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5E Some Tips for Smoother, Faster Play

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
Five years or so ago, I ran a game for some WotC forum regulars including @Bawylie via text on Roll20 with the goal of creating a transcript of actual play. (I thought example play was sorely lacking in the new edition.) At the time, I received a number of comments and messages that indicated that we covered more content in 2 hours of text-based play than their groups could in 4 hours of regular play. I was somewhat thrown by this. How could this be? I had definitely been in pickup games where it was terribly sluggish, but text play is frustratingly slow compared to voice and I hadn't considered exactly what we were doing to make things so much faster.

Some years later (and many games with many different groups later), I've pinned this to some table rules that I've been employing for years now to great effect. None of these are new ideas, but they really do make a difference in the game experience if everyone at the table buys in. Here are a few of those table rules specifically geared toward making things smoother and faster. My players are asked to read, agree to, and implement these rules.

"Goals of Play. We are here to have fun and to create an exciting, memorable story together. We will choose our actions accordingly. If it's not fun and/or does not help create an exciting, memorable story, don't do it."

This most important of table rules, which is just a restatement of what the PHB says, cuts down the Set of All Possible Actions to the Subset of Fun, Exciting, and Memorable Actions which makes it easier for players to decide what to do. It also means that there are fewer disputes at the table since, presumably, there are shared values on what is fun, exciting, and memorable (otherwise we wouldn't be playing together). Giving direction on the sorts of choices players are expected to make means getting to the action quicker with less debate. Getting to the action quicker means the group covers more content per session.

"Bold Adventurers Only. We will play characters who want to go forth and confront deadly perils for reasons we can establish. Then during our precious session time, we'll play as if there is no tomorrow, living the sort of adventuring life that we can brag about later."

This table rule means that we don't have to spend time convincing Tom's character to go on a quest when the Call to Adventure is heard. It means that we don't have to spend time on shopping or running mundane errands or the sort of upkeep and management that is best done in my view expediently and only as necessary. This doesn't mean we lose out on roleplaying; rather, we spend time on the roleplaying that actually matters and eschew the stuff that doesn't.

"Pay Attention. When the spotlight is on me, I will act immediately. My turn is for acting, not for thinking about what to do."

When players understand that each of them acting efficiently as individuals benefits both themselves and their group, you will tend to see players stepping up to resolve their turns quickly. The faster everyone's turns go, the faster their turn comes back around which means they don't actually have time to look at their phone or wander away from the table. They have to be paying attention and thinking about what to do so they can act, being nimble enough to change course if something happens just before their turn. Framing this as a benefit to the player is the best way to sell this in my experience - more content per session means more XP and treasure. Their efficiency benefits them personally. And who doesn't like that?

"Say What You Do. I'll say what my character wants to do by stating a clear goal and approach - what the character hopes to achieve and what he or he does to achieve it. Questions aren't actions, nor are requests to make ability checks. The DM calls for checks, not players."

Clarity of communication is important when playing a game that is basically just a structured conversation. When players understand their role in this conversation and how to make succinct yet reasonably specific action declarations, then things go smoother and play proceeds faster. There are fewer misunderstandings, the DM finds it easier to adjudicate their actions, and the group can get to resolving those actions right away without a lot of back and forth. This also avoids the problem of "20 Questions" play wherein a player asks a litany of questions before actually taking an action (only to botch a roll after 5 grueling minutes of questioning, ugh). If they state a simple goal and approach, there is no need for questioning, provided the DM has adequately described the environment including the basic scope of options. And if they put their actions in terms of goal and approach rather than asking to make an ability check, the DM doesn't have to in turn question the player about what the character is actually doing or, worse, assume or establish what the character is doing, which isn't the DM's role and can lead to disputes if the player does not agree with the DM's characterization. If players get this part right, there is a remarkable impact on how smooth play goes!

"Keep Things Moving. I'll do this by saying "Yes, and..." to my fellow players. When a reasonable idea is proposed, I'll accept it ("Yes...") and add to it ("and..."). I won't shut down other people's ideas or try to tell other people how to play their characters unless they ask for help. It's discouraging to others and slows the game down."

This table rule short-circuits time-wasting player debates which can ruin a session both in terms of progress and relationships. We've all seen this before: A player offers an idea, someone poo poos it, no progress is made, repeat. Eventually the barbarian just rushes in and the debate was not only pointless but everyone's annoyed now. If players instead accept the idea and add to it, not only is the person who came up with the idea happy, but the player who accepted it gets to add their say. The next person then accepts that idea, which makes that player happy, and they get to add their part. And so on. By the end of the interaction, which can be remarkably short before the plan is ready to execute, everyone's happy and eager to see if their collaboration will pay off. When you do things this way, even shy players become more vocal because they know they're in an environment where their ideas are likely to be heard and embraced. This is a win all around. It's only a loss to players who love crapping on other peoples' ideas during play. And frankly, who even wants that kind of person at the table? (Not me.)

So these are a few of the things that my groups do. As a result, we absolutely run circles around many other groups in terms of quality and quantity of content per session. What other tips do you have for smoother, faster play?
 
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Bawylie

A very OK person
That’s all excellent player-facing advice. And with some slight exceptions or differences, I’m broadly advising my players the same things.

On the DM side, though, there are organizational things you can do to prepare your game so they roll out smoothly.

When I prep, I work from hard to soft prep. Meaning I look first at all the stuff I will 100% need for the next session (maps, monsters, minis, stat blocks, notes) and organize it in roughly the order I expect it to come into play. That’s what I consider hard prep - the items this session will need. After that I pile up some soft prep - stuff that might feature in the session - and set that behind my chair. I can usually draw from the last two sessions’ hard prep to build out my soft-prep.

With everything “at hand,” there’s usually only momentary pause between scenarios for resetting or re-staging. I see a lot of folks doing big set pieces with dwarven forge or things like that. If and when I do those, I’ll set that up at the gaming table but begin the session in the living room and move to the set piece when it becomes relevant.

All in all I spend about 1 hour writing and 30 min to an hour setting the table (laying out every character sheet, minis, dice cups for rolling, handouts) to ensure the moment we sit down is the moment we start playing.

I can write faster, if the adventure or session will rely on the campaign’s soft prep more. For example I’ve got an island expedition campaign going and I’ve already prepped the weather, random encounters, and tables for discoveries. I’ve already set aside the maps and minis for the various areas of the island. So all overland exploration is already soft-prepped for about 3 levels worth of adventuring. When the players are around 5th level, they’ll move to the next island and I’ll prep another 3 levels worth of stuff they might encounter on that island. It’s only about 4 index cards of notes and lists, then a pile of maps and minis. But it lasts a LONG time and it saves me a lot of prep time every week. Because in any given session, I only need to hard prep things that aren’t already in the soft prep.

But with it all prepared ahead of time and piled up properly, the move from scene to scene or setup to setup is very smooth. And I don’t spend minutes thumbing through books when a random encounter pops up like some spell casters I know when it’s their turn to cast a spell!

Oh yeah- one player facing rule I have is that if you’re casting a spell, you’d better have the text up and ready to go on your turn.
 

Oh yeah- one player facing rule I have is that if you’re casting a spell, you’d better have the text up and ready to go on your turn.
I occasionally play with one player who is NEVER ready on his turn. It's not uncommon for him to spend two or three minutes (feels like longer) figuring out what he wants to do, figuring out how that action works and what dice are required, finding those dice, etc. Some of it seems to be decision paralysis, or fear of doing less than the perfectly optimal thing, and some of it seems to be confusion about what his character's abilities and options are. Even if he's playing a Champion Fighter. He's not a new player, so it's not like the rules are (or should be) foreign, though.

It's so egregious that I sometimes wonder if it's the result of some kind of cognitive disorder (otherwise normal, intelligent guy), so I don't want to impose a rule where you take the Dodge action if you don't state your move within X seconds. (And for the same reason I refrain from screaming, "DUDE GET YOUR $%!&ing $&*% TOGETHER!", even though sometimes I want to.)

And, for some social reasons I don't want to specify, I can't exclude him from the game.

Ideas?
 


It's so egregious that I sometimes wonder if it's the result of some kind of cognitive disorder (otherwise normal, intelligent guy), so I don't want to impose a rule where you take the Dodge action if you don't state your move within X seconds. (And for the same reason I refrain from screaming, "DUDE GET YOUR $%!&ing $&*% TOGETHER!", even though sometimes I want to.)
It might actually be a mental disorder. I gamed with a guy in 3E who had some pretty bad OCD, and HAD to calculate every modifier before he rolled, even if he had it written on his sheet. The same guy as a DM had to read all of the boxed text in a single go, restarting if he made a mistake (on one particularly long piece of text he restarted about 80 times, no exaggeration). You might walk to talk with him about it away from the game if you're comfortable enough.
 

Bawylie

A very OK person
I’ve had this kind of thing twice.

One player had a cognitive disorder and the only thing to do was to be compassionately patient.

The other was a guy who wanted to take the most optimal course of action in any situation and would talk through all possible options before deciding on one. So we had a chat about that. He liked playing smarty characters who did smarty things at the exact right time. And I didn’t want to deprive him of that experience. But likewise, every minute he used up wasn’t just one minute lost - it was 5 minutes. One for each person who had to wait on him. We politely explained this fact. And just like we didn’t want to deprive him of the play experience he wanted, we expected him to show us the same courtesy. He realized he was eating other peoples’ Time. That was the first step - mutually acknowledging one another’s interests. From there we agreed to remind him of his turn earlier so he could start strategizing, and we also adopted popcorn initiative so the players could arrange their turn order to optimize strategy. That MOSTLY did it. I still had to have the “spellbook open to spell” rule in place.

I have also since instituted a Dodge default. Because from time to time your action is nullified by the time your turn hits, circumstances may have changed. So if you cant decide immediately, you’re dodging. In practice this has only happened once or twice. Usually players are thinking of a plan B. The existence of a dodge default rule works well enough to remind them not to waste the time.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
It's so egregious that I sometimes wonder if it's the result of some kind of cognitive disorder (otherwise normal, intelligent guy), so I don't want to impose a rule where you take the Dodge action if you don't state your move within X seconds. (And for the same reason I refrain from screaming, "DUDE GET YOUR $%!&ing $&*% TOGETHER!", even though sometimes I want to.)

And, for some social reasons I don't want to specify, I can't exclude him from the game.

Ideas?
I touch on the idea of players' efficiency benefiting themselves ultimately and Bawylie builds on this with everyone getting what they want. I find that to be the best approach. "Do you want your turn to come around faster?" Most players will say "Yes." So the way they can do that is to resolve their own turn faster. The question is whether this guy does want his turn to come around faster. If he does, then it's obvious what to do - get your stuff together. If he doesn't want that, then it may be worth talking to him about what it is that causes him such indecision and to encourage him to work toward identifying when he's locked up and to choose to Dodge. I much prefer a player realize their indecision and just opt into Dodging rather than it be imposed on him or her.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
The biggest issue I've seen that disrupts smooth play is out of character jokes/discussions/etc. While this is a social activity, it's far too easy for many (myself included) to go off on tangents unrelated to the game itself.
That happened a lot at in-person games back before I transitioned into almost exclusively online play. Personally when I want to play D&D, I prefer to do it online now. For in-person, I go with board games, card games, and barbecue in most cases, recognizing that we aren't likely to get much D&D done comparatively speaking. It's honestly not worth my prep time, particularly as these will be one-shots with old friends when I'm in town and, if we can't get it done, I don't want to prep it.

Having said that, my online games do not take themselves seriously at all. It's just that the jokes are all related to the game and often move the game forward. I encourage my groups to get on Discord 15 minutes before the game to socialize and that works really well. When the clock strikes 7 pm, everyone snaps into game mode and it's on.
 

Mort

Adventurer
Supporter
I occasionally play with one player who is NEVER ready on his turn. It's not uncommon for him to spend two or three minutes (feels like longer) figuring out what he wants to do, figuring out how that action works and what dice are required, finding those dice, etc. Some of it seems to be decision paralysis, or fear of doing less than the perfectly optimal thing, and some of it seems to be confusion about what his character's abilities and options are. Even if he's playing a Champion Fighter. He's not a new player, so it's not like the rules are (or should be) foreign, though.

It's so egregious that I sometimes wonder if it's the result of some kind of cognitive disorder (otherwise normal, intelligent guy), so I don't want to impose a rule where you take the Dodge action if you don't state your move within X seconds. (And for the same reason I refrain from screaming, "DUDE GET YOUR $%!&ing $&*% TOGETHER!", even though sometimes I want to.)

And, for some social reasons I don't want to specify, I can't exclude him from the game.

Ideas?
Can you gently suggest having a cheat sheet prepped with default options accompanied by all the relevant numbers for those options?

Otherwise, are you comfortable enough with the player to just ask "hey anyway I can help streamline some of this for you?"

My group had player like this - it was quite jarring because everyone else is/was just on it. They got to their turn and - ready to go. This player, by contrast, would get to his turn and just vacillate. Then when he decided, he would have to look up the mechanics of what he was doing (this guy has been playing for years and has a phd, it's not like he doesn't understand the rules!).

This got better early last year when we got a new player. I'd known the new guy would be a good fit and that he would not be a drag on the group. But I was pleasantly surprised how much of a good fit it was (plus he always brought great beer and left whatever wasn't drunk at the house, I honestly think I miss that the most when we went online!). Anyway, he was such a go-getter that I think my other player finally felt embarrassed to be a drag on the game (the other players weren't slouches, but he's been gaming with them for years and was comfortable). I actually saw the player cribbing notes from the phb onto his character sheet to help him remember actions! Sorry, bit indulgent of a story - but boy does our group run more smoothly!
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
My players are asked to read, agree to, and implement these rules.

"Goals of Play. We are here to have fun and to create an exciting, memorable story together. We will choose our actions accordingly. If it's not fun and/or does not help create an exciting, memorable story, don't do it."

This most important of table rules, which is just a restatement of what the PHB says, cuts down the Set of All Possible Actions to the Subset of Fun, Exciting, and Memorable Actions which makes it easier for players to decide what to do. It also means that there are fewer disputes at the table since, presumably, there are shared values on what is fun, exciting, and memorable (otherwise we wouldn't be playing together). Giving direction on the sorts of choices players are expected to make means getting to the action quicker with less debate.
The rather large assumption this makes - and you even point it out - is that everyone's idea of 'fun' is just about always the same.

News flash: it isn't; and even a single person's idea of what's 'fun' might change from one session to the next depending on mood, or from one year to the next depending on whatever.

"Bold Adventurers Only. We will play characters who want to go forth and confront deadly perils for reasons we can establish. Then during our precious session time, we'll play as if there is no tomorrow, living the sort of adventuring life that we can brag about later."

This table rule means that we don't have to spend time convincing Tom's character to go on a quest when the Call to Adventure is heard. It means that we don't have to spend time on shopping or running mundane errands or the sort of upkeep and management that is best done in my view expediently and only as necessary. This doesn't mean we lose out on roleplaying; rather, we spend time on the roleplaying that actually matters and eschew the stuff that doesn't.
Which merely tells me you're forcing the definition of what's relevant and what isn't on to your players, and then making them agree. You're also in some ways telling players how to play their characters; all in the interest of saving time which is, in the end, a nigh-boundless resource provided you're healthy and not ancient.

Big. Red. Flags.

Also, what happens if the reason Tom's character doesn't want to go on an adventure is because he's heard of another adventure he'd rather do instead?
"Pay Attention. When the spotlight is on me, I will act immediately. My turn is for acting, not for thinking about what to do."

When players understand that each of them acting efficiently as individuals benefits both themselves and their group, you will tend to see players stepping up to resolve their turns quickly. The faster everyone's turns go, the faster their turn comes back around which means they don't actually have time to look at their phone or wander away from the table. They have to be paying attention and thinking about what to do so they can act, being nimble enough to change course if something happens just before their turn. Framing this as a benefit to the player is the best way to sell this in my experience - more content per session means more XP and treasure. Their efficiency benefits them personally. And who doesn't like that?

"Say What You Do. I'll say what my character wants to do by stating a clear goal and approach - what the character hopes to achieve and what he or he does to achieve it. Questions aren't actions, nor are requests to make ability checks. The DM calls for checks, not players."

Clarity of communication is important when playing a game that is basically just a structured conversation. When players understand their role in this conversation and how to make succinct yet reasonably specific action declarations, then things go smoother and play proceeds faster. There are fewer misunderstandings, the DM finds it easier to adjudicate their actions, and the group can get to resolving those actions right away without a lot of back and forth. This also avoids the problem of "20 Questions" play wherein a player asks a litany of questions before actually taking an action (only to botch a roll after 5 grueling minutes of questioning, ugh). If they state a simple goal and approach, there is no need for questioning, provided the DM has adequately described the environment including the basic scope of options. And if they put their actions in terms of goal and approach rather than asking to make an ability check, the DM doesn't have to in turn question the player about what the character is actually doing or, worse, assume or establish what the character is doing, which isn't the DM's role and can lead to disputes if the player does not agree with the DM's characterization. If players get this part right, there is a remarkable impact on how smooth play goes!
Completely agree with these two; though I've run into all kinds of trouble in the past (both as player and DM) in situations where the DM describes something and the player from that description imagines something different, even after supposedly-clarifying questions. Never ends well.

"Keep Things Moving. I'll do this by saying "Yes, and..." to my fellow players. When a reasonable idea is proposed, I'll accept it ("Yes...") and add to it ("and..."). I won't shut down other people's ideas or try to tell other people how to play their characters unless they ask for help. It's discouraging to others and slows the game down."
This table rule short-circuits time-wasting player debates which can ruin a session both in terms of progress and relationships. We've all seen this before: A player offers an idea, someone poo poos it, no progress is made, repeat. Eventually the barbarian just rushes in and the debate was not only pointless but everyone's annoyed now. If players instead accept the idea and add to it, not only is the person who came up with the idea happy, but the player who accepted it gets to add their say. The next person then accepts that idea, which makes that player happy, and they get to add their part. And so on. By the end of the interaction, which can be remarkably short before the plan is ready to execute, everyone's happy and eager to see if their collaboration will pay off. When you do things this way, even shy players become more vocal because they know they're in an environment where their ideas are likely to be heard and embraced. This is a win all around.
It's a win if you want nothing but groupthink rather than individualism, both at the table and PC level; and pretty much soft-bans chaotics both as players and PCs. Another big red flag.

It's also a win for the first person to suggest an idea - which while being good for promoting quick thinking is bad if the idea suggested simply isn't worth considering; as everyone's then stuck with it.

And the barbarian can still charge in regardless, she just has to be quick about it before anyone says anything. :)

This is quite different from the completely unacceptable practice of telling other players how to play their characters.

It's only a loss to players who love crapping on other peoples' ideas during play. And frankly, who even wants that kind of person at the table? (Not me.)
It's also a loss to those who maybe don't think (or speak up) quite as fast but whose idea or plan would in the end be better. They're forced to say "Yes, and..." and go along with an inferior idea where what they really want to say is "Yes, or...".

So these are a few of the things that my groups do. As a result, we absolutely run circles around many other groups in terms of quality and quantity of content per session. What other tips do you have for smoother, faster play?
You may run circles around other groups in terms of quantity of content, but quality? That'd be in the eye of the beholder, I think, and what might be quality for you could be anything but for someone else. Not to say your games aren't good for your crew; I'm sure they are, but to say be wary of extrapolating that experience too far on to others. :)

My own tips for smoother faster play mostly come from the DM side:

  • make your descriptions concise, i.e. give the same info you'd have given before but don't use ten words where two will do. (this is true even if using a published module with boxed text, as the boxed text sometimes gets too flowery for its own good!)
  • be ready and willing to make stuff up if you're asked a question that you haven't a prepped answer for (for me, I often find myself having to dream up names on the spot for NPCs I mistakenly thought would be irrelevant).
  • be ready to start on time even if the players aren't (my lot often arrive late and leave later, it;s just how they are).
 



Reynard

Legend
Five years or so ago, I ran a game for some WotC forum regulars including @Bawylie via text on Roll20 with the goal of creating a transcript of actual play. (I thought example play was sorely lacking in the new edition.) At the time, I received a number of comments and messages that indicated that we covered more content in 2 hours of text-based play than their groups could in 4 hours of regular play. I was somewhat thrown by this. How could this be? I had definitely been in pickup games where it was terribly sluggish, but text play is frustratingly slow compared to voice and I hadn't considered exactly what we were doing to make things so much faster.

Some years later (and many games with many different groups later), I've pinned this to some table rules that I've been employing for years now to great effect. None of these are new ideas, but they really do make a difference in the game experience if everyone at the table buys in. Here are a few of those table rules specifically geared toward making things smoother and faster. My players are asked to read, agree to, and implement these rules.

"Goals of Play. We are here to have fun and to create an exciting, memorable story together. We will choose our actions accordingly. If it's not fun and/or does not help create an exciting, memorable story, don't do it."

This most important of table rules, which is just a restatement of what the PHB says, cuts down the Set of All Possible Actions to the Subset of Fun, Exciting, and Memorable Actions which makes it easier for players to decide what to do. It also means that there are fewer disputes at the table since, presumably, there are shared values on what is fun, exciting, and memorable (otherwise we wouldn't be playing together). Giving direction on the sorts of choices players are expected to make means getting to the action quicker with less debate. Getting to the action quicker means the group covers more content per session.

"Bold Adventurers Only. We will play characters who want to go forth and confront deadly perils for reasons we can establish. Then during our precious session time, we'll play as if there is no tomorrow, living the sort of adventuring life that we can brag about later."

This table rule means that we don't have to spend time convincing Tom's character to go on a quest when the Call to Adventure is heard. It means that we don't have to spend time on shopping or running mundane errands or the sort of upkeep and management that is best done in my view expediently and only as necessary. This doesn't mean we lose out on roleplaying; rather, we spend time on the roleplaying that actually matters and eschew the stuff that doesn't.

"Pay Attention. When the spotlight is on me, I will act immediately. My turn is for acting, not for thinking about what to do."

When players understand that each of them acting efficiently as individuals benefits both themselves and their group, you will tend to see players stepping up to resolve their turns quickly. The faster everyone's turns go, the faster their turn comes back around which means they don't actually have time to look at their phone or wander away from the table. They have to be paying attention and thinking about what to do so they can act, being nimble enough to change course if something happens just before their turn. Framing this as a benefit to the player is the best way to sell this in my experience - more content per session means more XP and treasure. Their efficiency benefits them personally. And who doesn't like that?

"Say What You Do. I'll say what my character wants to do by stating a clear goal and approach - what the character hopes to achieve and what he or he does to achieve it. Questions aren't actions, nor are requests to make ability checks. The DM calls for checks, not players."

Clarity of communication is important when playing a game that is basically just a structured conversation. When players understand their role in this conversation and how to make succinct yet reasonably specific action declarations, then things go smoother and play proceeds faster. There are fewer misunderstandings, the DM finds it easier to adjudicate their actions, and the group can get to resolving those actions right away without a lot of back and forth. This also avoids the problem of "20 Questions" play wherein a player asks a litany of questions before actually taking an action (only to botch a roll after 5 grueling minutes of questioning, ugh). If they state a simple goal and approach, there is no need for questioning, provided the DM has adequately described the environment including the basic scope of options. And if they put their actions in terms of goal and approach rather than asking to make an ability check, the DM doesn't have to in turn question the player about what the character is actually doing or, worse, assume or establish what the character is doing, which isn't the DM's role and can lead to disputes if the player does not agree with the DM's characterization. If players get this part right, there is a remarkable impact on how smooth play goes!

"Keep Things Moving. I'll do this by saying "Yes, and..." to my fellow players. When a reasonable idea is proposed, I'll accept it ("Yes...") and add to it ("and..."). I won't shut down other people's ideas or try to tell other people how to play their characters unless they ask for help. It's discouraging to others and slows the game down."

This table rule short-circuits time-wasting player debates which can ruin a session both in terms of progress and relationships. We've all seen this before: A player offers an idea, someone poo poos it, no progress is made, repeat. Eventually the barbarian just rushes in and the debate was not only pointless but everyone's annoyed now. If players instead accept the idea and add to it, not only is the person who came up with the idea happy, but the player who accepted it gets to add their say. The next person then accepts that idea, which makes that player happy, and they get to add their part. And so on. By the end of the interaction, which can be remarkably short before the plan is ready to execute, everyone's happy and eager to see if their collaboration will pay off. When you do things this way, even shy players become more vocal because they know they're in an environment where their ideas are likely to be heard and embraced. This is a win all around. It's only a loss to players who love crapping on other peoples' ideas during play. And frankly, who even wants that kind of person at the table? (Not me.)

So these are a few of the things that my groups do. As a result, we absolutely run circles around many other groups in terms of quality and quantity of content per session. What other tips do you have for smoother, faster play?
I wish I had read this a few hours ago. I don't agree with it all but it definitely helps me understand your position in that other thread.

And I still maintain that "I want to use my acrobatics proficiency to swing on the chandelier and smash out the window to escape the town guard raiding the tavern" is mor efficient and preserves player agency better than "I want to swing on the chandelier and smash out the window to escape" "Okay make a strength (athletics) check" "But I'm proficient in acrobatics" is.
 


Bawylie

A very OK person
The rather large assumption this makes - and you even point it out - is that everyone's idea of 'fun' is just about always the same.

News flash: it isn't; and even a single person's idea of what's 'fun' might change from one session to the next depending on mood, or from one year to the next depending on whatever.

Which merely tells me you're forcing the definition of what's relevant and what isn't on to your players, and then making them agree. You're also in some ways telling players how to play their characters; all in the interest of saving time which is, in the end, a nigh-boundless resource provided you're healthy and not ancient.

Big. Red. Flags.

Also, what happens if the reason Tom's character doesn't want to go on an adventure is because he's heard of another adventure he'd rather do instead?
Completely agree with these two; though I've run into all kinds of trouble in the past (both as player and DM) in situations where the DM describes something and the player from that description imagines something different, even after supposedly-clarifying questions. Never ends well.

It's a win if you want nothing but groupthink rather than individualism, both at the table and PC level; and pretty much soft-bans chaotics both as players and PCs. Another big red flag.

It's also a win for the first person to suggest an idea - which while being good for promoting quick thinking is bad if the idea suggested simply isn't worth considering; as everyone's then stuck with it.

And the barbarian can still charge in regardless, she just has to be quick about it before anyone says anything. :)

This is quite different from the completely unacceptable practice of telling other players how to play their characters.

It's also a loss to those who maybe don't think (or speak up) quite as fast but whose idea or plan would in the end be better. They're forced to say "Yes, and..." and go along with an inferior idea where what they really want to say is "Yes, or...".

You may run circles around other groups in terms of quantity of content, but quality? That'd be in the eye of the beholder, I think, and what might be quality for you could be anything but for someone else. Not to say your games aren't good for your crew; I'm sure they are, but to say be wary of extrapolating that experience too far on to others. :)

My own tips for smoother faster play mostly come from the DM side:

  • make your descriptions concise, i.e. give the same info you'd have given before but don't use ten words where two will do. (this is true even if using a published module with boxed text, as the boxed text sometimes gets too flowery for its own good!)
  • be ready and willing to make stuff up if you're asked a question that you haven't a prepped answer for (for me, I often find myself having to dream up names on the spot for NPCs I mistakenly thought would be irrelevant).
  • be ready to start on time even if the players aren't (my lot often arrive late and leave later, it;s just how they are).
Yeah, I’ve played in 2 or 3 of Iserith’s games in the (8?) years I’ve known him. I rarely play online. But I 100% vouch for his claims as to quality. His sessions are (nearly) as good as mine! 😁

But in terms of content, pacing, and fun - Iserith is on the mark and not exaggerating. I’ve never felt subjected to group-think or otherwise stifled and (despite my own objections to Yes, And playstyles that echo Lanefan’s points) it simply wasn’t the case that the first player to talk dominated all courses of action.

The imagined pitfalls and red flags didn’t show, in the handful of games I played. They were through and through excellent experiences. Well-crafted, well-run, and good fun.
 

Prakriti

Hi, I'm a Mindflayer, but don't let that worry you
So Tom's character isn't allowed to try and convince the rest to go on his adventure instead?
Depends. If it's an open-world, sandbox campaign where the DM has prepared two or more adventures, then sure. But if everyone sat down to play Sunless Citadel, and Tom's character wants to wander off to Waterdeep and explore Undermountain, then it's time for Tom to retire that character and roll up a new one -- one that has a reason to explore the Sunless Citadel.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
As usual, @Lanefan, I disagree strongly with most of what you said, but this:
  • make your descriptions concise, i.e. give the same info you'd have given before but don't use ten words where two will do. (this is true even if using a published module with boxed text, as the boxed text sometimes gets too flowery for its own good!)
  • be ready and willing to make stuff up if you're asked a question that you haven't a prepped answer for (for me, I often find myself having to dream up names on the spot for NPCs I mistakenly thought would be irrelevant).
  • be ready to start on time even if the players aren't
Is excellent advice.
 

Reynard

Legend
I think this list of tools sounds perfect for convention games and one short or short, focused campaigns. Having group buy in and focus is especially important in these circumstances. I think ongoing games with well known participants can relax a little and play more organically.
 

robus

Lowcountry Low Roller
Supporter
I want to turn this into cards to give to players as a reminder once things get underway. Great list and thanks for posting it!
 

Nebulous

Legend
I occasionally play with one player who is NEVER ready on his turn. It's not uncommon for him to spend two or three minutes (feels like longer) figuring out what he wants to do, figuring out how that action works and what dice are required, finding those dice, etc. Some of it seems to be decision paralysis, or fear of doing less than the perfectly optimal thing, and some of it seems to be confusion about what his character's abilities and options are. Even if he's playing a Champion Fighter. He's not a new player, so it's not like the rules are (or should be) foreign, though.

It's so egregious that I sometimes wonder if it's the result of some kind of cognitive disorder (otherwise normal, intelligent guy), so I don't want to impose a rule where you take the Dodge action if you don't state your move within X seconds. (And for the same reason I refrain from screaming, "DUDE GET YOUR $%!&ing $&*% TOGETHER!", even though sometimes I want to.)

And, for some social reasons I don't want to specify, I can't exclude him from the game.

Ideas?
That's rough. I had a player like that last year, and she was the girlfriend of a player. She too suffered from terrible decision paralysis where any potential move was the wrong one, thus she never knew what to do. She wasn't having fun, she seemed to hate the game and be there, and after three sessions she withdrew. I had talked to her partner about it and said if she's not having fun she doesn't need to be here. Please, it was ruining my enjoyment too, having an angry person there.

I don't have good advice for your situation, I'm sorry. It would be best if the player wasn't there, as I doubt their mindset will change and it could well be cognitive disorder.
 

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