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90 votes
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How do I keep the game moving without undermining player agency?

Maybe I'm treating the question as more specific than it needs to be, but in your example it appears to me as though player 1's agency is being denied. Twice she stated her action clearly, and yet ...
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60 votes

Using a rash decision to move gameplay forward

You have two problems: an agency problem and a knowledge problem. Agency The likely reason why your players weren't all happy with the outcome of the situation you describe is because you took away ...
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60 votes
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Roleplay pacing in non-combat situations

Put a real-life time limit on the discussions. Waiting to get in at the gate? Great, the party is Xth in line. Every few minutes, do something to indicate that the line has moved up, it's important ...
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55 votes
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How can I facilitate a faster pace of play?

You need to be proactive in advancing the story Players taking a long time to make up their minds about a thing is a perennial problem. I actually asked a question about a similar issue a few years ...
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50 votes
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How to slow down sessions?

More combat. A combat encounter is generally much slower than a role playing or exploration encounter. More doesn't necessarily mean more in quantity - more complex encounters with more enemies (of ...
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  • 187k
47 votes

How can I speed up combat?

1. Use the morale system Not all creatures fight to the death. The optional morale system (Dungeon Master's Guide p.273) has opponents roll a DC 10 Wisdom save whenever surprised, reduced to half hit ...
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41 votes
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Using a rash decision to move gameplay forward

When this happens in my games, I give a very clear warning: "Folks, the in-character lamp1 is lit. Anything you say is now considered in character. Anything you say you'll do, you'll do." By locking ...
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38 votes

My gaming group can't agree on play-by-post or scheduled games

You either: Give them options and then tell them they have to unanimously choose one in order to play (e.g. vote for as many of these as you'll do: as long as it takes for the slowest player, one ...
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  • 172k
37 votes
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How do I get my players to be more decisive and take the initiative?

Give them a few options, with the last one being "or do something else." Your players are a group of people with other stuff they're thinking about who are simultaneously socializing with each other ...
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36 votes

Roleplay pacing in non-combat situations

I would frame the problem differently: that the players are too afraid of failure. The long discussion is likely because they want a plan that is perfectly safe; every point of failure addressed; no ...
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33 votes

How do I prevent retreating to rest and heal from being tedious?

The problem you have encountered was once known as the 15-minute workday. Since health, spells, etc are all things that are regained over time, the safest strategy is usually to do one fight, then ...
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33 votes
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How do I prevent retreating to rest and heal from being tedious?

There are two techniques that can go 90% of the way to making playing-initiated retreats like this not boring or tedious. "Time passes" Use your role as DM to control the passage of time. Skip the ...
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32 votes
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Can you bypass travel by fast forwarding in your campaign?

Yes, Absolutely. In any circumstance where you're trying to shoo in a sense of urgency and you need to be at the castle to rescue the princess as soon as possible, and you're sure that the princess ...
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30 votes

How do I keep the game moving without undermining player agency?

When you ask your players what they're doing, formulate the question in such a way as to suggest an obvious course of action other than 'nothing' as the default. When you ask a question like "So, ...
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  • 20.8k
28 votes

How to deal with low agency players?

Blow the timeout whistle and talk to your players It's time to take a step back from the game and reconvene everyone to discuss what everyone is looking to do when playing and what they want to get ...
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  • 122k
27 votes
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How to balance one Long Rest every 24 hours

In the case of a specific story, you have to ask what makes sense. In terms of the mandatory 24-hour waiting period between long rests...players can always wander off and go burn the rest of the day ...
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  • 60.5k
27 votes
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How can I make combat with a lot of summoned creatures quicker?

There is no easy answer This is a tough situation and the solutions are all generally things that can make players feel that their strategies are being specifically targeted. That doesn't leave you ...
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  • 122k
23 votes

How to prevent players from sabotaging themselves by engaging in long arguments about what to do next?

You've written: Often we'll experience moments where the session will come to a complete pause as the player characters argue over what to do. and then: At this point I've started to continue the ...
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  • 76.5k
23 votes
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How can healers track all PCs' health without slowing combat?

This answer assumes you are all OK with all players and the player characters knowing each other's hit points (hp are a game mechanic. The characters can see if someone is bloodied, it is less clear ...
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23 votes

How to manage time pressure?

Adventure pieces larger than the encounter The 5 minute adventuring day is caused by the "unit" of D&D being the encounter. You finish a unit of D&D, then you are at loose ends ...
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  • 12.7k
22 votes
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How can I speed up combat?

Tools to add to your DM kit to keep combat moving I suggest that you add three DM techniques to what you are already working with: I try to always give a heads-up to the next player down the ...
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20 votes

How do I prevent retreating to rest and heal from being tedious?

You have several major options depending on your desired playstyle. Easy Game Mode - Either level them up so they overwhelm the dungeon, or sprinkle in more magic (especially healing), or just change ...
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  • 172k
20 votes

How do I reduce plot stalling in a collaborative roleplaying game?

Have a Session Zero where you give the players the expectations of the game. Be very clear and direct with your expectations. If you're planning a Jane Austen game, say so. If the players are not ...
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  • 2,191
20 votes

Roleplay pacing in non-combat situations

In the real world, time waits for no-one. You were on to something there with the guards growing suspicious and making them move elsewhere. But moving away has its downsides, too. They're farther away ...
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20 votes
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How does the Variant: Skills with Different Abilities rule affect the game?

The way you phrase your question suggests that you have a bit of a misunderstanding of two fundamental pieces of the 5e rules. They are very frequently misunderstood because they differ from other ...
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  • 27.1k
19 votes

How do I get my players to be more decisive and take the initiative?

Give actionable details during freeform play It seems to me that you have two problems here: the first is that when you open things up to the players, they don't have any ideas on what to do, and the ...
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  • 62.4k
18 votes

How to deal with low agency players?

It sounds like you and the players are not on the same page as far as play style... You have three options Play to their weaknesses From your description, it sounds like the players aren't engaged in ...
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  • 27.2k
16 votes
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How do I plan sessions that are still fun even if they don't move the plot forward?

Before I start, a note on perspective: the players don't know that the plot is at standstill and not moving forward; only you, the DM, knows. Give them a chance to advance their characters. Let them ...
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15 votes
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What is the general pace of advancement in Monster of the Week?

You're over-estimating the impact entirely, yes. The assumption that advancement in Monster of the Week is a matter of increasing power isn't correct. In the vast majority of Apocalypse World engine ...
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15 votes
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How much should I try to fit into a single introductory session of "Blades in the Dark"?

In my experience, I've been able to play a couple of free play scenes, a single score, and payoff/downtime in about three to four hours. This is including most of the rules, explanations and character ...
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