D&D 5E Cell Phone and Electronic Etiquette at your 5e Table

How often do you use cellphones at your 5e Table?

  • I will crush the cellphones, see them driven before me, hear the lamentations of AT&T.

    Votes: 27 35.5%
  • Occasionally, to look something up. Or if it’s really boring.

    Votes: 35 46.1%
  • Often, either as an aid, or because Candy needs Crushing.

    Votes: 7 9.2%
  • You will have to pry my cell phone from my cold, dead hands.

    Votes: 2 2.6%
  • I am a unique and special snowflake that will not be put into your arbitrary classifications.

    Votes: 5 6.6%

  • Poll closed .

Rod Staffwand

aka Ermlaspur Flormbator
I voted "occasionally". When I play the cellphone use is usually game-related (apps, dice rolls, calculators, rulebooks and whatnots), but I may check/send the occasional email or text if I think it's important--and then only when I'm nowhere near the 'spotlight'. My DMs often do 15-30 minute side scenes focusing on one character so I usually wait until then.

That's in-person games. In internet games I multi-task a lot more, probably because the lack of face to face contact is already more impersonal and I find gaming that way a bit boring. Also, when else do I have time to catch up on the enworld forums?

As a DM I allow cellphone use. If it becomes disruptive I'd deal with it then, like any other disruptive behavior, but avoid a blanket ban. Bans are a way too dictatorial for my taste--as a DM and as a player.

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41st lv DM
Being honest? A little bit. Almost always in my 1e game & almost always in conjunction with whatever other BSing we're already doing. Mostly this happens in those periods of down time where the DM is dealing with the actions of 1 or 2 characters that the rest of us aren't privy to IC.
He (the DM) pitches hissy fits about us "meta-gaming" if we're paying attention to such stuff. So we just ignore it & discuss GoT, Deadpool, misc game stuff, etc. Phones/tablets are sometimes involved.
The humorous part comes when the DM then pitches a hissy fit because we're not paying attention.....

What DOESN'T happen is someone sitting there completely self absorbed in there own little world.

Other games? The phones only come out for real life important stuff.
Or as one of the material components of "Summon Pizza".
(Like I said, real life important stuff)

As a DM, I prefer to have phones at the table set on vibrate but I don't disallow them because emergencies happen. If someone's kid suddenly needs to be picked up because traffic is holding up their spouse, that's important.

The use of cell phones and other personal electronic devices when involved in a face to face social context is anathema to good manners and good company. Using devices for game use is great, I use a Desktop PC, Surface Pro and/or iPad depending on what I am doing, but using those devices to ignore people you are there to game with is awful. Same at the dinner table or pub. Urgh I loathe it.

And I am an IT geek, with 4 PCs, 4 iPads, 2 iPods, 5 Kindles, an Xbox, a Playstation, 2 smart phones and an e-partridge in a tech-tree in my household.


We haven't thus far had any cellphones at the table with 5e, largely because the edition doesn't yet have a direct equivalent of the 3e OGL or the 4e Compendium. So online lookup of material hasn't really been a thing - we just consult the books. However, one guy does have his character sheet on a tablet and a second is about to do the same (but apparently didn't find time to do the transfer prior to the last session).

In terms of general policy, mine is quite simple: we're here to game. If you would prefer to go and do something else instead, you should probably go and do something else instead! So if you're doing game-related stuff (for this game!), that's fine. If not, it's a distraction and distractions should be kept to a minimum. And that applies whether it's a cellphone, a tablet/laptop, the TV, or even the rulebooks for the game itself.

(And note that that's a policy, not an edict. Obviously, sometimes things come up that need to be dealt with, or a player might have to be on-call, or someone just has an off night. So I ask for a best effort; I don't demand perfection. :) )


I have my phone with me, and if it rings, I will probably at least look at the caller ID. Otherwise, it stays out of sight, and never comes out.


My group sees some gadget use at the table, which has not become problematic.
* one person uses a phone app to track all his wizard spells
* one person uses a tablet for their character sheet.

My only concern is distracted players. A paper character sheet does not command much attention, but gadgets always seem to. One person flicking their phone seems to trigger other people suddenly "needing" to look at their phones... Even if it's legit usage there is always one email/tweet/update that pops up on the screen. That said, only once did I notice every player at the table looking at their phone simultaneously - but maybe I was boring with my storyline at that time :p


At my table its -XP for using yourselves phone for non game reason = to 100 times your level if you hit 0 you die and won't be re-rolling.

I use a laptop simply for notes and generators etc. Most of my caster players have there phone just so they have the names of all there spells available and use phb to look up if their not sure what it does. That and if it vibrates you can check it if its important excuse your self and check it, in my last session one of my players grans died, don't think I would be sleeping that night if he didn't find out due to all phones left in a bowel by the door.


I play without gadgets, I DM without extra technology. My mobile phone (for it is not a 'cellphone' on this side of the Atlantic!) stays on silent in my pocket, and only makes an appearance if I get a call from my wife or from work - which is almost never.


First Post
If I'm a player only, the only time I use my phone is if there's an emergency I need to deal with or if the game pauses so the DM can look up a rule in which case I use my phone to search my PDF copies of the books to find said rules.

As a DM, same situation except I use my laptop that I keep all my session stuff on instead of the phone for PDF rules lookup, etc.

I don't mind players having their phone for emergencies or if they have it on silent and have to send a text every once in a while if personal reasons are going on elsewhere with family, etc. However if they're just playing games then I will ask them to put it away. If the player keeps playing with it over and over they won't be invited back.

I don't let people bring laptops, but small tablets are fine in place of character sheets. I prefer players to use pen and paper though, mostly to save table space and because spilling soda on paper isn't as bad as spilling it on expensive electronics... Dice roller apps are strictly banned though at my table.
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As a player I prefer books to electronic media for game stuff. Just how I roll. As a DM I understand players who nod into their cell phones from time to time if the pace is slackened with regard to their character. If it's more than that I might tease them a bit to get their head back into the game, but that's about it.

Will Doyle

Some of my players use tablets to track their characters sheets. Using devices to take photos or look up rules is fine, but if I catch people persistently checking social media, I unleash the DM Glare.


It's not uncommon for a spouse to text someone at the table, but generally only for semi-important matters (i.e. "I'm going out with a friend and won't be home when you get back." or "[Child A] just projectile vomited all over your comic collection."). The definition of what rises to "semi-important" is subjective, but it has never been disruptive.

While I generally still use a small white-board for passing notes (which my players have actually requested, though YMMV), I've also texted things a few times. Generally, I prefer if any notes that are passed are obvious, whether physical or digital. Players knowing there's a side conversation or restricted information has been part of almost every group I've played with over the last 30+ years and I feel it sets the mood for scheming and/or well-connected characters much better than anything else, I have heartburn over the player being underhanded. Thus, the physical notes are my preference.

Finally, about once every third or fourth session, my group seems determined to come up with some sort of Rube Goldberg plot to deal with a threat. I don't know why, and it seems to be as often applied to something that should be a single die roll (or no roll) as to toppling a BBEG. They enjoy it, and even me telling them "guys, the door is really unlocked" doesn't seem to dissuade them, so I ride along. I've discovered that listening in on the conversations always ends up with me thinking they were committed to some detail that they aren't. So... I tend to check EN World on my laptop (sitting there for combat management), play a short game on my phone, or something else light while they plan. If they have a question, I'm all theirs. Otherwise, they need to walk me through what they're really doing, once they decide.


I have a spellbook app and in it I've created the spellbook of my dwarf wizard, I only use it to look up spell details. As a DM I've come to know and trust the players using cellphones or tablets are using an in-game app or feature. Otherwise it's frowned upon.


First Post
I use at the table my laptop for campaign management, an ipad with herolab loaded on it, a windows 10 and android tablet for rule books and map display in addition to my other books.

As a player i use just my tablets and i turn all the volumes down so when the action does not focus on me and i play candy crush, final fantasy iX, or check on the pbp game i am in over at the thepiazza no one is disturbed


In a rules emergency I might attempt to use it to look the rule up, if no one has a PHB etc.
Or if I am expecting - and get - an emergency phone call. Otherwise no. It's incredibly rude to
the GM.


I voted "pry from my cold, dead, hands". I'm currently running our 5e game off of a tablet, with my phone for dice rolling.

Ours is a pretty tech-heavy table: phones, tablets, laptops. We don't ban anything. We're all friends in our 40s and our campaigns these days are casual affairs. Hell, I had a player who used to check into WoW to do menial stuff when the table action flagged. It's all good. There's a lot of downtime in a typical RPG session. I don't begrudge anyone their distractions. In Ye Olden Days we'd flip through rules books, book collections, comics, whatever was lying around.

If I need peoples undivided attention, I ask for it. Besides, distracted players are a useful barometer. They let me know when I need to do a better job of managing DM attention/screen time. Or when I need to ramp up the action & have some monsters (or absurdly-named NPCs) kick in the doors...


Rule Lawyer Groupie
Sorry, but I can not answer your poll, as you are basically covering two aspects: whether you use electronic devices as a gaming aid, and whether you tolerate out-of-game behavior at the table. Two different and not mutually exclusive things.


Voted Special Snowflake. I wish I could ban cell phones at the table, or at least keep them for stuff that's necessary and relevant to the game. But the players would overrule me if I ever tried. And since we're playing at their house, I kind of feel like they have the last word.

Unless the players are looking stuff up or have to take an important call/text, I typically frown upon people being on their phones while playing. As I primarily run AL games at my FLGS in a limited timeslot, I make sure that the players understand that their time at the table is to be spent focusing on the game. If they cannot grasp that after repeated admonition, I ask them to leave due to disruptive behavior.

If I'm running a game in a less time-sensitive venue, then I'm a lot more lax on my phone rules.

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