This was an earlier piece that I’m including in this new group of essays on “problem kids” at the role playing game table:

We’ve all had some version this guy/gal in our groups. They get their moment in the spotlight during the session and just don’t seem to be able to let it go. Maybe they’re someone that every day is a “me day.” Maybe they don’t get to play often and just get overly-enthusiastic. Maybe they GM much of the time and are used to being the center of the group. (cough me cough) Maybe they’re the wannabe actor/tress for whom attention is the thing, more than the play. Maybe they just talk…a lot. (You can tell what spurred this post, can’t you?)

So how do you shut down the spotlight hog without hurting their feelings, being to obvious about it, or being a jerk? If you tend to be a hands-off GM, it’s going to be harder to move the action along than if you are a bit more active. For me, as a narative-type who likes to be involved more with the play than a simple “What do you do?” sort of GM, it’s a matter of engaging the player first, then shifting the focus of of them in a way that feels natural.

Example: The GIQ is doing a bit of expounding on the legal complexities of the adventure or mission the characters are on. It should be a simple bit of exposition, but the player (as well as the character) is a lawyer. And a bit long winded. Okay, knock off the “a bit”. He’s been on a roll for about five minutes, already, and has missed the queues from one of the other players — the equivalent of “Read you. Press on.” In the interest of advancing the plot and letting other characters get a bit of “scene time”, it’s time to step in as a GM.

At this point, I engage the player sort of like a director talking to an actor. Get into his mind space, or his emotional state with a few pointed questions. I’ve got his attention now. I shift the attention to the character he was talking about — how do you feel about this? What’s your perception of the information? Now the attention is on the other player and I can get the other players back in.

Now, I’ve found that 9 times out of 10, you’ve just fixed the problem. But sometimes GIQ is not going to want to relinquish the spotlight so easily. If you have successfully moved the attention — even for a moment — a simple upraised finger  (a “wait” finger) should do to keep that player sidelined long enough for the other players to get their say in for the scene, then return the spotlight to the player, or move on.

This is the gentle way to use social judo to take control of your game when necessary without coming off as a jerk.

Any other techniques out there?

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