Zombie Murder Mystery

9 ways to grasp you players’ attention

Written by Expy - Published on September 12, 2007

Boredom alert!

There’s nothing wrong with a game that’s slowing down. Dungeon masters are only human and can’t possibly plan for everything. Dungeons & Dragons players also often have A.D.D. – which is the main reason TSR called the old version of the game Advanced Dungeons & Dragons. (A.D.D.)

So what’s a DM to do when the game slows down? Here a few suggestions:

9 ways to grasp you players’ attention

  1. Kill something or someone. It can be an anonymous NPC, a friend of the PCs, or the wizard’s familiar. Geez, I hate familiars. They’re really annoying.
  2. Give everyone a fix of caffeine. Energy drinks and coffee can work wonders.
  3. Whip out a gun. It’s a way to say “show the PCs an immediate death threat”. Anything that puts the life of one or more PCs in jeopardy is good.
  4. If your players suffer from an addiction to gamer’s crack and keep fidgeting with dice you might need a D&D chip & dip bowl.
  5. Go psychedelic. One of the PCs starts hallucinating stuff – realistic or downright crazy hallucinations, it doesn’t really matter. You can come up with a reason for this after the game.
  6. Introduce the campaign mysterious nemesis as charismatic, charming. Maybe he could send the PCs a note of apology because they have opposite goals and he might get in their way. Just go against the usual flow of the campaign. Fight the familiar!
  7. Use something from one of the characters’ background. They liked their characters. They worked hard on them. Use their work.
  8. Throw dice.
  9. Take a break. Not ideal for game flow but can revitalize the players and the session.

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Written by Expy

Meet Expy The Red Dragon

Expy is the mascot for DungeonMastering.com and the real mastermind behind Expy Games. He likes to hoard treasure, terrorize neighbors, burn down villages, and tell white dragon jokes..

No matter how fearful the legends claim dragons are, they always end up being defeated in 5 rounds by adventuring parties they encounter. That’s what dragons are – experience points for the heroes in your Dungeons & Dragon party. And this mascot is no different, hence the name Expy.

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11 Responses to “9 ways to grasp you players’ attention”

Zombie Murder Mystery
  1. gnome Says:

    Or even try convincing everyone of their role in the grand scheme of things. Perhaps even have El Minster drop in for tea…

  2. The Evil DM Says:

    I like starting an adventure in the middle of a nice bloody combat. gets every one’s blood up.

    I always like to introduce a friendly NPC / sidekick/ lover / or hireling- and then kill them off several sessions down the line. just to remind players that NO ONE is ever “safe”.

  3. Yax Says:

    Getting the PCs into or out of a fight would be a good way to keep the attention of the players.

    Not enough action? Brawl!
    Long fight? Uh, Meteor Shower!

  4. Robert Says:

    Poison, keep a list of poisons with you, so that little guy with the short bow that the PCs have been ignoring because its only 1d4, suddenly starts doing 1d6 Str, or PCs drop unconscious, or hallucinate (as you suggested).

    Just asking for a Fort check out of the blue gets them worried.

    And my bad guys dip their arrows in a flask of poison as they shoot each arrow, and always seem to kick it over as they die, or land on it and break the flask, or in desperation throw it at them.

    And on a similar note, if they are getting bored with a particular fight, have a new NPC turn up and just stand there with his arms crossed. See what your players make of that, and it costs you nothing, he slips away before the fight ends.

  5. Stupid Ranger Says:

    One of the things my DM’s have done when we get bored is introduce a completely random-but-light-hearted side quest. Once, we were all a little down about how difficult it was the track the Big Bad, so we got sent out on a little “favor” to the mayor to get rid of a poacher. It turned out to be a lot of fun because it was so casual and completely different from everything else we were encountering.

  6. Stûnibu Says:

    ok m now pissed off! (not at any of u…at MY STUPID COMPUTER!!!!) i just finished my post and clicked to post it and my computer stuffed up and i lost it (save your work, or copy your comments as you work on them so you don’t have 2 re-rite them…

    anyway..

    Robert is a smart guy, I LOVE POISON. i have a copy of the poison table from “arms and amour” stuck on my wall next to my desk (were i dm From) this can help with fights that PCs are getting bord of or a repetitive quest.

    but (always a but) when they are bord in general a find a new weapon to cleave heads off with or slice out hearts gets them back into the game, how ever you cant just give PCs new weapons every time they r bord (or shouldn’t) and it can get some PCs back into it (the one that gets the weapon) and others h8ing it even more (those who miss out) so it isn’t a simple fix.
    Another think i do is PCs birthdays, though you cant just do this every time they are bord i have found it fun to run!

  7. Stûnibu Says:

    i just read the footer… i was amused!
    btw nice new format with the site in general
    (i no its off topic and im sorry)

  8. morhg Says:

    my group every about 30 mins its like time for a smoke break (its kind of sad that in the party of 8 only 2 peps smoke)

  9. D&D Nerd Says:

    Love how you linked to my joke post for #8 ^_^

  10. Archebus Says:

    I introduced a love interest for one of the PC’s and then had the same PC kill her to stop a ritual … was the most intense and emotionally charged game ive ever DM’ed …

    Half the table was yelling at this particular PC to kill her while he ummed and erred … i started penalising him by skipping his turn and kept the combat running to keep the realism in place which just got everything shouting even more … he was the only one with ranged abilities so he was the only one that could take the shot to kill her haha …. damn i love being evil …

  11. Improv Says:

    I find the best way to spark interest is drop a mystery in. G-man in halflife style. Or just some series of clues which don’t make that much sense. The player can become fixated with doing things they wouldn’t usually do if you capture the interest.

    That or just shock the player by setting fire to lots of things. Towns, islands…people, character sheets.

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