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by Mike on 2 June 2022
Take a ten minute break every 90 minutes of gameplay.
As DMs, it's easy to lose track of time when running our game. We're fully on when we're running the game. We're in the zone. We're in a state of flow. One characteristic of this state is losing track of time. We start our game and, before we know it, hours flew by.
But we have physical bodies, and so do our players. We need a break. Maybe it's to go pee. Maybe it's to grab snacks. We need that ten minutes to get up from the table and walk around.
How do we remember to call for a break? Continually watch the clock. Set an alarm if you need to. One of the best DMs I've played with used to keep an hour stopwatch throughout his game and he never had a problem with pacing and never had a problem taking a break.
There are a lot of hidden advantages to taking a break beyond the obvious.
As DMs, this break gives us time to step out of the game and see where we are. Are we where we expected to be in the game? Have we given out the [secrets and clues] we expected? Are there any we should prepare to give out in the remainder of the session? Do we have a big conclusion planned? How close are we to it and what can we cut to get there quickly? These ten minutes give us the time we need to step back, figure out where we are, and prepare for the rest of the session.
Take your own time to take a physical break but, if you have the chance, give your lazy DM prep notes a skim and see if you've missed anything important.
Players can use this time too. Ten minutes outside of the game helps them think about what they're doing, where they are, and what they need to go. Maybe they've lost the thread and need a reminder. Players miss about half of what's going on. Use the 10 minutes to get everyone back on the same page.
The next time you're running a game, keep your eye on the clock or, better yet, set an alarm for 90 minutes and call for a break. Use the time to recenter yourself in the game and give your players the chance to do the same.
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