Expected levels of engagement and interest

hyphz

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So, quite a few of the groups I've played with, or seen play, have the following traits:

a) don't really care about the system ("I don't mind what we play") and so engage with it to a limited extent. In some cases, they appear to not really like D&D 5e but insist on playing it anyway.
b) frequently wander away from the table or look at phones during play, or side converse. If told to stop, they do, but are just silent instead.
c) have limited engagement with combats outside of their turn and even then are often mechanistic, especially in ToTM combat as opposed to grid.

Now, if I'm running I have tried to find out what's up with the groups in question or what could make things more engaging, and I never get much in the way of honest answers. In fact the general attitude in these groups is that this is the realistic limit of the RPG experience; the system can never matter compared to the GM, a single GM can't keep all players involved all the time and a party-based plot can't exist if all PCs act independently, and combat is mechanistic in many systems. And since I don't have a lot else to compare it to (since recorded APs can't be trusted on this) I don't know if they're right or not.

Especially for online games, it's well known that people will drop out at the drop of a hat, or disengage in the middle, or even actively plan side activities during a session.

So what is the real, honest, realistic level of engagement with RPGs?
 

DeathbyDoughnut

a.k.a. Mr. Meat Popcicle
Validated User
I have better luck with shorter sessions. Two hours, in my experience, seems to be about the limit of attention span for an activity with my adult friends; be it board games, roleplaying games, video games or the like with my friends.

Back in the day as teenagers we could (and did) game for hours and hours. The same group during high school we'd spend three day weekends doing nothing except eat pizza, drink soda, and play D&D. But now that we're thirty-something professionals, these same friends can't pay attention to a game for more than an hour or two at a time. And we never hit that "zone" anymore where everything falls away when hours turn to minutes.

I find myself in a similar situation when playing video games, I used to be able to game for hours at a time even all night eschewing sleep in favor of getting to that next self-set goal, nowadays I spend an hour on a game then lose focus or get distracted by something. Wander off, come back to it play it for another 30 minutes then realize I have responsibilities I should attend to and go do something else. With kids, and spouse, and work, and other hobbies I can steal maybe an hour or two of quiet time per day that I am trading sleep for and when it comes down to sitting and doing hobby things I have a pile of books I want to read, a pile of miniatures I want to paint, and other miscellaneous tasks that can easily eat up my precious hour or two.

Honestly, I believe that's just the state of our collective attention spans especially as adults. We have too many distractions, and too much other stuff we could be or should be doing.

My solution is two hour sessions usually split up by at least a forty five minutes to an hour break in the middle for chatting, and food. Asking even three hours on a weekend day from my friends every week to sit down and play a game is a big ask as an adult.
 

Robin Low

Registered User
Validated User
So what is the real, honest, realistic level of engagement with RPGs?
Everyone pretty much paying attention to what's going on, to the GM and any player talking to them. Also, players talking to each other in-character, or considering a course of action out-of-character, checking a character sheet and so forth.

Of course, there will inevitably be some distractions, making towers out of dice, a joke that takes the focus off what's happening, somebody offering round sweets, a bit of gossip, someone needing the toilet, feeling a bit tired and unfocused. That's just life. I've been guilty myself of distracting behaviour.

But prolonged absence from the table, lengthy non-game conversations between players, messing about with mobile phones, near total lack of engagement with GM or fellow players/PCs? I believe the commonly used phase is "fuck that shit!" If all someone wants to do is roll dice when it's their turn, they can go play snakes and ladders.

Regards,

Robin
 

hyphz

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Their perception is that
a) that’s not all they want to do but all they get to do;
b) if the RPG is failing to be a better game than snakes and ladders, that’s its failing.

This is a bit aggressive. But I agree to the extent that I would like the players to participate because they want to, not because of social obligation.
 

FarmerJon

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Validated User
My experience is pretty close to Robin's, for the most part. People pay attention, stay engaged, and rarely wander off. Phones were never a problem, but that is much more because most of my gaming has been in the pre-smart phone era. I also don't game with a young crowd, and us old geezers just dont feel the need to always be in contact with others.

I also agree with Doughnut that short sessions are mandatory. In college, 8-10 hours straight was not an issue, and we did it every single week. These days I think 4 hours would be pushing it, and once a month would be optimistic. I'll be engaged when I show up, but I can't show up very often.
 

CitizenKeen

Rules Lawyer
Validated User
I generally discourage phones at my table. I play a lot of "GM dictates initiative" games, and if your phone is out, you don't get called on.

I generally expect my players to be engaged and excited and active (on average - everybody has bad days). If they're not there to have fun, why are they there?

I have had success with this. One of the key places this falls apart is:

Is your group getting together because they’re friends, or because they want to role play? People who get together because they’re friends tend to struggle with attention. People who get together because they’re there to role play do not. Which is not to say that you can’t role play with friends.

But think of it like basketball. If you show up expecting an intramural team that practices on Tuesdays and Thursdays and plays some competitive games against other fee-paying teams on Saturdays, and your buddy shows up expecting H.O.R.S.E., one of you is going to have a bad time. So, if your players are coming because they want a thing to do while they hang with their friends, you’re going to be miserable. If your players (who may or may not be friends) are coming because they want to play some Dungeons and Motherfucking DRAGONS, then you’re going to have a good time (with an upper bound of D&D #judgmentalprick).
 

filigree

or thereabouts
Validated User
Some people just aren't really into the idea of tabletop roleplaying (or by post, etc.) And/or aren't willing to give it a genuine chance.

Just have to find some that are, IMO.
 

D. Archon

Error 404
Validated User
Expectations are pretty basic, IMO:

Pay attention.

Be ready for your turn in combat.

Get through your turn in less than two minutes.

Know how your character's mechanics work.

Know how the game's mechanics work.

Know which dice to roll, and when.

Show up on time.

Show up every time.

Don't hog the spotlight.
 

hyphz

Member
RPGnet Member
Validated User
Some people just aren't really into the idea of tabletop roleplaying (or by post, etc.) And/or aren't willing to give it a genuine chance.
These are groups that were playing together for years and that could have easily said No when D&D was offered.

D. Archon said:
Expectations are pretty basic, IMO:
... I want to avoid this move from "target" to "social expectations" because as I said, as an entertaining hobby people should be doing things because they want to, not because of a sense of social obligation. So I am looking for the level actually delivered by the RPG experience, not the level people may confirm to out of politeness.
 

CitizenKeen

Rules Lawyer
Validated User
So I am looking for the level actually delivered by the RPG experience, not the level people may confirm to out of politeness.
There is no objective measurement here. I don't think the answer you are looking for exists.

Some tables have people on their phone, leaving for twenty minutes, only half paying attention, and everybody is having a blast.

Other tables have people wholly dedicated, each with their own rulebooks and cheat sheets, rapt and engaged and dynamic at all times.

No system or genre dictates a level of engagement. Merely social dynamics and expectations set (or not set) at Session 0.
 
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