do not answer in comments. Several comment answers have been deleted. – mxyzplk May 15 at 11:35
up vote 10 down vote accepted

I want to second Longspeak's answer of just play the game. The bigger deal you make of it the bigger deal it will become. You will all get used to it over time. The exception of course is the player who assaulted the young woman, but that is being discussed in the other question. That behavior cannot stand.

I also want to add that you should probably try to minimize the role of sex in the game. If having a pretty young woman in the group is enough to derail play, describing sexual encounters in detail will cause a mess. Teens playing DnD will frequently use it as an opportunity to talk about sex and flirt without it being "real". When I was young, this was a common cause of in game distractions that led to out of game tension. Then I started playing with a GM who didn't stop us from including sex in the game, but kept it very dry. Example:

Player: "I start going around bars looking for a prostitute."

GM: "Ok, do you go to the nice part of town or the sketchy part of town?"

Player: "The sketchy part"

GM: "That will be 5sp, make a fort save."

Player: "I got a 9"

GM: "You got oral herpes. You take -2 to charisma for 3 days each month. What's everyone else doing?"

By keeping it super dry and boring (and with potential consequences) people didn't really want to engage in it as much, and that helped keep focus on the game. Make it like shopping or traveling between locations, it is part of the game, but it isn't super fun so most of the time you just announce that it happened an move on.

  • I think this is meant for another question? – goodguy5 May 15 at 17:32
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    @goodguy5 No, I meant it for this question. The "main part" of the answer (Just play the game and treat her like a normal person) was covered pretty well and I didn't want to repeat it. Having once been a teen playing DnD, my experience has been that if the group gets distracted by simply having a female there, having sex be part of the game will make it worse. Downplaying the role of sex can reduce the distraction caused by the sexual tension. – Barker May 15 at 17:56

[Note: When I wrote this answer, the detail about attempted sexual assault was not part of the question. If the mods allow, I'd like this answer to stand as is with the caveat that my answer below ignores that detail. However, my answer to the separate question addresses that detail.]

I have experienced a similar problem to yours (though it is far in my past). I have what may be a helpful answer, or least some perspective from someone who survived it.

My primary advice: Just play. After a certain amount of time together, the novelty will wear off. As you spend time with her, you'll get to know her better and she'll get to know you better. Many of the problems will resolve themselves as you forge these ties. The undue attention will generally ease off, and the group should settle down to enjoy the game together.

A couple of things to remember:

  1. She is a person first. Treat her like one.
  2. She's there to play, so play.
  3. You're aware of the effect she has on you; do what you can to minimize that effect:
    • Offer her respect and attention equal to that which you offer other players.
    • Offer her no more and no less advantage or favor than other players during games.
    • For example, don't fudge die rolls in her favor (at least, not any more than you might for other players). But don't fudge them against her, either.
    • Don't give her special loot no-one else has access to, but don't take away her share.
    • Don't give her easier challenges. Don't make them harder, either.
    • Don't give her more or less time in the spotlight than others.
    • In short, remember number 1 above, and treat her like a person, not a girl.

Finally, regarding your other players, you can't control their hormones, but you can lead by example. Demonstrate respect, and others will usually get the idea.

If the behavior persists or escalates, especially if it persists in specific people, other steps or considerations may be necessary. But start with this, and just try to have fun.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – mxyzplk May 15 at 23:44
  • Mods be cool with this editorial choice. :) (Mostly we don’t get involved with composition choices like that, no worries.) – SevenSidedDie May 19 at 6:10

There are two core concerns here

One is easier to deal with than the other.

How do I get my own, and my groups hormones to be put away?

(We are a bunch of 8th and 9th graders).

You can't. You are normal people reacting normally to a social situation that you are in. What you can do is try to lessen its influence on the game's flow.

Can someone help me?

Yes. Before the next session starts, you need to have a discussion with your friends about the need to focus on the game during game play.

  • A word about role playing games. Role playing games are by their nature social situations that involve social behaviors. As a DM, a large part of your role is facilitating everyone's fun as well as your own.
  • Your frustration with trying to keep a game moving while the social distractions are ongoing is shared by a lot of DMs for a lot of reasons regardless of age group. The social distractions can only be influenced, not controlled. Your positional authority as the DM, to get people to do things, is practically limited by how much your players accept that role's authority. Pushing too hard can cost you players and be un-fun for everyone. (You want to avoid that).

Set some basic expectations

What you can do and what you should do is have a discussion with everyone about Spotlight Sharing before your next game session. Regardless of your new player getting a lot of the Spotlight from her fellow players, make sure that you are understood: everyone gets a turn in the Spotlight. Taking turns is how that's done. Since part of your problem is the game being disrupted, three points to bring up are ...

  1. Be ready to take your turn when it's your turn. This may sound obvious, but it is what keeps the game moving.
    Get the whole group to agree on a time limit for each player's turn: 15, 30, 60 seconds, two minutes ... whatever. Then hold them to it. If need be, use a one minute egg timer, or the timer function on your (the DM's) cell phone or watch.

  2. When someone else has a turn, pay attention to them. Each player's turn means, in the theatrical sense, that the Spotlight is on them. Get their verbal agreement that whoever's turn it is has the floor.
    Listen, pay attention to who ever is taking their turn, be it in combat or out. If need be, write that on a card and hold it up now and again as a reminder. (Yes, I've done that before as a DM).

    1. Special in-combat rule: If you don't take your turn in time, you 'dodge' and otherwise lose your turn.

DM-only points for your consideration:

  1. Leave the item gifting alone. It will take care of itself in time, and it isn't a problem from the DM to solve. Interactions between the players like giving each other various imaginary items isn't where the DM needs to have a role when your players are your peers. Being heavy handed as a DM is a buzz kill, and often (at any age group) gets a strong push back from players.

  2. If things get carried away in terms of losing the focus on the game, then as DM you ask clearly "So, what do you do now?" directly to one of the players (or the whole group) to get the attention directed back at the game.

What does that all have to do with your social problem?

That problem (boys and girls being attracted to each other) isn't "solvable" ... but if you get all of the players to agree to the basic premise of keeping the game flow going, then the social distraction's impact on the game will be reduced. You being attracted to her means one thing for you as the DM: be watchful, on yourself, for any blatant displays of favoritism.

Accept that the social interaction is a key part of why we play

Because it is. Focus on having fun, focus on rulings that promote having fun, and focus on keeping the game moving. Beyond that, there is only so much that you can control. Don't try to control what you can't.

And have fun.


Personal experience with distractions at the table

While playing in and DMing for mixed gender groups from late teens to adults, and in DM'ing for teenagers and pre-teens for a few years, I have found that what keeps a game group together (particularly at the age you are asking about) is the fact that you are having fun doing something together.

Distraction from play comes in a lot of forms; in your case it arises as flirting and too much attention paid to one player. The players are in control of what they do; what keeps distractions down -- in all age groups -- is to keep the pace of play moving. (Hence the advice above).

  • This answer is based on the following assumption: you want to keep playing this game with your friends -- all of them, to include your new player.

My most relevant experience to your situation, with the flirting problem, was in an adult context (gamers were in their 20's). What I found most effective during play as the DM, when the flirting and relationship stuff cropped up as a distraction, was to say (the family friendly version of what I said)

"After we are done with the raid, you can go on your date; we can't all be on your date, so let's get back to that door that just opened ... "

Will something like that work in your group? You'll have to tailor it to your friends and how much they listen to you. If the flirting is getting out of hand, directly calling an orc an orc can be helpful.

Flirt on your own time, let's get this adventure going again ...

... is another way to get the point across. Since I don't know who the peer leader is in your group, in terms of whose personality is most powerful, how you phrase that will need to fit your group. A core part of your role as DM: getting the game to flow, to keep the play moving forward. Keeping the players' attention on the danger/adventure/situation is a way to keep the distractions down.


An option that depends on your circle of friends: invite another young lady whom you all know to join you at the table. That can change the social dynamics somewhat, but whether it solves this problem depends on the personalities.


After the questions edits, which non trivially changed the form of the question, I will leave this as an answer to the original question. The answers to address the groping (IC and OOC) concern in the linked question sufficiently address that problem which IMO warrants a separate and serious consideration.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – mxyzplk May 15 at 23:44

The Rohirrim cavalry arrives later than expected, but hopefully still on time. :)

I have consulted my friend who is a D&D player and gamemaster, and also a psychologist. She doesn't speak English well (she can't read RPG.SE without help) so I have translated the content of your question for her, and now translate her response.

Greetings! I've heard about your problem, and I think that I know what to advise.

Firstly, I want to congratulate you on starting D&D in this young age, it is cool, and I am sure that you and your players will achieve a lot in this area and a lot of cool gameplay is awaiting you.

About your problem. First of all, any organized activity can be separated from the rest of your life by setting up a bunch of rules. You can talk to your players and, using your GM power, suggest to limit interpersonal interactions during the game [Translator's note: apparently, my friend means out-of-character interpersonal interactions, but I am not sure, I will ask here later].

Then. Because of your age, I, as a psychologist, find it worth noting that 8th and 9th grades are a time of a peak in "love affairs" (unfortunately, that's physiology)[Translator's note: I couldn't find a word that translates the expression that my friend used 100% accurately, but she meant that hormones peaking cause teenagers interest in love and everything about it also peak. Forgive my sleepy mind, please.], and it will be very hard to fight against your affection to this girl. Some considerations about this:

  • You can discuss the ongoing situation and your feelings with the other players.[Translator's note: apparently, she has meant the boys, but I will ask about it.] The talk will help you understand what is more important for you: the girl or the adventure.

  • Then, you can show your group that this girl is a good player so they can appreciate her as a player. Make a situation in the game where she will act not just as a lady, but also as a hero, where her character abilities will be needed.

  • In a desperate case, when the situation impedes the adventure, you can open your feelings to the girl, using appropriate language expressions. The girl likely notices the increased attention from the opposite gender and is (ab)using it and will likely react negatively, so you will have to make her know that you are working hard for the good of all of you, so the adventure can continue. You can ask the girl if she has any feelings towards anyone of you, and have a "gentlemen agreement". [Translator's note: my personal opinion is that it should only be your last resort, if you understand that there is no other way you can play further. This looks like an "all or nothing game".]

I hope that you will be able to separate the game and the feelings and the adventure will be great, wishing you everything best!


The formatting is entirely mine, the original was in plain text.
I was given the right to edit the text, but I tried to translate as closely to the original as possible. My English is far from perfect, and I was very sleepy when translating this because the response arrived rather late at night (0:30 am local time).

Russian original text

If you are familiar with Russian language (and in case you want to correct my translation), here is the original text in Russian:

Приветствую! Узнала о вашей проблеме и кажется знаю, что сказать.

Прежде всего, поздравляю, вы начали играть в днд в таком юном возрасте, это здорово и, я уверена, вы с игроками добьётесь больших успехов на этой почве и вас ждёт много радостное игры.

По поводу вашей проблемы. Прежде всего, любая организованная деятельность может быть отделена от остальной жизни рядом условностей. Вы можете поговорить с игроками и мастерской волей предложить ограничивать личное общение во время самой игры.

Далее. В силу вашего возраста я, как психолог, считаю нужным отметить что в восьмом-девятом классе сердечные страсти достигают пика (с прискорбием сообщаю, что такова физиология), и избавиться от интереса к барышне будет весьма затруднительно. Некоторые соображения по данному поводу:

  • Вы можете обсудить с игроками сложившуюся ситуацию и возникающие чувства. Слова помогут вам справиться и прийти к решению, что важнее: барышня или приключение.

  • Далее, вы можете показать показать игрокам барышню со стороны хорошего игрока, чтобы они могли это оценить. Создайте игровую ситуацию, в которой понадобятся навыки её персонажа, чтобы она могла себя проявить не только как леди, но и как герой.

  • В крайнем случае, если ситуация будет мешать приключению, вы можете рассказать барышне о своих привязностях в открытую, подобрав подобающие случаю выражения. Скорее всего девушка замечает повышенный интерес игроков противоположного пола и пользуется им, так что отреагирует на ваши слова негативно, так что нужно пояснить, что вы стараетесь для общего блага, чтобы приключение продолжалось. Так же тактично можно уточнить у барышни, есть ли у неё чувства к кому-то из присутствующих и установить джентльменское соглашение.

Надеюсь, вы сможете разделить чувства и игру и выше приключение будет отличным, желаю всех благ!

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – mxyzplk May 15 at 23:44

I've been in similar situations where the introduction of a female player caused the male players to start acting differently.

In general after the novelty wears off people will start to settle down and get used to things. The main thing to do is make sure the new player feels comfortable with the situation and isn't being put off by it.

She may be enjoying being the center of attention and quite happy with the situation. On the other hand though she may be feeling harassed or uncomfortable. It's entirely possible that she's feeling both those things at once and is very conflicted!

I'd suggest having a quiet word with her and without going into specifics just say that if she finds that any of the players are becoming annoying or bothering her then she should let you know and you will talk to them. I've found that just knowing the DM is willing to step in if they need it helps people feel more comfortable.

Giving Items

"Showering with items" is a very subjective term. Is it just being helpful to a new player and giving them what they need or is it going crazy? The items belong to the players so you shouldn't intervene directly there - that's within player agency.

However something that is not in player agency is that you can make sure that if they give away items you don't just replace them. Giving something away should have a real cost. Ideally also try and place the player in a situation where that item will come in very useful.

For example if they give her a potion of see-invisibility then an invisible foe that attacks the party while something else is keeping her character busy or distracted will make them realize that maybe they needed that potion. Don't go overboard with this, just one or two gentle nudges spread out over a few sessions should do it.

Your Hormones

Think of it as a useful exercise in self-control. There will be many times in your life that you will find someone attractive, sometimes they will reciprocate and sometimes they won't. Learning to express that appropriately and control it when not appropriate is a major life skill. If she's interested in a member of the group in that way (she may or may not be) then that will become clear sooner or later. Just be ready for jealousy and other conflicts to arise in that case.

If she is interested in you then that's fine - there's no rule against DMs and players dating. Just be aware that you are now entering a conflict-of-interest minefield that has caused a huge number of questions on this site and workplace and many others. Plenty of adults don't handle those sort of situations well, so good luck!

Balance

I've put this last because it may not be possible but see if you can get more girls to join (having one on board hopefully will make that easier). A more equally mixed group will help balance things a little.

Now is as good a time as any to start practicing treating people you're attracted to in a respectful, kind manner. I think it's a good first step that you're asking about changing your and your other male friends' behaviour and I'd encourage you to keep that focus. It's not that she's distracting, it's that your friends are having difficulties with self-control and this is a good opportunity for y'all to practice it.

The first thing I wonder reading this is how she's feeling - in her shoes I would be very stressed out and upset that trying to play a game with my friends led to groping and them treating me strangely. Given that things have escalated to the point of another player trying to touch her irl, it's worth checking in with her privately on whether she is comfortable and having fun, and if there's anything you could do as GM to help. Her response will hopefully give you a better sense of how much the group's behaviour has affected her and what parts bother her the most. From there you can sound out whether she'd feel comfortable rejecting items/help from other players with your support, whether you could institute some 'no romance between PCs' rules, or other stop-gap solutions like that. It's even possible that, while y'all are friends and she wants to play D&D, she'd be happier if you helped her find another group that she'll be treated more equally in. Unfortunately many women's first rpg experiences involve some level of sexual harassment like this, and it can really sour you on a fun hobby if it goes on too long.

The advice to treat female players and characters the same as everyone else is spot-on, but honestly it sounds like it would take a pretty hard reset to get there with your group right now. Have a frank conversation with her about what she wants, and figure out whether to work out some new rules with your group or help her find fun elsewhere based on that. Regardless of how it all turns out, support your friend with a loud NOT COOL if anyone tries to touch her without asking again.

protected by SevenSidedDie May 14 at 21:46

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