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The Game Table and Quiet Players

Page history last edited by PBworks 16 years, 8 months ago

Sometimes, it seems like some players are just quiet, or shy, or have no roleplaying skills - aren't able to describe vividly their character's responses to things. It's not true. A surrising amount of it comes down to seating arrangements.


The thing is that this is not absolute, a person's game play style, their interactions with other people. Sometimes, geeks are just shy and reserved, esecially in a game group in the Forming stage. I think it's the GM's job to bring these players out a bit, help them gain confidence in their roleplaying ability. Let's have another look at Clash Bowley's comment about roleplaying,


"My personal theory is that people are natural roleplayers. Give a little kid a doll or action figure, and in seconds you'll see roleplaying.[...]They forget that they used to roleplay, and are embarassed whenever it is brought up. [...] I have re-introduced dozens of people to roleplaying, and geekiness is not a requirement. The only thing you need is the desire to find something you've lost."


So, the roleplaying skill, being able to describe vividly what your character's doing and thinking and feeling, this isn't some arcane or obscure thing, it's very natural and human.



"It's a perfectly natural, normal thing for a young person to do."


But some people are shy about about expressing themselves in roleplaying, or are just generally shy. Well, this is where the GM has got to use their head a bit. For example, I once had a player who tended to be quiet unless called on. I kept forgetting to call on him, though. The table was a long one, and the setup like so,






A person's eyes naturally look forward in a sort of cone as they speak, it usually takes a conscious effort to look around, rather than just straight ahead. So the player directly opposite the GM, and those to the end, the GM will naturally look at them more often - and when you look a person in the eye as you're talking, they're more likely to respond. P1 and P2 don't get as much direct attention. What I found was that the more talkative players would choose the P3, P4 and P5 spots, the quieter players would choose the P1 and P2 spots. So it was a self-reinforcing cycle. The talkative players chose the place where they'd naturally get the most GM attention, and the quiet players, the place where they'd not get much attention. I think shy people also naturally move physically closer to whoever they think is in authority.


One day I decided to swap the players around, so that the quiet ones were sitting opposite me, and the loud ones, right next to me. That way, I naturally looked forwards to the quiet ones, and got more responses from them when I spoke. The loud ones, not being looked at, quieted down a bit and gave the naturally quiet ones a chance to speak. There's a reason the teacher puts the dumb kids in the front, and the smart kids at the back of the class! So I put the quietest guy at P5, the next quietest at P3 and P4, and the noisy ones sat right by me at P1 and P2.


It worked. The quiet players spoke up more often, and the loud players quietened down a bit. It still didn't happen that with five players, each got 20% of the screentime; but the quietest one went from maybe 2% to 10%, which was an improvement, and this person was happy. And the noisy ones, despite going from 40% to 25% of the action, they were happier, because roleplaying is a social activity, and everyone accet Attention Junkies are happier when everyone is contributing.


This sort of thing is a GM skill, to bring the quiet ones out of their shell, build their confidence in their roleplaying ability. Ideally, it's the whole group's job, but in practice game groups will leave this stuff to the GM.

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