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Palanan
2016-04-13, 10:00 PM
I'm about at the end of my rope with this group.

Our last session was typical: we're in the middle of a major combat, the culmination of several sessions' worth of storyline, surrounded by hordes of boggards in a down-to-the-wire melee with elite warriors, invisible assassins, a raging warchief and a wickedly tough shaman. The party is split three or four ways among the chaos, one PC is down hard and two others are hanging by a thread.

Meanwhile, two of the players are glued to their phones, another is playing video games on his laptop, a couple others are browsing random websites and another guy is tapping away at his iPad. This is pretty much how it's been for most of the day. At any given moment players are looking at Facebook, email, YouTube, real-world news, and in one case a hardcopy book on entering the stock market. The guy beside me plays video games in between checking PBase, PBP boards, and occasionally sites full of topless redheads.

There is very little actual roleplaying involved, only tactical discussions and the occasional bald in-character statement. "I've got your back!" is about the most complicated line that anyone says in character--and the concept of actually playing a character tends not to find much traction. Sometimes the DM tries to help with roleplaying: "What would your character do? He'd use his axe!" "--Okay, I use my axe." And so on.

Although the session ostensibly starts at noon, in practice people trickle in for the next hour or so, after which it takes us several hours of putzing around before we really start to make any headway in the game. Then at 3 or 4 pm we sputter to a pause to order lunch, which we can't ever manage to work out ahead of time, and which brings our feeble progress to a halt while we decide on food, order food, wait and/or go out for food, eat the food, and then slowly return to the storyline again.

Even once we start back up, it's still a muddle of stop-and-go chaos, near-constant wandering off-topic and random commentary. Right in the middle of a combat, people will go off on long tangents about previous characters and older editions, and the DM himself will suddenly stop in the middle of a round to tell some gaming story we've heard five times before.

One evening the entire game shut down for nearly forty-five minutes while one of the players tried to install software on his laptop to make a Skype call. This wasn't for any gaming purpose whatsoever; he just wanted to chat on Skype with someone during the game. It brought the entire session to a dead stop, with several of us pacing around the house in grinding frustration while the player tried and ultimately failed to make his Skype connection. The DM, meanwhile, was reading something on his phone.

Are most groups like this now? Do people spend more time looking at their phones and laptops than the actual battlemap on the table? Or is this group an outlier on the fringe of extreme distraction?

JAL_1138
2016-04-13, 10:19 PM
They're an outlier. There's sometimes one person or a couple of people like that, but rarely a whole group. I suggest talking to them about it. They may not realize how rude they're being. A gadget ban may be necessary if discussion doesn't fix it. EDIT: granted, it seems the DM is part of thebproblem, and it's difficult to get a gadget ban going if you're not behind the screen and not at your house or a neutral site like a game store, so those may not work.

jinjitsu
2016-04-13, 10:42 PM
How long are these sessions? If that lunch break is a midpoint, you're running 6-8 hours; I know I'd find it impossible to keep my group focused for that long - they're all incredibly attentive during our usual 3-5 hour sessions, but we're only able to get one in every 3 weeks or so. It may just be that when the game started, they genuinely didn't have time to split between gaming and other things, but they wanted to game, and by now the split attention precedent has spread from important things to idle browsing.

If that's the case - if these sessions are running that long and are taking place on a regular basis - shortening your play time may lead to better focus.

Slipperychicken
2016-04-13, 11:19 PM
Maybe you shouldn't be playing tabletop RPGs with these people. Perhaps movies or video-games might be better, if they're even your friends at all. If they're not your friends, then it just seems like a waste of time.



Meanwhile, two of the players are glued to their phones, another is playing video games on his laptop, a couple others are browsing random websites and another guy is tapping away at his iPad. This is pretty much how it's been for most of the day. At any given moment players are looking at Facebook, email, YouTube, real-world news, and in one case a hardcopy book on entering the stock market. The guy beside me plays video games in between checking PBase, PBP boards, and occasionally sites full of topless redheads.

I don't think I've ever seen a player literally look at porn during a session. If I saw one of my friends actually doing that, I don't think he'd ever live it down. Regardless of where his hands were at the time, he would forever live in shame as the jerkin-it-to-redheads-during-dnd guy, and I would not tire of taunting him for it.


When I do stuff like check my email and look at the news during games, it's usually because of extreme disengagement and boredom, or else exhaustion. If everyone at the table is distracted and disengaged like that all the time, then it's no surprise that you're not having fun either.

hymer
2016-04-14, 02:17 AM
Maybe you shouldn't be playing tabletop RPGs with these people. Perhaps movies or video-games might be better, if they're even your friends at all. If they're not your friends, then it just seems like a waste of time.

This.
Since you're here, though, it seems you'd like to at least try to make it work. So how about you talk to the DM so s/he's not caught out, and then the group. Suggest you try an experiment for two or three sessions: Everyone leaves their electronic gadgets out of reach away from the table. Same goes for books not on subject. Print character sheets if you need to.
This way, the group may find out if it even fits together. Whether people enjoy each others' company at all.

If all else fails, get together with the DM and start a new group with people actually interested in playing RPGs.

It Sat Rap
2016-04-14, 03:22 AM
Well, if the GM himself is not focused on the game, then why should the players bother about it? Maybe the game itself is just not very exciting. Boring story, boring encounters, boring NPCs, oh look, a funny youtube video, I have to watch it! Here are a few suggestions:

-Find a new GM.
-Or take the GM-seat yourself.
-Ban electronic devices.
-Ban all books not related to the game.
-Speak IC as many times as possible. If you ask another player something IC, he probably will answer IC also.
-On the end of the session, decide where you want to order food for the next time. Everybody has to decide what he wants until the next session starts. Then you will order the food immediately. Or you don't order food at all, so everybody has to bring his own food.
-Get mad! Scream when you charge an enemy! Shake the table when you cast earthquake! Laugh maniacally when you burn down the enemy's fortress! Make the game exciting!

For the GM:
-Include things that will trigger the attention of the players. What do they want? Money, fame, revenge? Ask them about it. Give them a quest where they have to save a bunch of topless redheads! That's silly? Of course it is, but it will do the job!

But maybe the other players are just not very into Pen & Paper at all. Maybe the game is just an excuse to get together with other people. If you are friends with these people, you should suggest to do something different, like movies, video games, sport... If you don't want to hang out with them, just leave them and find another group.

Lorsa
2016-04-14, 05:58 AM
How many people are in your group? Going by your post, there seems to be quite a high number.

The more players, the less time each of them gets to actually *do* something game-related, and the easier that they get distracted.

Basically, I would try to break it down so you'd have 1 DM + 2 players per group. That way, they can't really escape into distraction-mode, as they get full attention pretty much all the time.

ComaVision
2016-04-14, 10:33 AM
I'd leave any group that had a blanket ban on electronics. It's the fastest way to check rules. I'm also the player most likely to be trying to keep us on track.

Our current DM is always under-prepared so he actively encourages off-topic discussion so we don't get through his prepared material. :smallmad:

Segev
2016-04-14, 10:43 AM
Out of curiosity, why did one player deciding to try to install software for Skype make the whole group stop playing? Why didn't they just continue with him distracted?

This honestly sounds like something to just have a discussion with the group about, because it's either really frustrating them all, and they all need to realize they're contributing (because these things snowball), or you or a minority are the only ones who don't like it this way, and you guys should probably find another group to play with who won't be so...distracted.

Palanan
2016-04-14, 05:47 PM
Originally Posted by JAL_1138
A gadget ban may be necessary if discussion doesn't fix it.

I've tried raising this with the DM, and he never does anything about it. It's a question of unspoken privileges becoming engrained in group culture.

I know at least one other player is somewhat peeved about this (even though he does it himself)--but when we raised it with the group there was some hard pushback from the guy who loves playing video games, claiming that with the sound off "it doesn't bother anyone." So that went nowhere.


Originally Posted by jinjitsu
How long are these sessions? …shortening your play time may lead to better focus.

The sessions typically "start" at 1 pm or so, and we run until 10-11 pm on average, although sometimes we've gone until midnight or later.

I've been in several other groups which kept a similar schedule, and they didn't have anything remotely like these same issues, so I don't think session length itself is a factor. The game doesn't really pick up until late afternoon anyway, and usually we don't start a major fight until 8 or 9 pm--which is a problem in itself, because these battles always take longer than expected and all of us, DM included, end up being cranky and snappish when things go sideways at 11:30 pm.


Originally Posted by Slipperychicken
If they're not your friends, then it just seems like a waste of time.

Pretty much what I've realized. These aren't people I see other than gaming, and the gaming itself is almost always tedious and tepid.


Originally Posted by Slipperychicken
I don't think I've ever seen a player literally look at porn during a session. If I saw one of my friends actually doing that, I don't think he'd ever live it down.

In this group he gets away with it.


Originally Posted by hymer
Suggest you try an experiment for two or three sessions: Everyone leaves their electronic gadgets out of reach away from the table. Same goes for books not on subject. Print character sheets if you need to.

As noted above, this idea never got beyond the preproposal stage.

In fact, I'm the only person who brings paper character sheets. Everyone else is using HeroLab, because it has 40 million character options and our DM loves it. I have a feeling this opened the Pandora's box of internet distraction, because HeroLab gave everyone an excuse to have an open laptop at the table, and from there it was a short step to universal web access.


Originally Posted by It Sat Rap
Maybe the game itself is just not very exciting. Boring story, boring encounters, boring NPCs….

What's so strange is that none of this really applies. The DM puts a ton of work into the campaign, and especially into developing and realizing a whole slew of quirky and outspoken NPCs. His character voices and mannerisms are hilarious, their personalities are memorable and well-thought-out, and his storylines are equally so--often very involved, unfolding from subtle connections that have been simmering unseen for years of in-game time.

The fact is, the DM has taken a section of the River Kingdoms and given it layer on layer of nuance, interaction and pending menaces from a dozen different directions. The DM himself really enjoys roleplaying, and on the uncommon occasions when something social is called for I usually end up doing the social roleplaying for the party--regardless of whether my character is built for it. Whether I'm playing a dwarven loremaster, a taciturn druid, a gentlehearted magus or a rogueish theurge, I'm usually the one flattering, cajoling, defying or verbally fencing with the various NPCs.

Other players do have some roleplaying time, but more often than not they treat it as a chore to get through on the way to more hacking, rather than something to be enjoyed for its own sake. And this despite the fact that the DM clearly enjoys it so much himself.


Originally Posted by Lorsa
The more players, the less time each of them gets to actually *do* something game-related, and the easier that they get distracted.

This is definitely a factor. At full strength the group has eight players, which is a damn full house.

And our DM likes breakout sessions, in which he'll take one or two players into another room to run a scene while we're separated from the rest of the party. The trouble is, this leaves the other six or seven players with nothing to do--and since the DM likes to go on and on, that means the bulk of the players can be putzing around for an hour or more with no DM and no story.

Add all those open laptops, not to mention phones, iPads, game-thingies and other devices, and it's an electronic Babel.


Originally Posted by Segev
Out of curiosity, why did one player deciding to try to install software for Skype make the whole group stop playing? Why didn't they just continue with him distracted?

Because another player, who's an IT/network specialist, was roped into helping the first guy install the software, and then the game host had to give him the password and etc. for the house wi-fi, and by that point it had become all about installing Skype.

Mr Beer
2016-04-14, 06:05 PM
Sounds like an exercise in frustration and since you are alone (or nearly so) in finding this extremely irritatating, it's time to move on.

I personally would hate this game. When I hate a game, I get a new game.

Quertus
2016-04-14, 07:12 PM
I've seen this happen because the players weren't interested in the game. It fell apart several sessions later.

I've seen this happen because most of the players were old friends, with lots of gaming history. They enjoyed each other's company; the game was secondary.

And I've played in places where the active character roster didn't fit on one side of a piece of notebook paper (ok, probably only 15 players max, but each was allowed up to 3 characters), yet people stayed relatively focused.

The social contract is the largest determining factor, IMO.

With this group, I suggest splitting into smaller, more focused groups. With each group getting more of what they want.

SirBellias
2016-04-14, 09:54 PM
What's so strange is that none of this really applies. The DM puts a ton of work into the campaign, and especially into developing and realizing a whole slew of quirky and outspoken NPCs. His character voices and mannerisms are hilarious, their personalities are memorable and well-thought-out, and his storylines are equally so--often very involved, unfolding from subtle connections that have been simmering unseen for years of in-game time.

The fact is, the DM has taken a section of the River Kingdoms and given it layer on layer of nuance, interaction and pending menaces from a dozen different directions. The DM himself really enjoys roleplaying, and on the uncommon occasions when something social is called for I usually end up doing the social roleplaying for the party--regardless of whether my character is built for it. Whether I'm playing a dwarven loremaster, a taciturn druid, a gentlehearted magus or a rogueish theurge, I'm usually the one flattering, cajoling, defying or verbally fencing with the various NPCs.

Other players do have some roleplaying time, but more often than not they treat it as a chore to get through on the way to more hacking, rather than something to be enjoyed for its own sake. And this despite the fact that the DM clearly enjoys it so much himself.

Okay, that sound pretty awesome. Have you considered talking to the other annoyed player and the GM about starting a new game with less people and more role playing focus? Because his efforts seem to be wasted on the rest of your group. As DM, I split the Role Players and the Do Nothings into two different groups, so they both get what they want. It also isn't really that much more work, as I try to put in about as much effort into DMing as my players do playing, which is basically zero for one and the normal load for the other. Yay, priorities!

But yeah, if there's no way they'll try a style that you enjoy, walk it off.




This is definitely a factor. At full strength the group has eight players, which is a damn full house.


Ah, the good old days. Like... last session, actually. I tried confiscating their phones after an hour and a half of Face Swapping, and they got the picture after stealing them back. Then they kept complaining about not doing anything, so I pulled out Paranoia.

I don't really know what you could do as a player in your situation though, besides leave, or start your own game :smalltongue:

Lorsa
2016-04-15, 02:59 AM
One important thing to make sure your group understand is that multitasking doesn't work.

That is, you can't do two things at once equally good as if you did only one thing. The quality of both things will decrease. Find some good articles about the problems of multitasking and show them to your friends.

Also, inform a certain someone that just because you don't have a problem with people playing video games with the sound off, it doesn't mean other people couldn't have a problem with it.

Segev
2016-04-15, 09:04 AM
There are a few layers to this, but the surface layer is: it sounds like this group isn't really interested in gaming. They want to get together once a week and hang out, even if they're doing their own things online while doing so.

Now, peeling back some of the layers, it is possible that it is a minority of players who actually feel this way, and that others are merely following their example and contributing to the problem because, when that minority disrupts the game, they're left with nothing to do. People with nothing to do find distractions. And then they become excuses not to get back on track, because they, too, are doing other things.

I get along fairly well with my brother who shares the house with me, but planning anything with him requires me to be willing to stand around doing nothing for 5-15 minutes. He pushes things right up until the last second he can afford to before starting to prepare to do anything, and then takes his time doing it. This often - but not always - has him ready on time...but it doesn't matter if I'm ready to go other than needing to wrap something up; if I'm not ready RIGHT when he finishes whatever he was doing and is ready to go, he goes and does something else, and then I have to, again, wait for him to finish THAT. So if I'm not willing to sit around and do nothing for the last few minutes until he's ready, we never get going, because we're never finished simultaneously with anything and he will ALWAYS go start something else. And then, if called on it, blame me.

(This is a slight exaggeration, as if I take less than a minute, he's usually willing to wait, but man is it frustrating.)

Anyway, my point is, unless you have all of those interested in gaming ready and willing to sit and do nothing while waiting for the people who are more eagerly distracted, their distraction while waiting will be used as an excuse for the minority to remain distracted.


The solution to this is to either have the DM take charge and enforce attention being paid to the game, or to excise the players who aren't really interested in playing. Both require some level of uncomfortable confrontation from somebody.

So, if you're really not having fun, you can do this in a few steps:

1) At the game session, ask people if they're having fun with the way things are. Suggest that everybody is contributing to the distraction. Tell the video-game player that, while he may not think it "bothers" anybody, it lends to the overall sense of unfocus, and suggest that he should pick one game to play - the video one or the tabletop one. And, if the latter, he probably shouldn't be distracting everybody else. You can be as polite as you can manage, but don't back down on it. Even if you're outvoted, you should make your feelings known and not be cowed into "admitting" they're invalid or wrong.

2) If people agree overall that things are less enjoyable than they could be, discuss putting a ban on using laptops for anything other than that one character sheet manager. And call people on it when violations occur. Ask the DM to be strict. It doesn't have to be punished in-game, just a firm insistence that they cut it out. Turn off any IM programs, close browsers, do not allow email. Even texting should be ignored unless it's genuinely more important than the game, in which case they should take it to another room and actually call the person. It is excessively rare for a text to be so important that it trumps what's going on around you in real time (unless you're really not doing anything important), but not so important that a phone call is warranted.

In short: treat texting like phone calls. If they happen, the person doing it should consider it an interruption and get up to go deal with it elsewhere.

3) If it's a minority that think this is less than fun, then suggest something other than gaming that you guys can do as a group. Something that won't be disrupted by this pattern of behavior. Then suggest that those who really want to game do so in a smaller group, and enforce some attention-paying rules as discussed in (2).

4) If it's just you...then this may not be the group for you. Bow out. Tell the DM all the nice things you said to us about his game, and express any genuine regrets that you may have that you're going to miss out, but that 10-12 hours of your weekends are better spent doing something that won't frustrate you due to not actually getting to do enough of the activity for which the time was set aside. It just is a difference in preference and style. You can leave the door open with the DM, asking to be invited if he's ever going to run another game that involves a more game-focused culture at the table.


Again, be as polite as possible without giving up firmness. Differences in preferences happen. But that doesn't make your preferences invalid.

Anonymouswizard
2016-04-15, 11:58 AM
occasionally sites full of topless redheads.

I actually have to respect the sheer audacity here.

To give some context my current group has an understanding of 'if your character is just milling around or not in the scene, you can use for phone', which works alot. I have my phone out a lot, but can always react to the GM (I have low-level hyperawareness, autism can have benefits), and one player has his sheet on his laptop (in contrast I print out a fresh sheet every session*, and the others have handwritten sheets). This doesn't really affect the game, except make me suspect laptop-guy is munchkining as I've never seen his stats, but I know for other groups it could.

However, when I GM I ban laptops and keep an eye on phone users. I won't ban phones until it causes problems, and I want players to be able to respond to emergencies, but I'm always suspicious.

* I only do this for GURPS, because I made a spreadsheet to calculate the maths.

Esprit15
2016-04-15, 12:32 PM
I frequently find phones useful for communicating secret information at a table without other players noticing. Longer things I'll take someone out of the room to talk in secret.

That instance aside, I echo the sentiments of the others here: either try and change things, or find a new group.

Lord Torath
2016-04-15, 01:37 PM
I'd leave any group that had a blanket ban on electronics. It's the fastest way to check rules. I'm also the player most likely to be trying to keep us on track. :smallmad:It's obviously not a one-size-fits-all rule. I ban electronics, except for the laptop I'm running the game from. Another group I was in, one of the players had his character sheet on his smartphone. But neither of those cases had the electronics causing distractions. It sounds like it might be a good rule for the OPs group.

"But ComaVision has his device out!"
"Have you ever seen him do anything other than look up relevant rules on it?"
"....no."
"There you go!"

Douche
2016-04-15, 04:04 PM
I find that Pavlovian conditioning works best in these types of scenarios. We had one guy who always would be checking his phone during games so I started shooting him directly in the ear with a squirt gun. He would twitch and freak out, and be all "Why'd you do that!?!" but I never told him why. Eventually he was conditioned to not check his phone during D&D.

That was just one guy, though. I don't know how it would work with a full group of people.

Segev
2016-04-15, 04:35 PM
I find that Pavlovian conditioning works best in these types of scenarios. We had one guy who always would be checking his phone during games so I started shooting him directly in the ear with a squirt gun. He would twitch and freak out, and be all "Why'd you do that!?!" but I never told him why. Eventually he was conditioned to not check his phone during D&D.

That was just one guy, though. I don't know how it would work with a full group of people.

It also sounds like a great way to be labeled the problem player, yourself.

goto124
2016-04-16, 03:44 AM
We had one guy who always would be checking his phone during games so I started shooting him directly in the ear with a squirt gun. He would twitch and freak out, and be all "Why'd you do that!?!" but I never told him why. Eventually he was conditioned to not check his phone during D&D.

Player story of the day.

Anonymouswizard
2016-04-16, 03:51 AM
It also sounds like a great way to be labeled the problem player, yourself.

You can solve that with a little Pavlovian Conditioning :smallwink:

Concrete
2016-04-16, 05:09 AM
I have one player who often plays candy crush during combat, but he still keeps track of his abilities and the combat at large, so I let it slide as he still plays his character without distractions outside of battle.

Segev
2016-04-16, 09:06 AM
I have one player who often plays candy crush during combat, but he still keeps track of his abilities and the combat at large, so I let it slide as he still plays his character without distractions outside of battle.
Well, sure. If nobody is bothered by something and it isn't causing problems, then it is not a problem.

Kami2awa
2016-04-21, 08:19 AM
I've found this sometimes stems from characters not having enough to do. I once sat through six hours of combat during which I rolled a dice six times, due to having a less combat orientated healer PC. As the game was run via Skype, this meant six hours of internet surfing while everyone else's more complex attacks were resolved.

Consider, how often does each player get to act? Is the system slowing the game? If you have to wait hours for a turn, players will get bored.

PrincessCupcake
2016-04-21, 03:54 PM
This kinda sounds like the GM may have gotten in over their head. It's a mistake many of us make.

-10 to 12 hours is too much time to properly run a session in. For most groups six hours is pushing it. Suggest the gm split the day between "game time" and "hangout time". If the gm is only extending the session to compensate for a distracted player, suggest a time limit on decision making or having designated "goof off" breaks.

-8 players is a lot. suggest a group split, with one group of more attentive players and one group of less attentive ones.