Last time we talked about a seemingly common- if admittedly annoying- issue that inevitably comes up at game tables: maintaining player attention. Those 5 strategies were largely out-of-game methods. So now we’re figuring out tips that will increase attentiveness through actual in-game changes. Here we go.
Vary the batting order: D&D combat RAW (“rules as written”) has an unrealistic I go/you go/I go/you go of turn order each round. That’s just not how fights happen. But it has another negative impact. Because when players get too used to when they’re supposed to be acting, they tend to tune out when it isn’t their own turn. Although it adds more rolling to the process, try an initiative every round approach. If you’re using a product like Hero Lab or another die roller the math is simplified a bit. And while this breaks up what a player’s actual round will be, the chaotic nature of this better reflects actual fighting. More importantly, it keep players on their toes since they might be going next.
Real Life Beats Rolls: Since a lot of DMs make Perception/Spot Checks behind the screen, you have the perfect opportunity to have those rolls do more than just tell if a character has seen something or not. They can influence your games for the better. Do this by at least partly basing the outcomes on who is actually paying attention to you. While this crosses the character vs. player line, if someone is blatantly ignoring what’s happening around the table they shouldn’t then be rewarded with a good in-game result. This will only reinforce the negative behavior. Instead, encourage attentiveness with those concentrating being the ones to notice things.
Hand Over the Dice: I’m a huge- nay, Colossal- proponent of the Unearthed Arcana variant, Player’s Roll All the Dice whereby instead of a DM chucking dice behind the screen to decide if the monsters are hitting the characters, (YAWN) or saving against the player’s spells, the players themselves make checks to try to not get hit/have their magic work. In addition to removing the Us Versus You attitude that can inevitably happen when you’re running the Bad Guys, letting them make these rolls forces them to focus. And that’s what these articles have been about!
Pay Attention or Pay a Price: If I’m running an adventure, and my players start jabbering amongst themselves, that’s a sign that I need to shift things up. If there hasn’t been a combat in awhile, then it’s time for a wandering encounter- perhaps initiated by a distracted player’s character literally walking into a sleeping monster. If the party is already actually in a combat but is still not taking the battle seriously, then the real fight is against boredom. Beat this by changing the current arrangement to regain their interest. Introduce additional enemies/reinforcements, create an environmental/circumstantial difficulty, or add a challenge/time constraint. Combats may not always be a matter of life and death, but they absolutely should be a matter of everyone at their battle stations.
OK, so those are some suggestions to mitigate distractions. It seems counterintuitive that in an attempt for everyone to have fun while playing an RPG the people sitting next to you need assistance in the process. But inevitably people require a nudge to, well, stay on target. What do you guys think of these latest ideas? Have any of your own to suggest? Let us know in the comments below, and thanks for reading.