My gaming group meets once a week for four hours. Due to the longer and longer distances people have to travel, the game has to end promptly to allow people to get home at a reasonable time. Playing longer than our four hour allotment just isn’t an option. So we have to make the best use of the time we have. Here are some of the tips and tricks that we’ve come up with that have really made a big difference.
Be on time
Our game begins at 7:00 p.m. We allow a 10 minute grace period and then we start. If you’re late we start without you. In the age of cell phones there’s no excuse for not notifying the group that you’re running behind schedule. Sometimes beginning the game down a PC makes things a lot more challenging for the players who are there on time. Often the guy running late will give us permission to run his character as an NPC until he arrives. This is of course contingent on us having his character sheet.
As soon as we’re set up and ready to begin gaming, everyone rolls four initiative checks. We designate one person as the initiative tracker (always a player and never the DM) and he records all the initiatives. This way, when an encounter begins we’ve already determined the order of the PCs. The DM asks that the numbers be read aloud before anyone acts and then he inserts his combatants in the line-up accordingly.
Another initiative tip is for the initiative tracker to give an “on deck” warning. This way the player who’s next can get their actions ready. If there are a lot of participants in a combat it’s easy to forget when you go. Getting that on deck reminder before your actual turn comes up lets you take in the situation and decide what you want to do without slowing down the game.
Don’t Hog the Spotlight
When it’s your turn all eyes are on you. Be ready to take your turn. If you’ve already been prompted that you’re on deck then you should be prepared (unless something totally unexpected happened). Be clear and decisive about what you’re doing. And then when you’re finished announce that too. With each player announcing “I’m done” at the end of his turn the initiative tracker can tell the table whose turn it is now and who’s on deck.
Once you announce that you’re done, then that’s it, you’re done. If you forgot to roll a save vs an ongoing affect or you forget to mark your opponent then that’s too bad. The most common thing slowing down play was people acting out of turn. If you forgot to do something on your turn, that’s too bad. It only takes a few forgetful rounds before everyone remembers to shift 1 square or make a save vs poison.
Most gamers love to roll dice. It’s a huge part of D&D. So you may not find this particular tip right for you. In some cases, if you know that the person who goes before you will have no affect on your actions or the target you’re attacking then pre-roll attack and damage. When your turn comes around you just recap what’s happened. Many DMs want to witness rolls so make sure DMs approve this shortcut before you start pre-rolling. An illegally pre-rolled 20 rarely comes up 20 again when rolled in front of everyone.
Roll All Your Dice Together
Regardless of whether or not you’re pre-rolling, roll all your dice together. This should include the d20 to attack, plus all relevant damage dice. Just be sure that if you have different powers or abilities using the same dice value that you make it clear which one applies. “The green d6 is my weapon damage, the red d6 is the fire damage and the blue d6s are my sneak damage.”
If you find that you’re not getting as much accomplished during your gaming sessions as you’d like to, try introducing some of the tips and tricks outlined above. They may not all be right for your gaming group, but anything that speeds up the game is a win. Do you have tips for speeding up the game that we haven’t covered? Please share them with us so we can all benefit from your tried and true methods.