One player tries to make the entire game about themselves, and steps away from the table when they aren’t doing anything. What do I do?This is a question from a frustrated game master over on rpg.stackexchange.com who has a player who constantly injects themselves into the time allotted to other players. They also step away from the table when they aren’t active and ask to be ‘caught up’ after they came back.
The Hourglass Solution
You can respect a player who wants to engage in the game rather than passively sit back like some will. On the other hand, someone who won’t let anyone else do their thing and then walks away is acting like a narcissistic brat. You can shape their behavior by mechanical means without increasing your stress.
Use an hourglass to apportion individual time to each player to do actions, with a suitably small amount of time. You can find egg timer hourglasses that measure 3-5 minutes and mechanical timers that you can set for much less time.
The teacher created resources time pack over on Amazon includes 1, 2, 3 and 5 minute hourglasses. This can solve a few problems:
Fair Access to the Spotlight
If each player gets the same amount of time, then no one player can hog the spotlight. Often really engaged players find ways to steal additional time for themselves, and having a mechanical measure in which they have to shut up will relieve you of having to tell them to shut up.
Catch Up Time Punishes The Inattentive
Having to ask catch up questions of others during your time in the spotlight takes away from the actual time they have to do things. Similarly to my previous point, a physical mechanism will act as a physical reminder on how long they can spend planning for their time in the spotlight.