[RPG] Roleplay pacing in non-combat situations


I am running the Baldur's Gate: Descent into Avernus module and my players are taking very long to approach certain situations. To set an example: There is a gate with two guards who are checking everyone who passes through. They need to get inside (because of their own choosing, and also their own choice to do it through the gate specifically).

At this point the most talkative member of the group starts rattling over all these different strategies, some of the other members (2/5) are joining the discussion on how to do this. 30 minutes later we're still at the gate having done nothing to get in but discuss strategies.

It can often take hour(s) to decide on a strategy.

It seems like all of them love the freedom of play and strategizing how to approach a situation like this. Sadly, though, at the end of the session when we talk about that particular session they seem to all agree that that was boring.
I don't want to remove this RP encounters since I know some of them like this more than the combat but at the same time if all of them agree it's too long I felt like I needed to do something.

I tried the following so far:

  • Making these RP encounters a small tad easier -> the players felt patronized since it felt easier than the rest of the campaign
  • Having an NPC who was following them help them -> can't really bring up any ideas with inside information at which point im just in the middle of the discussion slowing it more down than speeding it up.
  • Use the environment to force them into a decision (gently) by RP'ing it (e.g. The guards see you mumbling in group and they grow suspicious, if you don't do something they will come and investigate) -> they didn't like that so they just moved away to discuss somewhere else.

I am not sure how to handle this and since they literally all are in agreement that these long discussions take too long I do wanna try and fix it, and yes telling them to keep it shorter if they don't like it is something I did, but that resulted in a long discussion about wanting to keep all the freedom in the player's hands.

I feel like 2/5 people in the group don't really partake in these discussions (they seem a bit more shy) and the rest of the group simply feels bad for them yet doesn't want to admit that and therefor claim they don't like the long discussions either. So I'm just completely stuck…

I'll gladly answer any questions and all that, and I'm still considering other options but any help or suggestions here would be greatly appreciated.

I want to thank everyone for the awesome replies left to this question, various ideas were given and after trying some it became clear that the answer I marked as correct (real life time limitations) worked best for my group. That being said some other options were also really awesome!

Once again, thank you all for the time and dedication to help us. <3

Best Answer

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 that they both know that it's happening, and that they have a visual reference to represent it, both because they can't be expected to remember it, and also because their characters would be able to tell at a glance how far he line has moved.

Minis on the board in a line, paper tents with numbers, a bell, whatever works for you. When they get to the gate, the guards start the routine inspection and/or questioning. If they aren't prepared, force them into it, by just talking at them in character as the guards.

  • "Reason foah entreh?"
  • "Wots that you got in yore pocket theyuh?"
  • "Why do youse got so menneh 10' poles?"

Once they start engaging with the NPC's, the face (if they have one) will have to lock in on a course of action pretty much immediately.

Silly overdone accent optional.