D&D General Players who take Excruciatingly long turns: solution?

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
I play a lot of Savage Worlds too and the changing initiative does add to the tension and (good) chaos of the fight. I really should give variable initiative in 5e a try and see if it works well. My one worry is that it will play hell with "until turn" effects.
You just have to track by initiative instead of turn for those effects - instead of "at the end of your next turn" the effect ends on the same initiative next round as it started in this one, regardless of whose turn goes when next round.

Yes this means sometimes the target will be affected twice and other times not at all, depending how the init rolls go, but that's part of the chaos. :)
 

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Lanefan

Victoria Rules
We're playing changing initiative in our current 5e game. I'd never do it on tabletop - rerolling and rewriting the initiative table every damn round for an entire party and potentially a couple of dozen enemies/allies is just too slow and painful. But we play using FG and there's a plugin that does it automatically.
I'd never rewrite it all every round - just get the players to leave their init die on the table in front of them, or write their own init's down on something, and you have init dice for each foe that you leave in front of you. (as a good GM you've got at least 25 d20s, right? :) )

That said, the second step for me is to go to a much smaller die for init's (we use d6) and allow ties. But that's a whole other discussion.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Rules around durations for all 3 WotC editions are built around cyclical initiative. They're far more standardized in their effects on targets than they ever were under editions with initiative rolled every round.
To me the bolded is a bug rather than a feature, though I know others will see it differently.
 


bloodtide

Adventurer
I fixed this in my game long, long, long ago with the Three Second Rule. Simple enough: When action takes place, a player has three seconds to say their character actions.

Just take the Big Three:

1.Clueless not playing Attention (all most always on their phone)
DM: The goblins on the other side of the bridge charge and attack, what is your action for this round.
Player: beep,beep,beep,clickclick "Uh..what? Whats gong on?" beep, tap, beep, "Wow, this YouTube video is Awesome!"

2.The Clueless Rule Player.
DM: The goblins on the other side of the bridge charge and attack, what is your action for this round.
Player: "Um, Karg will attack...ummm, how fast does my character move? What is the damage for a battle axe? What does my rage do? endlessly flips through some books

3.The Canner
DM: The goblins on the other side of the bridge charge and attack, what is your action for this round.
Player: CAN my character attack? CAN my character shoot an arrow from his bow? CAN my character charge?

And it's simple: If the player can't give me an answer in three seconds, their character stands confused for that whole round. And quite often will get attacked, fall in the pit of lava or such.

End result is I get my fast game.
 

J.Quondam

CR 1/8
I fixed this in my game long, long, long ago with the Three Second Rule. Simple enough: When action takes place, a player has three seconds to say their character actions.

Just take the Big Three:

1.Clueless not playing Attention (all most always on their phone)
DM: The goblins on the other side of the bridge charge and attack, what is your action for this round.
Player: beep,beep,beep,clickclick "Uh..what? Whats gong on?" beep, tap, beep, "Wow, this YouTube video is Awesome!"

2.The Clueless Rule Player.
DM: The goblins on the other side of the bridge charge and attack, what is your action for this round.
Player: "Um, Karg will attack...ummm, how fast does my character move? What is the damage for a battle axe? What does my rage do? endlessly flips through some books

3.The Canner
DM: The goblins on the other side of the bridge charge and attack, what is your action for this round.
Player: CAN my character attack? CAN my character shoot an arrow from his bow? CAN my character charge?

And it's simple: If the player can't give me an answer in three seconds, their character stands confused for that whole round. And quite often will get attacked, fall in the pit of lava or such.

End result is I get my fast game.
Whoah, harsh! Even food that falls on the floor gets a full five seconds of reprieve.
 


Yeah that's too much. I don't even like the idea of a set timer, let alone a 3 second one. The one time we tried that in 4e it had the effect of making the game feel like a business meeting. Worst session of TTRPG I can remember.

I do think it's the DM's responsibility to keep the game moving. I've also played with people who have stopped the game to read 5 different spells, and then done it again the next turn. It's one of the reasons I think summoning and polymorph spells don't belong in the game as written. In almost all cases I can recall, the DM would just wait a reasonable amount of time and then say, "tick tock". If they still got no response then it was, "okay, you need to make a decision now. do you do anything or not?"

You might also try suggesting they think out loud. First of all, it's more engaging for everyone else. Second, articulating your thinking uses another part of your brain. You often come to a decision faster by forcing yourself to organize your thoughts into language. Third, it implicitly solicits advice. D&D is a collaborative effort and there is no real reason to make combat any different than the rest of the game, especially if someone is struggling with it. Just beware that some players will take it as an invitation to direct other players like puppets. If this happens you have to shut that down but it's pretty rare.
 

I was thinking about this thread a bit more and I realized that I play with a group and they are super-slow. It tends to be one or two players in particular - one is VERY slow and often interrupts other people's turns which slows them down.

I, occasionally, DM this group and combat is WAY, WAY faster.

I'll go back to some of the techniques I mentioned in my last few posts:

1. Tell people who's on deck
2. Give them a sense of urgency if they take too long, "you better decide quick otherwise the enemy will take their turn instead" or I literally say, "You have to choose now or I'm moving on."
- I kind of like what @Lanefan said about moving them down initiative. I'll do that if players happen to be afk.
3. Don't let them interrupt
4. Take their first action
5. Don't overly punish players for out of character mistakes.*

*Note: They still feel the full consequences of stupid actions in character.

So, this post is also to say that the DM holds some responsibility for the speed of combat
 

delericho

Legend
Assuming that there are no disabilities in play, that none of them are brand new to the game, and that there are no other factors that would require additional support...

I would strongly suggest explicitly stating some expectations for the group, so that everyone is on the same page:
  • When it is your turn, you are expected to do so promptly. It's okay to ask for clarifications, but you are expected to be paying attention to the game and be ready to act.
  • Your character is your character. You are expected to know what your powers do and how to use them.
  • You are expected to choose your character's actions. Please don't ask what you should be doing on your turn, and please don't attempt to advise another player on their turn. In a life-and-death struggle your character's don't have time for these in-depth discussions; please act accordingly.
  • If you are taking too long, the DM will advise you that you need to act now. Declare an action, or you'll miss your turn.
The other thing that would probably help, as others have mentioned, is to pre-warn whoever is next that their turn is coming.

Regarding the specific players:
For one, it's because he is kind of a scatter brain, but still wants to play complex spell casters with cool abilities (he is playing a circle of spores druid currently). Another is a builder -- I first met him playing HERO in the mid 90s. He builds these highly specific characters then can't remember exactly how he constructed their Thing they do.
These are unfortunate choices. But, essentially, they need to be responsible for their characters - they chose them, so it's up to them to know what they can do and how to do it. If need be, have them skip a few turns, and they'll quickly get the message.

(But do state your expectations clearly first - otherwise, the first time you drop the hammer you're going to have a big fight!)
The third is just not paying attention half the time (we play on Fantasy grounds).
This is a problem player behavior. I would advise talking to this player directly and explain that they need to pay attention.

(The only thing, though, is that they might not be paying attention because the other two players are taking an age. So fixing one problem might fix the other. But you can't rely on that.)
 

In my experience, there is no fix. Don't get me wrong, I like the other posters' ideas: have them write out spellcards, eliminating technology, asking them what you can do to help, etc. But, even after all those, those players resort back to their slow ways; whether overly thinking combat tactics or always reassessing the board or just being scatter brained, it's part of who they are.

All that said, I can state one thing that I have found beneficial. After speaking to the player and explaining the issue, I give them two options (both the best I can come up with). For example, it might sound like this:
Druid: It's my turn.
DM: Yes. You have two goblins on your left with slings. To your right is a small hole in the wall. Ahead, you hear more goblins. You can charge the two goblins on your left, cast shillelagh, and hit them with your quarterstaff or turn into a mouse and crawl through the hole.

Granted, this might sound demeaning, but in my experience, the player did not take it as such. It helped the table speed immensely. The issue came when we reached higher levels. It doesn't pan out so well then. The other thing is, make sure the other players know what you are doing. This way they don't interject with their own solutions and then you are back to square one.
 


Oofta

Legend
In my experience, there is no fix. Don't get me wrong, I like the other posters' ideas: have them write out spellcards, eliminating technology, asking them what you can do to help, etc. But, even after all those, those players resort back to their slow ways; whether overly thinking combat tactics or always reassessing the board or just being scatter brained, it's part of who they are.

All that said, I can state one thing that I have found beneficial. After speaking to the player and explaining the issue, I give them two options (both the best I can come up with). For example, it might sound like this:
Druid: It's my turn.
DM: Yes. You have two goblins on your left with slings. To your right is a small hole in the wall. Ahead, you hear more goblins. You can charge the two goblins on your left, cast shillelagh, and hit them with your quarterstaff or turn into a mouse and crawl through the hole.

Granted, this might sound demeaning, but in my experience, the player did not take it as such. It helped the table speed immensely. The issue came when we reached higher levels. It doesn't pan out so well then. The other thing is, make sure the other players know what you are doing. This way they don't interject with their own solutions and then you are back to square one.

I do this too for some players. Some people just get overwhelmed by having too many options in front of them. A quick recap of what's happening and the obvious options can help.
 

The 30 seconds for a turn comes out very often. It seems that it is a workable solution at many tables.

I have taken time over the weekend to ask how other DMs do it.

Of the 20 or so that I contacted, 15 are doing the 30 seconds or 1 minute maximum time allotment; forcing the dodge action exactly as I do. 3 DMs go even more drastic and declare the characters is panicking and take a random action as per the confusion spell and two DMs gives as much time as the player needs to.

I don't know for you, but the 3 doing the equivalent of the confusion spell are way beyond I would do but I can understand the goal. As for the other two, both are very light on combat, and I mean very very light. Combat according to them is usually once or twice per three to four session and rarely lasts more than 5 rounds.

The problem with over long time to take a decision might be directly related to the focus of the game. The more combat is the focus, the more concise players need to be. While the more a game is ingrained into RP, the less the need for short decision time comes up as you do not "lose" that much time in decision making.
 

Reynard

Legend
The 30 seconds for a turn comes out very often. It seems that it is a workable solution at many tables.

I have taken time over the weekend to ask how other DMs do it.

Of the 20 or so that I contacted, 15 are doing the 30 seconds or 1 minute maximum time allotment; forcing the dodge action exactly as I do. 3 DMs go even more drastic and declare the characters is panicking and take a random action as per the confusion spell and two DMs gives as much time as the player needs to.

I don't know for you, but the 3 doing the equivalent of the confusion spell are way beyond I would do but I can understand the goal. As for the other two, both are very light on combat, and I mean very very light. Combat according to them is usually once or twice per three to four session and rarely lasts more than 5 rounds.

The problem with over long time to take a decision might be directly related to the focus of the game. The more combat is the focus, the more concise players need to be. While the more a game is ingrained into RP, the less the need for short decision time comes up as you do not "lose" that much time in decision making.
I am adapting the Pathfinder 1E AP "Iron Gods" to 5E, so it is pretty combat focused -- but because i am doing the conversion, I am trying to reduce the combats or at least build the encounters in ways that have alternative solutions.
 

Mort

Legend
Supporter
In my experience, there is no fix. Don't get me wrong, I like the other posters' ideas: have them write out spellcards, eliminating technology, asking them what you can do to help, etc. But, even after all those, those players resort back to their slow ways; whether overly thinking combat tactics or always reassessing the board or just being scatter brained, it's part of who they are.
But even here, there IS a solution, if not an ideal one.

Assuming no disabilities, or completely new players, you can impose a hard time limit - 30 seconds seems pretty standard. If they don't get to their action in time, they take the dodge action.

Perhaps it's harsh, and I wouldn't do it with every group. But it will speed things up and I haven't yet had a player who took it badly.

All that said, I can state one thing that I have found beneficial. After speaking to the player and explaining the issue, I give them two options (both the best I can come up with). For example, it might sound like this:
Druid: It's my turn.
DM: Yes. You have two goblins on your left with slings. To your right is a small hole in the wall. Ahead, you hear more goblins. You can charge the two goblins on your left, cast shillelagh, and hit them with your quarterstaff or turn into a mouse and crawl through the hole.

Granted, this might sound demeaning, but in my experience, the player did not take it as such. It helped the table speed immensely. The issue came when we reached higher levels. It doesn't pan out so well then. The other thing is, make sure the other players know what you are doing. This way they don't interject with their own solutions and then you are back to square one.

I don't like to do this because it's me telling players how their characters act, and players seem to react worse to this than just being told "sorry, time's up." I can certainly see how it could work for some groups if/when the players are ok with it.

The biggest thing, really, is establishing trust and group cohesion. Once that's there, you can figure out what works (beyond the standard strategies).
 

But even here, there IS a solution, if not an ideal one.

Assuming no disabilities, or completely new players, you can impose a hard time limit - 30 seconds seems pretty standard. If they don't get to their action in time, they take the dodge action.

Perhaps it's harsh, and I wouldn't do it with every group. But it will speed things up and I haven't yet had a player who took it badly.
30 seconds is an option. It can work. And I would take the bolded a step further, 30 seconds for certain players. Other players don't need it.

I can say this, having implemented the 30 second rule several times, there is a point to it where it no longer creates fun tension, but rather anxious tension, which in my experience, has never been good. It just makes the player that has a hard time deciding or a player that loves to reassess and do the "ultimate" tactic frustrated.
 

I don't like to do this because it's me telling players how their characters act, and players seem to react worse to this than just being told "sorry, time's up." I can certainly see how it could work for some groups if/when the players are ok with it.

The biggest thing, really, is establishing trust and group cohesion. Once that's there, you can figure out what works (beyond the standard strategies).
You are right, group cohesion is key.

And, I agree, it is telling the player how to act. But it also teaches the player how they can act. That can sometimes make a difference, even if for the first few levels.
 

Kinematics

Adventurer
Switch to group initiative. It's not like weakening the value of the Dex stat will be bad for game balance overall…
How would this speed things up, since everyone still has to take their turn?
We've switched to group initiative in our game recently. The GM didn't announce it being for any particular reason, though there's the implication that he wants to speed up the combats since we're approaching the end of the campaign.

The implementation is a bit more spartan than others have described. Each side rolls a single d6 (the person who rolls changes each round), no modifiers added. Highest value goes first. On a tie, everything all happens at once. (If someone had the Alert feat, I personally would rule that that gives the players first move on a tie.)

On the players' turn, the GM just goes around the table asking for each person's action. If someone isn't immediately ready, he moves on, and gets back to that player after everyone else is finished. And while it hasn't come up, if someone isn't able to decide on an action at that point, setting their action to Dodge seems reasonable.

Now, why is this faster?

  1. We don't have to sort out everyone's turn order, whether we'd only do that at the start of combat, or every round. There's only a single pair of numbers to compare, instead of potentially a dozen or more.
  2. There is only one 'turn' for the players, so everyone's consideration of what to do happens in parallel. With normal initiative order, the sequential nature means any single person taking a long time bogs things down for everyone.
  3. By default, each player tends to only consider what to do on his turn. If it's not his turn, he's more likely to "check out". That means that on average, each player doesn't really need to engage for 80% - 90% of the round (for anywhere from 4 to 6 players). In addition, the disengage-reengage cycle will slow down each individual player's turn, since he has to figure out where he is, and what's going on all over again each time his turn comes up.
  4. It's easier to skip a player who's not sure what he wants to do, and get back to him after going through the other players' actions. With standard initiative, it's harder to legitimately do that because it can screw up how the actions get resolved, particularly if monsters have actions between players. If you have [ Player A > Monster A > Player B ], then if Player A is put on pause until after Player B, he can find out what Monster A does, and how it was resolved, before deciding on an action. This can be problematic in some scenarios. With group initiative, there's no way for that to happen, so reordering players is easy.
  5. Continuing #4, there's also none of that, "I delay my turn until after Player B goes" (which also isn't really legitimate in 5E), often used so that players can coordinate their actions. If Player A the rogue has to wait til Player B the barbarian gets next to the monster so that the rogue can use his sneak attack, the standard initiative order means people have to fiddle around with figuring out what order people are moving in, and how much that delay may cost them in other ways (such as the monster moving away, or Player C killing it with a spell, etc). All actions in a round are supposed to be roughly simultaneous anyway, so the group initiative just gets rid of the extra bookkeeping involved.
  6. The GM can move on to the next player immediately after the prior player has declared his actions, even if that prior player has not yet resolved the actions. For example, Player A declares he's going to attack. GM says, "OK, make your attacks. Target AC is 17. Let me know how much damage you do." Then the GM immediately moves to Player B. Player A is then free to do all the rolls he needs, including double checking if other features come into play (eg: a Cavalier using Unwavering Mark, or a Barbarian using Brutal Critical, etc) without the pressure of needing to get done so that the next player gets his turn, and possibly losing out on some of his special benefits because he forgot.
  7. While it's not explicitly using a timer, the GM doesn't have to wait for each person to sit around and think. It's much easier to do a rapid-fire run through the table, and have the table as a whole under the virtual effects of a timer (without singling any one person out). And on the flip side, once one person is done, he is free to help out anyone else at the table resolve more complicated actions or ideas. With a sequential order, even if someone is ready to perform a quick action, he has to keep that 'suspended' in mind until his turn comes up, which makes it more difficult to help others since the anticipated action may be lost, and then time spent figuring it out again dilutes the value of being prepared.

Most of those are only small improvements in overall speed, but together, and particularly in parallel, it really helps speed things along, and keeps people from disengaging. It is likely to reduce total combat time by at least 15%, and potentially up to 50%.

I'll note that this is all at a live game, not a virtual one, though. My gut feeling is that it would be a little harder to manage in a virtual game, but I'm not entirely sure. The virtual game I'm playing hasn't tried anything like this.

Also also, someone mentioned the Greyhawk Initiative system option. We've tried that in my group before, and I wouldn't recommend it if your goal is reducing round times in combat. It adds an extra layer of complexity in figuring out which actions correspond to which dice, and then translating that to a new initiative each round. While we eventually got used to it, it was definitely not a fast system.
 

I am adapting the Pathfinder 1E AP "Iron Gods" to 5E, so it is pretty combat focused -- but because i am doing the conversion, I am trying to reduce the combats or at least build the encounters in ways that have alternative solutions.
Adapting older edition or systems is always tricky. You have to take into consideration the intent and goal of each fight and RP encounters. Is this or that fight/encounter necessary or is it a simple filler? And if it is a filler, is it still needed or do you have enough. If you cut it, will it make the area appear strangely void of stuff to do and if so, will it break the pace?

For 5ed I usually go for a lesser number of foes and I never go below the number of PC unless the fight is already with a lesser number of foes. This is a very delicate job. Kudo for you for trying.
 
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