Have a Man Come Through the Door With a Gun in His Hand

Possibly the single most important lesson I’ve learned about running games — one of the big ones anyhow:

When the game starts stalling, get things moving. Immediately.

Just be careful in what you define as stalling:

  • Everyone is talking to each other, but not actually doing much: probably not stalling.
  • Everyone rolling dice to see if they survive is the wilderness: might be stalling.
  • Conversation petering out because everyone is out of ideas: almost certainly stalling.

How do you get things moving? There’s a brilliant Raymond Chandler quote that sums it up:

“When in doubt, have a man come through the door with a gun in his hand.”

As a less drastic option the phone can ring or a message may arrive: both are excellent ways to nudge the characters, or inject new energy to inter-PC conversations.

Don’t try for subtle unless you have a superb idea. I think it’s better to have almost anything happen than allow the stall to continue: the longer it lasts, the harder it is to recover. Drop a piano. Burn the building. Have a man enter with a gun. Anything.

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