My gaming group is very mature, empathetic and thoughtful; in character and out. They are pretty much the perfect gaming group, but one of the players whose opinion I trust to be honest has come to me with a complaint that I think more of the players would voice if they were more honest in their criticism: the group takes too long to come up with and enact plans which causes the game to drag and lose momentum and direction. I know the players, even the one making the complaint, enjoy planning to a certain degree and I don't want to take that from them, but I want to be sure we can make the planning portion of our session fast, engaging and fun.

In our V20 game last night the planning took up 2/3 of the session and resulted in very little appreciable change.

As the GM I feel that it's my responsibility to keep the game moving at a brisk pace especially since we are only able to get together for 3-4 hours a week. I prefer to run sandbox style games and I put a premium on player agency, that said I am willing to step out of my comfort zone to make my session as interesting and fast paced as my players desire.

The player also told me that while she wants the game to move faster she doesn't want the game to cause anyone anxiety either.

In what ways could I change the way I GM or ask more of the players to make planning go faster and be more fruitful, more fun and interesting for everyone?

  • \$\begingroup\$ @RobertFisher Please don't answer in comments. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 13, 2017 at 15:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ @doppelgreener Please don’t tell me not to answer in comments when there is no consensus on what is an answer & what is a comment. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 13, 2017 at 15:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ @RobertFisher It's not that vague. We use comments to request clarification and suggest improvement. You'll see as much reflected in the placeholder text in an empty comment text field; that placeholder text is defined network-wide by the Stack Exchange staff. We also have a consensus that we don't want people using comments for discussions or partial answers, which includes "general advice" that is attempting to provide a framework for how to solve the situation. Your comment drew flags from community members pointing out it was an answer in comments, so this isn't just me. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 13, 2017 at 15:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ @doppelgreener Of course, it isn’t just you. And interpretations vary much more than you seem to believe. If I had made it an answer, I’m betting that would’ve drawn flags too. In any case, I apologize. I was just blowing off steam because I’m tired of when I’m doing my best to play by the rules yet I still get told that I made a comment that should’ve been an answer or an answer that should’ve been a comment. So it feels like the only way to follow the rules is to not participate. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 13, 2017 at 16:48
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    \$\begingroup\$ @RobertFisher Yeah, it would not have been received well as an answer either. The solution here is the third option: don't post it. We don't want tiny answers and we don't want answers in comments that circumvent our quality expectations; if you don't want to flesh out an answer thoroughly or write one that's high quality, just leave the question be, vote, stuff like that. It'll work out OK. Reserve participation for where you can do those things. I'm sorry for the frustration you've experienced though. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 13, 2017 at 17:56

4 Answers 4


There are entire games designed to address "the planning problem" you have encountered. Several of them have a solution in common, and that's what I'm going to present to you now:


This is the key to addressing sessions that stall on planning. Here are games that include flashbacks as a planning substitute:

  • Leverage
  • Blades in the Dark
  • Night's Black Agents
  • Crime World for Fate Core

The reason I list these is to show you that the solution has a proven track record.

This works because instead of spending your entire gaming session preparing to address every possible contingency (an exercise doomed to failure), you can spend much less of your session addressing the complications that actually arose.

There is an assumption of professional competence in all of those games - something that would naturally apply to the Shadowrun game, but it could also be assumed that your Vampires are pretty good at intrigue by now.

Some of those games have a currency in place for regulating those flashbacks. Blades for example charges stress depending on how elaborate the flashback is. You may or may not need to institute some kind of flashback economy to prevent abuse. The statement you make about mature players may make it unnecessary.


Let's say your vampires are going to a party thrown by a semi-hostile elder and they want to kidnap his favorite juicy thrall.

Instead of planning out every tiny detail in advance you can simply ask, "OK, how are you getting into the party at all?" And then start with the answer they've given. "We sneak in as caterers" is a different start from, "We get our patron to finagle us invitations." Then play.

When something happens that a player feels would have been handled ahead of time by her PC, that's when you run a flashback. "Oh, but I would have watched the thrall's security detail to see which ones take smoke breaks!" cue flashback.

Ask a few establishing questions, make a skill roll or two, then jump back into the action showing how the PC knows just which guard is going to go for a secret smoke now...or if the skill roll failed how she's surprised by the randomly rotated security roster!

In this way, you can let your badass professional PCs show how comprehensively they've prepared without wasting time on the 98% of contingencies which will never come to pass.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I really like that. I would probably call for a Willpower expenditure for each flashback so that it isn't without cost. \$\endgroup\$
    – Gavin42
    Commented Jul 12, 2017 at 16:40

If the group is "very mature, empathetic and thoughtful", you should be able to discuss it with the group at large. I'd ask the player who brought up the issue if they mind you revealing their identity beforehand, and going with their choice on that. If the group is "very mature, empathetic and thoughtful" they should see it as a valid question, whether they know the origin or not.

I would not change your GMing style based on one player's opinion. Depending on the game, that amount of preparation and planning is completely normal. In fact, you've explicitly cited one the games where it can be very common: Shadowrun. I've had the exact same experience with one group - multiple sessions of planning and legwork, followed by a single session of action and screaming terror.

Your GMing style may have hallmarks of it's own, things that you like, but if you and the players are having fun, why mess with it? If most of the group is onboard with that style of play, there may be nothing wrong. Logic clearly dictates that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm definitely planning on talking to them about it and getting their input, but I'm realizing now that I'd love some actual advice on how to speed up the game. I will edit the question to include that. \$\endgroup\$
    – Gavin42
    Commented Jul 12, 2017 at 15:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Gavin42 General advice is not what Stack Exchange is for. If you make the question too vague, it will get closed. You could definitely ask that as a separate question. \$\endgroup\$
    – T.J.L.
    Commented Jul 12, 2017 at 15:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm not looking for a generic answer. I want to know what I can do as a GM or my players can do to speed up the planning phase. \$\endgroup\$
    – Gavin42
    Commented Jul 12, 2017 at 15:42
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Gavin42 My point was more about making this question too broad. You've got a nicely focused, answerable question here. If you want to ask something different, ask a new question. \$\endgroup\$
    – T.J.L.
    Commented Jul 12, 2017 at 15:42

Consider changing your game prep to include scenes that might play out when indecision or lack of consensus becomes an issue. Allow for a certain reasonable amount of time for the players to come to a decision and if that time elapses then step in with some exposition about how the scene has changed since they sat down to discuss their plans or generate an event to take place that drives things forward.

Session Setup: Vlad encourages the PC coterie to assassinate the head of a noble house who has already survived multiple attempts by non-supernatural assassins.

The PCs arrive in the village and start to recon the Noble's castle. Information is gathered. The PCs begin planning from a room at a nearby inn.

  1. The GM allows the planning session to go on for over an hour. Eventually the PCs break-in to the castle and witness the horror within the castle walls (assuming there is enough time left in the session).


  1. The GM intervenes after a reasonable amount of planning time. There is a knock at the door of their inn. One of the castle guards has defected after witnessing a horror within the castle walls that he can barely speak of.

This will, of course, require more planning from the GM, but the players deserve the extra effort so that they have a more engaging session, assuming they don't use it as an excuse to start a new planning session. If they do then you may have a player problem.


In my opinion the fact that the players create such a detailed plan is absolutely a good news - it means that it is important for them. Were I you I would allow them to plan with one condition - the in-game time flows in the same speed they talk(if the planning means also some preparations they also take time, it's kind of obvious I think. If the characters don't have time limit, they are free to plan as long as they want. Otherwise, they may get attacked during the planning, someone else may rescue the princess or the party may simply be over...


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