The Sacred Gaming Table

Our question this week comes to us from a concerned player trying to keep his roleplaying experience sacred, as it should be:

Dear DM,

I like all players in my group to be attentive to the game. One of my fellow players keeps playing games on her fancy phone! It’s really distracting and she has to constantly ask what’s going on. How do I get her to stop. I tried to devise a way to kill her character in the game but to no avail. Please Help!

Mr. F

Dear Mr. F,

Your problem seems to be a common one these days.  People are in love with their Fancy Phones, and are obsessed with whatever repetitive new game is out, and being in constant contact with all of their networks.  I’m not going to go into a rant about technology addiction and antisocial phone use (hell, I’m on my computer all day long), but I will go into a rant about the sanctity of roleplaying.

For a lot of people, roleplaying is a temporary respite from the day in and day out of the world around them.  It’s our window into another place, and it’s a world that functions best when we have fewer reminders of the day to day.  Phones aren’t just reminders of the day to day, but the minute to minute and second to second.  They are absolutely a disruption to the game, and in this Dungeon Master’s opinion, have no place at the game table, with one exception: online updates ABOUT the game as it is being played, so long as this doesn’t become too distracting.

I’m not saying your DM should be a nazi and tell everyone to turn off their cell phones (though it would be cool if we had a DM app that could do that).  Sometimes we need to make or take a call.  However, there’s nothing wrong with setting ground rules.  Telling players that phones should not be used at the table is fine.  If someone needs to use their phone, they can leave the room.

From a DM’s perspective, you ideally want all of your players attentive at all times.  If a player is consistently inattentive, kick them out (no text message break-ups please).  You should of course warn them before you take drastic measures, but you shouldn’t tolerate disrespect, and one player should never ruin the game for everyone else.  It’s your job as DM to take care of business, and sometimes that means being a hard-ass.

I should acknowledge that sometimes we find ourselves in situations where we can’t, or don’t feel right kicking a player out of the game (they’re an old friend, another player’s significant other, etc.).  What do we do in this situation?  Well, I say we have a Dungeon Master Screen for a reason: so the player’s can’t see our dice.  Fudge a few roles, remove a limb or two, make a player’s life miserable until hopefully they take a hint and leave on their own.  I mean, really, who wants to keep playing a game if they’re a one-armed, blind elf archer? (I’m still not sure why these people show up to begin with though).

If you as a player want to approach the situation on your own, and so avoid the dreaded epithet of tattle-tale, it’s always wise to take people aside and not call them out on shit in front of everyone else.  That would only make them defensive and lead to unnecessary drama, and drama is worse than Fancy Phones. 

Try telling your fellow player that you understand they like their phone, and you’re not trying to be an ass, but that you find it personally distracting when they use their phone at the table.  Make it about you and your inability to pay attention.  Tell the player why it bother’s you so much without telling them how big of douche you think they are.  But let’s face it, they’re obviously a douche.

Yours in Agitation,
The Dungeon Master

Next week, we learn all about the private lives of Goblinoids!

If you wish to submit a question to the Dungeon Master, please e-mail them to, or you can Tweet me a question by hash-tagging me (#askthedm) in your Tweet. And make sure to review the disclaimer.

You can also see me in action in One Die Short.

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