Dungeoneering Environments

I’m running a game for the first time in more than 4 years now, and that has me thinking about some aspects of gaming that slipped my mind while I was doing this purely theoretically. The biggest is the environment surrounding your dungeons. Specifically how you can manage the environment to get a bunch of excited gamers to focus in on the game itself. I’m running a pathfinder/fate mash up at the moment, so visual representations of where the players are are pretty important. What I’ve done is I’ve set up a large table with a couple of extra leaves so that we have adequate table space. I’ve got solid chairs (which I just bought cushions for. They aren’t bad without them, but the cushions should make them more comfortable for those of me who aren’t, shall we say, skinny. I’m the only stereotypically overweight gamer in the group. The only other person who might weigh 14 stone in the group is quite a bit taller than I am.) So we have chairs that are reasonably comfortable but not so comfortable that people are lounging and falling asleep. I’m not quite back to the place where I am comfortable enough with my dming that having the party scattered across the living room on recliners and couches doesn’t seem like a recipe for disaster. Also, that mostly works better with games that don’t use a play mat. I’ve got one large table, though I am running into the limits of the table’s size already… I sort of want one of those multi-thousand dollar gaming tables designed to organize your play space while still being a good place to game, but my apartment is small enough as is. We don’t have cable, and I have no idea how to turn on the tv. (I could figure it out, but the need for tv has been weak in me for years) I’ve got all sorts of interesting diversions around the room, but they are organized in such a manner that they are visually interesting without being particularly inviting for the person who wants to pick them up (ferex, my wall of board games is just hard enough to access that you have to be intending to play a game to take it down.) I’ve got adequate lighting, though I would like one more very bright lamp in the room in general. And I am slowly developing a side table to put plates of food on. The table is big enough to eat on or to game on, but it really isn’t big enough to eat on and game on and serve food on. That is definitely one issue, make sure you feed your players. Not having a blood sugar crash in the middle of your expository text in the middle of the adventure means that people will be able to pay more attention and they won’t be as likely to wander off mentally while you are giving them the clues their characters will need to survive their attempt to kill the evil overlord. Also, make sure you eat too. As the gm that is essential.
One thing I’d love to try, but that I don’t think would work with this group and this game system is a long low coffee table and a bunch of sumo chairs and pillows. I suspect that it would become giggle o’clock even faster than it does now. With my current group, I have something I call “Giggle o’clock” It is when 2 of my players start looking at each other and giggling in unison. If it goes on for more than about 30 seconds, I know that it is giggle o’clock and I need to wrap up soon because it is late enough that everyone’s attention is about to unravel. You should absolutely try to learn your own party’s signs of these things.

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