Speed of Play - help, please!

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Hey all.

I am currently DMing a group.  I enjoy DMing, and I also enjoy playing.  I think it's important for the DM to work as the facilitator, the story teller, the enabler - but also to enjoy the game too.

I sometimes become frustrated by the speed of the play.  When faced with any problem other than ones solved with the run-in-and-bash-things approach, even comparatively simple problems, the party tends to go into "unfocused brainstorm" mode, where they will throw numerous ideas around, some rubbish, some great, and keep doing this until prodded (firmly) into a course of action.  They will happily spend literally hours doing this, and getting nowhere because they don't actually implement any of the ideas.  From time to time, one will attempt to suggest some actual forward movement, everyone else will say no, and they'll begin again with the brainstorming.

Has anyone else come across this style of play?  Is this common?

Is there something I should be / shouldn't be doing when confronted with this?

It would help enormously if one of the players took control and directed the energies, but it doesn't happen.  I don't want to be the one to do this all the time - I don't mind doing it occasionally - but if I have to do it al the time then I end up both DMing and playing, and feel like I'm stepping on toes.

Any feedback from other DMs or players?

Cheers,

A.
Yeah, this is common. I'm dealing with it now in a play-by-forum game which is even slower.

My advice is: make something happen. Treat their deliberations as happening in something like real-time, so that it's not like they just pressed Pause. If there are monsters around, well, they aren't just standing about, they have things to do. While the players are talking, these activities will progress. Maybe it's patrol duty, or maybe the monsters will finish and move off. Or more monsters will arrive. Or the monsters will start smashing or removing valuables, or doing something that will impede the players if they don't do something.

If all else fails, blow something up.

If I have to ask the GM for it, then I don't want it.

Yeah, this is common. I'm dealing with it now in a play-by-forum game which is even slower.

My advice is: make something happen. Treat their deliberations as happening in something like real-time, so that it's not like they just pressed Pause. If there are monsters around, well, they aren't just standing about, they have things to do. While the players are talking, these activities will progress. Maybe it's patrol duty, or maybe the monsters will finish and move off. Or more monsters will arrive. Or the monsters will start smashing or removing valuables, or doing something that will impede the players if they don't do something.

If all else fails, blow something up.

I don't have a problem "forcing" a decision if I need to. The problem I have is that if I *don't* "force" a decision, one never comes!


How can I educate my players into *tactical* play ("My character will now...") rather than *hypothetical* play ("Maybe we should...")? 


I don't have a problem "forcing" a decision if I need to. The problem I have is that if I *don't* "force" a decision, one never comes!

That's not quite what I mean to suggest.

How can I educate my players into *tactical* play ("My character will now...") rather than *hypothetical* play ("Maybe we should...")? 

By having things happen around them, you're not forcing a decision, you're educating them on why it's sometimes important to go with an ok plan now instead of a perfect plan later.

What I recommend for my players and what I try to do myself is to back the first suggestion anyone makes. You could try making this an actual rule so that the first idea that comes out is actually acted on. But that will probably clam them up.

Pick one player to be a decision maker. YOU pick the player. That player, until you say otherwise, makes the decision. This actually used to be the standard way to play: one player would be the "caller," so the DM could focus primarily on one player.

Do you know the reason behind their deliberations? Sometimes it's because of overpoliteness. No one wants to be Leroy Jenkins, bringing horrible stuff down on the rest of the party. Try as much as you can to show them that such will not be the result of most ideas - or show them that ANY idea will bring horrible stuff down, so they might as well just pick one.

If I have to ask the GM for it, then I don't want it.

Thanks, Centauri, that "caller" approach is a very good idea.  It will also deal with another problem that I have of one over-bearing player and one extremely reticent one.


I'll give that a go.

Cheers     
If they use a "caller", you can even have the "caller" change each game to give everyone a chance.

Also, if they are new to the game, and unsure about some tactics or possible moves, you could suggest some for a little while until they start to see what's possible.  Give them "training wheels."  When you think they are moving along, take the "training wheels" off.

With my regulars (who are oldtime D&D players), they can also take a long time to deliberate, so I just tell them they have to think more "in character."  In combat, they don't really have too much time to make a decision, so they should act.  Some people give time limits.  I've found that I don't need to if I just tell them they need to make quicker decision without so much discussion during combat.   If they are not in combat yet, I'll give them a little more time.



 

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When my players spend too long deliberating, I call a vote. It's a good way to deal with it if there's only two or three options they're considering, but with anymore it's not so efficient. I'll probably try using the "caller" method myself now.
To make it faster, have every Encounter have at least one (preferably two) pretty obvious thing to do thereafter.
I stick to this guideline and NEVER give open-ended Encounters to new groups.
I only give Open-Ended situations to more experienced Groups, or if I know the Players can deal with it.

eg. Enter the Warehouse. They argue how to enter it.
DM : "As I mentioned earlier, the Warehouse has a front double door that you can see."

eg. Find information on the Disappearances.
NPC Questgiver : "Hmm, there were more disappearances in XXXX District. Why not start by looking there?"

eg. Free or Leave the Tied Up Guy
NPC Tied Up Guy : "Hey so are you guys going to free me or not? My hands are hurting!"

Thereafter, use a "Forced" Encounter. Using the same examples above, in order...
eg. The Warehouse doors open and out spring a group of guards!
OR The Warehouse doors open but no one appears and you can't see inside as its dark (Be mentally prepared for : Players leave as its obviously a trap)

eg. NPC "Police / Town Guard" shows up "We've found a dead body in the XXX District. Maybe you can find some clues!"
( Cutscene and place the Heroes now at the new place )

eg. NPC Tied Up Guy was injured and near death to begin with. As you continue arguing, he dies on you.
OR You take so long arguing that NPC Tied Up Guy manages to free himself. He spits on the floor as a gesture of contempt before leaving. (Note : they may shoot him! So be prepared)

Yes, some of the above are not realistic.
Make it clear to your Players you're quite willing to pull out unrealistic outcomes or force actions (like Players have no choice whether to go to the XXX District and see the dead body) so as to better utilise Game Time.

===============

In an actual game case, I did a recap of the choices available to the Players, based on their Journal that they don't really keep track of (I like light games and don't expect this group of new 4E D&D Players to keep a lot of notes)
"So are you going to sail to XXX City, or go back to the Captain who gave you the assignment, or try to find out more information about the Elder?"

If they say "How about xxxx?" and have been time-wasting / arguing for a long time before that, the DM is well within his rights to say like "To save time, let's just stick to 1 of the 3 choices I've just given you."
This time-wasting didn't occur in my game (thank God) so I didn't say the above.

I am Blue/White

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