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Thursday, July 11, 2019

GM Advice: Keeping Up the Pace

Took a bit of time writing a forum response this morning to a new OD&D GM seeking advice and decided it might be worth sharing here, as well, for the small share of my blog readers who are new to OD&D.

The situation: players are stopping every 30 feet of exploration to listen, search, etc. They have four encounters in 2 hours of play. GM is worried the pace might be wrong and the players will get bored. Assuming the GM and players don’t mistakenly think encounters are the “point” of playing OD&D, what might the GM do to make sure the pace is quick enough?

Consider these two GM/Player exchanges:

GM: The corridor heads south. How far do you go?
P: 30 feet, then stop to listen


GM: The corridor heads south and you see an intersection ahead.
P: Walk to the intersection, then stop to listen

The first way prompts players to do things in arbitrary increments (they chose 30 feet, in this case.) The second way prompts them to do things feature by feature (next intersection, next door, next choice.)

The first way, players have to go through a step-by-step process, waiting for the GM to give them something to actually do (investigate a room, fight a monster.) The second way, players do what they want and the GM responds, then waits for the players to take their next action. It’s the opposite of the first method.

It goes faster the second way.

There are other possible issues, of course. Is the GM rolling too much? That will slow things down. Most searches in OD&D do not require rolls. Is the GM withholding too much? Players can’t take charge of their own actions unless the GM tells them what their characters see and hear. I’ve said it many times here already: It’s the GM’s Job to give players information… all the obvious details they see and things they know about the current situation.

If the players are in charge and the GM isn’t holding back deliberately, the pace will be set by the players. They will always have stuff to do, when it’s time to do stuff. That will keep them from being bored.

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