Behind the Screen: The Participation Gap…

2007 December 27
by Dante

I got into an interesting discussion on DMing with my brother-in-law tonight. He hasn’t played D&D in third edition, so we were talking largely on principle and not on mechanics of gameplay. He is not aware of this site, so I was pleased to hear some of my same advice for running a good game come from him!

Fun and the Participation Gap

We both agreed that one of the core principles for having a good game is the simple gauge of whether or not everyone was having fun. We talked in general about this for awhile, and I got to wondering about different ways one might be able to “bust the logjam” if it seems that people in your gaming group aren’t participating or aren’t having fun.

I have found that most people operate on some sort of an engagement curve. They start out having a lot of fun, and taper off as the night goes on, or vice-versa. Chances are pretty good you will have varying levels of engagement within your group at any given time, however I have found that my own group tends to peter out towards the end of the night. Realizing this, I have tried to keep away from springing any major events or plot points within a certain proximity from the end of our sessions.

Everything is more fun in real life

I believe that the occasional divergence into real world participation can be an excellent thing. A physical puzzle to solve, a real-world game of Three Dragon Ante, or a game-relevant scavenger hunt can get everyone excited, talking, laughing, and engaged without much effort on your part as DM.

The only thing that you must mind when introducing an element like this into your campaign is time spent… often, real world gaming elements tend to eat up time and there is usually a falling off point when the novelty wears off and the group just wants to get back to the normal gaming.

The brother-in-law approved rule of thumb applies: if the group is having fun, you’re probably OK to continue for awhile.

One Response leave one →
  1. ChattyDM permalink
    December 27, 2007

    Excellent post.

    My group also has a varying tapering off point between 10h00 and 11h00 PM.

    That’s why I don’t play key scenes or start big fights after 9h30 PM. I’d rather cut an evening short than stretch it past the point of ‘unfun!’

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