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The Noise Reset

Here’s a convention GM trick I learned from the inestimable Carl Rigney: the noise reset. This is useful when you’re in a crowded room with multiple games going on around you, because in those situations you have that thing happen where everyone slowly increases the volume of their voices in order to be heard. It’s a typical group dynamics thing, but it quickly turns into the reason that, at the end of a convention, we’re all hoarse as hell.

It especially happens when a game you’re next to suddenly has a loud beat, and everyone around them starts talking louder to compensate.

I don’t remember exactly how Carl does it, but here’s my approach: I’ll go to the GM or facilitator at a table, and explain like so:

Hey, you know that thing where everyone keeps raising their voices in a game room like this, and by the end of the session we’re all loud and our throats get a bit scratchy? Let’s take a moment to reset our noise levels back to what they were when we started playing.

I stay friendly about it, not being accusatory (since I’m as much a part of the problem, as I have a loud voice). With those who know what I’m talking about, I can just say “Hey, let’s do a noise reset.”

This only works in places where I have to do this up to three times. More than that, and I just accept that a noise reset isn’t possible without shouting it in the room — which, if I have the social clout to do in a given social dynamic, I might do. And naturally, there are people who will ignore you, though thankfully I haven’t encountered that in some time.

I don’t just do it so I can hear, but so that we all can keep talking after this game’s over. It’s hard to keep playing if none of us can speak without being in pain.

– Ryan

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4 Responses to The Noise Reset

  1. Alan says:

    That’s a good idea. It would be neat to see a convention implement it as a standing policy, perhaps with a hall captain or similar announcing “10 seconds of silence” every hour. If helped limit the volume escalation, I’d certainly be okay with the disruption.

  2. Steve Segedy says:

    It’s our intention to do this at Games on Demand this year, with the hosts having a bell or some other method of letting the whole room know that it’s getting too loud.

  3. Seems like a good idea for Games on Demand, i.e., a single room under singular control.

  4. Carl Rigney says:

    That’s pretty much the phrasing I use, adding at the end “And if we get too loud feel free to come over and let us know.” or the like to let them know it goes both ways, although so far no one has.

    I’m very pleased to hear Games on Demand is planning to do this. I’ve thought about using an air horn for the reset, but a bell would be kinder.