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When to move forwards and when to give space

One of my goals in D&D now is to stay in character more, and crack fewer jokes, and interrupt less. A more serious DMing that leaves more space for the characters and their conversations.

Players can fall into the pattern of “we should go to this room”, “yes, we should go to this room”, “agreed, we should go to this room”, in a loop, and never actually going to the room. My current group isn’t so bad with that. But I think all DMs are familiar with that phenom. Unlike a game like The Cure, Fiasco, Microscope or Hillfolk where one player has responsibility for executing action on their turn, in D&D it’s hard for the group as a whole to move forth. (Which is why having a caller is a very good idea.)

The difficult thing is to recognize when the players aren’t in a hesitation holding pattern like that, when their characters are talking to each other with purpose&petition, and giving them space to do so. Working on a puzzle together, or constructively getting clear about options (as opposed to just hesitating), or, best of all, the other character is the puzzle.


When they are in a holding pattern, it’s a good thing to let them know that they can easily start actually moving towards that room, that house, that island. When they are actually making progress, just give them space. Answer their questions, play the NPCs, but other than that give space.

This awareness and patience and poker face is where I am trying to get a lot better. Every DM struggle with this; we see Mercer sometimes get a whole episode of like no progress, and sometimes over-nudging, but so often get pure gold out of giving space, being silent.