[RPG] As a player, how to deal with a spotlight hog


I’m usually the GM but I’m not this time, and my usual methods of managing spotlight, and hogs thereof, aren’t available to me. I’m at a bit of a loss.

We have a player who is very enthusiastic and impulsive. Not impulsive about what he does: they think and plan fine and it’s not like he’s doing whacky things on impulse. It’s not that kind of problem. But he regularly interrupts quieter players and even the GM, in order to launch into the cool thing he wants to do.

It’s hard to get a word in edgewise, and even if I or another player start doing something first, if it leaves any room for others to get words in edgewise, he often does and then doesn’t leave room himself.

This is exacerbated by the fact that he is an enthusiastic player, and when he gets an opening, he often has a lot to say and layers a lot of character expression into it. He also doesn’t leave room for others to jump in, sometimes even declaring things his character does as if time has passed, when the rest of us aren’t done yet with the current moment in-game.

(That last happened last D&D 5e session: after getting back to the inn after we’d returned from the adventure, I told the GM I looked to see if the innkeep was there, and I barely got to the period in my spoken sentence before he launched into negotiations with an NPC in the inn about a piece of armour, then he asked the GM about who gives bounties for wolf tails, then he launched into what he’s doing the next morning (at which point the GM cut him off diplomatically, saying we’ll leave that to next session). Meanwhile, I literally haven’t a chance to deliver my one small moment of characterisation role play in a quiet interaction with the innkeep, who I am wanted to thank for the loan of some equipment while returning it. This was a small but significant bit of “this is who my PC is and how she treats people” that I wanted to slip in organically into the flow of the game. There was no pause or energy-lull in his roleplaying and GM questions enough to cut in edgewise, without me talking over him or me interrupting the GM to cut [back] in with my stuff. I didn’t want to loudly grab the spotlight for a disproportionately quiet and short moment of characterisation, and I was at a loss for how to deftly and proportionately get that in. Making a big deal about it, or jamming it in so that it technically “happens” but doesn’t have anyone’s real attention as audience, would have made it pointless.)

I don’t want to fight fire with fire. If I start doing unto him as he does unto us, then we’ll just have two people in the party of five who talk over others and interrupt the GM’s replies to others to do our stuff instead.

The GM seems to be struggling with managing the rapid-fire output of this player. That’s not my responsibility though, and I want to figure out what I can do as a player to make the game work better for me in the moment. If the GM improves on the situation, then that’s good, but players have means to influence and manage these situations too and I want to focus on what improvements I can contribute. (If the answer is “nothing, you can do nothing”, that’s cool, but then there’s no need to repeat GM-facing advice we have in other questions.) Assume the GM is already working on her end of the problem, but don’t tell me to just wait for the GM to solve it. I want tools too. (And to be fair, I too struggle with managing this player’s spotlight hogging when I GM.)

He has been talked to multiple times, but it’s not an impulse he has an easy time controlling or even noticing when he’s focused on immersed roleplaying of his PC. Assume these out-of game interventions are ongoing, but aren’t (yet) a working solution.

I want some way to

  1. Not get steamrolled by Mr. Enthusiastic when I’m leaving openings for other players, or how to un-steamroller myself when it starts. We have three other players who range from engaged but polite to super-quiet. I want to interact with them in-game too, and can’t if I adopt his tactics.

  2. Get the GM’s attention back without being rude to Mr. E, or to the GM when he’s been pulled into Mr. E’s vortex of activity.

… all that while:

  1. Still be able to do normal turn-taking behaviour, like leaving openings in what I’m doing for others to jump in, react, interrupt my PC (in-game); asking questions of the GM that might need follow-up questions from me or others, to see the situation unfold organically; be able to announce an action without announcing or immediately playing out an uninterrupted sequence. I want to be able to experience the back-and-forth of roleplaying out situations, and include my fellow players.

  2. Not assuming any leadership authority in the group. Like I mentioned, I’m usually the GM. I really don’t want to have the mantle of authority come back to me even in part during my time off from GMing. And I really don’t want to undercut the GM’s authority or backseat drive. I want strictly player-focused tools. I’m on vacation! 😉

  3. Not rudely interrupt Mr. Enthusiastic or forcibly derail his speeding trains.

  4. Not having to use a shared table. We play spread out in a lounge, not around a table, and changing that isn’t feasible. This makes passing or reaching for small shared tokens, whispered interactions, and such not work without people constantly getting up and crossing the seating area, since we’re not within reach of each other.

    (I’d personally prefer playing at a table, but this is how it is.)

I know that’s a narrow needle to thread. That’s why I come to y’all for advice. There are a lot of things I don’t want to do here, and they’re important enough that solutions that don’t account for that are worse than the status quo. I will contentedly put up with this in order to have my vacation from GMing. This isn’t bad gaming, just a fly in otherwise good ointment. I want to improve the situation.

And I’m just too inexperienced as a player to have figured out how to manage this particular kind of non-malicious spotlight hogging on my own by now.

Note on the group: We’re all adult peers and friends. We are playing in person.

Best Answer

My response to this, in discussions in DND and beyond (even into work and non-gaming social situations), is simple. If Bob has interrupted Alice:

Bob, Alice was speaking.

Or, if Bob has interrupted me:

Bob, I was speaking.

Raise your voice (admittedly, it's easy for me, because I'm a very loud person), and put on your best firm teacher and/or mom voice. When a GM doesn't manage a session enough to stop this, sometimes you have to pipe up and put your foot down. The tone is key, here. You don't want to sound either angry or whiny, because if the attention hog is actually malicious, they will likely turn that on you. A firm voice and a neutral, but accurate, statement normally does the trick for me.

If you are worried about being overly harsh or too authoritative, qualifiers work wonderfully:

Hey, Bob, I think Alice was speaking?

while still getting the point across.