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One thing I keep on running into while playing or running games online is managing the amount of time the GM and the players have the floor. Anyone have a useful ballpark figure? As a player, I definitely don't enjoy a session where I sit for 3 hours with 5 people and get the spotlight for less than 10 minutes. As a GM, I have trouble giving descriptions that don't prompt a lot of questions, cutting into time playing the game, vs describing/clarifying the setting... I'm thinkin GM 1/3 of the total time (descriptions, npcs in combat and roleplaying encounters)...

Just trying to dial the awesome up to 11 in my games...

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There is no one time

Unfortunately, there really isn't a floor time minimum or maximum and I'd be very careful about creating artificial limits within storytelling. My experience is mainly with D&D 5e, but this likely holds for other TTRPGs a well.

But, this is where your role as DM/GM really comes into play. Part of your job is to be aware of the players and table. Watching everyone for interest, boredom, etc. and then working to keep everyone 'in the game.'

I've noticed players on their phones or not paying attention, and when I do, then I say something. I don't call them out and make them feel bad, but i'll try and bring folk 'back' to being present at the table by either moving things on from the current scenario or trying to find a way to bring them into the narration.

If a good narration is going and people are into it, there is no reason to stop. Either from you or from your players. This game is about storytelling and throwing dice. As long as those things are happening and everyone is involved and having fun, then you're okay.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This answer is likely to apply to both of the Pathfinder editions as well. \$\endgroup\$ – ESCE May 10 at 15:17
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The rule I follow is: try not to let anyone (GM or player) hold the floor for more than 1-2 minutes at a time.

If I, the GM, am monologuing for more than a minute, then my players are probably getting bored and I should speed up my description. It's 100% okay if I give a description and then the players ask a lot of questions; that means the players are interested and participating, and I'm happy to answer questions as long as they want. I count that as "part of the exploration phase" and thus time spent playing the game. But if I'm just telling the group things, one minute at a time is my max.

Likewise, I try really hard to make sure that any scene I do has the whole group participating. Occasionally players will try to split off from the group and have a solo scene that's just their character and the GM; when I notice this happening, I try to come up with a reason to get the rest of the group involved. (If they're interacting with the environment, I'll turn to the rest of the group and tell them "you see Bob is doing something over there, who wants to go check it out?". If they're talking to an NPC, I'll just narrate that everyone is talking to the NPC together.)

Stealth scenes are harder; sometimes the rogue wants to split off and do some sneaking, and sometimes there's a legitimate reason we should allow that to happen. But even then I try not to spend too much time on it.

I don't track how much each individual player participates; it's possible I have some players who don't talk much. But I feel that, as long as their character is usually present in the scene, and is capable of participating if they think of something they want to do, they're probably engaged and not feeling left out.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Nice answer. I do feel a need to point out that for some groups, the possibility to split off is welcome and needed -- it gives the players not involved the opportunity to just sit back and listen for a bit, and let their roleplaying muscles relax between heavy scenes. Plus, it allows characters to develop in-character secrets and opportunities. Or, you know, have a bath without the rest of the boneheads about :P \$\endgroup\$ – Weckar E. May 11 at 3:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ this sounds pretty good...I've been doing some additional reading on the subject...and the consensus seems to be ..keep the initial descriptions short, but dense...and the PCs can ask questions \$\endgroup\$ – wigglybungle May 11 at 17:29
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Hate to say this but there isn't one, and trying to stick to a specific amount of time isn't really the point. The question is

Is everybody getting what they want out of it?

I know that you, for instance, don't enjoy a session where you get 10 minutes of the spotlight in a three-hour session. So as your GM, I would want to shine that spotlight on you more than that...while someone else in the group might not like all the focus on them for that amount of time.

So the answer to your question is more complex and infinitely more SOCIAL than a simple time ratio. It's about knowing your players as much as anything else.

Everything is playing.

You answering the player's questions is important to the players, while you are simply impatient to "get on with the thing." Every moment should serve the fun and the story. You describing and clarifying the setting IS playing the game.

The fact that you think it doesn't and it isn't is a hole in your technique as a GM.

As a GM, I have trouble giving descriptions that don't prompt a lot of questions, cutting into time playing the game, vs describing/clarifying the setting...

Not a problem. An opportunity. There's no ratio except this: 100% of the time when you are the GM, you are there to serve the awesome, and if you want to turn it up to 11, it's about taking those times that you don't believe are worth anything and making them worth something, or moving on to something that is.

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