Streamline Your Gameplay With This Cool House Rule

Streamline Your Gameplay With This Cool House Rule

On a podcast with Dr. Keith McNally, Jonathan from Sojourner’s Awake shared his three table rules. And one of them I wanted to forward along to you because it is very good.

Here’s a link to the 29 minute podcast on YouTube.

Watch My Face

Jonathan’s third rule for kids he GMs is “Watch My Face”, explained beautifully at the 24-minute mark here. Where the GM looks is where the spotlight is. So when you see the GM looking at a player, that’s where your attention should be too. It’s a great way to focus.

Likewise, when a player talks to us, we should give them 100% of our focus as well, and not think about the next turn or the rules. “Watch My Face” reminds us to be present and attentive to each other, which makes for happier players.

Add a Reminder to Session Start

Make this house rule part of your game by adding a reminder to watch the speaker’s face to your session starting spiel so everyone remains aware. We tend to forget this rule and get distracted by phones and whatnot, so a periodic reminder helps.

Slow Down

Slow down when GMing and do one thing at a time. It may go against your preference for a fast pace, but multitasking isn’t easy. Here’s a quick approach for when a player wants your attention but you’re busy:

Acknowledge the player who wants to talk to you, and ask for 10 seconds to finish up what you’re doing. Then look up, indicating you’re ready to focus. I’ve never had a player get upset with me when I’ve done this. If I need more than a few moments, I tell the group I need a short break, and encourage them to roleplay together until I’m ready.

I’m bad for not doing this as often as I should. I’m making it a goal to slow down and not try to listen to a player while doing or thinking of something else.

Create a Back Channel

Creating a back channel for players to communicate with each other quietly during the game is essential. Sometimes players need to talk about important game-related things without disrupting the flow of the game.

For example, my OSE group uses the Campaign TableTop VTT with Zoom, and we employ the text chats in those apps as comms back channels.

Your back channel could be as simple as a Discord server, phone app chat group, or cloud-based doc where players can share information or ideas with each other without interrupting the game. It’s a great way to keep everyone on the same page and not break immersion.

Back channels also allow players to discuss sensitive information, such as secret plans or character backstory, without the rest of the group overhearing. So, set up a back channel for your group and encourage everyone to use it when needed. It’ll make your game run smoother and keep everyone engaged while you and a player are talking.

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Not every player nor every group needs this house rule. But if you find that players lose focus, talk over each other, ask you to repeat what you’ve just said often, or tend to get distracted, a simple request to watch and listen to the speaker can help make your sessions a lot smoother.