In an ideal universe we can leave the real world behind when we come to the table to play a bit of D&D, but it simply isn’t that easy. The DM may have a serious scene planned, but the toddler downstairs bellowing ‘Let it Go!’ is ruining the ambiance. One player is busy texting a coworker trying to cover a shift so he can visit his sick grandma the following week. The happy go lucky player is incredibly dour, not because of anything that happened in game, but because they recently went through a breakup. Life happens, and often isn’t kind. Here are a few things to keep in mind when you get frustrated about another distraction.
1. It’s a Game
It is really easy to get emotionally invested in the story, which makes every distraction feel like a disrespectful act. (How DARE you play on your phone while I wax poetics!) I’m a DM. I understand the toil it takes to make the game magical, and my blood also boils when player’s aren’t paying attention, but I have to temper my indignation by the fact that we’re just playing a game.
We aren’t actually saving a kingdom, stopping a plague in the southern seas, or stoping a vile tyrant. We’re a bunch of nerds rolling click-clacks and playing make-believe. Remembering that there are no real ‘stakes’ in play really helps keep the emotions in check.
2. The Players are Real
We don’t live in a vacuums between game sessions. People have good and bad weeks that effects their mood at the table, and that’s okay within reason. Everyone brings with them baggage that can distract them in various ways. I have the loudest 7 year old in the world, a player may work in emergency services and NEED their phone on them, another player may concentrate best while eating while another can’t stand eating at the table. It would be unreasonable to expect players to be able to completely shut of their real world lives, so just try to be patient and don’t let your imaginary actions harm the real world person.
3. You are a community
Each player has their own family and group of friends besides those at the table. You should expect schedules to conflict and for your game to be skipped from time to time if your players live busy lives. Be mindful of schedules, plan ahead to prevent as much schedule conflict as possible, and be flexible when a player can’t make a session.
In the opposite direction you could invite not just your players, but their families as well to a game night or some other activity to get to know them. I got to play ‘Cards Against Humanity’ with one of my player’s grandmothers and I died laughing at how red she made him with some of her card choices.
So, in conclusion, D&D is a magical game that allows us to tell fantastic stories; but the treasure isn’t the game itself, but the friendship we make along the way.