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I recently started playing with a large group of about 7-8 people. I noticed that, in our group, a couple of the people are very active: whenever there is a chance for the group to do things, it only takes them a second or two to come up with an action for their character and narrate it. On top of that, they are comfortable verbally jostling, interrupting, jumping in just after someone else is finished, and participating in overtalk, in order to take space for themselves in the conversation.

This would be fine with me--I can fight for conversational space just fine, and don't mind so much when people do it to me--but a couple of the other players in the group don't seem as willing to talk over people or to jump in with something as soon as the last person is done talking, and when they do talk it is at a much lower volume. For all I know they have as many great ideas bubbling around in their heads as the loud players, and are just waiting for their turn, but since they don't loudly wade into the verbal fray, they don't get to do anything.

In combat, there's the initiative/turn-taking system that can solve this problem to some extent: even the quietest player at the table is guaranteed a turn and the DM's attention. But out of combat, a couple of players who are always the first to speak up can go through several whole scenes without the quieter players' characters doing anything.

I'm not sure if it has gotten to the point where any of the quieter players are bothered about it to the point where they are willing to speak up about it, but I'd like to prevent that from happening, or at the very least avoid being part of the problem.

As a player, how do I balance my desire to speak with the needs of our group's quieter players to have room for them in the conversation? If I speak up I'm not giving the quieter players a chance to speak, but if I stay quiet, the other loud players will talk. As not one of the players who is getting talked over, is it my place to broach this with the DM? Or should I talk to the players I see as being talked over first? Or to the other louder players?

As a group, what methods can we use ensure that even our shyer/quieter/more reserved players have space to play, outside of combat?

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Be the voice for the voiceless

One of the lessons learned from years of "anti-harassment" training videos at work is that there are people that want to speak, but don't want to talk over other people (like me) and so rarely speak. It's also these people that when they do speak they have great contributions.

But the first thing you should do is talk to the soft voices outside of the game and see if they want help. Some players are happy just working from the sidelines. During combat they get their turn to shine and are done.

Assuming these players want to be heard more often, one method is, since you are capable of being one of the loud voices, to actively engage the softer voices.

"Hey Merlin, didn't you have a background in history? Maybe you can tell us something about this relic."

"I think we're going about this all wrong. Thundar, you've been good with puzzles in the past; can you think of another way to open this door?

"Hold on! We've got too many chefs cooking up ideas. Grendal, do understand any of it?

If you use your voice to call on another, it may stop others from just shouting their opinion into the wild. You are making sure someone else has the floor, even if it's just for an audience of one; you.

If that still doesn't work, then reiterate their message.

"You're right! Hey everyone, Merriwether had a great idea! They know how to sneak past the guards. Merriwether, tell everyone your plan."

If this still doesn't help, you'll likely have to involve the DM. Away from the table, talk to the DM and see if they are willing to control the conversations.

While a bit too formal for my tastes, I knew one DM that had an "out of combat" initiative. Basically at the start of each session, everyone rolled initiative (straight d20 as it's for the player, not the character). That would be the order the DM asked "What would you like to do?"

This way, everyone got a turn, and you weren't always right before or right after the same people. For intense conversations it would loop around to the beginning until the party had a unanimous decision.

It really boils down to what the soft players want.

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    \$\begingroup\$ +1 for "Some players are happy just working from the sidelines," if nothing else. Yes, many groups have members who'd like to vocally participate more and feel they can't. But thank you for not forgetting that there are people (o/) who are perfectly happy sitting back most of the time. \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 Jan 28 at 19:34
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    \$\begingroup\$ @nitsua60 Matt Colville calls these players audience members: players that don't talk a lot, and are perfectly fine with that and are having fun. \$\endgroup\$ – Aaron Rotenberg Jan 29 at 7:17
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What may work: Out of Combat Int Based Initiative

We tried this, and it sometimes worked, and then we reverted to our old habits, and then we gave up. But, your group may find it useful.

We had a group of five. We tended to talk over each other. One of the group suggested an out of combat initiative system based on raw INT scores: smartest gets first chance to choose to do, or not to do, something. Choosing not to act/talk required a spoken "pass" or a visual hand gesture (football forward pass) to the next smartest PC.

This worked pretty well for two sessions, and it may have been the novelty of it that made it work, or maybe this was a good idea.

But I noticed in the next few sessions people not paying attention as much, and then we reverted back to our old bad habits - and maybe we were the problem, we the players. Beyond that, the DM didn't feel like having to ride herd on us one more time so he stopped enforcing it. He'd dealt with chaos before and we went back to muddling through.

Recommendation: try it out. Your group of personalities may have the initial success we had and then really like it. Or they won't. Each table has its own personality; what works on one table might not work on another, and vice versa.

Something that worked with pre teens / early teens, adult DM

The speaking stick. DM hands one to the player whose turn it is. That person tells what they are doing and the DM then points to who gets it next. Worked well enough at the time, but that was over 20 years ago. Among peers, a tool like this will need the buy in from all players. One of the advantages of this tool is that the players who are not as outgoing can pass the stick without comment, if they so choose. Some people like that better for themselves.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Is "to ride herd on us" is phrase I'm simply unfamiliar with, or is it meant to say something else? \$\endgroup\$ – Someone_Evil Jan 28 at 23:20
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Someone_Evil Yes, that is a phrase that you are likely unfamiliar with. Similar to the phrase 'herding cats' but it implies a certain amount of providing the cattle prod to the unwieldy beasts ... I think its origins is with cow hands in the 1800's in the US. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Jan 28 at 23:25
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Someone_Evil It means to keep a group moving together. When you are herding cattle, often one or a few cows will try to go off in a different direction, or stop to do something else, or anything other than stay with the main group. The people on horseback who are "riding herd" will basically chase those cows back to the main group and try to keep them all moving along in the same direction at the same speed. Otherwise you would end up with stray cows all along your path and none in the herd by the time you got anywhere! \$\endgroup\$ – user3067860 Jan 29 at 19:00
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This is not a single-player game.

Your group should be working as a collective unit, for the most part. I have seen people play as the head-strong, quickly-dives-into-decisions kind of character, and it can certainly be fun to watch and play. But sometimes, the rest of the group needs to have a sit-down with this person and say "Can you stop just kicking down doors? That's what got your foot burned last time."

As a player, let your voice be heard, but also specifically ask for other voices.

It is usually fine to give your opinion right out of the gate. But, after making your case, ask General Theifblade for his input on the matter.

Player 1:"Alright guys, the miners are stuck in the mines. I say we take a bunch of explosives and blast it open! What say you, [quiet player]?"

Quiet Player: That might work, but it may make the mines even less stable...

As a group, put it to a vote.

After everybody has given their opinions, and they can't come to a decision, put a little democracy in there.

Alright guys, are we blowing it up, or are we looking for an alternate rout? Remember, they have limited oxygen!

And, as a DM, make sure they're included!

It isn't a bad idea to ask the DM to include the quieter players more often, too. As the referee, it's their task to make sure everybody is having fun. If some people are overshadowing others, it may not be fun for those others. If the rest of the group is trying to talk over them,

DM: As the group is looking for the dynamite to blow open the mine, an elderly lady comes up to you [quiet player]. She tugs on your sleeve and says "Please don't let my husband get hurt. This plan of theirs sounds awfully dangerous..."

(giving them the opportunity to give their opinions)

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There are any number of options, and I'll recommend the following based on my experiences as a player and DM:

1. Be a leader of a team rather than just one of many individuals

This is probably the broadest solution you can employ as a player. I've used this to draw out less assertive or less interested players. Your contribution doesn't need to be an announcement of what your character alone will do-- it can also be something more along the lines of organizing other characters into a plan that the group carries out.

Whatever the challenge is, you can let every individual do their own thing and hope that at least one succeeds. Or you can work out a plan in advance, specifically suggesting actions or prompting players for input:

Okay, we need to convince Lady Obstacle to let us use her invitations to Lord Villain's Grand Plot Event Ball so that we can complete the quest. Alice, you have high stats in Persuasion and History, maybe you could talk to her and remind her about how deep the feud between House Obstacle and House Villain are, suggesting that she might not want to go to his event? Or Bob, you're a bard that she's liked before, is there something you can think of that might sway her?

Very contrived, in this example, but this allows you to fight for space in the conversation, and then offer it to the less assertive players to give them a clear chance to participate.

If you like planning things out, you can also try to persuade some of the more assertive players to take some course of action which leaves other things for the other players to do, giving them more space to participate by removing the more overbearing players from the scene.

At a minimum, you can make a point of asking other players what they think or would like to do. That's very easy to pass off in and out of character.

2. Come up with plans that require specific characters, which happen to be played by less assertive players

As more of a subset of (1), if you come up with a plan that your own PC can undertake but would be helped by participation of one of the less assertive players you can give them moments to be involved that they might otherwise not find. Being Helped by another character to gain Advantage can have a strong effect on outcomes, and the contribution can be pretty obvious (if your first roll is a 3, the Advantage clearly matters). A risk of this is that some players can be made to feel like sidekicks, so this tactic works best if it's infrequent.

3. Split the party

This is a hassle in a lot of ways, so it's also best used sparingly, but getting the overbearing players out of the picture from time to time gives the others a chance to play "normally" without being talked over and ignored.

4. Talk to the DM

Making sure that everyone is having fun is a core responsibility of the DM, and if some players are running over others to the extent that they're not playing large sections of the game that's a problem. The DM has lots of tools to address that kind of situation, perhaps most relevantly asking players what their characters are doing. They may not have anything in mind, but they'll get a chance to speak.

I've also read advice on this stack suggesting that, outside of combat, all players announce their intended actions before the DM resolves any of them, but I have no personal experience with using that technique on this sort of problem. A surefire approach is designing plot for specific characters, as those sorts of things can't just be transferred to a louder player, but that can be expensive for the DM plan and manage with such a large group.

5. Talk to the group

Some of the more assertive players may not realize the effect that their approach is having on some of the other players. They may or may not care about the issue, but bringing it up gives everyone a chance to be aware of it and talk about responses they think might be appropriate.

One particular dimension that I think is relevant is that players who are more assertive or overbearing may not be as interested in sitting on their hands, and so if too much time passes without something for their character to do they can become even more assertive and overbearing. Pointing out that more participation for them might mean far less for others gives some context to why it might be worthwhile for them to be sidelined for a few minutes.

It also happens that some players don't really want to be in the driver's seat for these sorts of things. They may prefer to be pointed at a monster and then set loose, and don't care about coming up with a freeform plan to deal with yet another NPC. Talking to the group can reveal whether or not this situation is actually a problem for the quieter players. It may be, but it could also be how they want to play.

6. This is a large group, and there will likely be some give-and-take no matter what

Seven to eight people is a lot of people to be gathered around a table for an RPG. It takes a lot of real time to go through so many characters' actions and thoughts, often with the effect that gameplay slows to a crawl. It's often just not feasible to have 7-8 plans running at once, or have people pulling in 7-8 different directions.

Sometimes it may be desirable to let some characters do little for a scene or two just to streamline things and move the game forward. That becomes a problem if it happens all the time and to the same characters, but just for perspective totally equal contributions in all cases may not be what you want.

I once tried to run a D&D 3.5e game for ten players at once and this was a big issue. More players means more competition for scarce on-camera time, because while number of players can increase freely the amount of time people have to dedicate to gaming generally does not.

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By the DM: Use Initiative Outside of Combat

This lets the DM talk to each player to see "what are you doing" and limits cross-talk. I have seen this used in loud boisterous groups. Obviously it doesn't have to be initiative. Seating order is fine.

This takes effort by the DM. It's easier to let the squeaky wheels lead outside-combat activities. But as you have seen it's troublesome to the party at large. Especially in a large party.

By players: Force discussion and inclusion

This is not an easy skill to acquire. It comes up in meeting facilitation a lot. Force votes. Force input by everyone. Make the forceful personalities wait. Stop the process: say, "Wait. We haven't heard from everyone yet." Also make pointed requests to other party members: "Elminster, what do you think about this?" I like to use the idea that individuals can say what they are doing, but only the group as a whole gets to decide what the group is doing.

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