I had someone pull out their phone as we were engaged in what his character was doing in the scene. I guess I was the only one engaged. I was so flabbergasted, I just sort of trailed off and moved on to the other characters.DM: "What does Hrothgar do?"
Player: <no response, didn't hear DM, is busy on Wastebook>
DM: "Hey, [Player]! What does Hrothgar do next?"
Player: <looks up from phone> "Oh, I don't know - what's the situation?"
DM: >facepalm< "I just described it..."
Anyway, strongly considering a no electronics rule at session zero in the next campaign I start up (except at breaks or for emergencies).
I see this all the time...but, while annoying, it bothers me far less than this:
Situation: the PCs for whatever reason need to get into a cave. They know there's a monster in there that's bigbad enough to be a serious threat and quite possibly cause death or other serious problems e.g. level drain.
Player A: "We know it's in there, we've got to take it out because there's no way in hell we're gonna sneak past it. There's not much room for open-field tactics, all we can do is buff up, sneak in as far as we can, then charge and hope for the best. Best if we can bottle it up and not give it too much room to move."
Players C, D, and E: <general agreement, along with some good suggestions and ideas etc. as their PCs prepare to stand in>
Player B: <in full knowledge the party's main tactic is to try to pin the foe in its cave by force of numbers> "I'll stay out here in case it tries to escape."
Player A: "How does that help us - if it escapes that means we're all dead, and if you're out here you're one less body to help pin it in the cave."
Player B: "You can all go in there to die if you want, I'm staying out here where I'll be safe."
<some argument follows, after which the PCs of Players A, C, D and E enter the cave, pull off their plan, and kill the foe (at cost of C's PC's life and some expensive gear owned by D's PC) with no help at all from Player B's PC>
Please tell me how or why Player B's PC deserves ANY xp for that battle. And while you're at it, tell me why Player C shouldn't be rather gassed off with Player B (be it in or out of character, either way works), whose participation in the battle would likely have made enough difference to keep C's PC alive.
And the above example is a rough paraphrase of a conversation I've actually had at the table, more than once (though in different in-game situations that don't always involve a monster in a cave), in one of the Player A, C, D or E positions.
No risk, no reward. It's only fair.
While I award equal XP to everyone who attends a particular session, I agree this kind of behavior is breaking the social contract. Work as a team, people. In this specific example, I'd be tempted to whip up a wandering monster or two to harass the PC who stayed behind - not that player issues should be dealt with in-game solutions (which is kinda what the XP withholding does, too), but it would be a reminder that the seemingly "safe" play isn't always so. After a pattern of such behavior, the player (EDIT: after fair warning to change their ways) would be asked to leave the group in a one-on-one conversation with me.Player B is violating the implied contract at the table that all players contribute to the fun of the group. This in no way means all players are in agreement all the time, it just boils down to "Don't be a jerk."
If Player B tries to pull the "well that's how my character would act" routine then the DM and the players need to remind Player B that designing characters that don't work with the group is also being a jerk. If the player changes, great, if not, well they shouldn't be invited back (I suppose that's a form of not giving them xp).