How to keep your Players focused

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stay-on-target-500x370_zps89c28767Last Thursday my weekly D&D group for the first time in almost a month.  The holidays, some illness, and Murphy’s Law had combined to put Darkwarren’s ongoing Runelords Adventure Path campaign on a mini-hiatus.  Finally back to the table with a full group, our party of intrepid adventurers were supposed to return to assault a Stone Giant fortress.  The problem was that although it was a fun night and a good time was had by all, the evening was more Delays & Distractions then Dungeons & Dragons.  {cymbal crash} In 3.5 hours of session we barely made it through 1 encounter, and even that was simply a straightforward ‘attack-a-guard-tower.’  Too much side stuff resulted in too little story stuff.  After thinking it over, here are some suggestions I came up with to help your games keep their proper focus.

Review and Preview: Start each session reminding players what they did last time, and what they’re supposed to be doing this time around.  Come back to these prompts as necessary with Intelligence or other checks to put the goals in everyone’s mind and place everyone on the right track.  This is a teaching technique that effective educators use, and worth trying.

We’re all in this together: Successfully running an immersive RPG requires a lot of effort.  So have some help.  Share the workload by assigning some of the record-keeping and other minutiae to those on the other side of your screen.  This delegating tasks to other people not only keeps their heads in the game, it lets yours concentrate on the more important things.  If you divide the labor, you’ll conquer the boredom.

Half-time: Carve out a set break period each session, making sure to periodically inform players that this designated pause is the perfect opportunity for catching up or otherwise discussing non-game things.  When you’re ready to return to the action, begin again with another Review and Preview to both set the scene as well as return the group’s mindset to play.

Clue Them With Cues: Battle about to be joined?  Play a specific song.  (We like to use, ‘A Knife In the Dark,’ from the LotR soundtrack.)  Have a long part of the adventure to read?  Announce “Boxed Text” and train your Players to get in the habit of repeating that announcement until everyone is actively listening to what you have to read.  Going to be doing some serious role-playing? Ding a glass as if you’re about to make a toast, stand up to convey an NPC’s power, lower the lights to set the mood, etc.  Whatever helps increase drama will increase their participation.  Just send out the signals.

Leave Boring Stuff for Boards: Whether it’s arguing over dividing treasure, shopping for new gear with that divided treasure, or planning tactics, many aspects to D&D are best suited for messageboard format.  We use Obsidian Portal to handle all the ‘downtime’ and upkeep.  Lot of this bookkeeping isn’t interesting to everyone anyway, nor is it even necessary to do around the table.  So post those things that may get eyes to glaze over to stop boredom before it starts.

Ok, how’d we do with keeping your focus?  Think these tips will help you out?  Anything we miss that could assist in focusing players?  Thanks for reading and please take a moment to comment below.

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5 thoughts on “How to keep your Players focused”

  1. Avatar

    Footnote- we have a few other ideas (largely in-game ways) to help your Player’s pay attention.

    Follow-up article coming later this week.

  2. Avatar

    Thanks for the feedback Marcel. Be sure to check out the upcoming follow-up to this. Unlike most sequels, we think the next piece will be just as useful to you guys.

    Of course not every suggestion is suitable for every group, or even every game session. And you may have to modify them a bit yourself regardless. Classic case of ‘YMMV.’

    Please do us a favor & report back in. We’d like to hear not just what worked, but what didn’t.

  3. Pingback: How to keep your Players even MORE focused - Dungeon Mastering

  4. Pingback: Ravenous Role Playing » Blog Archive » Late Friday Faves: 2015-01-25

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