by Mike Shea on 2 May 2011
We're all looking for tips and tricks to get our game to run smoother. We've tried changing how we build encounters. We've talked about how to limit PCs. We've talked about table tricks to speed things up. Sometimes, however, we need something smaller, something simpler.
BJ Fogg of the Stanford University Persuasive Technology Lab says there are three steps to making a new habit. First, make the habit tiny. Second, find a spot in an existing routine to place it. Third, do it all the time until it takes.
Of all the things we'd like our players to do, and there are many, we're going to focus on one tiny step. One very small thing they can do to keep the game running smooth. Saying "done" when they're done.
Choose one small thing to change
Instead of trying to fix every small problem your players might have at your game, try focusing on just one single thing at a time until it becomes habit before trying something else. Sure, you want them to better organize their character sheets and choose powers that don't suck up tens of minutes per turn, but those are harder things to address. Instead, just work on this one thing: getting them to say "done" when their turn is over. Get them to keep it in mind. Get them to think about saying it their whole turn. Reward them when they say it quickly and remind it when they forget.
Tie it to an existing habit
What existing habit do your players have near the end of their turn? Do they walk through each of their potential actions? Do they sit back in their chair and twirl their pencil? Try to find an existing habit that your players have and get them to tie saying "done" to that habit.
Do it all the time
As all of your players go through their rounds, reinforce the habit with them at the end of their turn. Don't just ask them every time or that will become the habit instead of them saying it on their own. Instead, wait for them to say it. If they don't remind them that you want them to get into the habit of saying it. Do it every turn this way.
A commitment to decisions
Choosing saying "done" as our habit has many advantages. One of these, however, is building a commitment to decision making. Saying "done" forces your players to commit to their actions. Often, it is this inability to commit to a particular action that slows turns down in our game. The more people feel good about saying "done", the easier it will be for them to make those decisions.
Take pride in living close to "done"
Find ways to get them to take pride in saying "done" and saying it as soon as they can. Find ways to get them to live close to done, always moving their decisions and actions forward so they can say it. Reinforce it with +1 bonus chips to their next d20 roll or through explosive action-packed narrative. Spend some time talking about your desire for the habit and show your own passion in moving the game forward by driving continually forward to done.
If you liked this article, take a look at Sly Flourish's Dungeon Master Tips and Sly Flourish's Running Epic Tier D&D Games. You can find other great tips to help your players and yourself in the Dungeon Master's Guide 2, the Dungeon Master's Kit, and the Player's Strategy Guide. Want something a little different to reinforce good behavior? Try some D&D fortune cards from Troll and Toad, an official Sly Flourish sponsor.