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Assigned Seating

Posted By Kurt "Telas" Schneider On February 25, 2009 @ 4:26 pm In GMing Advice,Tools for GMs | 5 Comments

This article isn’t part of the “Table Trio” that was delivered by my more-than-capable comrades here, here, and here. It is more than likely the result of “me too-ism” on my part. But I felt like I had something to contribute to the conversation, so if it helps, consider this “Table Talk v3.5″.

Whether or not you’re using a table, or what kind of table you’re using, you should definitely pay attention to who sits where. Do you have a pair of wisecrackers sitting next to each other, making jokes while the game is going on? Does your Alpha Player sit right next to the GM, cutting off all conversation whenever possible? Does the Wallflower sit at the far end, nose buried in a book or laptop?

The following guidelines might be helpful:

  • The GM sits at the head of the table, usually defined as “the end with the least traffic and most storage”.
  • Newer or quieter players sit closer to the GM, and louder or more experienced players sit farther away, although a novice may be paired with an experienced player/coach.
  • Party Leader or Alpha Player types sits at the foot of the table, as far as possible from the GM. If the Party Leader position changes, so does the seating. Everyone is now privy to the GM-Party Leader conversations. I also unexpectedly found out that a good Party Leader will keep the chatterboxes focused.
  • Cliques are broken up whenever possible. The obvious exception is when a novice player’s preferred ‘coach’ is also their significant other or best friend.

I make it very clear early on that seating may be assigned for these reasons. In the few times that I’ve actually had to assign seating, the results and the feedback have both been overwhelmingly positive. If your group has any of the above issues, try mixing up the seating; you might be surprised at the results.

About  Kurt "Telas" Schneider

Kurt Schneider played D&D in 1979 at summer camp, and was hooked. He lives with his wife, daughters, and dog in Austin TX, where he writes stuff, and tries to stay get fit. Look for his rants under the nom de web Telas or TelasTX. Quote: “A game is only as balanced – or as good – as the GM."

5 Comments (Open | Close)

5 Comments To "Assigned Seating"

#1 Comment By John Arcadian On February 26, 2009 @ 9:38 am

Nice 3.5 article! Great advice on seating arrangement feng shui. Putting the most active player (or party leader) farthest away from the GM definitely makes interaction flow down the line a bit more smoothly.

#2 Comment By Rafe On February 26, 2009 @ 11:15 am

I find this to be fundamental to running/playing in a good game. Everyone benefits from it, it takes no further resources, it takes no time, it focuses people, it’s inclusive… it’s an all-round win-win.

#3 Comment By Swordgleam On February 26, 2009 @ 1:36 pm

I find assigned seating to be a little too controlling for my tastes. Gaming isn’t work; we’re here to have fun. If two players can’t stop cracking jokes, and you think it’s bad for the game, talk to them about it. Don’t be an elementary school teacher. That said, I can see how other groups would have other feelings about it.

One other factor in seating is note-passing. My group does a lot of that. The cleric gets a lot of notes, and he sits farthest from me. It’s a problem. If there were one thing I could change about how our group sits, I would seat everyone by how often I have to hand them things.

#4 Comment By Scott Martin On February 26, 2009 @ 1:37 pm

I agree with John and Rafe– it’s a good summary of what makes games better. Thanks.

#5 Comment By JackSmithIV On February 26, 2009 @ 1:47 pm

At the beginning of my latest campaign, I payed special attention to this. I split up the cliques across the table from one another, and quieter players are always sitting closer to me.

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