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Expected levels of engagement and interest

Gee4orce

Registered User
Validated User
I think certainly you should at a minimum follow the dinner party rule of everybody putting their phones together in a stack in the middle of the table (or in the middle of another table) - nobody is allowed to touch them when the game is in progress. Allow a 10 minutes break per hour for comfort, refreshment and social media catchup!

I'm of the belief that if you are attending something then you give it your full attention, or don't bother. It's just being respectful. I hate it when people come to meetings with laptops - not so they can use it to participate in the meetings, but so they can do other work or mess about online.

The only reason I can see to allow players to have their phones with them is if the GM is using that as a channel to send private messages to players during the game (eg. if one PC knows something that the others shouldn't know)
 

Gee4orce

Registered User
Validated User
+1 to this. If a player is on their phone the whole time, it's likely a sign that you need to reevaluate your GMing skills - after all, it's your job to keep players engaged in the game. I imagine there are **some** asshole players out there who will be on their phones regardless of how good the story is, but I've never encountered them myself, and I've been playing for a while...
I kind of disagree that it's the GMs job to entertain everybody. The players share that responsibly, by engaging in the game and playing their characters in an entertaining way. It is a bit of a catch-22 though, but if everybody is engaged in the game, everybody shares the responsibility of making the game engaging.
 

TheMouse

garmonbozia
Validated User
+1 to this. If a player is on their phone the whole time, it's likely a sign that you need to reevaluate your GMing skills - after all, it's your job to keep players engaged in the game. I imagine there are **some** asshole players out there who will be on their phones regardless of how good the story is, but I've never encountered them myself, and I've been playing for a while...
I've encountered such a player. Any time they're not actively involved in what's going on, out comes the phone. So if the PCs split up or their PC doesn't happen to have a skill set appropriate to what's going on in every single moment of play, they pull out their phone and start playing with it. Once the phone is out it's a self perpetuating thing that keeps them from engaging with the game again unless someone yells at them.

Then the whole thing repeats the next time they're not actively involved for a second.

These people exist. GMs aren't miracle workers who can perfectly engage 100% of a group of people at every moment. So I'm gonna put this on those players and not on the GM.
 

Strange Visitor

Grumpy Grognard
Validated User
+1 to this. If a player is on their phone the whole time, it's likely a sign that you need to reevaluate your GMing skills - after all, it's your job to keep players engaged in the game. I imagine there are **some** asshole players out there who will be on their phones regardless of how good the story is, but I've never encountered them myself, and I've been playing for a while...
I think there's a certain excluded middle implied in the phrase "the whole time."
 

hyphz

Member
RPGnet Member
Validated User
These people exist. GMs aren't miracle workers who can perfectly engage 100% of a group of people at every moment. So I'm gonna put this on those players and not on the GM.
I guess my question here is, why not put it on the game or the hobby?
 

Random Goblin

Esquire
Validated User
I mean, if the question is what to do about this situation, then the answer is the same as it is to basically every other problem-at-the table, meaning that you have the following choices:

1. Have a conversation with the other person about what bothers you
2. Don't play with the person whose behavior bothers you
3. Make peace with the person's bothersome behavior because it's not going to change and you can't or don't want to bail on the game for whatever reason

If you're looking to establish a baseline "reasonable expectation of behavior," I'm not sure that exists, because you're going to find as many opinions as there are games out there. People game for different reasons, and one person's minimally socially acceptable behavior is another person's abusive tyranny.

In my games, I explicitly don't expect my players to learn the system or engage with it mechanically, but the tradeoff is that I am proactive about letting my players know what the mechanical ramifications of their in-game choices are likely to be (I game with the hood up). I expect a moderate amount of engagement with what is happening at the table, which just means I rein it in when the side-talk gets too much for mys tastes. And the tradeoff is that I try to play fast-paced systems and run combats quickly so I don't have players sitting for long periods of time with nothing to do. I don't care if my players need to get up from the table or look at their phones, but if they have the sound on, I would tell them no, and if they are using their phones in a way that is grabbing other people's attention, I might ask them to stop. But it depends a little on what's going on at the table--I have had situations where I was running a game for 10 to 12 players, and in that kind of situation I feel like a lot of tolerance is required.

But none of that is objectively right; it's just the inflection point between my tolerance for nonsense and my intentional low-buy-in point for players. It works at my table and people have fun and keep coming back, but it might not work at yours.

At the end of the day, it seems like it's better to think of it as a mismatch between people's expectations rather than some people failing to live up to some objective standard. I think people have the most fun when they're all on the same page in terms of expectations, so whatever gets you there is whatever gets you there. And it may involve some compromise, and it may mean that some games or playstyles/modes of play are just not going to work well at your table. I know that there are plenty that would not work well at mine.
 

Wulfgar22

Registered User
Validated User
I'm of the belief that if you are attending something then you give it your full attention, or don't bother. It's just being respectful.
I couldn't agree more. I'm kind of amazed that some people seem to think that not paying attention for any length of time is acceptable behaviour. As has been said above, games...whether RPGs, wargames or board games...are a shared form of entertainment and so by turning up and joining in you are agreeing to give the game your full attention. That is your responsibility. If not then you are being selfish and spoiling everyone else's fun.
 

Random Goblin

Esquire
Validated User
I couldn't agree more. I'm kind of amazed that some people seem to think that not paying attention for any length of time is acceptable behaviour. As has been said above, games...whether RPGs, wargames or board games...are a shared form of entertainment and so by turning up and joining in you are agreeing to give the game your full attention. That is your responsibility. If not then you are being selfish and spoiling everyone else's fun.
There are very few things in the whole world that I can pay complete and total attention to for hours at a time, and tabletop RPGs are not among them. I suspect that I am in the vast majority on this, so at my table, I try to have a lot of grace for other people's capacity to hyperfocus.

That said, if everyone paying unbroken attention to the game at all times is necessary for you to have fun playing an RPG, then I think you'll be well-served to find a group of players who think the same thing, as opposed to expecting and demanding it from that players who don't.
 

Wulfgar22

Registered User
Validated User
There are very few things in the whole world that I can pay complete and total attention to for hours at a time, and tabletop RPGs are not among them. I suspect that I am in the vast majority on this, so at my table, I try to have a lot of grace for other people's capacity to hyperfocus.
Yeah...but I'm not talking about hyperfocus, just the common decency type focus where you engage with the game and people you are playing with and don't pull out your phone for any length of time. Sure...pull out your phone for a couple of seconds to check. Have a joke. Go to the loo. But pulling out your phone for an extended period is just rude.
 

Random Goblin

Esquire
Validated User
Yeah...but I'm not talking about hyperfocus, just the common decency type focus where you engage with the game and people you are playing with and don't pull out your phone for any length of time. Sure...pull out your phone for a couple of seconds to check. Have a joke. Go to the loo. But pulling out your phone for an extended period is just rude.
I hear you, and when you put it that way, I think it tracks with what my expectations at the gaming table are as well, but my larger point is that this is really about the shared expectations of the group, and they're not always going to be the same.
 
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