Sunday, 19 February 2012

Eh? What?

I have to wonder why some people turn up to play roleplaying games . Over the years I have met plenty of people through the hobby, some I met briefly and some I’m still friends with years later, but there was one kind of game attendee that always confused me and this was the player that didn’t seem to have any interest in either the game or the hobby.

I have been part of and ran plenty of games in which there has been at least one person at the table who sits and takes virtually no part at all in the adventure. This is way before such distractions as mobile telephones, laptops and pads, and the player would sit, peruse books and say very little until prompted. This prompt usually shook them out of their thoughts and before declaring an action they’d ask what had been happening. It was frustrating sometimes, having to go over old ground (or, at least, old-but-incredibly-recent ground) the rest of the group had already absorbed and were armed with. It slowed the game down, particularly if it was an action scene.

The first conclusion you’d reach is that the person wasn’t that interested in the game, the genre or the adventure. Maybe they had no interest in gaming, or maybe they’d had enough of the hobby. But they’d attend, week after week after week, and add nothing if very little to the game, keep themselves to themselves and come awake when finally asked to declare an action or pressed for an opinion. They never paid any attention to the game and more than once the question would rise, ‘Where’s he gone?’ and we’d find out he’d either gone to the bathroom, gone to get a drink or simply left and nobody had noticed. When asked if everything is okay, the person in question is fine, has no problem and asks for the game to continue, pays attention for a few minutes and then slowly drifts away again.

My question was always, ‘Why?’ Why turn up to the game every week for weeks, even months, on end only to sit there and do nothing? Not even get involved in any level? At first I used to stress and worry whether they were having a good time or not, but soon came to realise it’s not up to me to try to instil any kind of enthusiasm into the player – there is only so much of that I can do - but it was up to them to at least attempt to get involved. It’s always been a mystery to me and I never truly got an answer.

Saying that, there was one guy in a group of mine from long ago who would be very quiet throughout the entire session, and when pressed for an opinion he’d come out with such great ideas, thoughts and concepts it sometimes astounded us. We’d just ignore him, sometimes, and leave it to the end of the evening before addressing him just to hear what he had to say about the game and what was happening. One of his best lines came after a three hour session and made so much sense the players slapped their foreheads in realisation, like he’d kept it to himself the whole game just to piss them off. ‘Honestly? I’d have shot his brother in the face the moment I met him, he had the keys,’ he said. Profound. He was like Vinnie Jones at the end of ‘Gone In Sixty Seconds’.


  1. Guess I've been lucky; don't recall having a player that disinterested at the table.

    If a player were so distracted that he didn't know what was going on when his turn came, I think I'd just describe what he saw that split second and ask him what he recapping the session or even the previous round, just: you see the rest of the party fighting some goatmen, what do you do?

  2. I tried that with one particular player to see how he reacted, and he ended up killing the first thing he saw, which turned out to be the group's guide through the mountains. The game suddenly became very interesting...

    These guys can be GOLD for games, I tell you!