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Filling the time

Written by Expy - Published on April 7, 2009

This is a guest post by Brennon Shaw. Brennon has been a DM and Gamer for 15 years and is fond of his many Half-Orc Butlers. He’s also an Admin for the fansite Fable-2.com.

Filling the time

There’s always a moment when you’ll be waiting for players to turn up, or having a break for pizza or another assorted bag of crisps. The problem is what to do with these moments where things with your role play could grind to a halt and your players are taken out of the action?

So what did you guys think?

One of the most popular time wasters between bouts of play is for players to reflect on their session so far. This not only is great for Dungeon Masters to have a listen in and get a feel for how its going, maybe allowing them to change something in the rest of it to fit the mood.

It also gives your players time to get excited about their characters, and while they munch on pizza and chips they more than likely are going to be discussing how good it was when they beat that troll, or roleplayed through that tight court battle. More than once in campaigns its been a great boost for players to sit and talk about their characters, getting them revved up to return to play.

Do you have a chicken on your head?
Munchkin from Steve Jackson Games


Whether it’s the start of a session, the middle, or the end Munchkin is a fantastic way to get your players through an evening.

For seasoned gamers it’s a great chance to let off some steam. Maybe they’ve had a bit of a peeved moment with a fellow player, or had a hard combat and need to vent some built up temper. Either way, this stops the players from having a go at the Dungeon Master and focuses it to the cards instead.

All their group aggression is focused and dissolved on the man wearing the Magnificent Hat, so when it comes to getting back into a session you will more than likely get to start things off afresh with a more coherent group of players.

For new gamers to a group it’s a great way to get them mixed with the existing team. If you have a particularly tight group of players and just drop a newbie right into the fray the players will stick together and ignore the new player until combat happens. With Munchkin the new player gets to hang out with his new mates and get to know them, so when it comes to starting a sessions properly they will have no problem carrying on that bond.

Even as something to end a session, it’s a perfect book end for gaming. Lightens the tone after a hard session, gives your players time to chat and relax but not completely leave the Dungeons & Dragons mood and every so often you might escape without meeting a Gnome with the Platinum dragon in his hand.

If a monster comes along…you must stab it!

If you think your sessions getting a bit drawn out, or a player might be caught in traffic always make sure you have a Dungeon Crawl character lying in waiting. It takes very little time for experience players to set up a makeshift dungeon, sort out monsters from a table (which incidentally the Dungeon Master in our group has done for levels 1-21) and get your powerhouses ready to blast.

It not only allows players to actually ‘do’ something rather than sit around waiting and losing the will to play but also might let someone like the Wizard try out a Fighter class, and get his sword bloody rather than having to stand at the back. It’s perfect for play testing classes, races, and even builds to see what could be a possibility for campaigns and sessions in the future.

So, instead of waiting for your players to finish eating that last piece of pizza, or letting the metagamer whine about how his Fighter didn’t hit the goblin which knocked him out in the end, get some of these ideas on the go and see what they make of it.

What do you think?

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Written by Expy

Meet Expy The Red Dragon

Expy is the mascot for DungeonMastering.com and the real mastermind behind Expy Games. He likes to hoard treasure, terrorize neighbors, burn down villages, and tell white dragon jokes..

No matter how fearful the legends claim dragons are, they always end up being defeated in 5 rounds by adventuring parties they encounter. That’s what dragons are – experience points for the heroes in your Dungeons & Dragon party. And this mascot is no different, hence the name Expy.

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13 Responses to “Filling the time”
  1. MageMirin says:

    I’ve always loved the Munchkin line of games and I really like your idea of test-playing dungeons and such… With the 4e rules being so much faster in combat, you could almost do a blood bowl style game with the d&d characters… Sometimes my gaming groups get together JUST for the side games.

  2. Brennon says:

    We’ve done that this very weekend in fact. We recently started a Epic campaign but knew it was going to be very roleplay heavy so took some time out JUST for Dungeon Crawls, Munchkin, Innfighting, and assorted little ‘mini-games’ as it were.

    Sometimes you can have more fun doing a Baldur’s Gate/Diablo style session than you do a proper roleplaying one!

    Glad you like the article though :). Your right on the faster combat, it makes things a lot more open for a DM when structuring a session, gives you a lot of scope.

  3. Steve V says:

    Munchkin is just way too much fun and I would love the chance to actually play the board game. When enough players don’t show up for a scheduled 4e game night this is what gets taken out or played all night instead. (Or Cthulhu Munchkin.)

  4. Nicholas says:

    I love Munchkin!

    It looks like my group is going to be playing Castle Crashers at the start of each session while we wait for the usual latecomer. Valuable team building exercise!

  5. Brennon says:

    hahaha yer Castle Crashers has been a good one for session starter and enders. Saying that theres a few video games you can play to keep your group together and bonding when their not together at a session…

    Diablo II is pretty good, and Lord of Destruction…awesome and easy to install dungeon running game, which I guess you all know about lol.

    Tiny Adventurers on Facebook aint bad either…pretty simple and slow but good to keep in the D&D mood overall.

  6. Questing GM says:

    Nice suggestions.

    I can’t find Munchkin in my area but I think 3 Dragon Ante or Inn Fighting would be just the right substitutes for it.

    Dungeon Delve looks like the perfect product for your third suggestion.

  7. Mike says:

    Easily the gay-est post so far. Not useless, but next-to-useless.

  8. Brennon says:

    @ Questing GM

    You can pick Munchkin up from Steve Jackson’s website I think.

    Try that if you cant seem to get it in shops.

  9. Todd says:

    The Lords of Tyr group uses a system by which this is solved by all involved parties being partial to general chattiness. We have several games which run on alternate weeks, so if there is an issue with one, one of the others can generally run. The food issue was easily solved by the fact that we all eat more or less together, and because there are quite a lot of us it is easy to begin before everyone gets to the session. In fact, if the game didn’t start until all the players were present, we wouldn’t even play more than half the time!

  10. Nicholas says:

    @Mike: You’re a classy guy.

  11. Simon Moore says:

    Like Knights of the dinner Table more, I actually have a “Life”, and a wife so attempting to actually get gaming time is not that easy, my down time non existent really.

  12. Vilegobbo says:

    With my gaming group, i tell the players to come over 2 hours before the time i actually planned on starting so i gives me time to go over PC sheets with the player one on one and discuss what the are looking into doing further down the road with their character, so thats how i fill the time waiting for that one person


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