December 30, 2019

The Flow of Decision-Making in Tabletop RPGs

Today’s #newbieTuesday post is all about the flow of decision-making in tabletop role playing games (TTRPGs).

At their core, TTRPGs are about making decisions, some easy, some difficult, but all come with consequences, good, bad, or otherwise. While not every choice is loaded or the deck stacked against you making the right call, it’s important for new players to understand the flow, the order of operations to making a decision. That way, you’ll feel much more comfortable living in the moment of making that choice and can focus on truly enjoying the story.

Below are some general principals of the decision-making process in TTRPGs:

  1. Decisions Are Prompted By The GM
  2. (Unless Otherwise Specified) You May Ask Clarifying Questions
  3. You Have A Reasonable Time to Consider Your Options

Decisions Are Prompted By The GM

As a player, you should never have to worry about making a decision without a prompt from the GM/DM: something like “What do you do?” or maybe more specific to the situation at-hand like “What do you say?” or “Where do you go?” While it’s your responsibility as the player though to follow along and be ready for these prompts from the GM, you should always be given the courtesy of knowing when it’s time to make a decision. New players especially should know you always have that step to fall back on if you find yourselves lost or confused about what to do next.

(Unless Otherwise Specified) You May Ask Clarifying Questions

When the GM prompts a decision such as “What do you do?” “What do you say?” or “Where do you go?”, unless otherwise specified by the GM, you may ask reasonable clarifying questions. If the GM asks “Where do you go?” you could ask “Where is the nearest city?” or perhaps “Which path is the most well lit?” prior to making your choice. That interchange between player and GM prior to making a decision is oftentimes some of the most critical part of making the right choice – you’re gaining the information you need in order to make an informed decision.

So as a new player, don’t feel like you have to answer the GM’s prompt right then and there. Ask a few reasonable questions to better get your bearings as a new player before making your choice.

You Have A Reasonable Time to Consider Your Options

Unless for story reasons the GM imposes a strict timer on your decision-making, know that you have a reasonable amount of time to consider your options. The most compelling decision-making prompts don’t have obvious black and white consequences. There is a degree of nuance the player will need to sift through in order to make their choice. And in played stories, that can be some of the most fun!

New players should understand that unreasonably rushing this process takes away from the story, from the experience. Give yourself some breathing room and have fun with the process!