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House-Ruling Distractions

Source Horror Adventures pg. 205
Portable games, social media, and other hobbies vie for everyone’s attention. A GM, though, is the arbiter of the rules, both those in the game books and in her own house rules. Consider setting a simple house rule: When at the game table, the group is playing Pathfinder— and nothing else. Phones are away, computers are off, other hobbies and distractions—even RPG-related ones like painting miniatures—are set aside. The GM might expand this to most food and drink as well since eating and the presence of food containers undermine immersion.

There are a number of reasons to adopt such rules. The first is simple engagement. Some players say they can do two things at once, but if they’re not focused on the game, they’re not imagining the story, thinking in character, or noticing the atmosphere. The second is a matter of verisimilitude. The characters likely don’t have electronic devices. It’s easier for everyone to envision their fellow players as their characters if they’re not engaged in activities that run counter to what’s possible in the game world. The final reason is just a matter of courtesy. A GM puts thought and time into an adventure, and the other players invest a similar degree of consideration in developing their characters. Just as an audience would in any other storytelling medium, players should repay such efforts with their respectful attention.

If including rules for what is and isn’t allowed at a game table, the GM should make them clear before the game starts, possibly explaining why or showing players this section of text as reasoning. The goal here is to create as atmospheric and immersive an experience as possible, not to be a tyrant.