DM Tips: Distractions and Breaktimes

Distractions and breaks during the game can be a pain, especially those that break up the flow of the game to the point you lose the mood.

So what is a DM to do?

Well there are a few simple things a DM can do to keep the peace, and the game moving along. As the DM, decide how many hours your adventure will be, from there you can decide what to do. So for example let’s say you decide you wanted to run a game this Saturday, from 1pm to 8pm, which is 7 hours. Now you’re thinking “wow that’s seven hours!” It is, but you have to think, will you be playing the whole seven hours? More than likely you will not and be breaking in there for lunch/dinner and I am sure a few bathroom/smoke breaks.

So here is what I like to do when running a game for say that 7 hour time period.

When the group arrives, ask them what time everyone would like to break for dinner and how long they would like to go for. Some players will either go for a normal dinner time hour and more than likely ask for 15 to 30 minutes. Some people like to order their food, which is fine and when it gets there, break for the meal. There are some players who like to play while eating. I don’t recommend this as something any group should do, because I feel those 30 minutes away from the game are good thinking and reflecting time for the players. Also it gives the players a chance to think about what to do next, as well as it gives the DM a nice needed downtime break. Every DM needs a few moments to himself to think, plan things, and read up on what’s next. OK, we got that down

But what about breaks?

Everyone needs to go to the bathroom, and we know some gamers smoke. So my best advice is to check with the players every hour and ask them if they’d like to pause for bathroom or a smoke. This is not saying that you are not allowing people to run to the bathroom or go smoke on their own, it’s just you are suggesting a certain time.

Why do I bring up this issue?

Well I was in a group many years ago, where 80% of the group was smokers, and it came to the point that every 20 minutes or so the group was breaking for a smoke and the break was lasting 15 minutes. So it was safe to say that we were socializing more then playing, which is normally fine, but when you are sitting down to play D&D, and looked forward to it all week, it gets annoying.

How did we solve this?

Well we used the methods I’ve described here, and as the DM I talked to the group and said, listen, “I understand the need to smoke, but we need to cut it down a bit.” They agreed it was a bit much, and did agree upon taking breaks at a certain time, or if they REALLY needed to get up, they did.

What do you do?

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