Nothing breaks up a night of gaming more than players taking forever to take a turn in combat. You lose your groove for the evening, especially if combat is dragging on.
"Um? Let me see. Yeah I know. Just a second...(or 20)."
These are just a few of the words that I hear around the table lately and it really is starting to get on my nerves. On Tuesday last week, we ended up being short two players and the three of us decided to play a pickup game with new level 5 characters. We rolled them up and started playing at about 8:45pm. Within two and a half hours, we had almost finished 2 encounters, and a giant skill challenge full of good old roleplaying. How awesome was that?!!!
The rounds moved lightning fast without much interruption, powers at the ready, conditions saved against (or not), healing surges taken, players in character; no fuss no mess. It was probably one of the most incredible nights I have had in a long time. All this to show that combat can be fun and can be quick. All it takes is a little concentration from everyone at the table.
Here come the how not-toos, the how toos, to help your players move quickly along at the gaming table.
The How Not-toos
D&D is a social game and you would assume that most times you are witting around the table with friends, shooting the bull, making aweful puns, and having a couple of drinks. There can be a down side to it. Some players get preoccupied with another person at the table about someting that has no relevance whatsoever to the game at hand and the person failed to note what has happened since their last turn which leads me to...
There is nothing more annoying than someone who does not pay attention to what is going on around the table. Does it say recap machine on all our foreheads? I think not. Pay attention to what is going on around the table while it is not your turn.
Don't Interrupt Others During Their Turns
There is nothing more unpleasant than: "Ok so I attack the dude over...." and another player yells "Can I have a Mountain Dew?". The other player has to start over and they lose their train of thought. Be courteous, especially to Controllers or Spellcasters of past editions. They have a lot on their plates and if you wish to invoke the "free action" clause, wait until the player has stopped speaking.
Don't Interrupt the DM on their Turn
While the DM is trying to make combat interesting, do not interrupt the flow of play. DM's usually follow a flow in the game on what they want to do with the monsters. I currently DM for 3.5 and I used to get constantly interrupted in this very rules oriented game. I got questions about this and that, and that I was doing it wrong etc... I addressed it one night and since then things have run smoothly. Question the DM after combat, after the session, or before the next session.
Know Your Character
Don't hum and haw when it is your turn. Know what you are going to do. It is understandable that situations may change right away, but for goodness sakes, take your turn. Just like in real life combat, situations may change and that what you had planned in your head does not come to bear. Change your action quickly, like a character would do in real life. Take a chance, live a little, learn from your mistake. Who knows, maybe it might turn out for the best.
For DMs; know your monsters. You expect the players to speed along and then all of a sudden everything stops for you to play with the monsters and this time it is you humming and hawing. Know them and play them fairly without interruption. If you make a mistake, do not go back, but wait for the next round to play what you wanted to do.
Table Talk-less Please!
Let other players run their own characters. Have you ever been at the table with one guy that knows everything about your character. Have you ever been interrupted doing one thing and the players thinks you should do another? Guess what!! It is your character, so you get to play it. The other player should be quiet and let you play your own character; for good or bad.
The How Toos
If your DM allows it, pre-roll your dice for all kinds of situations. Saves, attack rolls, skill checks are all examples of how you can speed up the game to make it enjoyable to all. Pre-rolling also allows you more time for roleplaying which is my next point.
Don't hesitate. Ham up your character. Show everyone what you have. The more you roleplay, the more the other players get into the story. You heard the old saying that smiles are contagious; roleplaying is the same thing. If you show one player that you are not afraid to try something even if it fails, and that you can spin something good out of it, other players may try to emulate you. It is a lot more fun for everyone.
Trust your DM
Unless your DM is a total douchebag, he will not be purposely trying to kill you. Give them free reign and let him/her entertain you and trust that you will not die! (that is, unless you do something really stupid). If you question him for every decision they make, it really slows the game down and everyone suffers. The game is designed to make it enjoyable for everyone and the DM is no exception to the rule. Their job is to make it fun for everyone, so trust that they will make it fun. If not it leads to disagreements and misunderstandings which may lead to more serious issues.
DMs - Use Tricks to Speed Things Up
Use props to try and help speed things up at the table. Use things like monster cards, initiative cards, minis with counters on them. See our friends at Stuffer Shack for some great mini counters that are extremely useful to count minis of the same type on the board. Ex Nebula and other sites have great initiative trackers to download. Organize yourself before you get to your session. You should try to be the one to lead by example by being prepared for your sessions.
Yep, I said it. I don't like incorporating technology into my games. Ok, what I am saying is do not try to automate the game. It will only slow things down in the long run. I currently game virtually with people from Toronto using MapTools, a free online gaming tool. Now, I am not dissing the tools, it is actually quite phenomenal and simplistic to boot. Unfortunately, we have started tracking conditions, HP, using macros built by them and built by others. Since we started using this aspect of the tool, the quality of playing has gone down, and the level of automation has gone up. I don't roll my own dice anymore, I don't get to track my HP, Healing surges, power conditions etc. We have become lazy. This is my opinion only and if it is working for you all great!!
I love to keep things simple. Having the maps and tokens on MapTools gives a great visual to virtual players. Keeping track of conditions and character stats is so much more fun and involving that a player seems to pay more attention to the game.
Do you have trick of any type that yo use at your table? Do you agree? Do you disagree? Leave a comment and share your opinions with us.