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    Firbolg in the Playground
     
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    Default Players reading powers during the session

    Have you ever had a situation where a player was about to get access to a new set of powers (say they gain a new spell level, or multi-class, or get to choose between several magic items, or get a hireling of an unfamiliar class, or transform into a creature with a lot of abilities, etc.) and then the player in question not only completely disengaged from the game to study the powers, but also proceeded to interrupt the rest of the table every few minutes to share something they had discovered?

    This happened in my game yesterday where a Pookha had the opportunity to learn a Bastet gift of their choice, which is what got me thinking about it, but I realized it is pretty much a 100% correlation.

    I can even recall being guilty of it myself one time, when our Storyteller told us we would be upgrading to the new edition of Mage the following session and I was not able to focus on the current session until I knew how my character would be changing.

    Now, obviously, the easiest solution is for the GM to just time things so that nobody ever gains new powers during a session and make sure all of this is handled right at the end of a session so it can be done at home on their own time, but this isn't always possible, especially when you have limited gaming time and have to make your sessions work on a tight schedule.

    Anyone got any tips on minimizing or avoiding this behavior? Or stories to share about times when it was / wasn't a problem?

    Thanks!
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    Default Re: Players reading powers during the session

    I don't remember this happening, but I wouldn't entirely rule out that it has happened once or twice. In any case, the obvious solution seems like it would be for the GM to ask the player to wait until after game to look at their new toy or at the very least, that they do so quietly instead of interrupting the game.

    I suppose it might be inevitable if the new powers is something they need to get a handle of right away (such as if they're transformed into a new form in the middle of combat or whatever), but even in that case they should still be able to read without bothering anyone else (not including potential questions for the GM, of course).

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    Default Re: Players reading powers during the session

    Sure. If the players get a power spike for whatever reason, just call a pause in the game so everyone can chat about it for a bit and understand things. Level up, edition change, big magic item haul, whatever. Editing a character sheet takes time even if they already understand the new power. Just let them do it right, then pick back up once everyone is settled.

    As the DM, this is a good time for a bathroom break or snack break as well.
    Last edited by Keltest; 2024-06-10 at 09:29 AM.
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    Default Re: Players reading powers during the session

    Quote Originally Posted by Keltest View Post
    As the DM, this is a good time for a bathroom break or snack break as well.
    Yes, it is a good time for a break.
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    Default Re: Players reading powers during the session

    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    Have you ever had a situation where a player was about to get access to a new set of powers (say they gain a new spell level, or multi-class, or get to choose between several magic items, or get a hireling of an unfamiliar class, or transform into a creature with a lot of abilities, etc.) and then the player in question not only completely disengaged from the game to study the powers, but also proceeded to interrupt the rest of the table every few minutes to share something they had discovered?
    Sure. This is why I (when I'm the GM) give out new powers/etc only between sessions, not during a session. I also like to ask players to not have their phone or tablet out during the game (digital character sheets are fine of course, but not looking up stuff on the internet). Note that this is not a "hard ban" but more like a "I'd rather you didn't".
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    Default Re: Players reading powers during the session

    Quote Originally Posted by Keltest View Post
    Sure. If the players get a power spike for whatever reason, just call a pause in the game so everyone can chat about it for a bit and understand things. Level up, edition change, big magic item haul, whatever. Editing a character sheet takes time even if they already understand the new power. Just let them do it right, then pick back up once everyone is settled.

    As the DM, this is a good time for a bathroom break or snack break as well.
    In my experience, that would be less of a "break" than it would be calling the session for a week.

    This is something that can take a good 2-4 hours. For example, there are ~70 Bastet gifts, each with several paragraphs of text, and I imagine a spell level in D&D is equally robust.

    For an extreme case, try shape-changing into an elemental weird, who in addition to having ~2 pages of supernatural abilities, cast spells as 17th level sorcerers and can cast every divination spell in the game at will.


    These is also wild discrepancy between different characters. For example, leveling up a fighter is +d10+con HP, +1 attack bonus, +2 + Int skill points, and a feat. That would take someone who knows what they are doing a couple of minutes at most.... but.... if someone decides they need to read every feat in the game first to make sure they are making the right choice, this is now a multi-hour ordeal.
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    Default Re: Players reading powers during the session

    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    In my experience, that would be less of a "break" than it would be calling the session for a week.
    Are these usually things the players need to know right that moment or is it something that could wait and they're just curious?

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    Default Re: Players reading powers during the session

    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    This is something that can take a good 2-4 hours. For example, there are ~70 Bastet gifts, each with several paragraphs of text, and I imagine a spell level in D&D is equally robust.
    That clear "level up" with stuff chosen from a catalog needs to happen either between session (and usually does : "earned" powers because XP is given at the end of the game, "learnt/borrowed" powers because the PC needs time to learn their new trick from their ally) or during a dedicated session if you want to do it together (character creation during session zero, for example)

    This way, each player can do their level up on their own time (or discuss it on a group forum/discord/chat) and clear them up with the GM when they have a good idea of the few things they want to add to their character sheet. Maybe the start of the next session will be about the level up, but it will take less time if they had a few days to think about it and make up their mind.

    Having them do a big level up in the middle of the game will result in disruption. The suggestion about having a break was for a minor "guided" power up, like "Here a 3 magic items, the players must decide who will get them"
    Last edited by Kardwill; 2024-06-10 at 09:52 AM.

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    Default Re: Players reading powers during the session

    Quote Originally Posted by Kardwill View Post
    That clear "level up" with stuff chosen from a catalog needs to happen either between session (and usually does : "earned" powers because XP is given at the end of the game, "learnt/borrowed" powers because the PC needs time to learn their new trick from their ally) or during a dedicated session if you want to do it together (character creation during session zero, for example)

    This way, each player can do their level up on their own time (or discuss it on a group forum/discord/chat) and clear them up with the GM when they have a good idea of the few things they want to add to their character sheet. Maybe the start of the next session will be about the level up, but it will take less time if they had a few days to think about it and make up their mind.

    Having them do a big level up in the middle of the game will result in disruption. The suggestion about having a break was for a minor "guided" power up, like "Here a 3 magic items, the players must decide who will get them"
    Indeed. Theres nothing wrong with having a big level up session though, if thats what the party wants.
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    Default Re: Players reading powers during the session

    Quote Originally Posted by Keltest View Post
    Indeed. Theres nothing wrong with having a big level up session though, if thats what the party wants.
    Yeah, "let's get together to level up our characters and chat about it" is a fine way to spend a few hours. Just don't expect any actual game to happen at the same time ^^

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    Default Re: Players reading powers during the session

    Quote Originally Posted by Kardwill View Post
    Yeah, "let's get together to level up our characters and chat about it" is a fine way to spend a few hours. Just don't expect any actual game to happen at the same time ^^
    in my party we do it regularly, because there's always something that requires input from the dm, or asking advice to other players. so, sometimes we just do a session where we discuss what to do with a big loot haul, what to do with special powers (especially homebrew dm-given custom powers, they often need trimming), and similar stuff.
    we call them "burocracy sessions"
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    Default Re: Players reading powers during the session

    Well, it’s complicated.

    Let’s start with a story. Once upon a time, a GM gave all the PCs new powers at the start of the session. Quertus 3 (the 3rd clone of Quertus, my signature academia mage for whom this account is named) got Shape Shifting.

    The first hurdle the newly powered up party had to overcome was the epic challenge of the locked door. No, seriously. We spent the better part of half the session with the rest of the party coming up with ideas for how to overcome this epic challenge, sometimes utilizing their new powers in creative or straightforward ways, all of which the GM rejected, interspersed with the GM occasionally shining the spotlight on me, as Quertus attempted to test put his new power, finds its limitations.

    “None” seemed to be the answer wrt limitations.

    Once he understood the power, Quertus not only shape shifted his way past the epic challenge of the locked door, he kept using this power throughout the rest of the session. I mean, it’s a really cool power, and it was handed to someone who quite literally wrote the book on monsters.

    Afterwards, I saw how there were X of us, X challenges, and the powers the others had been given could have solved those other challenges in a rather clear 1:1 fashion. The GM killed the campaign after that session.

    So, what are some takeaways? Well, I’m sure 8 kinds of fun has a word for it, like Social or Community or something, but there’s a definitely impetus to keep everyone involved in the game. And a definite desire to plan, and optimize the use of the power… not just for yourself, but for and/or with the group. There’s also the (often irrational, like with a certain mage wanting to water scrolls instead of letting someone scribe them) fear of, “what’s everyone else getting? Am I being cheated?”. There’s metagaming questions of just how soon the GM might have planned for these powers to be used. There’s skill issue challenges of doing new tools to one’s toolkit. And so many more concerns, even before adding in ones like being unable to think about this session because of thinking about the next one.

    So, sure, it happens. Unless you explicitly tell a player, “I’m giving you this shiny new toy to distract you, much like handing you a dollar and sending you to the corner store”, or their character was out of commission, I’d expect them to be involved in the game/group (which are often confused, especially by those who value the Social axis of fun) *and* the new toy.

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    Default Re: Players reading powers during the session

    Yeah all the time, especially if they level up during session. I've had entire discussions around new spells and abilities as they became available. It's even more common when said new abilities are broad, vague and/or subject to interpretation.
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    Default Re: Players reading powers during the session

    Yeah. General rule of thumb for managing RPG sessions: Try to always hand out major loot items, experience, new powers/abilties, major changes to PCs, major purchase or adventure fork choices, so that they land at the end of the session. You can do these things during the seesion, but then just expect that the rest of the session will be consumed by the players making decisions about them, doing the research, making adjustments, etc.

    Heck. I actually called a session short a couple weeks back, just because they were more or less right on the doorstep of the main bad guys lair. The first encounter was more or less the door guards, and could have been rushed through and completed, but I ran it to the point where they found the entrance, had a scout in place relaying information back to the rest of the group, and were out of detection range. I wanted to give them the week to decide what spells they wanted to cast up, or items to prep, positions to take, etc, before they charged up to the door (the bad guys had abilities that would autodetect them once they got within a specific range). It wasn't about that one fight, but that this was the first in what would be a series of running encounters, and I wanted to make sure they took the time to really think things through and prepare rather than rush them into the first fight, and then they might be stuck in a later one, running into something and complaining that "we would have thought of this, but you didn't give us enough time".

    Turned out to be very worth it, since they did take the time to have some special defensive and utility spells cast up ahead of time. Which came in really really handy in encounter number two, which was "undead in a room, with a triggered trap that would seal the doors and light the poison gas torches". They had ways to deal with it, but the fact that one of them took the time, looked at his sheet and noticed he had a spell that could make the entire party immune to poison gas and decided to cast it "just in case", made them not have to scramble later on. And taking extra prep time also saved one of the character's bacon, because they had chosen to have a powerful magic defense spell put on them (there are plusses and minuses to it, so not everyone chose that), and that character happened to get hit with the super dangerous lingering "this will kill you in a few rounds if not blocked/dispelled" spell effect one of the bad guys triggered on them. Turned something that would have been "desperately bad" into "minor trouble we had to deal with, but had the time to do so, so not a huge deal". Prep is good.

    But yeah. Like handing out things that signifciantly change/improve/whatever the characters? And which require the players to make choices? And those choices are long term or permanent? You can't hand those out in the middle of a session and expect the session to continue without interruption. To me, that's the normal reaction. I'd be a bit concerned with a player who *didn't* spend time/effort thinking/talking about such a thing. That would indicate a player who wasn't terribly invested in the game or character. Well, or a game where such changes occur so frequently that no one takes them seriously anyway (which is not a good thing IMO).

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    Default Re: Players reading powers during the session

    Quote Originally Posted by Kardwill View Post
    That clear "level up" with stuff chosen from a catalog needs to happen either between session (and usually does : "earned" powers because XP is given at the end of the game, "learnt/borrowed" powers because the PC needs time to learn their new trick from their ally) or during a dedicated session if you want to do it together (character creation during session zero, for example)

    This way, each player can do their level up on their own time (or discuss it on a group forum/discord/chat) and clear them up with the GM when they have a good idea of the few things they want to add to their character sheet. Maybe the start of the next session will be about the level up, but it will take less time if they had a few days to think about it and make up their mind.

    Having them do a big level up in the middle of the game will result in disruption. The suggestion about having a break was for a minor "guided" power up, like "Here a 3 magic items, the players must decide who will get them"
    Sure.

    But a lot of the time it isn't a big level up.

    In the scenario in question, it was one player doing a favor for one NPC and being granted a power in exchange.


    A lot of the time, it is something even less "plot relevant". For example, a player decides to buy a magic item while in town and pulls out the DMG to browse every item in the book.


    Also, I feel like this also happens even if the decision has yet to come up. For example, I have seen this behavior occur when a player learns that they *will* level up and get access to a new spell level at the end of the session. Hell, last week it happened over a different *game* entirely; we are going to be playing Exalted next now that our current Chronicles of Darkness game has wrapped up, but last session I made the mistake of bringing the Exalted book with me to the session, and one of the players spent the first hour of the game lost in the Exalted book trying to pick out charms for her character in the next game.

    Quote Originally Posted by gbaji View Post
    But yeah. Like handing out things that signifciantly change/improve/whatever the characters? And which require the players to make choices? And those choices are long term or permanent? You can't hand those out in the middle of a session and expect the session to continue without interruption. To me, that's the normal reaction. I'd be a bit concerned with a player who *didn't* spend time/effort thinking/talking about such a thing. That would indicate a player who wasn't terribly invested in the game or character. Well, or a game where such changes occur so frequently that no one takes them seriously anyway (which is not a good thing IMO).
    I agree to an extent, although if you have a GM who is lenient enough to let you do a take back if you make a mistake (as I always have been in the past) it seems like less of an issue.

    IMO it is only a problem because the player who is browsing powers invariably interrupts everyone else every few minutes to share with them the various awesome and/or ridiculous powers they have just discovered.

    Quote Originally Posted by gbaji View Post
    Turned out to be very worth it, since they did take the time to have some special defensive and utility spells cast up ahead of time. Which came in really really handy in encounter number two, which was "undead in a room, with a triggered trap that would seal the doors and light the poison gas torches". They had ways to deal with it, but the fact that one of them took the time, looked at his sheet and noticed he had a spell that could make the entire party immune to poison gas and decided to cast it "just in case", made them not have to scramble later on. And taking extra prep time also saved one of the character's bacon, because they had chosen to have a powerful magic defense spell put on them (there are plusses and minuses to it, so not everyone chose that), and that character happened to get hit with the super dangerous lingering "this will kill you in a few rounds if not blocked/dispelled" spell effect one of the bad guys triggered on them. Turned something that would have been "desperately bad" into "minor trouble we had to deal with, but had the time to do so, so not a huge deal". Prep is good.

    But yeah. Like handing out things that significantly change/improve/whatever the characters? And which require the players to make choices? And those choices are long term or permanent? You can't hand those out in the middle of a session and expect the session to continue without interruption. To me, that's the normal reaction. I'd be a bit concerned with a player who *didn't* spend time/effort thinking/talking about such a thing. That would indicate a player who wasn't terribly invested in the game or character. Well, or a game where such changes occur so frequently that no one takes them seriously anyway (which is not a good thing IMO).
    I see this as a double edged sword.

    Players might notice something or come up with a plan they might not have if given extra time to think about it, or they might forget where they were or some important plan / detail that they had already come up with.

    Likewise, from a realism / fairness perspective, well, the characters are probably more familiar with the world and their abilities than the players are, but one the other hand, the characters are also a lot more likely to have a calm and accurate view of the situation like players sitting at a table looking down at a battle-mat rather than making panicked decisions in the spur of the moment as a swirl of monsters leap out of the shadows at them.


    Ultimately though; game time is precious. At best, we get ~4 hours a week of gaming. I am really loathe to call sessions early without a damn good reason, and I don't think that the players maybe coming up with a good plan qualifies.


    (Apologies if I am missing your point here. I am not quite sure where you are going with this, so I may be reading too much into it and coming up with an unintentional strawman.)
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    Barbarian in the Playground
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    Default Re: Players reading powers during the session

    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    Sure.

    But a lot of the time it isn't a big level up.

    In the scenario in question, it was one player doing a favor for one NPC and being granted a power in exchange.
    Choosing any boon in an entire splatbook is what I'd call a pretty big level up. The kind I'd treat with a "Ask for me at the temple of Isis, come next full moon" to ensure it comes up during a downtime.

    Of course, it wouldn't prevent the player getting enthusiastic and reading the splatbook for his future power anyway (and it's not a bad thing necessarily. I mean, that enthusiasm shows a form of engagement in the game, even if it's kinda disruptive).
    But at least, he doesn't have to answer the question right now, so there is less urgency, and the GM has more ground to say "Could we please check the splatbook after the game? We're kinda in the middle of something"

    Do your start your games right away? Having a few (dozens of) minute for the players to unwind and discuss things out right before or after the game proper can help.

    But yeah, ending a session just at the right moment (like during a downtime, or the opposite, right on a cliffhanger) can force you to adjust your gametime with a "okay, this is a good time for a cut" 1/2h early. but it also allows you to control the rythm of the actual game. It's a useful tool to avoid wasting time.
    Last edited by Kardwill; 2024-06-11 at 08:22 AM.

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    Default Re: Players reading powers during the session

    I get this a lot of the time with some of the documents I create for my games, or the magic items I give out.

    I try to take it as a point of pride: my players are so engaged with my setting that they're getting absorbed in the in-world documents or the customized magic items I create! But it can still be disruptive.

    The level of disruption depends on your table and the type of game you run. If you're in the middle of a big important group scene, I would try to redirect them back into the moment. If they're all doing side errands or going shopping or splitting the party to have some scenes with campaign NPCs? I don't mind too much if the players who aren't in the scene get distracted by other session-related stuff.

    Heck, at least it's not their cell phones.

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    Default Re: Players reading powers during the session

    If the player wants to know information that the character would not know yet, then the DM should gently discourage her from researching it at the table.

    If the player wants to know information that her character would already know, but that is not immediately needed, then she can use any extra time to look it up, as long as she is paying enough attention to make her move when it's her turn.

    If the player needs to know information that her character would already know, in order to make an immediate decision, then she should look it up. It takes the time that it takes. This might be a good time to order or eat the pizza, to return phone calls, or to check on the kids. Sometimes the game has to stop for awhile.1

    In all cases, the DM, the player, and all the other players should be glad that people are this invested in the game, and be as accommodating as reasonably possible to each other's needs and wants.

    ===

    1 If you like, you can split this category into two separate categories: She's looking for information she didn't know that she would need and her character would know before the game, or she knew it and didn't research it between games. Splitting them into separate categories, however, serves no purpose; it will just annoy you. In either case, to play the game correctly, the player must find the information immediately.

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    Default Re: Players reading powers during the session

    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    Also, I feel like this also happens even if the decision has yet to come up. For example, I have seen this behavior occur when a player learns that they *will* level up and get access to a new spell level at the end of the session. Hell, last week it happened over a different *game* entirely; we are going to be playing Exalted next now that our current Chronicles of Darkness game has wrapped up, but last session I made the mistake of bringing the Exalted book with me to the session, and one of the players spent the first hour of the game lost in the Exalted book trying to pick out charms for her character in the next game.
    This raises an issue I thought about, but don't think was addressed. Sometimes, the players don't have the source books, so anything that needs to be looked up by those players will be looked at during the game session. Sometimes, you can put stuff online, or print out some relevant stuff for them to look at (or post/send it to them, whatever). But yeah. Sometimes, the game materials they need to access are only accessable right then and there (there may be copyright issues in play as well). That's when you just have to allocate time for the players to look through things.


    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    I agree to an extent, although if you have a GM who is lenient enough to let you do a take back if you make a mistake (as I always have been in the past) it seems like less of an issue.
    And that's fine. But honestly, I consider take backs to be a game failure. A minor one, but still a failure. If something is serious enough to take back in the first place, then it's serious enough to look at, figure out why whatever happened happened, and then make adjustments to try to minimize that in the future. And one of the big ways to avoid this is to very openly communicate between the players and the GM about the choices being made and the known consequences of those choices ahead of time. If you're regularly having players try to do something in the game, discovering that that "thing" doesn't work the way they thought, and then asking to change a build/item/spell choice after the fact because "if I'd know it worked that way, I would have made a different choice", then there was a failure point earlier in the process that could/should have been addressed.

    Yes, obviously the GM should allow for that (as long as the player hasn't already gained benefit from the thing they now want to change), and sometimes it is truely unavoidable (but really really rarely IME), but even in the best of situations, it's still a game disruption at the time, and creates the potential for conflict. What do you do if the player has used the new thing in a beneficial way, but now discovers it has a serious drawback they didn't know about? How far back do you "take back" in that case? Personally, I'd rather avoid the situation in the first place, if at all possible. Um... And it can also lead to an adversarial style of play where the players take spells/abilities/items/whatever with a specific eye towards how to use them that they suspect may be questionable rules-wise, but intentionally don't ask the GM about this ahead of time so they can put the GM in the position of having, in the moment, to make the decision to either allow the rules-bending interpretation they want to use or have to do a take back and disrupt the game.

    It can become a pressure tactic, and that's also something I'd like to avoid. It's also something that, as a GM, we learn to deal with. I'm fully able to anticipate how a player might try to use some ability and remind them openly and publicly upon them stating "I'm taking <whatever>" that "Just to remind you, that <whatever> works <the correct way> and cannot be used to do <wrong way 1> or <wrong way 2> or <wrong way 3>. So if you take it, I want to make sure you know that it can't be used to do those other things". An ounce of prevention stops a pound of pain later on IMO. Of course, this is dependent on the players informing the GM about what choices they are making ahead of time, and the GM considering the choice, realizing the potential pitfalls and making sure the players know them (also ahead of time). But, if you get in the habit of doing this, what you'll find is that your players, instead of trying to hide things they are doing/considering, will instead approach you directly with their questions and ideas, and get a ruling ahead of time, so that during gameplay, things run smoothly (and yes, this is also dependent on the GM interpreting the players questions ahead of time, realizing what they really want to do, and might intepret the answers, and avoiding "but you said!!!" problems during gameplay as well). You have to not only answer the question the player is asking, but also consider why the player is asking it and head off any potential accidental (or purposeful) misunderstandings/miscommunications.

    I think the last time we had an actual for-real takeback in our regular game was like 4 or 5 years ago. And that was a super rare case where the GM just plain forgot to tell the players a key bit of scenario critical information, but was absolutely certain that he had. The only other things we have that are close to a takeback are minor things like handwaving away minor gear things (did anyone actually list "torches" in their gear list? Oh dear...), or a player realizing that he is a member of a cult that gets some specific skill as a default for being a member, but forgot to actually write it down on their sheet (you're a stormbull initiate and somehow don't have "sense chaos"... what's wrong with you?), but yeah... they should actuallly have it at some base ability, and since we're only like 2 sessions into the adventure, if you want to shift around some of the skill points you assigned from something else to that skill, you can. Those sorts of very minor things, that don't actually require the GM to change anything that has previously occurred one bit, so aren't a huge deal. But if you have to actually wind back time, and undo things that have already happened to fix something? IMO, that's not something that should be happening often, and if it is, you need to figure out why.

    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    IMO it is only a problem because the player who is browsing powers invariably interrupts everyone else every few minutes to share with them the various awesome and/or ridiculous powers they have just discovered.
    It can be a problem even if the player isn't disrupting the rest of the table. I'd prefer that all of the players at the table are paying attention to the game as it's being played. Yes. Even if they aren't actively doing anything, they should be paying attention so we don't have to remind them of those details later. We all just sat through players A and B roleplaying out their information gathering session with the old groundskeeper where he told us all about the secret sordid past of the cursed estate we're supposed to un-curse somehow. I'd really prefer we all move on after a quick "when we get back to the rest of the party, we share what we learned, and compare notes with the players C and D who went to the library and looked up the historical records for the estate, so now we can come up with a plan" and not have to tell player E (again) what was learned because they had their heads in a book or device instead of paying attention to the game.

    That's not to say players can't look stuff up as they go, and many players are good enough at multitasking that this is not a problem. But if they are actually looking something up, so they can make a significant decision about the game or their character, I'd rather that not be happening while we're actively playing the scenario.

    I kinda second the "let's all take a snack/bathroom break" idea. If someone really does need to do something like this, and it really does need to be done this session and can't wait until between this and the next, then lets give that person the time to do that.

    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    I see this as a double edged sword.

    Players might notice something or come up with a plan they might not have if given extra time to think about it, or they might forget where they were or some important plan / detail that they had already come up with.

    Likewise, from a realism / fairness perspective, well, the characters are probably more familiar with the world and their abilities than the players are, but one the other hand, the characters are also a lot more likely to have a calm and accurate view of the situation like players sitting at a table looking down at a battle-mat rather than making panicked decisions in the spur of the moment as a swirl of monsters leap out of the shadows at them.
    Totally valid points. But IME, players are far more likely to be upset about even the perception that the GM "rushed them" than they are to forget important details. And here's the thing. As the GM, if the players discussed something at the table and planned to "use the <item> to <do the needed thing>", I know this. I've already had a mental conversation with myself about what the effects of that will be and have planned for it. If we wait until next session to get to where the players are in the position to implement their plan with the item/thing, and the players are all saying "Ok, we go do <something else that skips that step they talked about>", I'm going to remind them "Um... You guys said last week that you were going to use the item to do the thing. Is that not part of your plan anymore?". I'm not just going to keep my mouth shut there.

    I know what they planned, and have planned for what they planned, so if they forget, I'm there to remind them. But I don't know what they didn't plan for, or didn't think of, and neither do they. I'd rather err on the side of "plenty of time to think about, talk about, plan out, and discusss" than the other direction. It falls back into that "putting the GM on the spot", to have to rule on whether the players would have thought of something if they'd had more time. If I'd rushed the combat, and the players got to the room with the trap, and the poison torches lit up, and then the player said "Oh. I have the skin of life spell. I totally would have cast that ahead of time, since it totally makes sense, going into an underground complex, with a necromancer, with undead, and whom we previously just uncovered part of their plot where they've been embezzeling alchemetical stuff from the local wizard guild, that this might be a good precaution to take, and it's a cheap spell that can easily be cast on the whole group for plenty of time, and my skill with the spell sucks, but if I do cast it ahead of time instead of waiting until needed, I can use my ceremony skill to increase that, and take as many attempts as possible, so it makes even more sense to cast it ahead of time...". And now I'm trying to rule on what the PCs should have thought of ahead of time.

    Yeah. I'd just rather avoid that to the greatest possible extent.

    Also, the whole point is that you do the "let's stop a bit early so you can all plan out what you want to do with more time" when there is a logical break point (ie: You just trekked 15 miles into the wilderness, and your forward scout just spotted the evil lair with the evil necromancer, and you're right at the point where if you go any closer you'll be detected and it'll be full game-on from that point on). There's no relation to how the PCs may or may not react to monsters swirling out of the shadows at them. Dont worry though. There's plenty of that sort of thing planned (and even more in the next chapter... muhahaha!).

    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    Ultimately though; game time is precious. At best, we get ~4 hours a week of gaming. I am really loathe to call sessions early without a damn good reason, and I don't think that the players maybe coming up with a good plan qualifies.
    Oh absolutely. But you have to measure "game time lost because we stopped a bit early (I think it was only like 30 minutes though, so not a huge deal) at a logical stopping point to give the players some time to plan/discuss before next session" versus "game time lost because the players didn't have the time to plan and discuss things, so we're having to ret-con, and getting into arguments, and ruling on what folks think they should have been allowed to do if given more time to plan and discuss". That's not always on the table, of course. And certainly, some of the time we could have just pressed on, stopped at a later time and slightly later point in the scenario, and everything would have still worked out the same.

    It's not something I would do often. But if I know that the party is right at the very point of about to get into something that I know will likely span several sessions (like an assault on a lair, with multiple encounters/fights involved), I'll introduce the "what you can see just prior to committing to the encounter" point, and then break the session if it's close to the end anyway. Usually, there's some discussion at that point anyway, with players making decisions and plans knowing that this is a "big thing" they're about to start. But, if we are near the end point, and right at that point if "I could run this to the point of just getting through the front door, but have to stop there for time anyway", I'll cut things off a little early. Why not give them the break time before they kick in the door (where they can have their characters take longer prep actions if they think to do so), rather than immediately after (when it's too late cause things are already in motion)?

    Our game may be a bit different for other reasons. Most of us are a bit older (though we do have one player in his teens and another in her 20s), and we play on Sunday nights, and some of us have to get up early in the morning for work. If the game was Friday or Saturday, I'd have less issue with taking more time during the session, and runnning long if needed. But in my game, with my group, they would much rather the session run 30 minutes short than 30 minutes long. Also, some of that is selfishness on my part. I have by far the farthest drive home after game night. And no one wants to have a case of the Mondays...

    Quote Originally Posted by Ionathus View Post
    I get this a lot of the time with some of the documents I create for my games, or the magic items I give out.

    I try to take it as a point of pride: my players are so engaged with my setting that they're getting absorbed in the in-world documents or the customized magic items I create! But it can still be disruptive.
    Same here. But I try to do the same thing (when possible) and try to time things so that handing out "new things" happens at the end (or beginning) of a session. This is usually things like loot lists and whatnot, that are handled when not in the middle of doing anything else (we assume the PCs are at a safe spot to do this sort of stuff).

    Sometimes, something "big and important" will come up in the middle of a game session. But that's because it is something big and important, and they're supposed to stop what they are doing and spend time looking at and dealing with whatever it is. That's part of gameplay IMO, but will always be something that their characters encounter/discover, and actually have an in-game (and possibly time sensitive) need to deal with.

    It's just a general guideline that if the characters have time to stop, think, and plan, then I'll try to give the players time as well. It's not always possible to make the timing work, but I always try to do so if at all possible. I just find that it makes things much much easier on the players. And if things are easier on the players (at least in terms of schedules and timing), things tend to be easier on the GM as well.

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