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Tome of Answers

This week there’s only really one major question I would like to address, because I think it’s quite worth a fair discussion. Someone asked:

My DM is really great, but as I’ve joined the group and been in it for a while now, I’ve noticed that they don’t seem to give the same amount of time to all players. For example, there are a couple of really chummy people in the group and the DM spends a lot of time roleplaying with them, listening to them and doing stuff for their characters. They don’t seem to give this amount of attention to my character though or offer to do cool individual roleplaying things. Is this something I’ve done wrong or is it just the case that they’re just really better friends than with me?

Well, that’s quite a question and there is a tremendous amount to unpack in this. It’s also something I sympathize with a lot as a DM, especially when you have a large number of players and multiple groups. So let’s begin with the last part first: Are you doing anything wrong to warrant the DM not paying you that same kind of attention?

The answer is probably nothing. In reality, the DM likely is working more closely with those players because they are likely to be asking for their time and because the DM feels its rewarded. For example, some people are content to turn up to the game every week, roll some dice and socialize, but don’t go so deep in the roleplaying elements or similar. It’s likely that if you don’t approach the DM with your own ideas and things for your character to do, they won’t try to force this out of you. This is certainly my approach, where my players who are most keen for extra roleplaying or character moments outside of the game regularly get them. On the other hand, I don’t try to force players into these things or give any penalty these players. Alternatively, I don’t try to give such strong advantages to extra roleplaying moments that it gives other players a major or tangible disadvantage at the table.

Doing this kind of extra roleplaying and giving attention to specific player characters is quite a tricky balancing act. I did have an issue exactly where you describe, where one of my players asked me if they had done something wrong because I seemed to give a lot of attention to two players in particular. These players are just excellent roleplayers and they’re both extremely keen to do more things with their characters, especially secret things (this game was Trail of Cthulhu). Naturally though, once I was aware this player felt that way I immediately started including them in more between game roleplaying. In my opinion, what I did was the right thing to do and had I rebuffed them or said “I don’t have time for you as well” I would definitely have been doing something very wrong.

Let’s make it clear that your DM (and my) time is extremely limited by various factors. Preparing for a game and running it is often quite a time sink as it is, which can make choices between doing other fun activities and so on. As I have gotten much busier, especially with more professional work on my plate, I’ve backed away from doing a lot of between game roleplaying. At the table there will always be players with a more dominant and forward attitude about roleplaying. This doesn’t mean you’re not valued, or that the DM doesn’t think you deserve any individual moments or similar – it might just mean they’re not aware of your interest! One of the key social aspects of a pen and paper roleplaying game is communication, so I guarantee you that those players simply communicate what they want more.

This isn’t to say favouritism can’t be a thing and as a DM, it’s actually a key skill you need to develop to evenly spread your attention across your players. Unfortunately, there is always cases where people with dominant or more forward personalities will just get more time naturally. Part of the responsibility of the DM is ensuring everyone is having fun at the table and feels engaged with the game. If other players are feeling left out or that they aren’t being engaged as much as the others, they’ll end up in the situation you are where they feel the game isn’t for them as much. Unfortunately, this is actually a really tricky balancing act and isn’t always easy to remember during the game.

Being closer friends with some of your players than others does happen. One of my games has two of my best and closest friends in it, so I naturally find there is an inherent struggle of making sure I give equal time to other players. Especially because these two players are also quite dominant and forward with their ideas for roleplaying, while I have two players in particular who are much more passive. The key thing is making your DM aware that you’d like to do more and then hopefully they’ll start to respond by doing so. Sitting there in silence means your DM probably doesn’t actually know you’re keen for more roleplaying, so feel free to let them know! In saying that, be careful with how you word your conversation and don’t approach it from an antagonistic point of view.

What I mean by that is you should ideally ask your DM about getting more opportunities for your character to do stuff and perhaps just share some of your ideas. Don’t come out with something like “You’re ignoring me in favor of your friends” or similar, because that’s being antagonistic and is bringing a negative assumption right into things immediately. Likewise, you should ask to have this conversation privately as well, because asking in front of the entire group could equally be seen to be aggressive. Asking if you can get more for your character to do roleplaying wise isn’t a bad thing and should be fairly considered by your DM – if they’re a good one anyway! Hopefully your DM will offer to work with you and you’ll be able to feel more involved with the game, because again, my good faith assumption is they just don’t know!

Now what happens in the case your DM is really just playing pure favourites with their friends and isn’t really going to change the situation? Well, in this particular case they would definitely be more than unfair to you. Sitting there and just letting that sense of unfairness or bitterness build up won’t do you any good. In this particular case, I would actually consider leaving the group for a new one. If you’re not feeling included and having fun in the game, what’s the point in staying really? At this point, this is the only time I would suggest that you have a conversation like “I’m not really happy or having fun, especially because I feel you’re entirely ignoring my character or ideas, so I feel like I should leave”. At the same time, this should only be a complete last resort and only if there is no improvement in your engagement with the game and the DM.

To my fellow DMs, remember that everyone has to have fun and just because a player is quiet, doesn’t mean they don’t want to be more involved. Remember to ask your players about how they are feeling and if they’re satisfied with the opportunities their characters have. You might be surprised at some of the answers you get if you ask the question in the first place!

Well that’s all for this week I feel, so if you have a question here’s where you can get in touch with the guild:

  1. The about page has an email contact.
  2. Should you like facebook, there is a facebook page for you to like and leave messages on!
  3. Tweet short questions to me directly on twitter as well.
  4. The guild can also be found on tumblr, which is also where I tend to reblog a lot of great art!

Really complicated questions might get elevated into entire features under longer pieces, like Narrative Thoughts or Training Day as well – so don’t fret if I don’t immediately answer!