I’m usually the GM but I’m not this time, and my usual methods of managing spotlight, and hogs thereof, aren’t available to me. I’m at a bit of a loss.

We have a player who is very enthusiastic and impulsive. Not impulsive about what he does: they think and plan fine and it’s not like he’s doing whacky things on impulse. It’s not that kind of problem. But he regularly interrupts quieter players and even the GM, in order to launch into the cool thing he wants to do.

It’s hard to get a word in edgewise, and even if I or another player start doing something first, if it leaves any room for others to get words in edgewise, he often does and then doesn’t leave room himself.

This is exacerbated by the fact that he is an enthusiastic player, and when he gets an opening, he often has a lot to say and layers a lot of character expression into it. He also doesn’t leave room for others to jump in, sometimes even declaring things his character does as if time has passed, when the rest of us aren’t done yet with the current moment in-game.

(That last happened last D&D 5e session: after getting back to the inn after we’d returned from the adventure, I told the GM I looked to see if the innkeep was there, and I barely got to the period in my spoken sentence before he launched into negotiations with an NPC in the inn about a piece of armour, then he asked the GM about who gives bounties for wolf tails, then he launched into what he’s doing the next morning (at which point the GM cut him off diplomatically, saying we’ll leave that to next session). Meanwhile, I literally haven’t a chance to deliver my one small moment of characterisation role play in a quiet interaction with the innkeep, who I am wanted to thank for the loan of some equipment while returning it. This was a small but significant bit of “this is who my PC is and how she treats people” that I wanted to slip in organically into the flow of the game. There was no pause or energy-lull in his roleplaying and GM questions enough to cut in edgewise, without me talking over him or me interrupting the GM to cut [back] in with my stuff. I didn’t want to loudly grab the spotlight for a disproportionately quiet and short moment of characterisation, and I was at a loss for how to deftly and proportionately get that in. Making a big deal about it, or jamming it in so that it technically “happens” but doesn’t have anyone’s real attention as audience, would have made it pointless.)

I don’t want to fight fire with fire. If I start doing unto him as he does unto us, then we’ll just have two people in the party of five who talk over others and interrupt the GM’s replies to others to do our stuff instead.

The GM seems to be struggling with managing the rapid-fire output of this player. That’s not my responsibility though, and I want to figure out what I can do as a player to make the game work better for me in the moment. If the GM improves on the situation, then that’s good, but players have means to influence and manage these situations too and I want to focus on what improvements I can contribute. (If the answer is “nothing, you can do nothing”, that’s cool, but then there’s no need to repeat GM-facing advice we have in other questions.) Assume the GM is already working on her end of the problem, but don’t tell me to just wait for the GM to solve it. I want tools too. (And to be fair, I too struggle with managing this player’s spotlight hogging when I GM.)

He has been talked to multiple times, but it’s not an impulse he has an easy time controlling or even noticing when he’s focused on immersed roleplaying of his PC. Assume these out-of game interventions are ongoing, but aren’t (yet) a working solution.

I want some way to

  1. Not get steamrolled by Mr. Enthusiastic when I’m leaving openings for other players, or how to un-steamroller myself when it starts. We have three other players who range from engaged but polite to super-quiet. I want to interact with them in-game too, and can’t if I adopt his tactics.

  2. Get the GM’s attention back without being rude to Mr. E, or to the GM when he’s been pulled into Mr. E’s vortex of activity.

… all that while:

  1. Still be able to do normal turn-taking behaviour, like leaving openings in what I’m doing for others to jump in, react, interrupt my PC (in-game); asking questions of the GM that might need follow-up questions from me or others, to see the situation unfold organically; be able to announce an action without announcing or immediately playing out an uninterrupted sequence. I want to be able to experience the back-and-forth of roleplaying out situations, and include my fellow players.

  2. Not assuming any leadership authority in the group. Like I mentioned, I’m usually the GM. I really don’t want to have the mantle of authority come back to me even in part during my time off from GMing. And I really don’t want to undercut the GM’s authority or backseat drive. I want strictly player-focused tools. I’m on vacation! ;)

  3. Not rudely interrupt Mr. Enthusiastic or forcibly derail his speeding trains.

  4. Not having to use a shared table. We play spread out in a lounge, not around a table, and changing that isn’t feasible. This makes passing or reaching for small shared tokens, whispered interactions, and such not work without people constantly getting up and crossing the seating area, since we’re not within reach of each other.

    (I’d personally prefer playing at a table, but this is how it is.)

I know that’s a narrow needle to thread. That’s why I come to y’all for advice. There are a lot of things I don’t want to do here, and they’re important enough that solutions that don’t account for that are worse than the status quo. I will contentedly put up with this in order to have my vacation from GMing. This isn’t bad gaming, just a fly in otherwise good ointment. I want to improve the situation.

And I’m just too inexperienced as a player to have figured out how to manage this particular kind of non-malicious spotlight hogging on my own by now.

Note on the group: We’re all adult peers and friends. We are playing in person.


6 Answers 6


My response to this, in discussions in DND and beyond (even into work and non-gaming social situations), is simple. If Bob has interrupted Alice:

Bob, Alice was speaking.

Or, if Bob has interrupted me:

Bob, I was speaking.

Raise your voice (admittedly, it's easy for me, because I'm a very loud person), and put on your best firm teacher and/or mom voice. When a GM doesn't manage a session enough to stop this, sometimes you have to pipe up and put your foot down. The tone is key, here. You don't want to sound either angry or whiny, because if the attention hog is actually malicious, they will likely turn that on you. A firm voice and a neutral, but accurate, statement normally does the trick for me.

If you are worried about being overly harsh or too authoritative, qualifiers work wonderfully:

Hey, Bob, I think Alice was speaking?

while still getting the point across.

  • 24
    \$\begingroup\$ Someone may also want to inform Bob that Eve has stolen his password. \$\endgroup\$
    – user24827
    Commented Nov 28, 2018 at 14:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Rogem I’m missing the joke. 😅 \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 29, 2018 at 16:57
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Rogem Alice started it. \$\endgroup\$
    – wizzwizz4
    Commented Nov 29, 2018 at 16:59
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    \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie In InfoSec, Alice and Bob are the default names used for two communicating parties; Eve on the other hand is the default one for the malicious third party. \$\endgroup\$
    – user24827
    Commented Nov 29, 2018 at 17:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Rogem Thanks for the lesson! Truthfully, I picked it up because I see people across Stackexchange using them as default names, and assumed it was just a default. Which it sort of is! \$\endgroup\$
    – Cooper
    Commented Nov 29, 2018 at 17:30

I want to push on @L.S. Cooper's answer because this is also how I deal with this type of players. But I want to add some things.

Mr. E hogs the GM and seems to interrupt people. These behaviors are a) making the game less fun b) pretty impolite.

I had a co-player that kept on interrupting to go on his own things at the expense of other players, and telling him to stop interrupting people every time he did it made him stop doing it. It passed pretty well because most of the time he didn't even realize he was interrupting people and he really wanted the game to be fun for everyone. This is probably the case with Mr. E too (I'm assuming good faith on his part as that's the feel I had from your post).

When it comes to "jumping through time" to do his things, you can also kindly remind him (and the GM by the same occasion) that players (not necessarily you) might not be finished with their interactions. Once again, I'm assuming good faith that Mr. E isn't doing this on purpose.

Hey Mr. E, before you go on to next morning, maybe some players still had things to do.

The key is to act every time it happens, kind of like how you train a dog (or a kid lol) to do something. And if you start doing it, it's very possible other players will start doing it too.

I know you don't want the "Leadership authority", but it has to fall on someone in these cases.

Another solution we've tried was to have a "token" to grab when you wanted to speak with the GM and the GM had to give you attention while you had the "token". It worked for a short while, but required discipline which we didn't have!

Last option: Cast Silence on him­. :)

  • \$\begingroup\$ I like the speaking token idea; it should probably be left in the middle of the table by default, and anyone including the GM (for narrative purposes, for example) can take it, and then when the person is done, put the token back in the middle. Alternatively, when players are done speaking they give the token to the GM, giving the GM time and attention to respond to a player, then when the GM is done (or if nothing is needed on the GM's part), the GM puts the token back in the middle. \$\endgroup\$
    – Doktor J
    Commented Nov 28, 2018 at 19:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ Since the OP wants to avoid confrontation, having a "speaking token" might not work - players might fight over the token. However you can tokenize time by having every player get say, three cards denoting three time periods (perhaps one hour each). Then to do an activity or play a scene *you spend your card". No one has to interrupt The Hog - he just runs out of time and has to wait for everyone to refresh their cards after they are all spent. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 29, 2018 at 6:09
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    \$\begingroup\$ I didn’t mention it because you’d said it didn’t work due to insufficient discipline (and it wouldn’t work for Mr. E for same), and I think it’s worth leaving in the answer, but the comments approving of the token idea made me realise I hadn’t mentioned in the Q that we don’t play around a table anyway. Leave that part in, please—knowing what doesn’t work is as valuable as what does!—but I wanted to say I’ve updated the question with our physical play situation. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 29, 2018 at 16:52

Ritualize going "Around the Horn"

One important tool I've picked up in small group discussions is to go around to each person and directly ask (by name) for their input. If you make this a regular way of getting player input, then everyone has a chance to give their input.

In the example you mention, right after The Hog launched into their negotiation for that piece of armor the GM (or you) can point to the person on their right and say "What are you doing while Hog is spending time in negotiation? What are your plans?" and get a brief answer before moving to the person on their right and asking the same. After getting everyone's plans the GM can choose which action to deal with first, and then move on the next.

If you set up the expectation that everyone "gets an input/interaction" before someone gets two, it can help rein in the more talkative players. And if it's an expectation, then players will start to point out that "hey, Robin hasn't had a chance." Finally, because if it becomes the standard operating procedure, no one is "beating down" on The Hog. It's more of a "Great idea! Hold your next thought until we can get back to you!"

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ This works very well with our group, it's essentially informal "rounds" for non-combat times... any time there is downtime we do a round of "what are you doing before [heading to bed]?"... what you're gonna do in the morning doesn't meet that prompt. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 27, 2018 at 22:08
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    \$\begingroup\$ I do like this but it’s really more advice for whoever is GMing. I don’t immediately see from this answer how a player like me can interrupt and impose turns on the group without usurping part of the GM’s role. Am I missing part of this technique? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 28, 2018 at 0:16
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ You're right that the GM has to set the expectations. However, as a player when The Hog launches into their second action you, as a player, can say "But I haven't heard yet what Robin is doing while you did X and I did Y" and so on with all the other players. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 28, 2018 at 17:58
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    \$\begingroup\$ Additionally you can do this for yourself and set the example for others by stating "While Mr. E is negotiating, I'm going to walk over to the barkeep. I have a conversation I'd like to have with him/her". If Mr. E had already moved it along with the timewarp you mention out of game that you had some business to complete first to pull the spotlight back gently. \$\endgroup\$
    – VerasVitas
    Commented Nov 28, 2018 at 18:13
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Did this worked when you dealt with your spotlight hog? I’m imagining trying to do this with the scenario I describe andi can’t imagine it working well enough (or at all) with this player, to make up for the goals I state in the question that I’d have to sacrifice. How well did this work with your spotlight hog, and how did you make sure it didn’t shift some group authority to you after? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 28, 2018 at 21:50

This sounds to me like it warrants two meta-talks, one with the GM and one with Mr. E. I know that you don't want to tell the GM how to do their job, but you should make sure that they know that:

  1. You are feeling frustrated, that it is taking away from your enjoyment of the game.
  2. You want to help, are open to suggestions, and happy to provide advice if they want it.

Point 1 is very important. It sounds like you are assuming that they already know it's a problem and that hopefully are already working on it. However, it is always possible that they don't know, or don't realize that it's impacting you specifically. I've had GMs who were so preoccupied with other stuff that they didn't notice when players were having a bad time, and I've been the player who doesn't want to say anything because I'm afraid of hurting the GM's feelings or making them feel like it's an attack on their skills.

It doesn't have to come off as combative or a complaint. The goal is to update your GM on your status so that they can better meet their goals (presumably helping everyone have fun). So a "Hey, I wanted to talk to you about Mr. E. I've been having a rough time feeling enthusiastic because I am frequently cut off or talked over. I've been thinking about things that I could do as a player, and I'm thinking about A, B, and C. What do you think? Is there anything else that you can think of that I can do to help?" might be the right tone. It keeps the focus on solutions and brainstorming together while rooting you in your role as a player.

It's possible that your GM will open up and say "You know, I really feel lost. I have no idea what to do and I think it's my responsibility" at which point you can point them at resources and then restate your initial question of what you can do.

I think you should also have a private conversation with Mr. E about how his behavior is affecting you. Specific examples are key here and do best if brought up immediately after a session ends or even during a break. Saying "I feel frustrated because you often cut me off when I try to roleplay" is less helpful than "Today I was in the middle of setting up a roleplay moment with the innkeeper and you interrupted me. It was pretty frustrating, and I wanted to let you know because I know that you didn't mean to do it."

You can also talk with Mr. E about things that you can do to help him directly. Ask him explicitly if there is anything that you can do to help it not happen in the future, and promise to let him know if it does (and then follow through on that).

It's likely that he will say something like "I'm sorry, I get so excited, but please let me know if I interrupt you so that I can back off!" which would make it much less awkward/rude to correct him during game, since he told you that he wants you to do so.

When you're talking to Mr. E, it's important to make sure he knows that you are assuming good intent. However, you don't want to sugarcoat your words to the point of becoming unclear. His behavior is having a negative effect on you, and letting him know that will allow everyone to have a better time. Providing "oreo" criticism (a critique sandwiched between two pieces of praise) is proven to be ineffective, for example. The best way to prove to him that you aren't angry at him is to have a blunt but kind conversation and then to carry on as your normal friendly self.

Good luck!

  • \$\begingroup\$ Oreo example. Nice, might even want to pull that out and highlight it as a technique? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 28, 2018 at 1:40

If you have trouble interrupting Mr. E, maybe you could just wind back time when he finally shuts up?

GM: "You enter the tavern."
You: "I..."
Mr. E: "I go chat with X and bargain for Y. Then I do this and then that. The next day I talk with Z again and do these other things and then we leave for the next adventure."
You: "Okay, so back to where we were... I go up to the bartender and return the item I borrowed."

This may seem a bit passive aggressive, but it should be a clear indicator that it's not okay to progress time on your own without letting the other players act. You want Mr. E to know that what he's doing is not okay and if you're too timid to confront him directly then this is basically your only option.

If you want to do something that conflicts with something that Mr. E "has already done" then you retcon the events and the two of you are going to have to roleplay your conflicting actions/interests until everyone has had a chance to do what they wanted. You do this every time Mr. E runs ahead in the story until the message gets through his head.

I'll say this again. This is only an option if you're too timid to confront Mr. E directly. Confronting him directly is the best option! If you do what I suggested then you risk creating an unpleasant atmosphere around the table. Frankly, I'm expecting a lot of downvotes for this answer. This is just a backup plan and should not be your first choice!

  • \$\begingroup\$ I'll add to this (because it addresses the point of how to possibly handle it, if some of the other turn-taking solutions hasn't worked): If you are trying to keep things low-key (per the OP's original example), then you can say something like "My character finds the bartender and thanks him/her for the item." It would be less of an interruption (and keep it more low-key) than trying to have an interaction with an NPC. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 29, 2018 at 17:30

The fun way to deal with this is to just wait until you get an opening to act again (even if the player is already on the next day) and then try something like:

So... have I spotted the barkeeper yet?

Hogging the spotlight is one thing, advancing time (to the next morning!) quite another. This should be a natural point for the GM to step in, but if he doesn't, it truly is time for you to react.

Also it sounds like the GM completely ignored what you were saying. Therefore you need to do something that makes not just the player but also the GM aware of how annoying that was.

Obviously this only works if the GM actually ignored an action you tried to perform. For my taste it would be way too passive. I would cut in as soon as the player starts talking about what he's trying to do the next morning and say something like:

Wait, so you're just gonna go to bed right now and wait for the next morning? Well... good night I guess. [Then to the GM:] So: Do I see the barkeeper?

If you can pull the whole thing off without giving the player a chance to react it will (rightfully) startle him and he might think about what he was just trying to do. Another nice advantage of this is that the other players (it's not just you two after all) will get a chance to act as well now that the spotlight-grabber basically just went to sleep. Of course, technically, he might just realize he was being stupid and act out the rest of the night with the rest of you, but who knows.

The important thing here is not to let him drag you along. As long as your character doesn't act, your character doesn't act. Stay true to what you were trying to do. It gets more difficult in some situations. For example:

Let's say you were trying to buy a piece of armor. The other player then cut in, walked around town and stole a piece of armor from some sleeping guard which he then proudly presents to you so you don't have to buy it. Now don't react to him. Remember, the last time you were acting, he wasn't even out the door yet. Instead, talk to the GM and ask:

"How long did his walking around and getting the armor off take?"

Let's say the answer is: About ten minutes.

"Alright, so in that case I suppose I would have bought the armor already and am now standing with the armor in my arms in front of him, wondering why he couldn't have stopped me earlier."

Make him aware that the other players don't just stop doing stuff just because he's dragging out actions and spending time on them. Get him to understand that it's unrealistic to assume you stood there for 10 minutes talking about the weather while he was out doing stuff.

And one more thing to add: Involve the other players: Once you got your action done, turn to someone else and just ask: `

By the way, what have you been doing this entire time?

As a last note:

Cutting in when other players are doing actions is not always impolite. In fact, if their actions affect you in any way, you should definitely say so immediately. Like let's take your first example again. If you had found an amulet that belonged to the person selling your coplayer the piece of armor and suddenly realize that fact because of something the seller says, all of you will be better off if you cut in with:

'Woah, at this point my character would probably notice that he has the amulet of that guy which would drop your price immensely, but did he even hear that? I mean... I was looking for the barkeeper and I would have gone up and talked to him if I had seen him so it's very possible I didn't even catch this conversation.'

This is important because your alternatives would be to either play along, just going over there and giving the amulet to him (which is cutting in again but sadly completely removes any reasonable chance of you actually getting to follow up on what you were actually trying to do), stay silent and just not mention it (which is kind of mean) or mention it afterwards in which case you all would have to do a lot of retconning or just accept that you missed an opportunity.

Actually, the last bit might serve as a lesson to your friend, BUT is not very nice, which you definitely stated you wanted to be.

So in this case cutting in and asking how your action was resolved would actually not be impolite, but kind of the only thing to do that treats both parties fairly and nicely, because how his action develops DEPENDS on how yours did.

To be clear: What I meant with the last part was that if you do decide to use this method and let him do his stuff and then go back to deal with whatever you did during that time you should only ever do that if it is at least extremely unlikely that his current actions would be affected by yours, because in those cases, you don't get around cutting in.


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