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Several times when I have played in or ran a game in which the players had an objective and reasonable resources, a lot of (real) time was spent trying to plan for every contingency.

For example, the last part of one objective is "Get Away". This resulted in a discussion that covered five methods of transport, where said transport should wait, how the party should get to it, if it should have an NPC hireling controlling it so it could be called in, and what defences might threaten it. The discussion took 45 minutes of real time … to plan just the get away.

These discussions are usually driven by one or two of the players and leave the rest of the group having less then the ideal amount of fun. Both as a player and as a GM, what techniques can I use to speed up these planning sessions?

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Those discussions are often very fun, and the core of the ROLEplay. They might be bad for your group, in case, as you describe, only a couple of players interact, but in general they are often a very good thing. – o0'. Jul 8 '15 at 11:25

22 Answers 22

up vote 17 down vote accepted

You've got a heck of a dilemma on your hands, as you have two opposing play styles in your group. As someone who tends to waffle between such styles (when I get a chance to play, that is) I can sympathize with both. You ask how to fix it "both as a player and as a GM" ... and I don't think it's solvable from both sides.

Those of us that run games tend to think of ourselves as all-powerful in our little realm. We have the big picture, we know the minutiae of an NPCs motivations. That kind of knowledge tends to give you a feeling of overwhelming power in your game that you just don't have, and this is one of those cases.

Unfortunately, what you have is a player problem, so any solution that comes from the GM, from imposing time limits to GM Fiat, is going to feel like awkward and ... imposing. The best solutions to player problems come from the players.

When faced with situations like this as a GM, you have three options. You can impose in ways that have been suggested in other posts. You can look the other way and expect players to solve their own interpersonal problems. Or you can intervene with the players who are having less than an ideal amount of fun and ask them to help with the solution. Pull them aside somehow and discuss options with them. Here's some ideas on how the players can help (in order of increasing harshness, more or less):

  1. Hold an open discussion. Having them explain that "all this planning isn't working for me" might be enough to tip the tide.
  2. Ask them to set the time limits. It will be better if a player says "I don't care for over-planning, so let's move on before pizza gets here so I can have fun, too" than you setting the time limit arbitrarily.
  3. Have them make it obvious that the planning isn't working. When players wander away from the table to start watching TV or play a computer game it can be very disruptive. It only takes it happening once or twice to make it obvious that something is wrong. It opens the door to you saying "We need to revamp our style"
  4. Ask them to be the ones to do something impulsive. They'll probably catch wrath for it later, but they'll get the game going.

Personally, I love it when players try to over-plan. It gives me a chance to kick back and watch them be engaged. It allows the story to form on it's own for all our enjoyment and that's a good thing (tm). Often they plan for things I hadn't even thought of, and I use them again later in other stories. It's when, as you say near the end of your question, that it leaves other players behind that it becomes a problem.

Ultimately interpersonal problems between players must be solved by players, otherwise they'll continue to crop up. If you impose, you'll have to continue to impose. However: If you teach them to be responsible for their own enjoyment they will tend to self balance and everyone will have more fun.

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Sounds like you have a couple separate issues mixed in together.

Uneven Spotlight Time

If only some characters are engaged in the planning, make sure and spread the spotlight time around to the others. After 5 minutes of the planning characters doing their thing, go around to the other characters and get 5 minutes of what they're doing, don't let the planners have a hour of spotlight time to themselves. I've had groups where half the party was super on task and working the large scale plot and I was swapping back and forth between their planning and a group of the remaining characters that were instead going to a bar and whooping it up. Everyone wins. (Of course, a lot of the time the non-planning characters may just go initiate the activity without waiting for the plan to be finished... Which may annoy the planners but will get the action moving for you.)

Your Game Demands Planning Or Players Get Punished

If you feel like there's too much time spent on planning operations but they don't, you should ask yourself why. Are you running a game where you use picky little details against them? Where they might show up after their heist and their getaway car has been stolen? In that case (and there's nothing wrong with that) you are running a game that requires that kind of planning to be successful. I run that kind of game a lot and people like it - it's certainly different from a more narrative gaming approach. But it does promote careful planning to generate character success. There may not really be too much planning, at least not without you changing your game type.

They're Just Dithering, Start the Clock

If everyone feels like there's too much time spent on planning, then tie planning time to in-game time. If there's time pressure then the plan can't be all that comprehensive. Others have mentioned variations on that in their answers. In one Alternity game we were planning a casino heist but we realized that the longer we staked the place out, hung around in nearby abandoned buildings, etc., the more likely it was we'd eventually get detected and nipped in the bud. The GM helped us realize this by making repeated "lay low" checks.

Expectation Setting

Maybe they're misjudging your game type and think you are really doing devious stuff against them but that's not really what you're doing - in that case, talk to them about expectations. But a) be honest about what you require - can the group really just go kick in the door and come out all right? And b) keep in mind there are "Combat As War" type characters that want to use their minds to minimize risk.

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+1 for options one and two, mainly. My comment above on the question addresses the latter, but the first you mentioned was on my mind as I read the question. Even if the DM isn't naturally the most dominant speaker in the group, it is their job to keep the peace and mandate when people get turns, say and the like. Goes with the role. – LitheOhm Sep 24 '12 at 5:34

In a game where logistics and character death aren't core parts of play, putting pressure on them to keep logistics discussions to a minimum is necessary.

"For every 5 minutes you spend planning realtime, an [hour/day/week/whatever's appropriate] goes by game time. Over 10 minutes realtime and I start checking to see if the enemy gets wind of your plans and uses it against you. Let's get this thing moving!"

Pointing out to them that other players are waiting for them might help.

Ultimately, if they're unhappy not being able to plan to such fine detail, they're playing the wrong game. If possible, split those players off into a dangerous sandbox or mission-type game where ironclad planning is the right thing to do in order to survive and succeed. If running them in a different sort of game isn't possible and they continue to derail the planning-light games, you may have to unchoose them as players for this game.

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+1 for catering to those player's sense of fun while retaining the sense of fun of one's self and the group. I'm all for being as inclusive as possible – LitheOhm Sep 24 '12 at 5:32
Actually calculating vastly more ingame time for planning is horrible! Why the heck are the characters so slow??? Why shouldn't they be exactly as fast as the players acting them in real time? – Falco Jul 22 '14 at 10:45
@Falco Normally I would agree, but this is specific to the problem being asked about. The purpose here is to solve the problem of the players being slow, by increasing the in-game time the players' slowness costs the characters. – SevenSidedDie Jul 22 '14 at 15:13
Nah. Game time and real time have never been exclusively 1:1, and has always moved at different speeds when convenient or necessary. This fix for this problem is not doing anything unusual regarding time, certainly not unusual enough that it needs in-world justification before doing it. – SevenSidedDie Jul 22 '14 at 22:12
I'm with @Falco -- game time and real time are different because either the characters are doing something that physically takes longer (I send a week travelling to the other town), or it just wouldn't be fun playing downtime (we spend a week resting). This meets neither of those requirements. YMMV, but as a player, I'd call foul if a GM said that. – bryanjonker Aug 18 '14 at 13:33

I've mostly played RPGs as a PC, so I'll give you my opinion from that perspective. This is essentially a reiteration of the above bits of advice, so I'm not adding anything. But I thought you might value a PC's perspective. For the record, I tend to be a member of the group that just wants to get things moving.

My regular GM, in situations like you described, does one of two things:

1) The GM will sit quietly and let us plan for five minutes, ten minutes max, and then he'll say something like, "You delay long enough that they very group you were trying to avoid discovers your position and (insert negative repercussion)." This is usually combat. I love this. It gets the game back on track and teaches the group that, in subsequent, similar situations, we better make a decision in a more timely fashion. This approach doesn't eliminate planning, it just reinforces that there is a time element involved.

2) The GM will turn to the players who are not taking time debating and say something like, "What are you guys doing?" Sometimes, we'll advance the plot toward one of the debated choices. Other times, we'll light on something else of interest and have a really interesting, and sometimes rewarding, side-quest/skill challenge, while the others debate. Not only is this a lot of fun for those involved, the heavy debaters will quickly realize they missed out on some fun and/or reward. In the future, the "planners" will either decide more quickly, or they will fuss about as usual, just to instigate the side quest. If the planners abuse the delaying-in-hope-of-a-side-quest option too frequently, see #1.

This was a really great question and there are a ton of great answers. Thanks to everyone.

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+1 for teaching characters that the time element is reinforced, as well as calling out to the quiet players. Even more props for the side-quest while the others get to have their fun, never thought of that before. – LitheOhm Sep 24 '12 at 5:35

A suggestion I'd always heard (but never got to try out) back from my Shadowrun days was to have the players make some kind of tactics, planning, or intelligence (in the spy sense, not the smart guy sense) test and use the degree of success to give the party some number of "We totally planned for this unbreakable door/crack security team/knock-out gas vents!" tokens which they can cash in to describe how they had planned deal with a particular obstacle when they actually run into it. The idea is that the time spent at the table is used actually doing the fun action stuff, not wondering what kind of getaway car to hire.

I have the impression that the Leverage RPG has this kind of mechanic at its core, but I've never read it so I can't say for sure how (or if!) it works.

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In a slightly related mechanic, I've heard of the GM having tokens for the opposite, that represented complications or things going wrong. Then, the GM would gain one for every, say, 5 minutes the players spent bickering and planning. By adding them into a very visible pool in front of them, for effect. – Aesin May 3 '12 at 21:50
So, changing it from “Your Game Demands Planning Players Or They Get Punished” to “Your Game Demands Planning Characters Or They Get Punished”. – Anaphory Dec 6 '12 at 0:02
If you're playing a heist game without at least one planning character, I'd say you are looking for some punishment. Or a straightforward action game, in which case the plan is "go in, shoot guys, grab widget, leave." Not necessarily in that order. – Argyle Dec 6 '12 at 0:40
I love this idea ! Because not everyone is an expert hacker in real live. Or a security person. Or a bank architect. Or an anything that can prepare for the situation in wich the character will be. I think I will find a way to fudge this in a game i'm running. – Monkios Sep 29 '14 at 14:30

There are a number of different strategies to dealing with this, and their success depends on the make up of your group.

Appointing a group leader/spokesperson

This is particularly effective if the reason for the time taken is because there is disagreement as to which plan/idea to take forward. Also, if the GM has a hand in choosing who this person should be then they can make sure they are suited to the task and will get input from everyone whilst keeping things as brief as possible.

Keeping the world moving around them

This obviously won't be appropriate in all situations, but where in-game time really is limited then I use this a lot. If you describe things going on around them, making it clear they have limited time and have to act before things get a lot worse, then it tends to introduce some urgency into players' discussions.

It's really important when you use this to make sure the consequences are real and meaningful to the characters, otherwise they'll just ignore it. Even if they don't get the idea immediately, once they see the consequence of faffing around they won't do it again.

Talking to the group out of game

If as you say this is a problem with particular players, then it may that they don't realise they are doing it. By making them aware of what they are doing, particularly if it's clear that it is spoiling the enjoyment of others, they may well make appropriate changes to their play.

My personal style would be to discuss this with the group as a whole rather than taking people to one side, as it gives everyone the opportunity to suggest ways of solving the problem, but it may be necessary to take the problem players individually.

Making sure your adventure appeals to all types of player around the table

Some players just enjoy this kind of detailed planning, and in itself there is nothing wrong with that. A compromise you can use is to make sure there are some situations thrown at the group where detailed planning is allowed and encouraged, and mix this up with encounters where it is not possible.

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I usually use one of the methods below:

Summarize and ask them to decide now

If I notice they get lost in discussions, I quickly summarize their options and the pro/cons they voiced, and ask them to decide now without further discussion. If they don't manage to do that, I ask them to vote.

Remind them the world doesn't stand still

If they are in a situation that requires immediate attention, I tell them that I will continue to play 'the world' in 2 minutes, and that they either will have to tell me what they'll do, or I will interpret their action as "standing around and arguing about what to do'.

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Why are they spending so much time planning? That's the key. If you don't know why, you can't really fix the problem. Sure, you can use techniques to punish players to taking a long time planning, but that will just make them more frustrated.

The most likely cause is that your players are afraid that they'll be penalized for an imperfect plan. The causes are varied, but all come back to the PCs failing (or paying a very high price for success) that is perceived as being the result of bad planning. This is fundamentally a trust issue: the players don't trust the GM. And like many trust issues, it's not necessarily about you, their current GM. It could be a holdover from a previous GM. It could be from a previous game system that is particularly brutal.

So what do you do? It's a multi-step process:

  1. Assure your players that a 15 minute plan is just as good as an hour plan. This doesn't mean the plan will go flawlessly, it probably won't. It means that the hour plan isn't going to go any better than the 15 minute plan.
  2. Set expectations. Talk with your players about how bad things are likely to get if they go in with a good, but imperfect plan. Make sure they're cool with it. Remember, the more risk, the more incentive for more planning, so if the expectation is, "If you make a slight mistake, there is a good chance your PC will die" then you need to expect long and paranoid planning sessions.
  3. When the players have a reasonable plan, feel free to step in and say, "That sounds like a reasonable plan."
  4. Stop bad plans before execution. If a plan isn't reasonable, you should probably make sure that the players know it, since if their bad plan fails, they'll just decide they should have planned more, and that your promise that a 15 minute plan is fine was false. Don't just shoot down plans, instead ask probing questions about the problematic areas. You can use this to help identify areas that actually need more planning ("Why won't the guards raise the alarm?"), to suggest useful investigation ("Are there are other things around the lair that might be useful?"; "Who else might be angry at your target?"), to discover misunderstandings ("Why won't the lookouts see you?" "Because we're wearing all black!" "How does that help in broad daylight?" "Wait, it's day?")
  5. Avoid screw job plot twists. Pretty much anything in the form, "Ahahaha! Your foolish plans were for naught, and indeed they played right into my hands." When your players trust you more, you can try these, but for now it's too dangerous and likely to lead to more planning to avoid such situations in the future.
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Time pressure is a fairly common approach to this problem, which can take several forms.

You can use explicit in-game time pressure by telling the players that time is running out to accomplish their objectives, and their characters don't have time to stand around planning all this stuff out if they don't want the bad guy to escape, the bomb to go off, total eclipse to end, etc.

You can use implied in-game time pressure by merely hinting that time is limited. If you felt that they used too much time planning, you can then make things harder or even have them straight up fail one or more objectives, making it clear that it was because they took too long: the orcs had time to call reinforcements & dig in, the lich completed an additional stage of the ritual and has more HP and extra minions, the goblin raiders have started fires around town that the characters must avoid while fighting the goblins off, etc.

You can use out-of-character time pressure by talking to the problem players separately and letting them know that you're concerned that all this planning is 1) eating up a lot of time, and 2) not everyone is enjoying it (be sure to talk to everyone else first to be sure that they really do object to this; some players are perfectly happy just observing). Ask them if they can try to keep the planning relatively short (5-10 minutes, for example).

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There are a number of answers here. Time pressure is certainly one of them. But communication is certainly another (and pretty much always my favorite). You can try talking to the players who are spending time on logistics at a point that is not mid-session, and suggest to them a resolution that seems to work for everyone. Perhaps reference that you're in a more cinematic setting, and the logistics are simply going on efficiently off-camera. Reinforce that if they don't have the "optimal" plan, that you won't penalize them, as long as they have what you consider to be a reasonable plan. Let them know that you, as GM, will inquire if you need more details on how they'll be executing a given facet of a plan to make sure it succeeds. Most of the time, I've found that players sweat the details less once they realize that you're willing to give them the benefit of the doubt, and let their plans succeed unless you have a reason not to.

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A good three-pronged approach could be of use:

  1. If the same players offend, talk to them out-of-character. Not necessarily in a confrontational manner, but more to find out whether they are aware of the drag that they put on the game, and how this can be mitigated.
  2. Talk with the other players. The most efficient and least disruptive manners of correction can come from their peers if this is a disruptive action that is being introduced and sucking the fun out of the game.
  3. Actually a two-parter, to be used separately or in conjunction as needed. The first of these is to introduce a hard "real-world" time limit on these kinds of situations to represent the pressure that is on the group from "in-game" forces. The second is to actually introduce the remedies that will increase this tension, and to enforce the lack of time to make decisions once this pressure comes down.

To apply these to your stated situation, if the objective was to "Get Away", they were certainly getting away from something or someone. Perhaps they had that old trope going from the heist type movies where whatever block they put upon the response unit had a set time limit, or a soft limit of how long until their pursuers were on their tail (either through time/spatial limits or investigative effort on the part of their pursuers) catches up to them after you think the planning starts to bog down. Once that other element comes into play, their backs are against the wall, and they have to improvise in real time.

After enough of this prodding, behaviours should start to change...

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As a GM, what I like to do, is interrupt the planning, at firstly, very subtly, saying something that is happening in game while the planning is going on. As they continue to planning, I go and give them each time more tips the game-time is going.

Example: If the player are planning a "get away", and are expecting a boat, or carriage, I make the carriage get there in the middle of the planning. And then the NPC starts to talk "Hey, I don't have all day!"

If they are in a time restraint situation, like some enemy horde coming for them, I make the scout get there, or they can hear the noise...

It always worked for me, and the approach create urgency climate in the right situations

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If your players are planning an operation give them a time line in which to do their planning. Let your players know the set time frame time represents all of their prep time in game. This allows you to structure a time frame which everyone is comfortable with and you may find it also adds a certain amount of tension and/or excitement which can enhance your game play experience.

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One method I have used is to state that a particular event happens at a particular time, and then set an alarm for it. If you can get something that counts down, the players get more aware of the time running out, and adjust play accordingly. It's fun having them try to get in the actions before the time runs out and creates a major obstacle for the party.

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There are a few ways you can deal with this, much like as been said already, with a few comments from my experience:

  1. Specific Time Limit: Tell the players when you start the stopwatch (clock, hourglass, whatever), they have X-amount of minutes to have a plan together and start going. You'd be surprised how a group that is moribund and not making decisions can suddenly come up with some great stuff when there is a "hard" time limit! Stick to it, when the time limit is up, say "Ok, GO TIME!" and start rolling from there. Sometimes the funnest sessions can rise out of impromptu planning!

  2. Variable Time Limit: An alternative is to tell them at the end of a certain activity, they have to have a plan: "Ok, guys, when the pizza arrives, then I need to know what you are doing!" "I'm going to call my wife in the other room, when I walk back in, we are moving ahead". These kind of limits will create some tension as there is no hard and fast time, but instead a variable event that signals when they need to be ready.

  3. Implied Time Limit: Don't let the players know what the time limit is to get their plan done, but insinuate that the longer they take, the more the opposition will be ready for whatever they throw out...more opponents, rested opponents, superior opponents, etc. For example, while they are discussing and arguing and planning an approach, roll dice behind your gamemasters screen, jot down notes, smile to yourself, chuckle and shake your head, and check your watch. They should get the hint pretty quick; if not, then make them pay by increasing the foes or the danger when they finally get around to whatever plan strikes their fancy. I find this method works wonders in my games (mostly because the players know the consequences).

  4. NPC Interaction: This is one I don't like to use, because I think players should always make their own decisions (for good or for bad). But if there seems to be an impasse, or plan making has bogged down, have an NPC make an impulsive decision to do something "Hey, you notice Frodo has wandered off, oh no, it seems like he is going to sneak into the orc lair himself..." or have an NPC be the deciding vote in whatever plans the characters are deciding "Sir, the torchbearers have all taken a vote, and we REFUSE to go into the orc lair by the tunnels, it looks dangerous!" Like I said I don't use this method myself because it can be too much like railroading; if you are worried about this, roll randomly for your NPC's decision (Roll 1-3, the NPC agrees that a frontal assault is best; Roll 4-6, they agree that sneaking in the tunnel is the best bet) and go from there. Sometimes a group can be paralyzed by TOO MANY choices, and this can give them a nudge to head in one direction or another.

  5. GM Fiat: I've had GMs in the past do this, but I don't recommend it unless you are real butt kicker and don't mind players whining about it afterwards. After a long and unfruitful discussion, you can state "Well, since you guys sat around and talked for 45 minutes, the decision has been taken out of your hands, the orc scouts found you arguing in the woods and are summoning reinforcements with their horns!". The players may hate you, but something happening is better than nothing, and it could lead the adventure into an entirely new direction. Plus, doubtful they will make this same mistake again!

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In my old school game

Each session, the players have a factual time limit (the length of the session). How they divide this between planning, preparation and delving is a strategic (and pacing) choice that they get to make. I may remind them of the fact.

If they extensively plan in an adventure location, then I roll wandering monster checks. I roll them in the open and usually someone will notice, but I do not explicitly tell them.

In more story- or character-centric play

Generally detailed planning is not the point. If it presents problems, allow them to make skill checks and ask questions about the situation or their plan if they roll well, and thus give them more confidence on what they are doing. If they argue about which plan to use, engage whatever social resolution mechanics the game has: Duel of Wits, simple skill rolls, etc. Out of game, tell them that you don't need all the details of the plan, more the general outline and whatever details are relevant in the game in question.

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Planning can be a valuable and enjoyable part of a role-playing session. If the content of the plan really matters, have the players not just plan themselves but act out the planning session; provide awards for doing it well (xp, karma, whatever; if players themselves get anxious that they're not actually accomplishing anything, or want their characters to do something else). This also provides time pressure, if appropriate in-game.

If the characters start getting antsy to finish the planning and get moving, it will be harder for the players to keep going to the boredom of everyone else.

(If the content of the plan doesn't matter, just tell the players so, just like you do when they're taking a long and boring overland trip, crafting something, or whatever.)

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Planning is a very important and rewarding part of game play. Unfortunately, some groups take it too far. Usually I would try to enlist the aid of one of the players in my game, rather than take "honcho" attitude about "You have X amount of time". I find that being pushed from an in game perspective usually works out a lot better for the players being willing to accept it, rather than being pushed out of character. Heck, even I don't like it when the GM is just getting impatient for things to keep happening.

As a player, I try to be very conscious of time. When things are going too long, I have my character get impatient and potentially pull a "Leroy Jenkins" to get things started. If a plan can't be decided on in a reasonable amount of time, it just gets ridiculous. Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't pull that immediately. At some point you just have to take action one way or another. Both of my impatient "Leroy Jenkins" style actions resulted in greater than twenty minutes spent trying to plan a particular type of action. It's actually how I came to find one of my favorite style of characters (no, it's not that character).

So, as a GM- Be patient. Enlist help from your players. Remember that positive reinforcement always, always works better than negative reinforcement. Adding is always better than subtracting.

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Play a Planning Game!

I just had this thought -

Maybe the reason they plan so much is because that's their favorite part!

Perhaps you should play a game that demands and rewards planning as play?

I can think of three off the top of my head:

  1. Leverage - a Cortex-powered RPG about bad-guys-as-good-guys. Plan heists, cons, and more!
  2. A Wilderness of Mirrors - an espionage RPG where the players create the obstacles and plan to overcome them!
  3. Blowback - Another espionage RPG (based on Burn Notice, especially).

I would choose Leverage, personally.

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Which would be great for the couple of players who plan everything in meticulous detail, and not so much for the rest of us. – Quentin Sep 25 '12 at 15:53
@Coreworlder - Maybe the rest of you would enjoy the planning-centric games too. I personally am dying to play Leverage. You could even use it as a way to broach the topic: "Hey, you guys seem to love planning. Why don't we play one of these games sometime? They're all about planning! Then when we come back to our regular game, we can get on with the business at hand..." – gomad Sep 25 '12 at 19:25

There's a lot of answers to this, so this solution might already be posted, but I have a mechanic I institute that encourages players to make timely decisions and I find it works effectively.

Early on in every campaign I run, I deliberately run a mission in which you have to rescue object/person/creature X. When they players methodically plot and plan the destruction of every room down to the last turn, I patiently let them proceed until the end of the dungeon. At that point, I show them X and inform them that it's been dead/destroyed for a number of hours equal to the amount of time they spent arguing. So if the 6 room dungeon took 3 hours to clear, the object/person was usually dead for 2+ hours.

This encourages people to pay attention to time, and it lends a sense of urgency to fetch quests. It tends to play in well later too when you drop a vague hint about the last time they planned everything to within the minute. You'll usually see players taking more risky actions, and being less likely to slow crawl everything to death in the hopes of avoiding every trap and getting an ambush on every creature.

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I feel this is unnecessarily punishing. If I were a player who had GM do this I would be extremely upset that they hadn't at least flagged the possibility of it happening first. – Wibbs May 28 '15 at 21:00
I didn't downvote this, but I'm right on the edge. Playing Gotcha! this way in a cooperative game played for pleasure, where the pace may be deliberate because that's the smart way to play, might meet your expectations but may defy many, many other folks' expectations. I can see this working if training one's group for the Hackmaster finals or something, but I can also see this leading to a DM losing players or, worse, getting socked in the jaw. – Hey I Can Chan May 29 '15 at 10:34
Maybe I wasn't clear enough, I don't play Gotcha! with them. I emphasize that consequences aren't always spelled out in advance. I'll refer to my initial example again to emphasize. If the players do NOT spend an exhorbitant amount of time planning, then I don't punish them with a Gotcha! scenario. This was in response to a question which pertained to what to do with people who take a long time planning. The answer is pretty simple, make it have a consequence. – Lino Frank Ciaralli Jun 2 '15 at 17:10

What is the goal of your DMing? I mean, what is your ULTIMATE goal? From my experience, when you get to the end of a gaming session, if the PLAYERS had a good time, then you did your job. IF, on the other hand, your DMing so that YOU get the results you want, your players are going to resent that, and lose interest. If they like to plan, understand that, know it in advance, and make fewer encounters or situations for them to have to plan out.

As a DM you have means to compel the party, but you should use those sparingly, or in situations where you need the pressure of the situation to be obvious to the players. Typically, a group has someone who generally doesn't like to wait, and they'll pressure the party to action. If the group thoroughly enjoys that stuff... Then they're getting to do what they enjoy.

Now, are you implying that they're making it more difficult for you to challenge them because they're being so meticulous, then... Well, here's a couple of things to consider. What if they plan like that because they're trying to prevent YOU from screwing them? What if they beleive that every time they get into a situation, they can't succeed? What if they think that, no matter what, if they don't do this, then you'll punish them, or the bad guy will always choose or have chosen an action that defeats them? If they plan something that totally busts the encounter you had planned,... then that's a good job! Every now and then, it really empowers a player if they're spellcaster steps up and disintegrates the giant before the first blow lands!

So, the first thing I would do is to determine WHY they do this. If it's what they like, then you're good. If they do this because they're paranoid about your DMing... you might want to rethink the game.

I don't ever go into a session, as a DM, with a set milemarker, because the players will invariably exceed it, or never reach it due to their interest in something (oft-times) completely inane to the adventure. What do you do then?... What I do is use that tangent and explore it. If it sidetracks the adventure, but the players have fun, then it worked out. Flexibility as a DM goes a long way.

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Re paragraph 1. Please see the last paragraph of the original question. Re paragraph 2. I've experienced multiple groups where the half the group with dominent personalities are the planners (in one case half the group gave up and went out to lunch while two people stayed behind to go over the equipment list). Depending on impatient members of the group to get some action from the rest often doesn't work. Re paragraph 3. I'm not having any difficulties challenging players when I experience this problem from the GM's end, and I don't do things to screw players. – Quentin Jun 11 '12 at 13:10
Hey, I read it. I have a hard time imagining that, as a player, you can't commit to action. You run your PC, so how can they slow you down? \ Don't get offended, but have you considered offering or soliciting feedback from them? Both as GM and player? If you're comfortable broaching this, it may get more passive players to share as well. And let me add the sins of screwing players is something I did unknowingly. That's why I bring it up. Not to accuse you. – Doomscreamer Jun 11 '12 at 13:35

The point of the game is to have fun, right? So if that's working, why interrupt it? And just because some people want to cover every scenario doesn't mean that everyone needs to. How many times have you had this exact same situation come up, and someone just says, "While you guys figure that out, I'm going over there"?

Alternatively, pull people aside that are compulsive planners and ask them, "Hey, chill out a little -- it's just a game"

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