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Before I start I have looked and seen similar questions like this, but I don't think the answers truly address the issue I'm having with my group.

I'm having an issue with my group with mostly new players where they are in a very time sensitive situation. Like this:

Character A is walking through a cave and walks under a hidden Green Jelly hanging out on the ceiling of the cave. The Green Jelly drops from the ceiling and lands on Character A's back. Character A must act quickly to strip of their armor, or scrape off the Green Jelly or be consumed by it.

The player of Character A isn't very experienced and doesn't know what to do, but as DM I have to pressure her to do something or simply have her consumed. There isn't time to deliberate with other players, a decision needs to be made now. She begins to feel frustrated and flustered for not knowing what to do, and doesn't want to make an action for fear of taking the wrong action.

In this specific situation a decision was finally made and the character managed to save her life but lost her equipment in the process. Yet at the end of the session she walked away unhappy and frustrated for not being prepared and didn't like feeling pressured to come up with a solution without being able to fully think about it.

I spent a good amount of time talking to her afterwords and tried to explain that situations like this happen in the game, and it's all part of the game, but it didn't seem to help much.

As a DM what are some methods I can use for new players to better help them prepare to make snap decisions like this? What are some DMing techniques I can do to ensure that a player doesn't take too long to make a decision without punishing them for doing so? How much should in-game time be diluted when a new player is being faced with making a snap decision like this (ie: if a decision needs to be make within the next "round" of time in game, is something like 5 real world minutes a fair amount of time, or is that too much/ or too little)?

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closed as too broad by Miniman, Oblivious Sage, Jason_c_o, Zachiel, Wibbs Apr 28 '18 at 10:09

Please edit the question to limit it to a specific problem with enough detail to identify an adequate answer. Avoid asking multiple distinct questions at once. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I feel there's a distinction in the third paragraph between urgency for the player and urgency for the character that's not dealt well in the last paragraph. While the ooze will consume her character's armor, and eventually the character, that doesn't mean the player must jump to act if she doesn't know what to do. The "fair amount of time" depends on your players and you. It seems like it's too much for you, obviously. \$\endgroup\$ – Adriano Varoli Piazza Jul 7 '15 at 14:40
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    \$\begingroup\$ @AdrianoVaroliPiazza I would disagree with that last part. Yes this is a time sensitive situation for the character, but if I don't enforce a time constraint onto the player what's to stop the player from taking hours to decide what to do for this 1 round of action? It would greatly hinder the overall experience of the game if time within the game means nothing for the players playing it. \$\endgroup\$ – onewho Jul 7 '15 at 14:46
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    \$\begingroup\$ You are not wrong, it helps to enforce things like that, but some actions or situations simply take a bit longer to decide. You want to know what stops the players from taking hours to decide what to do with their sone action? They want to have fun, too. And talking about wether to attack the skeleton with a mace or an axe for 10 minutes is not fun to anyone (anyone I know, at least). As a GM, feel free to help them, too. In Pathfinder I let my players roll things like knowledge-skills in that situation, and give them hints based on the result, for example. \$\endgroup\$ – Patta Jul 7 '15 at 14:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ [Related] How can DMs effectively telegraph specific dangers in D&D? \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Jul 7 '15 at 16:24
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    \$\begingroup\$ This really is not a system agnostic question, and pretending that it is will prevent any real answers. For example, in Fate you might have several outcomes that lead to fate points, and the options aren't that complex. In GURPS, you might have to spend a half hour looking up a flowchart summarizing grappling with a slime. "How do I make the player LARP the character's decisions" would have very different answers in those systems. \$\endgroup\$ – fectin Apr 27 '18 at 16:08
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Separate in character quick thinking from out of character quick thinking.

Players, especially new ones, should get some time to think about what they are going to do. They should even get time to talk to the DM, maybe roll dice (like knowledge checks) to determine things they know about the situation.

It's not really fair to pressure the player into making a snap decision, because the character has way more senses than the player that are feeding him information about what is happening, most likely has better training that the actual player and is probably full of adrenaline.

The player has none of these things. So while the character would probably make a snap decision based on feeling intense pain all over, being rammed full of adrenaline due to his "fight or flight" kicking in and will immediately recall all the things he learned about green slimes and how to deal with it... all the player hears is "A green slime fell on you".

You need to give the player time to figure out what his character is experiencing. Consider the following exchange:

"It fell from the roof? Does it hurt? What does it smell like? Does it feel alive? Have I ever seen something like this before? Do I know what it is trying to do? It wants to kill me!? Can I shake it off, or does it stick? Is it vulnerable to my weapons?"

That's a huge list of questions and the answering of them will probably take quite some time at the table. But the character would not ask any of these questions, he already knows all of these things. So in-game, no time at all has passed. Not allowing the player to ask these things means you are denying them the knowledge their character would have.

Asking them to make a decision before they have learned all the things they (as a player) need to know about what their character would instantly be aware of, is asking them to randomly gamble. You might as well say "Something happens, how do you react?" if you're going that road, as the player simply cannot make an informed decision without this information.

That said, once the player is done asking all of these questions, you can ask them a final "do you know enough?" and then request they make a decision within 30 seconds or so. Once the information is on the table, there's no more reason to drag it out. And of course whatever they come up with has to be executable instantly, since the ingame clock was on pause.

If at this point they still are taking up too much time, then one of two things are probably happening:

If it's a case of newbie-paralysis, you stop the game and explain to them what is expected of them, what the options are, and then let them try again. They are new to the game and probably don't really know what they can or are supposed to do. Go over the idea that their character can try whatever sounds reasonable to them, they don't need to use a magic "gaming term" and it's not a videogame, it's an interactive story.

If it's a case of an experienced player taking too long to come up with a "good" response, tell them "you have 5 seconds to state your action or I'll assume your character has gone into a state of shock and freezes up until the next round."


But this really should apply to all players, not just new ones. The amount of knowledge and sensory information that a character has is vastly bigger than what a player can have, so you have to allow the player time to probe their character's senses while the ingame clock is paused, or you are making them play the game blindly (and setting them up for a gotcha, probably.)

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  • \$\begingroup\$ +1 This is good to separate in-character from out-of-character knowledge. Why not ask the player to make an appropriate attribute or skill check to make the right decision (which the DM reveals if she passes the check)? It's an easy way out that involves less roleplaying (and thus earns fewer XPs) but perhaps is a good fall back. \$\endgroup\$ – RobertF Jul 7 '15 at 17:27
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    \$\begingroup\$ @RobertF Just to be specific here, we where playing D&D 1st edition (this question can be easily applied to all systems), which doesn't have skill checks. As a side note, I personally hate using a skill check roll to "make the right decision", I see it as a cop-out and I feel it really takes away from trying to get players to think through their decisions. A "make the right decision" check just lets the player lean back and say; "I don't know how to solve this, so I'll just roll a dice and see if it gets solved for me." \$\endgroup\$ – onewho Jul 7 '15 at 17:49
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    \$\begingroup\$ @onewho If you provide necessary information, checks may be redundant. Maybe you don't want them to ask all these questions, so provide that information before it's asked. "A green slime falls on you, sticking to your armor. It starts to envelop your torso and as it leaks into the spaces in your armor, you feel searing pain." Like any good story, explain what the character feels, sees, smells, hears, even tastes if necessary. Feel free to add caveats like "[their character] knows/thinks this creature is trying to devour them" or "[they] know this needs to come off somehow!" That's my 2 cents \$\endgroup\$ – Premier Bromanov Jul 8 '15 at 20:25
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Players should be aware of the consequences of the actions their characters are supposed to be taking. If the players do not know these consequences, how are they supposed to decide on which course to take?

As a D&D noob myself:
I have never heard of a green jelly. If someone just explained to me "A green jelly drops on you. How do you react?" I might just as well explain that my character grabs spoon and bowl as it's obviously time for dessert.

The point is:

  • That the player did not know what a green jelly was, or what its dangers are.
  • The character on the other hand should have known (I assume).

This gap between player and character knowledge must be filled by the GM, especially for players who are new to a setting and system.

In the situation you described I'd have taken a quick break to explain to the player what kind of monster she is dealing with. Then the player has enough information to make an informed choice on the action of her character.

Without the additional information the choice of action is not an informed one, and I totally understand that the player feels frustrated by this. If the action even resulted in grave consequences for the player (like losing all her gear) I'd say it's only natural that she was unhappy: from her perspective she was put in a situation where she essentially had to randomly choose between actions of unknown outcome, and then because of this choice she lost all her gear.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ So, for this specific case, this was a new level 1 character who has had no experience facing this type of enemy before, so in this instance it wouldn't make sense to explain to the character/player what it is they are facing. \$\endgroup\$ – onewho Jul 7 '15 at 14:52
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    \$\begingroup\$ But the character would have felt the creatures acid burning through his armor or the creature trying to engulf him anyway. This is not something that happens in an instant, without the character having a chance to recognise what's going on. \$\endgroup\$ – Patta Jul 7 '15 at 14:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Patta That's actually what I ended up doing in this situation. I mentioned it in my comment to RobertF's answer. \$\endgroup\$ – onewho Jul 7 '15 at 15:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yes, I just saw that, too. Did you drop a hint to her about getting the creature off, too? You said she was lost thinking about how to get it off. \$\endgroup\$ – Patta Jul 7 '15 at 15:01
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    \$\begingroup\$ @onewho I'm afraid players might disappoint you on that aspect, especially if they're new to this sort of thing. You can't expect them to know everything immediately. When your players are new, you should guide them, else they'll get lost in the game. (Of course, you don't have to tell them exactly what to do all the time, but if they don't know what to do themselves, give them some help. ;) ) \$\endgroup\$ – Joninean Jul 7 '15 at 19:00
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Putting pressure on players can be good, if they know how to handle it. If they don't, don't pressure them.

As you said for yourself, the player is an inexperienced player. This means that he/she is probably not at all familiar with what her character even can do in that situation (even though the answer to that would be "everything you can imagine, pretty much"). Don't push a new player with things like this. Having your character probably die while having to think of something in a system & environment you are not familiar with can be really challenging for a player and can make them feel hope- and helpless.

There is nothing wrong with putting a bit of pressure on the players, but it is best to do different things (As long as they are not totally different and potentially unfair. There is a small line between your problem and this) to each player, in response to how secure they feel. I know many players who would have loved this situation. Players that are familiar with the system and have managed the initial stage of beeing overwhelmed with all the rules, possibilities and what is pretty much a whole new world for them.

As a DM, you don't have to

pressure her to do something or simply have her consumed

but instead think about it and give her time (and possibilities with a smaller risk associated) to get accustomed to this, if it is your style of play.

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I think this boils down to roughly three cases in general:

  1. We can assume the character would know something about green jellies, but the player doesn't. At this point, explain what we can assume the character knows and give the player a couple of minutes to reach a decision (maybe let other characters act while the player thinks). A relatively fast resolution is still wanted, so set a limit of, say, 2-3 minutes after the explanation.

  2. We can assume the character knows and the player knows. 30-60 seconds should be plenty.

  3. The character can be assumed to not know anything. Describe the immediate effects of what the thing does ("the steel of your armour hisses and fumes..."). Give the player 30-60 seconds to make a decision or let them stand around for one round.

This seems to be a "case 1", with a new player. I would ask the player if they knew what a green jelly is and how they cause damage. If the player says "yes", go to case 2 and say "OK, you have 60 seconds to start telling me what you do, otherwise you're hesitating for a round". If the player says "no", explain what the green jelly is and so on, then give the player a deadline of "a couple of minutes".

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Train them

You put pressure on an inexperienced player, with dire consequences for her action. This is overwhelming.

Requiring players to think quick when their character needs to think quick is a perfectly good (and very immersive) thing to do, but you have to train them.

Create some situations where they need to think quick, with very small consequences (one way or the other). Doing this, they won't regret much if they pick the wrong choice. If they do regret it anyway, then it means that "fast thinking" is not really their cup of roleplaying tea, and you should just avoid it in future, giving them plenty of "pause" time.

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If you feel the player has all of the information she needs to make a decision, then 5 minutes seems too long and will slow down the game. Maybe 30 seconds or a minute.

When DMing inexperienced players, I would avoid severe punishments for failing to make a snap decision. Rather, offer a carrot (like extra experience points, free rerolls, or other bonuses) if she makes the correct choice within the first 30 seconds or so. Perhaps extend the time frame by offering a few clues, but decrease the reward proportionately.

If she still fails to make the correct decision, or becomes flustered, then go ahead and reveal the correct choice and assume her character made the right decision without handing out a reward.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This could work... If she were four years old. The method itself isn't bad, but it's what we do to encourage dogs and little children to learn something. "OH, you tied your shoes all by yourself? You can have some candy. You can't do it this time? I'll do it for you, so you can learn from my example." I don't personally know the person in question, but if this method were used on me, I'd feel like I'm not taken seriously. \$\endgroup\$ – Joninean Jul 7 '15 at 19:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Joninean - Actually, I'm going on the assumption the player of Character A in the OP's question is a teenager or younger but I could be wrong. \$\endgroup\$ – RobertF Jul 7 '15 at 19:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ @RobertF then you should add that statement to your answer. Also, I totally agree with Joninean. And, thinking back to my teenage years, I would be even more disappointed with that and would have probably said something like "wtf does that guy want, treating me like a child? I'm almost an adult!" \$\endgroup\$ – Patta Jul 8 '15 at 6:19
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    \$\begingroup\$ It all sounds like too much, until your the one in need of it :) \$\endgroup\$ – Wyrmwood Jul 8 '15 at 20:17

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