What Are You Doing Out There?
So you’ve bought into the benefits we described to having players out of the room whose characters are not in the scene being played. You’re open to giving it a try and you’ve figured out which room is “in” and which is “out”. But there’s another question to be answered: What do the “out” players do when they’re out there? Here are some ideas that Stewart and I have tried, what worked about them and what didn’t.
In general you want your “out” entertainment to fulfill at least most of these points:
- Fun for more than one person at once.
- Fun in short bursts.
- Fun even if dropped at a moment’s notice.
- Fun, but not more engaging than your campaign.
- Easily ignored in case a player brought their own “out” activity.
This can work… If you pick your game carefully. Final Fantasy is a bad call; it’s much too involved and it’s not multi-player. Halo (multi-player) or Tekken or something might be alright with the right player group. If they don’t mind stopping in the middle of a bout or pausing and trading off with the guy who’s coming out. Rock Band or Guitar Hero are a bit easier to stop at the drop of a hat, but you have to know whether your players will get too into it. I would only tentatively recommend this option.
Movies can be really good or really bad. Choosing an appropriate movie is much easier, though. It must be something all the players have seen or that is sufficiently campy that a player will be more interested in their own character’s story than the one on screen. A bonus is that you can theme the movie(s) with the campaign, maybe. Lord of the Rings or Conan for something fantasy, perhaps. While Stewart was running a campaign set in the old west, it happened that AMC kept airing middle-aged westerns while we were playing, so Young Bloods worked out well (they’d play the same movie over and over, so you’d see a majority of the film, but out of sequence). If you’re doing a Firefly, Star Trek or Star Wars game, I think the best choice of what to show is obvious. You’re aiming for a movie that your players can enjoy pretty much any randomly selected 10 or 15 minute slice of.
I tried this one at Stewart’s suggestion (which he stole from Dann) and it is, I think, my favorite. Put out a stack of your favorite comics (nothing priceless if you’re a collector) and let your players have at it. They’re lower investment than a novel, but higher investment than a cheesy movie and they can just drop a book mark in it when it’s their turn to play. For my Kjemmen campaign (a dark fantasy setting with some Lovecraft-ish stuff going on in the gods), I started out with a stack of Hellboy and Darkhorse’s recent run of Conan. It was a big hit.
Players will bring their own stuff, as well, in my experience: homework, the internet, a side project, a book… whatever. I’ve never seen something a player brings cause a too-highly-invested problem, so I wouldn’t even try to police that (I guess if they bring their PS3 or something and want to hook it up, you might use a guiding hand with it). There are, I’m sure, infinite possibilities of “out” activities. Just remember the guidelines above.
I think the sweet spot is Stewart’s description of how he felt about Dann’s comic book collection. He’d be out, reading, and be called in and think, “What?!? I’m in?!? But—the comic! What’s going to happen next?” But, knowing he would have fun, would go in and get involved in the role play and then, suddenly, “What?!? I’m out?!? But—the campaign! What’s going to happen nex—Oh hey! The comic!”