I am a semi-beginner DM (ran 2 campaigns, a bunch of oneshots and a few dungeon crawls so I’m not completely new but I don’t consider myself super experienced either) and a problem that I now have with two of my players is that they seem to be unable to make a decision in a situation where they cannot know some choices will be better than others but aren’t able to assess which ones are the good ones. We are playing 5E but I think it isn’t really relevant here. Neither of the players in question is new to 5E, both have between 1-2 years of experience. One of them plays a spellcaster, the other one a melee based class.

One of the situations that we recently had was the party in combat with a bunch of cultists, in an underground temple, relatively big room, completely covered in magical darkness through which the PC wasn’t able to see but knew there were both enemies and party members somewhere in this darkness. On their turn the player decided to cast an AoE spell and spent over 15 minutes deciding where to center it... We play online using Roll20 and this combat was on the grid and this player spent over 15 minutes deliberating aloud, measuring the spell radius from dozens of arbitrary points in the room with the Roll20 tool and asking other players for advice but being unable to make a decision.

They did eventually decide but I could tell some of the other players were annoyed by this, I was too, to be honest, an easy fight that was supposed to take 10-15 minutes ended up taking over 40 minutes as a variant of this happened on their every turn.

The other player also does it, for example if they’re fighting an invisible enemy, they might spend 10 minutes deciding which out of the 8 squares around them they choose to attack.

We are using the initiative tracker built-in to Roll20 that is visible all the time in every combat so every player knows exactly when their turn is and how many people go before them.

It only happens in situations like the ones I describe, where it’s really down to luck and they have no way of knowing the right choice, they don’t generally have problems with making decisions.

I don’t really know how to handle this, I have tried to gently speed them along, asked them multiple times to just pick a point, asked if they want to roll a dice to choose a point at random but none of that helped. They do realise that this is a problem because I have spoken to them about it and I don’t think they’re doing it maliciously or deliberately delaying the game.

I do realise that an easy way to prevent this is to not throw situations which trigger this at the players but this means I can never have them fight anything invisible or have any fights in darkness, magical or normal (neither of them have darkvision). This is a last resort for me, I would prefer to somehow help them make decisions quicker in those circumstances.

I would like to solve this without imposing a time limit for players’ turn, skipping their turn or making the choice for them. It feels antagonistic, I don’t like it as a player and don’t want to use it as a DM. Less important reason is that it’s a headache to implement with an online game. I will not kick them out either because overall they’re great players and we are all friends.

  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ Highly related, and possible duplicate of knowing location of unseen creatures and practical methods for dealing with indecisive players during combat. \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Commented Jul 19, 2022 at 19:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ Is the problem that the players are taking too long? or is the problem that the players need additional nudges/prompts to help them make a decision when in these kinds of situations? \$\endgroup\$
    – Dave
    Commented Jul 22, 2022 at 15:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ Clarifying question: Are these your only two players, or do you have more players but only two with this specific problem? \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Commented Jul 22, 2022 at 17:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Kirt there are 4 players in total \$\endgroup\$
    – AnnaAG
    Commented Jul 22, 2022 at 18:36
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @DangerLake Please don't answer in comments. This is a solution you have implemented and had success with, making it even more appropriate as an answer in its own right. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Commented Jul 23, 2022 at 1:31

12 Answers 12


As DM, part of your role is to keep the game moving. Some DMs handle this with timers, which I’ve never liked, as DM or player, and you have suggested that you don’t want either, but that isn’t the only way. You can just arbitrate the situation—that’s kind of your job, the DM is ultimately the arbitrator. And when the choice is arbitrary like this, arbitrating is exactly what you do.

I keep repeating “arbitrate” because I want to emphasize that you can be “arbitrary” here. You’re talking about a situation where there isn’t really a choice to be made, so an arbitrary choice to keep the game moving is well within the purview of the DM position.

So instead of “would you like to roll to decide?” you want something more like

OK, you’ve been looking at this for three minutes, and there isn’t a right answer; with the information you have available, they are all equally ‘good.’ So right now, either give me a point you want to cast this, or tell me which positions you’re considering and I’ll roll to select one at random.

The distinction here, rather than a timer, is that this isn’t some fixed, mechanical process. It is your perceptive, thinking mind. You can give players more time in a critical situation, or when there is something more complicated going on that they need to work through, or even (if you want) when you know they’re missing something and they could make a better choice if they could only see it.¹ Also, where a timer can feel to many players (:raises hand:) as stern, harsh, and unfun, your players should presumably trust you, and trust that you aren’t trying to screw them over by rushing them—if anything, you’re confirming for them that they really can’t “solve” this particular problem.

The other thing to keep in mind is something that D&D tends not to do super-well, but you as a DM are empowered to offer: some kind of “interesting” failure. In this case, what you want here is for a misplaced spell (didn’t catch the invisible enemy etc.) to provide more information, and help nail things down to allow better placement in the future. The kind of effect you’re looking for here is, in my mind, oddly like playing Wordle, if you’ve tried that—even when you get few letters right, it’s honestly kind of surprising how quickly you narrow down your options, and failing to get the word in 6 tries is rare. Be aware here, though, that D&D combats don’t tend to give 6 tries at something—D&D turns are long, a lot happens in a round, and fights rarely last more than a few rounds total. So you actually have to give more information for this to be meaningful. You are directly trying to fight back against D&D’s propensity for “uninteresting” failure in the form of accomplishing little-to-nothing, because that meshes with D&D’s tendency for a few, long turns to produce a situation where wasting a turn is a huge loss. Give players more when they miss, and they’ll be less worried about missing.

  1. Be careful with this one as it may lead some players—consciously or unconsciously—to slow their decisions down to give you a chance to offer hints. It may be better, if you’re thinking something like this may be relevant, to ask for skill checks—immediately when their turn starts—and let them “earn” hints like this, and get them up-front. But that requires recognizing that a situation could turn into this before it does, which is tricky.

Motivate them to change, and clearly let them know when the issue occurs

You say that in situations where they cannot know the right choice, these players have a hard time of making a choice and take up to 15 minutes to do so, where logically, they could just as well roll dice. You say:

  • You did already talk to them about it, and they are aware it is a problem
  • They have not changed the behaviour after that
  • The other players and you are annoyed by this

At the same time, you say

  • You don't want to impose a time limit for players’ turn
  • You don't want to make them skip their turn
  • You don't want to make the choice for them
  • You don't want to kick them out
  • You don't want to avoid situations that cause the behaviour

Now, I can see two ways to try and make them change, by changing how they think about such situations and talking to them about it out of game:

  1. Motivation. You and the other players openly share your frustrations about the behaviour with them -- not just you, the DM. Make sure they are aware that what they do is lessening the fun of everyone else at the table. You say they are all good friends. If this were my friends, I would not want to make their time miserable, and would try to change my behaviour. Then, when the situation comes up, you can let them know they are doing it again.

  2. Awareness. You make them understand out-of-game, that in some situations neither they nor their characters have any knowledge what the optimal choice is and therefore any choice they can make is equally good or bad, without any expected difference in outcome. Then, when such a situation comes up in play, you openly tell them that this is such a situation. This frees them from the need to second guess, and try to find an optimal solution: you told them they cannot find one. They can just pick at random, or roll dice, and be done with it. The only thing you need to be willing to do for this, is "breaking the fourth wall", so to speak, and share meta-knowledge about the situation with the players.

If neither of your efforts works to make them change how they behave, well, then tough luck. You cannot give them the freedom to take as much time as they want, and at the same time keep them from doing just that. Either you then must restrict their time or take control, or avoid such situations; or you must live with them taking as much time as they do.

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    \$\begingroup\$ +1 for an effective social solution that requires little effort, fits the OP's constraints, and has no downsides. \$\endgroup\$
    – GMJoe
    Commented Jul 19, 2022 at 21:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ I would only add that some personality types will be more paralyzed by situations like this when they perceive (perhaps incorrectly) dire consequences for choosing incorrectly. That is, they believe that they are choosing between victory and party wipe. Helping them to realize that they are choosing between many "good" options will reduce the friction. \$\endgroup\$
    – Phlucious
    Commented Jul 22, 2022 at 19:51

Show them that your decision is random

I like the idea of asking them to choose randomly or roll a dice. But if you don't want to impose a new mechanics on your players, you can instead impose the randomizer on yourself.

By clearly stating that the position of the enemy is random, you communicate to them that there is nothing to reason about. The dice are the only judges.

You could go as far as rolling the dice for the positions of the enemy or how many are hit after they have decided where they choose were to put their spell or which tile to blindly hit. There is no point for you to have a "ground truth" beforehand, if the characters have no way to know about it anyway.

Hopefully, this will help their realize there is no point trying to optimize.

Ask them how their characters are deciding

Again thinking about what the characters are seeing, asking them what the thought process of their characters is may help. Not only could it clarify, that they do not have much to choose from, it also gives you some levy to put an end to the situation.

If a player says "my character is panicking and fireball in response" in my book this is a wisdom roll, and the GM decide on the quality of the outcome based on the result.

If a player says "my character is calculating to optimizing the log-likelihood of the expect damage to the enemy", it is an intelligence roll. No need for the players to actually perform any computation.

Overall, this is just another way to let the dice judge, but more grounded in role-playing.

  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ Upvoted - I think this is a clever way to demonstrate that trying to optimize is wasted. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 20, 2022 at 15:27
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ I quite like this idea, it doesn’t feel punitive and snaps the player out of their indecisiveness, +1 \$\endgroup\$
    – AnnaAG
    Commented Jul 20, 2022 at 17:10
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ This is... interesting. Putting this in my back pocket for later use. \$\endgroup\$
    – Novak
    Commented Jul 21, 2022 at 16:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ In case of maical darkness the position may not be actually random - the enemy may see through it and move with purpose or they may blindly wander around the PCs. It's important in my opinion because my table would feel cheated if the enemies position was random at the time of targeting instead of a result of an actual in-game movement. \$\endgroup\$
    – Lause
    Commented Jul 22, 2022 at 16:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ That's a fair point. I think it depends on the particular situation. If the characters know what is attacking them and how they normally behave, then they can reason about it. If the players think about using that to their advantage, it is normal to reward them (with better odds or by following this logic for the secret moves). \$\endgroup\$
    – Kolaru
    Commented Jul 22, 2022 at 18:11

In a PF 2e game I am in, when the GM is faced with choices like these for NPCs, he'll resort to dice. A recent example was several NPC combatants taken by surprise, narratively, with darkness dropped on them, and they had no way of knowing which was the right direction to move to get out of it. He diced for it.

The same can absolutely be adapted to PCs in that situation and probably to PCs trying to optimize the location of an area of effect spell when there is no information to optimize on.

But (here is the pushback on the frame of your question) this still requires you to guide and/or put pressure on the player to (a) adopt a randomizer and (b) decide how to randomize. You don't want 15 minutes of optimizing the location to turn into 15 minutes of optimizing the randomizer.

I understand you don't want to start actually punishing your players with timers and skipped turns. I respect that-- punitive components to RPGs are highly questionable. But some players, in some situations, really need a push. It can be an arbitrary timer. It can be when you (the GM or the group) lose patience. It can be when you (the GM) sense the character cycling through options. But some folks only learn to make quick decisions by being forced to make quick decisions.

(I sometimes wish I could make all my players play 10 or 15 games of speed chess to get them used to the idea, on general principle.)


Let the dice decide

When I'm DMing an attack on an invisible creature and the player is indecisive about where to attack I make them roll for it. Perhaps there are four possible squares the enemy could be in - roll a d4 and on a 4 they can roll to hit, on anything else I'll describe where and how their sword passes through thin air. Something like:

DM: The mage goes invisible before your eyes and....Ed you're up.

Ed: I'll lash out with my sword, hoping to catch the mage. I'll go for...um....

DM: (few moments later) Tell you what, you know that, if he's still within 5ft of you, he could only be in one of four spaces - roll a d4 to see if the space you strike contains the mage. (There is the chance the mage has moved and is in none of these spaces)

Ed rolls a 4 DM: Sensing movement you lunge forward....and roll to hit

As it works for invisible creatures it could also work for an invisible point for your fireball. Your mage is casting it to a point they can't see but have a rough feel for. Let them roll to see where the dice may land.

Interrupting your players with the option of a dice roll to speed them up will let them know that they were slowing things down without putting more pressure on and flustering them.

This is different to a player being slow because they're flicking through their spells to find the best one but your question was for "when they have no way of knowing which option is best". When it comes down to random guesses the dice are an impartial decider - make sure your player rolls them though, they still own the choice.


Constraints, continues, and coffee

I have run a lot of games with strangers at game stores or conventions. Session time constraints are a big deal in that sort of setting. When turns start to drag, I'll often say, "we only have the table for 2 more hours and we have 3 more encounters after this; can we pick up the pace a bit?" You may not have such strict time limits with friends online, but noting that you'd like to get to town X or encounter Y during this session may keep things moving.

You could potentially create some (pseudo) artificial pressure by scheduling events a short time after a session should end. "I'm going to need to (walk the dogs / clean the house / reticulate the splines) at 8, so we need to be completely done by 7:45."

If a polite request doesn't work, then I give them as much time as they need while continuing on to the next player's turn. You wouldn't believe how quickly some people can make a decision when they see the rest of the game continuing without them!

PC1: (after an already slow turn) Oh wait, I'd like to cast spiritual weapon. (starts digging through their dice bag for the d8 they put back just last round)

DM: Sounds good. While you're rolling for hit and damage, PC2, you're up. What would you like to do?

PC2: I'll move up and attack that orc. (turn continues normally)

I wouldn't want to skip a PC's turn entirely, but you can often run turns a bit out of order without disrupting the result. Could this result in PC2 attacking a creature that would have died to PC1's fireball? Sure, though I tend to place the damage in a way that was more beneficial to the players (within reason). This doesn't work as well if the next turn is the enemies, particularly if they may die (or be controlled) by an area spell.

Finally, there's nothing wrong with everyone else taking a break. Spending 10 minutes staring at the Roll20 window hoping for a decision is infuriating; spending 10 minutes refilling drinks and taking a bio break is relaxing. The end of the break also prompts a fixed end to the problem player's (extremely generous) turn.

If that doesn't work, then your restrictions don't allow for any other options. I would say a simple "I'm sorry, but we're going to have to move on", skip their turn, and try to avoid playing with them in the future, though I understand that can be difficult with a friends group.

A note about invisible vs hidden in 5e

This probably doesn't solve the core issue, but may cover the specific situation from the question.

In general, everyone knows the location of an invisible creature, unless that creature is also hidden. In order to hide, most creatures must take the Hide action, rolling Stealth against their opponents' passive Perception scores. In my experience, only one or two encounters in an entire campaign contain large amounts of enemies hiding after the first round in initiative, though your mileage may vary.

If creatures are only invisible or heavily obscured by darkness, I will simply leave them on the map. Certain spells (like charm person) won't work, but most area spells can be targeted just fine.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I really like the idea with the break, it does send the message across that they’re effectively holding up the game and wasting everyone’s time but also gives them time to work it all out without everyone else sitting there annoyed. We usually have a break in the middle anyway, i’m going to try this next time they do it. \$\endgroup\$
    – AnnaAG
    Commented Jul 19, 2022 at 22:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ so essentially a passive aggressive time limit instead of an implicit one. \$\endgroup\$
    – John
    Commented Jul 23, 2022 at 13:43

Frame challenge: A time limit does not need to be antagonistic, you just need to get everyone to agree to it beforehand and apply it consistently.

Think back to when you had a bad experience with time limits; Did you agree to them before hand? Was the time limit length made clear? Was it applied consistently? Chances are the answer to one of those questions is NO.

In my experience most players are fine with a time limit as long as it is reasonable and agreed to beforehand. I use 1 minute for newer players and 30 seconds for more experienced players. players should have a solid idea of what they are doing before their turn comes up.

Remind them this is the decision their character makes in 6 seconds during the heat of combat, it will not be perfect. This is not a chess game, the game is describing what a person does under those circumstances. Player will always try to reduce risk and make the perfect decision, but the characters are under a time constraint, they need ot make split decisions, so having a longer time limit for the players makes a lot of sense.

If you really had the game you describe you should have no problem getting everyone to agree to a reasonable time limit. As a DM some flexibility is is important, don't count time players are asking you the DM a question against them, especially if it is about mechanics. Brax the wizard knows the world mechanics implicitly, Tim the player needs to be told. Brax the wizard is making this decision in 6 seconds so Tim the player who does not know the world naturally will take a little longer.

What you have here is decision paralysis, the players are trying to optimize their decisions, but they don't have enough information to do so. So the players just doesn't make a decision hoping something will change, and it did you gave them a hint, you changed the information they had thus rewarding the indecision. this will keep happening as long as everyone lets it happen, A time limit is the fairest and easiest way to prevent it, and as a bonus it makes a lot of role play sense. It also helps if you use the characters name, this is not what Tim wants to do, this is what Brax the wizard decides to do in the split second and fog of combat.


Make the necessity for a decision feel like an organic, in-game imperative.

A reasonable way to open up this conversation is start with what you observe your player struggling with and clarify their intention. It is okay to give the players more context than what is displayed on the map/Roll20. Look for ways to incorporate their intentions with the game system (e.g. base the accuracy of the situational awareness on a skill roll, or some other bit of the game).

You could prompt the players with more sensory information, and offer a nudge towards an "in-character" resolution to the issue. The PCs have intuition and senses that can be modelled pretty straightforwardly in the game world, but it is partially in the DM's hands to make that come to life. Let's take your large room with darkness example where the caster was trying to place an area of effect spell.

  • Player's turn commences
  • You as the DM see that indecisiveness or (potential indecisiveness) is starting when the player of the caster is considering several impact points for an AoE spell.
  • You prompt your player to state their PC's intention with the spell.
  • The player (probably) can tell you what his (or her) caster would like to achieve. You are looking for something like "I want to catch at least one enemy in the blast," or "I just want to avoid blowing up my friend." Let's say he says "I want to hit that armored cultist we chased in here."
  • You ask for a perception check from the caster, explaining that it is part of aiming during the casting action in these conditions. You add "as the magical energy for the spell begins to build you ready your aim in your mind's eye. You think heard movement of heavy boots on stone to your side a moment ago here!"
  • You point out a grid.
  • You continue after a dramatic pause, "the spell has coalesced, and your years of experience in manipulating the weave tells you its needs to be released now or the magic will dissipate".

Don't put them in this situation

Your players have decision paralysis provoked by incomplete information. While it is especially frustrating to you (and perhaps the other players) when the consequences of making a decision are low, to these players the low consequences don't matter. Rather, they are viscerally uncomfortable with having to make decisions based on incomplete information. It doesn't matter that they would be just as well off making a decision at random; it is the act of making that decision that they find agonizing. There are any number of reasons that they might feel that way, but what you need to recognize is that this is a legitimate feeling that they have. There are any number of ways that you can 'force' them to make a quicker decision (timers, default actions, imposing random decisions) and these may well 'solve' the problem of them taking too long, but none of these will solve the problem of them feeling uncomfortable about having to make the decision to begin with. I wager that even if you let them take as much time as they would like to make the decision, they would worry at it until their own frustration forced them to choose something, but they would still not be happy with the decision itself.

Now, there are lots of ways you can ease them into feeling better about making these decisions, and D&D sure would be a fun way to actively work on anxiety provoked by decision-making. But it is not really fair for you and the other players to turn your games into dedicated therapy sessions for these two players unless that is what you all decide to do. So, my suggestion as a short term solution is to simply provide as much information to these players as you can, eliminating the situation from occurring in the first place.

Respect them as players

But wait - isn't lack of information part of the game? Isn't making decisions based on incomplete information part of the fun of D&D and the heroic paradigm? Well, yes - for those who enjoy that, or at least tolerate it. But you are playing, presumably, to have fun - and this is a decidedly unfun aspect of the game for them. Imagine you had a Session O complete with Lines and Veils in which you asked players what aspects of the game they were uncomfortable with. Player 1 says they have arachnophobia. You might respond that while they will encounter spiders in the game, you will avoid describing them in a graphic manner. Vivid, immersive descriptions are part of the game - but you will make an exception in these circumstances. Player 2 says that they have trauma triggered by depictions of child abuse. You might say that while part of the planned story arc involves the PC's fighting a slavery ring, you will make sure that no minors are depicted as victims. Compelling villains are part of the game - but you can modify the plot on this particular point. Now suppose players 3 and 4 had the self-awareness to say that they had anxiety around decision-making, especially provoked by having to make decisions with incomplete information. Would you really say that not knowing the location of an invisible opponent was so fundamental to the game that you simply could not accommodate these players' preferences?

Different tables play differently

In some cases, RAW govern what information the players have access to, but the reality at tables is that different people play differently. Some DM's will give you nothing more than a visual description of a monster without a name, and tell you nothing more than 'your sword appears to hit it - it is now damaged'. Other DM's are fine saying 'these are goblins, so they have AC15 and 7hp each'. It is not RAW, but there is nothing wrong with saying "Moving forward, invisibility will still give you advantage and disadvantage, but you will always know the location of anyone invisible by their sounds. They can Hide only when not moving - if they move they will give their position away. That goes the same for anyone in darkness."

If any of the players are rogues, devil's sight warlocks, or have other builds that rely on Hiding, you will have some difficult choices in terms of how to make these changes balanced and equitable; whether you want them to apply just to NPC's or to PC's as well, what compensation might be afforded players whose Hiding has been affected, etc. Moving forward with open discussion of how the goal of your game is for everyone involved to have fun, you will be able to work these issues out so that everyone at your table can enjoy (or at least tolerate) all aspects of the game you chose to include.


A round last 6 seconds: give them 6 seconds or they Dodge

Obviously, this is a rule (the 6 second rule) that you establish ahead of time and only impose when play is dragging more than usual. When a player is clearly dithering, the DM says “move along or I’ll call 6 seconds.” If the player hasn’t acted in a reasonable time after that, say “6 second rule” and counts down the seconds.

Making sure people know ahead of time helps as well - “Mary, it’s your turn, then the Orcs, then it’s you, Jim.” That way, Jim has all that time to plan their turn.

  • 5
    \$\begingroup\$ While giving players a time limit can be a good approach to prevent analysis paralysis bogging down the game, 6 seconds might IMO be too short. Especially when you have less experienced players playing more complex classes like spellcasters. \$\endgroup\$
    – Philipp
    Commented Jul 20, 2022 at 9:45
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ This is probably a good solution to force them to make a decision, but it doesn't really help them to make a decision. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 20, 2022 at 12:43
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ This isn’t really what I’m asking for, I do know that using a timer is an option but I’m looking for solutions that don’t involve either using one or threatening the player with it. Also I didn’t explicitly state but roll20 have initiative tracker built in they can see the turn order all the time, I’ve edited to add that info in \$\endgroup\$
    – AnnaAG
    Commented Jul 20, 2022 at 17:19
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ @AnnaAG if your players are like my players, they aren’t paying attention when it’s not their turn. \$\endgroup\$
    – Dale M
    Commented Jul 20, 2022 at 21:11
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ @DaleM that may be a reason to refrain from leaning on your experience too hard. \$\endgroup\$
    – fectin
    Commented Jul 21, 2022 at 0:26

Give players one minute to decide their turn

Slow deliberate combat like this is fun for nobody but the slow thinker and it breaks the suspension of disbelief. In a real combat situation, you need to think fast- and let's not forget that a single turn represents 6 seconds of action. That's not long enough to deliberate heavily on exactly where to center your Fireballs.

While it generally takes more than a minute to fully resolve all the rolls in a turn, giving players a total of one minute on their turn (which may or may not be separated into chunks) to decide what to do adds some urgency and excitement to combat, while still feeling reasonable to deal with.

You don't necessarily need to be super strict about it and run a timer, but it's important to deal with egregious violations like this if you want combat to move quickly.

It helps to set an example by having predetermined actions and tactics for each of your monsters. For example, you might roll a d6 and use a table to determine who they target, whether they retreat, etc... Treat your monsters a bit like an AI.


Impose a time limit, but provide a mechanism for players to take a "time-out".

Generally, everyone is required to select their combat actions within a limited time span. However, the players, or the table as a whole, have a pool of "time-outs" that, when called, allow the players to take an arbitrary amount of time, or at least a much longer amount of time, to select their actions. Introducing time-outs as a limited resource might encourage players to try to keep things moving, while still allowing flexibility for those cases where more time is required.

An option would be for these time outs to be actual breaks too (as mentioned in RedOrca's answer).

To me the obvious solution is to impose a time limit for players to decide on actions in combat. If you and other players at the table are getting annoyed with the pace of things, then the burden or discomfort anyone might feel about the timer should be weighted against the degree of irritation caused by the slow pace of play. How this balance pans out will affect the details of of the timeout system -- how many per player (or is it a community pool?), whether they reset per session or per encounter and so on.


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