House Rules - Table Rules for Speed

These are the table rules I talked about in my email earlier. Click for a link to the article. They are intended to speed up combat. Left the original numbering but removed 3, 7, 8, 9 & 10 since we disagreed with or were already doing those. I’ve edited them a little bit and added stuff from our discussion…

Table Rule 1. Speak Up: Ask

Simply ask your players to take their turns faster.

Tell them things appear to be grinding to a crawl and the pace of combat needs to increase so there’s less waiting around the game table.

Tell your playgroup you’ll regularly ask players to pick up the pace throughout a given session or campaign.

This is the most important part of the table rule. You are getting player permission to call them out periodically when they drag the pace down. Without this table rule and their permission, you come off looking like a jerk.

But because this issue has been discussed, when you do ask a player to hurry up, the groundwork has already been laid that this type of GM callout is acceptable and is for the good of the whole group.

This table rule also communicates it’s not personal. All players will be subject to this callout, which makes any potential sting painless when it happens.

Table Rule 2. No Take Backs

Use the classic chess or board game piece rule: once you’ve declared an action or moved your miniature, there’s no taking it back.

Use this if your group has indecisive or highly tactical players.

Some players are tricky. They’ll announce an action and wait to see your reaction. If they think you’re about to lay down some smack, they’ll quickly recant and think some more.

You give away the consequences with your energy, facial expression and body language. You might even give yourself up with how you speak: “Awesome, well then, your foe….” Speak like that and a player realizes they’ve made a mistake and will do a take-back.

Our input on this one

As soon as you start resolving what you want to do (roll a die, pick up your mini, etc), the action is decided.

Regarding picking up the mini means committed:

Here’s my take on how picking up the mini is a no take back:

  • Picking up the mini means you have committed to moving it. Of course you can just move it back.
  • Putting it back down means you’ve committed it to it’s new position.

I add the picking it up committed since I don’t think it’s a good idea for people to be touching/moving mini’s before they’ve made up their mind. You should finish thinking about what you want to do first. There is too much stuff attached to some of the minis (status markers for instance) to just be moving the mini before you’ve decided.

Table Rule 4. No Cross Talk or Interruptions to current Player

Ask players to not interrupt or disrupt other players during their turns. It’s just the player and GM, focused on each other, working out that player’s turn.

I recommend you do not allow in-character talk with the active player, either.

Instead, for maximum turn efficiency, allow players to roleplay with each other when inactive as much as they like as long as they do not get too loud. This lets players plan and chat and entertain with each other without costing game time.

I know this breaks your game’s round length – how could so much conversation happen in those 6 or 10 or 30 seconds? – but it’s a nice compromise.

The biggest time drag comes from indecisiveness. Some people cannot make snappy decisions. And if you allow other players to talk with the active player and introduce new ideas and choices, you just make indecisive players take even longer on their turns (which is stressful for the player too).

Not allowing cross-talk also prevents meta-gaming. Players cannot share info the active character would not know during his player’s turn. (It will happen out of turn anyway, but things always get “real” when the spotlight is on you, and minimizing meta-gaming this way helps roleplay and drama.)

The opposite of indecision is over-analysis. Does your group discuss and analyze every option on each character’s move? Holy cow, that’s a big peeve of mine and it takes up a lot of game time.

Finally, interruptions break concentration and steals the spotlight away from the active player. Not only does this slow combat down, but you rob characters of their shining moments.

You also rob roleplaying, because if you honour spotlight time and make it safe, players will roleplay PC actions and abilities more often.

Table Rule 5. Use Clear Language

Require that everyone declares targets, distances, hit rolls and damage totals clearly.

Make sure players point to miniatures or make sure every miniature is labeled so players and GMs can easily call them out throughout a combat.

Add up damage done to a target and say a single number out loud whenever possible.

The spirit of this rule is to avoid ambiguity. The time it takes to go back and forth cause combat turns to slog down.

Players can help you by being crystal clear on all the facts involved in their action, you don’t need to confirm, you avoid the lengthy back and forth and demoralizing errors, and combats go by much faster.

Note: you can help players help you by giving them your full attention. Do not reward players honoring Table Rule #5 with a request for them to repeat themselves because you were only half listening.

Table Rule 6. Snack After Combat

No snacking during turns.

If you allow snacks at the table (which most of us do) then ask players not to eat on their turn. This makes turns go a little faster, and it keeps the game area cleaner. It’s also easier to not talk with your mouth full. :)

Table Rule 11. Announce End Of Turn

When your turn ends, announce it clearly and audibly.

A simple “Done,” works. A “Done, Dave is next,” is even better.

And the platinum version? “Done, Dave’s next and Andrea – you’re on deck.”

This table rule speeds up combat in two great ways.

First, it makes it crystal clear when the next player’s turn activates.

Ever had those moments where nobody knows whose turn it is and the game simmers for awhile? You are busy checking up something behind the screen, so you don’t catch that the next player is oblivious it’s their turn.

Crisp hand-offs improve round speed and leave no guesswork about who should be declaring their action right this moment. It also prevents players from spacing out.

Think of it like a baton race. The fastest team depends on excellent hand-offs.

The second reason this table rule is so effective? When a player announces his turn is done, that’s it.

Similar to no take-backs, if something was forgotten that was potentially beneficial, it’s lost: do it on your next turn.

You stave off arguments, time-consuming retcons and re-calculations.

You also prevent the next player’s turn getting interrupted halfway through, which is a bit rude and flusters some players. Plus, sometimes the interruption forces a player to rethink their turn and start all over again. Killer.

This table rule encourages everyone to pay attention on their turn and make good decisions fast.

House Rules - Table Rules for Speed

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