[RPG] How to avoid players spending too much time planning


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?

Best Answer

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.