How Not to Talk to Yourself

Yesterday I talked about things a GM can do when running a scene in which it makes sense for the focus to be NPCs talking to each other. Enough positivity; let’s look at what not to do.

Don’t make it an uninterruptable soliloquy. Heck, don’t make it something where it could technically be interrupted, but the PCs interrupting would functionally be sabotaging their own overall goals. There should not be anything removing “get a word in edgewise” from the PCs’ available options. This just makes them irritable—and it doesn’t even guarantee undivided attention, so really, why risk ticking them off like that?

Don’t make it something that probably should have been done by a PC. Honestly, I’m not sure why I have to say this, but no matter how much we think it’s self-evident, every now and then you get a position where you’ve got a party with at least two social monsters, there are three slots for characters to make speeches, and for some reason two of the three slots are filled by NPCs. It’s a lot easier to accept an NPC commandeering the spotlight for a little while if it’s something that it doesn’t make sense to have a PC doing, and easier still if the NPC in question was asked by one or more of the PCs.

Don’t let it get in the way of something the group wants to do, particularly if this is part of something that is completely preventing people not only from acting in this particular scene, but from playing in general. The game should not be the thing getting between the players and getting to play the game.

Don’t let it get boring. This one’s probably the hardest part—most of us really aren’t good at telling when we’re boring and when we’re not, and players can have widely enough varied interests and standards that one person’s stream of wit is another’s cliché storm. On the other hand, if people’s levels of attention are ranging from talking about something else entirely to random doodling with the occasional question or eyeroll, that’s pretty good evidence that there’s something you aren’t doing and should be. Note also that very few of us are really witty enough that we can get away with something whose primary purpose is to showcase our wit rather than to move the plot along (witty, maybe, don’t bet the farm on it, but interesting? Not so much), and most of the people who are don’t feel the need to do the showcasing thing.

Don’t do it with any notable frequency. Different people have different tolerances, mind, but in a play-by-IM one should probably limit it to two or three times a session without player prompting, and a face to face game should try to avoid doing these sorts of scenes more than once per get-together.

If in doubt, look at it this way: how irritated would you be if you were one of the players?

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