After getting feedback from my players (using my own advice from “Getting Player Feedback“), I took a crack at trimming down the time needed for item management in my D&D campaign. Among other things, I proposed that we try to resolve a post-adventure dissection of the party’s haul in 15 minutes.

It took over an hour. (Not that it was a boring hour, but still!)

With that in mind, here are 6 tips on speeding up item management in your game.

It’s worth mentioning that for a lot of gamers, item management is fun. Assuming that you’re playing a game that involves heavy item management (exemplified by D&D), you’ll know which of your players enjoy it and which ones don’t pretty quick. If everyone enjoys it, more power to you — but for a lot of groups, it can distract from time spent gaming (it’s not addressed in “More Fun, Less Work,” but it could have been). If that sounds like your group, this list is for you!

1. Have a quartermaster: The quartermaster is the player who keeps track of the party’s items — not the stuff each individual PC carries, but the things that are common to the group. In most groups I’ve played with, there’s at least one person who enjoys this.

2. Note where things came from:

  • Player: “We use identify on the magic dagger.
  • GM: “Which dagger?”
  • Player: “The one from that room, with the monster.”

Sound familiar? This problem is easily solved by jotting down a reminder next to each important item — something like, “From room 36.” Then when the party wants to do something with the item later, everyone knows exactly which item it is.

3. Set a time limit: Like I said up top, this might be a fictional time limit — but even if you go over, it sets the framework: “Our goal is to resolve this fairly quickly.”

4. If possible, do it over email: If you can time item management so that it takes place between sessions, you can handle it via email (or on your blog, on a messageboard, etc.). I find that it’s often hard to control when item management takes place, but even if you only use this approach occasionally it can still save you some potential boredom.

5. Have a system: The PCs in my D&D game have a contact who buys magic items and a contact who buys weapons and armor, and we’ve gotten things to the point where no rolling is involved (and prior to that, where one roll resolved the sale of multiple items). The NPCs are part of the system (established as contacts during play), and so are the rules we made up to resolve sales (like the one-roll approach mentioned above).

6. Treat it like a break: Particularly if you’ve got a couple of players who are into item management and a couple who aren’t, it can sometimes be best just to call a short break. That way, everyone not involved in dealing with items can go grab a soda, play a video game, etc., instead of just sitting around.

We’ve used all of these tricks except for numbers 4 and 6 in my current campaign, and even though item management still takes longer than I’d like, it’s become less of a hassle. Every group is different, of course, and you may find that some approaches work better than others for you — and even if you don’t get the results you’re looking for right away, chances are you’ll be headed in the right direction. (For example, despite the fact that we blew our 15 minute time limit, we figured out a few things in the process that will make item management easier next time.)

These are the 6 tricks that I’ve found to be most useful for me over the years, not a definitive list — what works for your group? What doesn’t work? Have you streamlined or improved on any of the 6 tricks mentioned here?