Friday, July 1, 2011

DM Tips: Combating Indecisive Players

A Quick Note: As I am writing this, it has come to my attention how Dungeons and Dragons 4e centric I am. I tried to make this article as generic as possible so that it could be applied to various roleplaying games, so forgive me if I slip into 4e on occasion.

I was looking at how people were finding my blog (I always get a laugh when I see I was once found with the search keywords of "magical shopping arcade abenobashi tits") when I discovered that someone found me when searching for help with indecisive players. Well, it is your lucky day, sir and/or madame.

Roleplaying games are quite a unique form of entertainment. It is part acting and part tactical. It is also VERY open-ended. The sheer amount of options can overwhelm a person. I get the same way when trying to decide where to eat most of the time.

So what can we do to get rid of this indecisiveness? Well, it depends on where your player is having the trouble.

1. Trouble with Character Creation

THIRTY-EIGHT races. THIRTY-NINE classes. TEN character themes and FAR TOO MANY backgrounds. Not to mention the VAST amount of paragon paths, feats, powers, and magical items. There is a staggering amount of information to process when choosing what type of character to create in just Dungeons and Dragons 4e. Would you like me to take a look at RIFTS? I assumed not.

So what can we do to make character creation less of a mind numbing hassle? Well, we could...
  • ...discuss as a group what character class roles to choose. In 4e, this limits it to 4 types: controller, defender, leader, and striker. These clearly defined roles can make even the most indecisive player able to limit their choices.
  • ...look at any optional builds (4e usually has two) that comes with your game. Choose one and follow it to the letter. This usually only applies to first level characters.
  • ...use the character builder! If you happen to have access to the Dungeons and Dragons Insider, the character builder can be a powerful tool. As you enter in more character information, your options are shifted. It will eliminate options from view if your character does not meet the prerequisites for them.
  • ...decide ahead of time your character's personality and non-mechanical background. This can lead you to the perfect choices. What would your character choose? Discuss your character with the rest of the gaming group.
Wanna hear about the 5 different races of Elves in my campaign world?
2. Trouble with Skill Use

You come to a cliff. You attempt to steal gold from the baron. You sneak into the heavily guarded fortress. How do you do all of this? With skill!

However, there will be times where your options seem rather wide. For example, there are several methods to acquiring monster knowledge. Do you use Arcana? Dungeoneering ? Maybe Nature? It depends on the monster, but how is a player to know? The answer is simply trial and error, or even using common sense if given a proper description of the monster in question. But this can get annoying after a while.

As a DM, it is up to you to allow your players the illusion of free will when it comes to these types of decisions. Be colorful when describing monsters. If they need to use Arcana, use the word "mystical" in the description. The players need a hint to feel like they are in charge. Description is key to help players understand which skill is optimal for them to use. This problem is up to you to fix properly.

Okay. You

3. Trouble with Combat

Combat, no matter the game, seems to universally slow things down. This is an especially accepted viewpoint when it comes to combat in Dungeons and Dragons 4e. For one reason or another, combat takes longer to resolve in gaming. If your players having a difficult time figuring things out is one of these reasons, here is what you can do:
  1. If the player is having a problem with learning the rules of combat...
    1. ...take the time to show them. Allow them more time on their turn and walk through it step by step, holding their hand along the way.
    2. ...let them borrow the rules in between sessions to read on their own time instead of cramming in the middle of the game.
    3. ...ask them what they want to do on their turn, and walk them through how that would translate into the game's mechanics.
  2. If the player is having a problem deciding what to do...
    1. ...have a timer on hand and restrict their time to decide on what to do.
    2. ...walk them through their options, emphasizing stronger abilities to be used on the stronger monsters.
    3. ...have them pick one other player as their tactical officer. Just one. This person will take your place in helping the problem player so that you can focus on everything else going on.
Let me know if this helps you out, Google Search Stranger. Hopefully your players will be able to make decisions a lot faster after this.

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