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  1. - Top - End - #1
    Ogre in the Playground
     
    Flumph

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    Default Players 'checking out'

    Are people okay with players who 'check out' or aren't engaged during play?

    I expect everyone at the table to be engaged during play (all of it).

    The sort of player who only pays attention when it is their turn is the same sort who just waits for the chance to talk during a conversation without actually listening. I don't want to hang out with either.

    I expect everyone at the table to listen to whoever is talking and thinking about what they can do next that will enhance everyone's enjoyment.

    The quickest way for a game to die in my experience is for there to be selfish people at the table taking up space figuratively and literally.

    I have no tolerance for that sort of thing anymore (if it is their regular attitude. If they're just having a bad day or whatever that's fine).

    Are people really both okay with this sort of thing and expect it/find it common in their games?
    If you are trying to abuse the game; Don't. And you're probably wrong anyway.

  2. - Top - End - #2
    Ogre in the Playground
     
    Townopolis's Avatar

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    Default Re: Players 'checking out'

    I expect and am okay with people checking out when they're not in a scene at all. If the scouts are scouting, the rest of the party gets to take a break from thinking about their next moves and how they're going to overcome challenges for a few minutes. Same when the faces are negotiating with someone, the scholars are researching, the top muscle is dueling, etc.

    Both as a player and a DM, I see these times as an opportunity for the "benched" players to decompress, and I consider them particularly valuable when the party has been running through some high-stakes situations but still has stuff to do.

    The price is that whomever was doing stuff must gets to recap the situation IC to the rest of the party, which I'm perfectly fine paying.

    In the thread this topic is splitting off from, some very good points were made about making non-combat challenges larger than a single scene--having them encompass exploration and negotiation elements both and having them take place over larger stretches of time with flashbacks and cuts as needed. I'm absolutely behind this; it makes better challenges. I also need to just lean back and space out every now and then, and scenes where your character isn't there are, imo, a valid place to do so.
    Last edited by Townopolis; 2021-09-08 at 10:45 PM.
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  3. - Top - End - #3
    Dwarf in the Playground
     
    BarbarianGuy

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    Default Re: Players 'checking out'

    For starters, you are always welcome at my table.

    I don't necessarily expect everyone to be fully engaged, but I expect everyone to be at least halfway paying attention.

    I don't mind if some of the players are only half-listening while the spotlight is on someone else. Don't know anything about magic? Then I don't expect you to pay that much attention while the group's "arcane specialist" takes care of it. Got no prof's in social skills to go along with that crappy CHA score? I don't expect you to be active while the bard, sorcerer, and/or paladin talk to <whoever>. You certainly can be (and it'll probably lead to some fun RP) but it's not expected.

    Having said that, I don't expect you to be present during the entire thing and then ask, "what happened?"

    I expect full attention during combat. I've got a concrete rule in my Session 0 notes:
    You have 30 seconds to tell me what your character is doing or it stays where it is and takes the dodge action.
    Some players immediately don't like it, but they see the reason for it after a couple of sessions.

  4. - Top - End - #4
    Firbolg in the Playground
     
    Kane0's Avatar

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    Default Re: Players 'checking out'

    Quote Originally Posted by ad_hoc View Post
    Are people okay with players who 'check out' or aren't engaged during play?
    Yeah. One of my players is actually quite a good sketcher so its always fun to see what he doodles. I suspect that he deliberately made a basic ass champion so he could spend more time drawing.

    If people want to entertain themselves while they are sharing the spotlight with someone else thats fine by me as long as it isnt disruptive to the others. I want to have fun too after all, and I trust my players to be adult enough to tell me when there is a problem.

    Edit: also, one of me keeping 3-6 other people at the table fully engaged and entertained for multiple hours straight sounds like a sisyphean challenge. As long as theyre still sort of paying attention and we dont need to retread info all is well.
    Last edited by Kane0; 2021-09-08 at 10:59 PM.

  5. - Top - End - #5
    Dwarf in the Playground
     
    MindFlayer

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    Default Re: Players 'checking out'

    I will freely confess that when I was a young man pulling double-shifts to earn for my family, I would go to games and not infrequently fall asleep at the table, and my fellow gamers would let me sleep until some situation came up where they needed me - usually combat. Then they'd wake me and I'd pitch in. I was a pretty good tactical combat player, and I was generally playing some sort of fighter, so most of the actual interactions were handled by the high intelligence and high charisma characters, of which I was neither, so it tended to work out.

  6. - Top - End - #6
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    NinjaGirl

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    Default Re: Players 'checking out'

    Quote Originally Posted by JonBeowulf View Post
    You have 30 seconds to tell me what your character is doing or it stays where it is and takes the dodge action.
    We use a similar rule, though it's modified a bit. You have 30 second to start to tell what you're doing or start asking questions that can't be related to you not paying attention. The first part is because sometimes it takes longer than 30 seconds to say and roll for everything in your turn and I'm pedantic. The second part is because we have newer players in the group who often have questions about their abilities or combat rules.

  7. - Top - End - #7
    Titan in the Playground
     
    Lizardfolk

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    Default Re: Players 'checking out'

    Quote Originally Posted by ad_hoc View Post
    Are people okay with players who 'check out' or aren't engaged during play?
    In my experience, a lot of players play the game because a big part of it is the social aspect of D&D. You get to sit around with your friends for a few hours a week and play a game.

    Sometimes, the game isn't very interesting:
    DMs aren't perfect - sometimes the scene sucks.
    Players aren't perfect - sometimes they don't know what to do in a scene, so they opt to do nothing and wait for another player to take the lead.

    The session has faltered. Someone doesn't care anymore.

    You can't make them care.
    You can't make them participate.
    You can't make their character's decisions for them.

    All's you can do is try and keep telling the story, keep engaging the other players, and hopefully they come back into the game in 15-30 minutes when you get to the next scene or scenario.

    And you know what, if someone is having a ****ty day, if someone does have more important things on their mind to be worrying about, then maybe, just maybe, hanging out with their friends is something that they should be doing. I would rather that person hang out with us, on their phone, and at least hear some jokes and tell some stories - even sporadically - than spend the night at home in the dark.

    People...For lack of a better term, are human. They're just not going to pay attention, all the time, especially when they're not involved and/or not interested. Especially when they're adults with lives. Sometimes, just sometimes, a game of make pretend with dice and some toy soldiers maybe just isn't going to be a thing they particularly care about that day. But they still showed up because they're expected to show up because they said they would.

    If they didn't care about the game at all, then they wouldn't even show up. They'd ghost. They'd cancel 30 mins. before the session. Someone who shows up, actually gives a ****, even if they don't participate. If they care enough to show up, then I care enough for them to be at the table, and I care enough to re-engage them if I can. If I fail to re-engage them, they'll stop showing up of their own accord.
    Last edited by Cheesegear; 2021-09-08 at 11:18 PM.
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  8. - Top - End - #8
    Ogre in the Playground
     
    DwarfClericGuy

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    Default Re: Players 'checking out'

    Quote Originally Posted by ad_hoc View Post
    Are people okay with players who 'check out' or aren't engaged during play?
    I am. Though it is with the unmentioned social contract that they won't be disruptive to the game while doing so. If two or more players are 'out of a scene' and want to talk, that's fine - move out of the table area to do so and it's all good. I'll ask them to move away if they don't do it on their own.

    Quote Originally Posted by Townopolis View Post
    I expect and am okay with people checking out when they're not in a scene at all. If the scouts are scouting, the rest of the party gets to take a break from thinking about their next moves and how they're going to overcome challenges for a few minutes. Same when the faces are negotiating with someone, the scholars are researching, the top muscle is dueling, etc.
    I honestly prefer this over one of my pet peeves: players who butt in on plans/extrapolation/exposition when their characters aren't "in the room". Don't give hints or ask questions for other players to hone in on if your character isn't actively present. Go 'tune out' and stop making me put you in time out!

    Quote Originally Posted by Kane0 View Post
    Also, one of me keeping 3-6 other people at the table fully engaged and entertained for multiple hours straight sounds like a sisyphean challenge. As long as they're still sort of paying attention and we don't need to retread info all is well.
    Honestly, I don't mind if another player does a micro re-cap for someone who checked out for a scene. <I> don't want to rehash it though; on the plus side, it does allow me to see if the players are picking up what I'm putting down - and if there is a misunderstanding, it's a great time to circle back to "what I meant was..."
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  9. - Top - End - #9
    Bugbear in the Playground
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    Default Re: Players 'checking out'

    I'm fine with people being less attentive during moments that don't involve them. Party splits are an obvious example. I don't think they should tune out entirely, but if you aren't involved in the game I don't expect you to give it 100% of your attention.

    Combat is not one of those times, and checking out during combat is unacceptable. I don't care if it's not your turn. You could be attacked at any moment. You might require a save. Someone might provoke an opportunity attack or otherwise allow you a reaction (example: Order Cleric). You could be healed, buffed, or otherwise affected in all kinds of ways. And of course, the game state is constantly evolving in ways that you are expected to be aware of. It might not be your turn but you are always involved, you are always playing, and I expect you to pay attention for the whole thing.

  10. - Top - End - #10
    Titan in the Playground
     
    Tanarii's Avatar

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    Default Re: Players 'checking out'

    I don't allow electronic devices at the table, because they encourage checking out. But I also run very fast paced combat by the standards of these boards. Generally speaking, checking out when it's not your turn isn't the best idea unless the DM allows you to take all the time you want to catch up on the current situation when your turn begins and make a decision on what to do.

  11. - Top - End - #11
    Orc in the Playground
     
    NinjaGuy

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    Default Re: Players 'checking out'

    As long as they're not disruptive, I don't care. I'm an introvert who gets overstimulated easily. I have a pretty good reputation as a dm(never had anyone leave unless they had to move), but I know not every scene will speak to everyone. If I'm educating the hardcore roleplayer cleric on the history of their church(because they're actually interested not cause I'm gonna force exposition), I don't expect the greedy rogue to be balls deep. Some players just wanna play a combat beatstick too. If they're not disruptive I don't have issue with it. As long as people aren't trampling on others fun, it's all good.

  12. - Top - End - #12
    Titan in the Playground
     
    Lizardfolk

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    Default Re: Players 'checking out'

    Quote Originally Posted by Tanarii View Post
    I don't allow electronic devices at the table, because they encourage checking out.
    Several of my players use D&D Beyond, which means that phones and tablets are unfortunately a fact of life.

    But I also run very fast paced combat by the standards of these boards.
    I've never had players check out during combat - not that I've observed, anyway. My players only ever check out during roleplaying and story-heavy scenes.
    Last edited by Cheesegear; 2021-09-09 at 12:31 AM.
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  13. - Top - End - #13
    Titan in the Playground
     
    Tanarii's Avatar

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    Default Re: Players 'checking out'

    Yeah, if you've got an encounter where a few characters are doing all the heavy lifting, which can be common during an social interaction with NPCs or some kinds of exploration, it's much easier for those not engaged to check out.

    Personally I'm not a fan of extended solo or duo 'scenes', especially ones where it's just about generic NPC interaction as opposed to an actual encounter with decision points. But for some tables that kind of thing is their bread and butter. That's when you start having to think about things like spotlight sharing and if checking out when it's not your "turn" matters.

  14. - Top - End - #14
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    RedWizardGuy

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    Default Re: Players 'checking out'

    Quote Originally Posted by Hytheter View Post
    Combat is not one of those times, and checking out during combat is unacceptable. I don't care if it's not your turn. You could be attacked at any moment. You might require a save. Someone might provoke an opportunity attack or otherwise allow you a reaction (example: Order Cleric). You could be healed, buffed, or otherwise affected in all kinds of ways. And of course, the game state is constantly evolving in ways that you are expected to be aware of. It might not be your turn but you are always involved, you are always playing, and I expect you to pay attention for the whole thing.
    Combat is a tricky one. You are right - in an ideal world where the players keep focus. However, if some players are ditherers, and the DM is not keeping a tight reign on proceedings it can be the most unquestionably dull moment of the night.

    For example, I was in a game last night where two of the four players were ditherers. One was a spellcaster (who kept changing his mind and reconsulting the PHB on his turn), and one who just had to talk through every element of his turn and second guess every decision (which was proposterous, we were fighting in a large open room, and he was a ranged character, just pick your target and shoot for ****s sake). And the DM wasn't helping, as he wasn't shutting down a lot of the delays. In contrast, each of my turns I knew what I was doing, had pre-gathered my dice, and was done in 10-20 seconds every time. Despite the best will in the world I was checking out fast.
    Last edited by Glorthindel; 2021-09-09 at 05:08 AM.

  15. - Top - End - #15
    Bugbear in the Playground
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    Default Re: Players 'checking out'

    Yeah, that's fair. I guess my point comes with the caveat that things are actually happening during the combat and it's not just stalling out because the turn player can't make a decision.

    Though perhaps they'd reach decisions faster if they were paying more attention. :P

  16. - Top - End - #16
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    RogueGuy

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    Default Re: Players 'checking out'

    "I honestly prefer this over one of my pet peeves: players who butt in on plans/extrapolation/exposition when their characters aren't "in the room". Don't give hints or ask questions for other players to hone in on if your character isn't actively present. Go 'tune out' and stop making me put you in time out!"
    This is one of my pet peeves as well, but in my case the opposite of Theodoxus - why can't I give suggestions to my teammate Player to Player? Why exclude me from the game when my PC isn't in scene?

    I'm also fairly extroverted and believe that one of the ways that are a good teammate / you show respect for others and the game is by paying attention to the game even when the 'scene' doesn't revolve around you. How disrespectful and selfish can you be to tune out just because you're not in the spot light?

    I also dislike electronics at the table for anything other than the game (or game related meming), and get those gall dern kids off my lawn!

    But I also acknowledge that everyone is different - to each their own.

  17. - Top - End - #17
    Ogre in the Playground
     
    DwarfClericGuy

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    Default Re: Players 'checking out'

    Player to player, like "hey, remember when X happened, bring that up, it might help" is fine. The character probably has a better memory than the player.

    Character to Character, like "Brometheus, ask the general why the army just stopped at the river and didn't help the citizens of Morgansville", when Brometheus is in another plane of existence, isn't.

    Even worse: DM: "Brometheus, you see a a glowing sword laying on a sarcophagus. Roll Int (arcana) to determine if this is one of the set of Nan'zou". Chad, playing Brometheus rolls a 6. "Uh, 8." and then Derek, playing Menithis the Magnificent Mage, whose character is currently in a different part of the city buying supplies rolls a 14 and shouts out "I got a mod 20, is it part of the set?"

    Like seriously?
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  18. - Top - End - #18
    Pixie in the Playground
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    Default Re: Players 'checking out'

    Quote Originally Posted by Glorthindel View Post
    ...one who just had to talk through every element of his turn and second guess every decision (which was proposterous, we were fighting in a large open room, and he was a ranged character, just pick your target and shoot for ****s sake).
    Soooo this. This right here. I've got one of those players too and it drives me absolutely nuts. You're a one trick pony so shoot your damned xbow already. This is not something that requires deep analysis but if you really need to study the field for five minutes before making a decision, for gawd sakes study it *before* your ****ing turn comes up!

  19. - Top - End - #19
    Barbarian in the Playground
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    Default Re: Players 'checking out'

    Quote Originally Posted by ad_hoc View Post
    Are people okay with players who 'check out' or aren't engaged during play?
    Out of curiosity ad_hoc, when was the last time you played a PC and didn't DM?

    A DM is always engaged in a D&D game. Players aren't. In Zoom games, I will confess there are times when I have decided that "So and So has this" and tuned out, when I am playing a PC.

    I also DM for players that have young children.
    Sometimes, Players have to feed their children, or respond to a request for their attention, or a loud thud or crying from the next room.

    As a DM I'm not going to tell a parent that they cannot get up and make lunch for their child when their turn is 3 turns away.

  20. - Top - End - #20
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    Planetar

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    Default Re: Players 'checking out'

    "It depends".
    IMO, the most important is to have all the players (GM included) on the same page.

    There are sessions where peoples will go take some water or whatever (so leave the room, or leave their computer screen) at the middle of a scene where they're not particularly active. In those sessions, not a lot is done in-universe, because peoples tend to crack joke or go meta (or rule-discussion) every now and then. But not everything is about the game and just being together is fun enough.

    There are sessions where we really want to finish the scenario before some specific time, or we just want to progress. In those sessions, everyone understand they have to keep focus, play fast, and that the GM is trying its best to maintain player engagement and a good pacing.

  21. - Top - End - #21
    Ogre in the Playground
     
    strangebloke's Avatar

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    Default Re: Players 'checking out'

    Of all the problem players you could have at your table, this seems like one of the least. They show up on time consistently? They don't smell bad? They're not disruptive? They know how the system works? They aren't spotlight hogging? They don't quarterback? They bring snacks???

    Man.

    Saddle that unicorn before they run away. Who cares if they check out from time to time? DND isn't a religious vigil, you're allowed to take breaks. As long as they know what to do when it is their "turn" in one sense or another, I'm happy.

    I'll go even further: if an otherwise good player is checking out from time to time its often a symptom of other problems at the table. Maybe they're checked out because the spotlight hog is roleplaying with his NPC girlfriend again. Maybe they're checking out because they're literally not in the room. Maybe they're checking out because the combat is a slog because the druid's turn is taking fifteen minutes.

  22. - Top - End - #22
    Ogre in the Playground
     
    Flumph

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    Default Re: Players 'checking out'

    So, I think there is a lot of group-think going on here so I'll let you know that it is possible to have a game where everyone is engaged and listening to each other. It probably seems like the norm to you not to be but it isn't.

    I get it though that it is for some. I once had a new player show up to a game with a book and he would read when it wasn't his turn to speak. It was shocking.

    For many of you who think checking out is fine as long as it isn't combat I recommend trying out a game that is all combat on game night and see how well the group responds to it. Other games might be a better fit for the group.

    Otherwise I encourage trying to get through an entire game where everyone is engaged. See if you can change the group norms, if only for a single night. Have everyone listen to each other and have the DM engage with everyone in each scene.

    I've had my fair share of sessions where people are checked out too but I'll never play with people like that again.
    If you are trying to abuse the game; Don't. And you're probably wrong anyway.

  23. - Top - End - #23
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    strangebloke's Avatar

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    Default Re: Players 'checking out'

    Quote Originally Posted by ad_hoc View Post
    So, I think there is a lot of group-think going on here so I'll let you know that it is possible to have a game where everyone is engaged and listening to each other. It probably seems like the norm to you not to be but it isn't.

    I get it though that it is for some. I once had a new player show up to a game with a book and he would read when it wasn't his turn to speak. It was shocking.

    For many of you who think checking out is fine as long as it isn't combat I recommend trying out a game that is all combat on game night and see how well the group responds to it. Other games might be a better fit for the group.

    Otherwise I encourage trying to get through an entire game where everyone is engaged. See if you can change the group norms, if only for a single night. Have everyone listen to each other and have the DM engage with everyone in each scene.

    I've had my fair share of sessions where people are checked out too but I'll never play with people like that again.
    It's pretty arrogant to assert that the entire collective of DMs here simply have never experienced "True Engagement(TM)" like you.

  24. - Top - End - #24
    Ogre in the Playground
     
    DruidGuy

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    Default Re: Players 'checking out'

    I don't expect everyone to be 100% engaged with whats going on at all times, nor do I think that's particularly realistic to maintain. In practice players will lose focus writing notes, checking their abilities etc. and that's fine, checking a phone or something every now and then is whatever.

    As long as it isn't apparent you're not paying attention for any reason other than looking at your sheet/looking up an ability etc. I don't mind. If it's clear that you're checked out, or playing a game (had this happen a few times) well then that's not okay and frankly a little hurtful when running takes so much time and effort.

    Something I do to increase player engagement is recaps. At the beginning of the session I roll a die to decide who will recap what happened last session, I never do the recap myself. Since the players know they could be chosen to recap in front of everyone, then everyone pays attention (for the most part) even when it's not strictly about their character. Assuming the recap isn't horrifically butchered, they get an inspiration when they're done.

    All the groups I've done this with take it with good spirits and it ensures a certain level of engagement, I highly recommend it.
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    Ogre in the Playground
     
    BarbarianGuy

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    Default Re: Players 'checking out'

    How do you know they're not listening?

    My daughter has mild ADD. When she's in school and the teacher is talking, she'll doodle. I did the same thing when I was a kid. Back in my day (along with uphill both ways in the snow), teachers didn't know how to deal with it and I would get punished. My schooling experience suffered a lot.

    I was pleased when back in 3rd grade or so, her teacher sent us a note saying she noticed that my daughter doodled and such while she (the teacher) talked, but she noticed that she still could follow the discussion and answer questions at least as effectively as the kids who "properly" paid attention. The teacher told us she understood what our daughter was doing and was okay with it as long as her academic and social skills kept up. And they did -- she's doing much better in both aspects than I ever could have. Her teacher also warned us that later teachers might not see it this way and we might need to explain the situation, but two grades later she's doing fine.

    For myself, I also doodle during meetings at work. It actually helps with retention. If I don't have a "thing" to focus my ADD brain on while you're talking, it'll jump from thing to thing and thought to though and I'll stop paying attention.

    My daughter plays in my D&D campaign now. She does the same thing, churning out doodle after doodle while we play. But she's always aware of what's going on, or at least needs no more reminding or prompting than the other players who don't have a fidget.

    She takes after me in this regard. If I sat at your table, I would probably appear to be distracted when you're interacting directly with another player for any length of time. But I'd be following what's happening. I just wouldn't always be openly displaying it.

  26. - Top - End - #26
    Halfling in the Playground
     
    MindFlayer

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    Default Re: Players 'checking out'

    For us it depends on the game.
    3-4 hour one shot at somebody's house or a convention? Yes, I'd hope everybody is engaged and if not work to draw them back in.
    Our weekly discord game? No chance. Someone will always be trying to put down kids, sort out life admin or zoning out because they got up early for work, had a terrible day and only got home five minutes ago. It's not ideal but it's the only way we're going to get a regular game in and as mentioned above half the fun is the social aspect of being in a call with friends.

  27. - Top - End - #27
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    Tanarii's Avatar

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    amused Re: Players 'checking out'

    Quote Originally Posted by ad_hoc View Post
    Other games might be a better fit for the group.
    Having run board game days many times, I can tell you that any adult board game with more than 2 players result in players checking out at some point. Every single one. Only some non-board card games seem immune to this result. (Note that multiplayer MtG is not one of them.)

    This includes common and popular games like:
    Risk
    Axis and Allies
    Descent
    Dungeon!
    Civilization
    Airplane

    For one that's more modern: Gloomhaven

    The only exceptions I've seen are kids games like Fireball Island or Mouse Trap, with relatively quick turns and exciting things happening to the entire board that affect a players piece periodically.

    Put up a battlemat in D&D, instead of a white board or theatre of the mind, and suddenly it becomes a real battle for a DM to prevent slow turns and checking out. If the DM doesn't make an effort, it's very likely combat will be treated like an adult board game, and checking out will occur. In the face of a board and tactical thinking while waiting for the most up to date current situation information, it's the norm, not the exception.

  28. - Top - End - #28
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    PaladinGuy

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    Default Re: Players 'checking out'

    I really dislike it when another player wastes everyone's time and asks what's going on because they were not paying attention during other player's turns. It requires minimal effort to extend everyone else at the table that courtesy.

    Very similar to my other pet peeve: "why are we in this dungeon again?"

  29. - Top - End - #29
    Troll in the Playground
     
    Kobold

    Join Date
    Mar 2013
    Gender
    Male

    Default Re: Players 'checking out'

    I 100% don't care if you check out while you're not in the scene.

    If it's a social encounter and you don't feel like participating, at least try to pay attention. I don't want to repeat everything the NPCs just said because you are lazy.

    For an exploration encounter or a "pre combat" situation, usually I want everyone brainstorming ideas and plans, even the dumbest idea can lead to a good plan.

    During combat encounters, you can check out for a bit right after your turn to go take a leak or something, but try to be back before your next turn cuz otherwise I'm delaying your turn.

  30. - Top - End - #30
    Ogre in the Playground
     
    DruidGuy

    Join Date
    May 2019

    Default Re: Players 'checking out'

    I'll add in that I also use breaks, there's one mid session break that's usually 15-25 minutes long. That allows for people to go to the bathroom, grab snacks, take care of real life stuff like kids or change the laundry etc. It also allows people a break from focusing, which I think really helps.

    The break may seem long, for clarification my sessions (inc. break) are normally 4+ hours.
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