I thought last night's game got off to a rocky start... once again, side conversations, people wanting to peruse the rule books rather than play, a bunch of "Hey, Mr. Kristof, can I...?" in the middle of other action, etc.
As I mentioned before, I run my games from the kitchen island, looking across it to the dining room table where all my players sit. (We have an open floorplan with kitchen, dining room and living room just one long room.) When I'd had enough of trying to track all the different threads, I straightened up, looked at the group, and said something like, "OK... I'm going to leave the room for a few minutes. While I'm gone, you guys need to figure out what you're going to do as a group. I can't keep running multiple threads for you because none of you can agree on a way forward. We can do whatever you want, but you all have to be involved." Well, it was something like that, anyway. Then I left. Went into the front room, then upstairs, then back through the kitchen to the garage for a beer.
When I came back into the kitchen, beer in hand, they started to tell me what was up, but I ignored them and poured my beer into a frosty glass from the freezer. Only then did I turn to them, and say, "OK, I'm back. What's the plan?"
They surprised me. They really did! They kept each other quiet and on task... they asked each other (in character) for advice and kept each other engaged. The side-conversations shrunk to almost nothing. And I was then able to run the game as I enjoy... actually pulling ALL the players into the action at appropriate times. For instance, while negotiating with the Council of Seven on Tralnor, the Kearnayan pirate Chidi simply acted as bodyguard for Tiernan, the group's prime negotiator at one point. One of the Councilmen, Milos, was short and fat, thought rather highly of himself, and wasn't too sure of what benefits Tralnor would receive if they signed a pact with the Ardeni Kingdoms. Then he saw that Chidi was armed, asked about the weapon, and for a demonstration. Afterwards, they were able to convince Milos of the value of the negotiations by reminding him he'd be able to purchase weapons like the hand cannon he'd been so intrigued by!
We'd scheduled to play from 1900 to 2200, and although I told them we couldn't, everyone wanted to continue playing... everyone seemed to have a good time, and I definitely had a good time!
Now I've got more work to do... finally got around to looking over the Stars Without Numbers rules for Factions, and they'll be perfect for the work I still need to do on the clans (hence Star Clans). Also have to detail a few more nearby worlds, since it looks like they've got plans already written on what they want to do next time we play! Oh, and of course, I've got to write up the Play Report for the Star Clans blog!