When That Player Hogs The Game

Roleplaying Tips Newsletter #1018

What do you do if a domineering player hogs screen time?

RPT Patron Andy Fundinger asks a question along these lines:

How do you use initiative outside of combat?

My group and those I’ve played in mostly do group discussions and then a quick, “Is anyone doing anything else?”

But I’m curious if you have comments on rolled initiative for non-combat, perhaps to disperse/diffuse group-leader effects.

Great question, Andy. And you’ve given us a good tip too.

Some people can’t help themselves. They’re talkers, super social, fast thinkers, have bad impulse control, have a big funny bone, or are energetic.

They have some trait that drives them to be the loudest or a selfish spotlight grabber.

They probably don’t even realize they’re doing this. No one has been kind enough to have a truthful chat. They’ve grown up thinking the chuckles, silence, or neutral looks from others is positive feedback to keep talking, interrupting, and blundering on.

How do I know this? I’m one of those terrible people.

Get me on a topic I’m quite interested in and I dominate the chat. I share my knowledge, opinions, and ideas without checking first if others want to speak. I go on and on. I interrupt with my two cents. I think out loud. I react with my mouth.

Since realizing this, I hold back more. I give space for others to speak first. I’ll make one point and shut up even though I have five other points I want to raise.

The best thing I’ve learned for curbing this bad behaviour is to ask questions.

Questions mean I shut up and listen to answers, thereby ensuring I listen more than blab.

Questions also mean I might learn something. My favourite thing.

However, we can’t control other people. They might not be self-aware yet about their spotlight hogging nature. They might not have learned to read the cues.

Andy offers a fantastic tip to champion your quieter players.

Use non-combat initiative to give everyone an opportunity to speak, and most importantly, be heard.

You could also go around the table. Make the order strategic.

Start with the quietest player. Or don’t start with a player who prefers to work with ideas from others — let them hear what the rest are doing first. Or let the hog speak first. Or squeeze them in the middle. Start with the player most likely to help the others stay on track.

Also seat players strategically. Put the hog furthest away from you but not directly across. Put quiet players beside or across from you. Put the hog between players who can help tone them down a bit.

The most respectful thing you can do is chat with the hog in private.

“Hey Johnn, I really like the ideas you bring to the table. I don’t know if you realize this but you tend to drown the others out. Especially when you get excited. Have you ever noticed this?”

Chances are, they’ll say yes.

In either case, you can chat in friendly terms about what you’ve observed. I bet they’ll be grateful.

If they get defensive or upset, have empathy and be patient. It’s a process.

But back to Andy’s question.

How else do you use initiative?

What about that player who takes all the best treasure?

I’ve played with that player before. While we’re losing hit points to nasty monsters the rogue is opening the chest and stealing stuff via notes to the GM.

Or the wanderer who opens doors and takes stuff first.

Or the aggressive player who jumps in with “Ohhhh, I’ll take that!” and starts writing on their character sheet before anyone gets a word in.

A system of using initiative can help create fair reward distribution. Letting players make perception checks to notice peers bulking up pockets and bags helps too. ? So does a wizard PC who casts Detect Magic on their friends once in awhile, heh.

Another great use of initiative helps you run split parties.

When things get intense for one PC or group, you might lose track of spotlight time.

Initiative reminds you to keep circling the table and progress everyone’s actions.

Hopefully those ideas help, Andy.

What about you? Have you used initiative outside combat? Hit reply and let me know.