We’ve all had this problem at some point. You’re in the middle of framing a scene or answering a question from a player, when you look to your left and see the other guy staring at his crotch, the led light swirling in his beady little turtle eyes. You feel like slapping him, but suppress the urge. After all, we’re all adults here. You’re not a schoolteacher, trying to keep his kids in line. You’re just a dude hanging with his buddies and playing a game. If a fellow adult feels the need to check his phone, he must have a good reason. …right?
And quite often, there is a good reason. So you keep cool, and carry on, filling him in with a curt but polite second explanation if there’s something he suddenly doesn’t get. Or, if it’s the 3rd time this session, you say “Huh, guess your character must have been daydreaming,” or some other passive-aggressive hint. Or you
lunge across the table, grab him by his hair and smash his head into a bloody pulp on the battle mat don’t let it get that far, because now you have (cue majestic horn promenade)…
A Guide to the Horrific Undoing of He Who Gazes Too Deep Into the Astral Mists!
That’s right. Here’s how it works. Whenever you notice Dude on his phone, put a little tick by his name on your xp notes, or something else equally handy and hidden, and roll a d6 minus the number of ticks on his name. If you get a -1 or below, Dude’s character’s 3rd eye has drifted too far into the 361st degree. The horrors that lurk in the periphery of your campaign world have been stirred into life by his prying eyes! He’s seen Something That Cannot Be Unseen!
This could mean many things, depending on your campaign world. You might want to make a chart, like this:
-1: The soul of the nearest dying creature gets sucked into Dude’s head instead of going to the afterlife.
-2: Dude becomes a magnet for the undead. They will always attack him first. If multiple characters get this, subsequent Dudes instead become magnets for demons, insects, darkness (causing light to bend around him and avoid being within 10′ of him, even the magical variety), the list goes on. If you have that many players on cell phones, you need more than this chart to help your game.
-3: Dude is afflicted with “fading sickness”. Each hour that passes, there is a cumulative 1% chance that he will spend the next hour invisible. When the chance is 100%, he becomes a Ghost.
-4: Imps break through a dimensional rift created in Dude’s forehead, ripping with them 1d6 Intelligence points, causing a near-fatal wound on the way out, and leaving a scar that makes Dude look like a retarded unicorn. Poor dude.
-5: A random appendage rots and falls off. Penalize DEX and/or STR appropriately.
-6: Dude learns a horrific truth about the fundamental structure of the universe/multiverse, and is compelled to write it down. Forever. Because it can’t ever be perfectly expressed in simple mortal language, but every waking moment he spends trying to resist the urge brings him closer to madness. And eventually, his empty stomach will shrivel, his parched throat will crack, his hand will cramp up and give out, his body will fail in its compulsion, and the madness will take over whatever is left. It will start with an increased taste for red meat, then blatantly cannibalistic drives, perverted lusts involving the internal organs of lizards, etc, and devolve into all manner of foul desires, any act of carnage or bacchanalia that just might be brutal and shocking enough to his conscious mind to drive out the infernal truth that smolders behind his eyelids.
Caveat: If your player is going through a rough time, be sensitive. Don’t use this. The fact that he’s showing up to game in spite of life issues means he’s either using it as a much-needed escape, or he’s sufficiently dedicated to the game that he makes time for it, possibly at the expense of other things. He might still have some life-related shit to take care of on his phone periodically, that’s fine. Don’t punish him for being there.