Attention Spans

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First the problem I'm having. We are a large group, nine myself included, and at the table we can go off on tangents, which after a few hours of game play is nothing so bad. If we do get derailed it's nothing more than a moment of bringing everybody back in and we're back on track in the space of a few minutes.

Where I'm running into a problem is one of my players can a bit too easily be distracted and can be uncooperative. The problem first became apparent today on what could be considered one where the campaign took us on a bit of a tangent. The campaign I'm running is rather dark, and with matters of diplomacy with different city-states and combat encounters involving forays into bleak, desolated areas, I feel it necessary to on occasion set time to just have a kind of fun that's a little more raucous. So following a major quest and some significant and pretty heavy story development, the city celebrated their victory; dancing, feasting, drinking, all with our heroes as the center of attention. Hell, I even made a system for drinking games and challenges.

Though that aside, it came to a point where one of our members was on the sidelines for a bit. Now in a campaign with eight PC's this does happen as running through different encounters and such can take some time. Not to mention most all of my players, this campaign is their first D&D experience, and there is more out of game clarification than is my goal. Though he was just completely uncooperative. Inattentive, even meandering about as things slowed down a bit. Even at points where he was directly involved his attention was an issue.

Now no player should be set off on the side lines for too long, and that did happen today. Though it is at times unavoidable, and it wasn't he was set off away from the fun we were having; he just wasn't the center of it all. I understand it can be frustrating to be on the bench, but this just isn't conducive to how play should go.

He's a good guy, but if this sort of thing becomes habitual that's not gonna fly. What I want to do is pull him off to the side and tell him flatly that while it's not my intention, it's an unfortunate reality that on occasion you might be on the sidelines. I understand he might be frustrated, but acting in such a way takes away from it for everyone.

Am I handling this right? Do I need to do anything else?
http://thedailydungeon.blogspot.com/ My Daily D&D blog - cities, dungeons, NPC's, and more
Simple answer: Your group is too big.  I would recommend splitting your group into two and running on alternate sessions.  That way, you don't have to worry about sidelining a player for so long.
Another day, another three or four entries to my Ignore List.
Simple answer: Your group is too big.  I would recommend splitting your group into two and running on alternate sessions.  That way, you don't have to worry about sidelining a player for so long.

That might seem like a simple answer to people who have a lot of time (or conversely don't mind waiting half a year to meet up) but it means a lot more work for the DM. 

Just tell your inattentive players that you need them to start paying attention or else it's not going to work out.

Most problems can be solved by being honest (and a little "putting my foot down here, guys").

When they wander off or go on group rants, just tell them to focus (or get this done with at the beginning of the game, very firm).  
We'll be meeting again this Saturday, and I usually take a couple minutes to outline things before jumping in. So that seems an oppurtune time to do it.

Of course I'm not going to be rude about it, just outline before we begin that it's important everyone stay focused. I apologize for times when it may seem a little slow, but with eight rather new players, it can't always be avoided.

By and large we do stay on task, it's just I've noticed this with him a few times, and this time more severe than before. Should it persist I think I'll have to pull him aside and lay down the law: pay attention for the other players' sake, or get out.
http://thedailydungeon.blogspot.com/ My Daily D&D blog - cities, dungeons, NPC's, and more
The problems you are having are because your group is way too big.  You might be able to make minor, temporary adjustments but the only realistic solution is to make your group smaller.  In the mean time, you have to explain to them that the only way a group that size has a chance of surviving is if there is more discipline.
I made it a policy after a chaotic Ravenloft game five years ago to never go past five players. There were 8 players in that too and the problems are always immediately apparent.

Anyways there will be a certain amount of thus problem you can not avoid. Make sure you are prepared for events going off the intended path. You're just going to have to learn to deal with things on the fly to keep the game moving forward. Avoid difficult to use monsters. Remember to move the spotlight before its too late.

Hopefully some of your players decide to move on.
You could try the 'on deck' approach.

When somebody's turn is up in the initiative order, you call their name and the name of the player next in the initiative order. The player who is next prepares his strategy and what he's going to do on his turn. You could even take it one step further and have them preroll attacks and the such.

I tried this in a one-shot 7 seven player game, and it worked pretty well.

Your friendly neighborhood Revenant Minotaur Half-Blooded Dragonborn Fighter Hybrid Barbarian Multiclassing into Warlord

IMAGE(http://pwp.wizards.com/1223957875/Scorecards/Landscape.png)

Simple answer: Your group is too big.  I would recommend splitting your group into two and running on alternate sessions.

That might seem like a simple answer to people who have a lot of time (or conversely don't mind waiting half a year to meet up) but it means a lot more work for the DM.

It could end up the same amount of work for the DM if s/he runs both groups through the same campaign.

If the DM is currently preparing for a weekly campaign (Y), s/he blows through it at a slow rate (X). If s/he splits the group in two, and each group meets every other week (Y/2), then the DM can prepare the same material for two weeks in a row, but at a faster rate (2X).
Currently: X * Y
Suggested: 2X * (Y/2)
X * Y = 2X * (Y/2)
Here are the PHB essentia, in my opinion:
  • Three Basic Rules (p 11)
  • Power Types and Usage (p 54)
  • Skills (p178-179)
  • Feats (p 192)
  • Rest and Recovery (p 263)
  • All of Chapter 9 [Combat] (p 264-295)
A player needs to read the sections for building his or her character -- race, class, powers, feats, equipment, etc. But those are PC-specific. The above list is for everyone, regardless of the race or class or build or concept they are playing.
If the DM is currently preparing for a weekly campaign (Y), s/he blows through it at a slow rate (X). If s/he splits the group in two, and each group meets every other week (Y/2), then the DM can prepare the same material for two weeks in a row, but at a faster rate (2X).
Currently: X * Y
Suggested: 2X * (Y/2)
X * Y = 2X * (Y/2)



I'll see your theory and raise you one....
Cool
 
More Accurate: ((X*Y)+(.5X*Y))/2
 
Prep would actually be less if he split the campaign and ran them on alternating weeks because the second prep time is shorter.
I appreciate all the feed back, and so far as splitting up the group, should things get unmanageable that's on the table. Though I'm not sure if I was clear, while there is the occasional tangent, the problem is one player being unfocused in a habitual way, and this last time around it was particularly disruptive. My question was how to confront him. With my other PC's I have no complaints.
http://thedailydungeon.blogspot.com/ My Daily D&D blog - cities, dungeons, NPC's, and more