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When in Doubt, Take Five (July 2007)

Treasure Tables is in reruns [1] from November 1st through December 9th. I’m writing a novel as part of National Novel Writing Month [2], and there’s no way I can write posts here while retaining my (questionable) sanity. In the meantime, enjoy this post from our archives.
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Few arrows in your GMing quiver are as versatile, valuable and powerful as the five-minute break. If a problem arises, whether it’s on your side of the screen or not, taking a short break is nearly always a good idea.

It gives everyone a chance to hit the bathroom, refill the snack bowl, grab a drink or stretch their legs, and it gives you a few minutes to clear your head and find a way to solve the problem.

Here are seven common situations in which stopping the session for five minutes will help you keep it from grinding to a halt (usually for a lot longer than five minutes):

Breaks are a good idea every couple of hours even if everything’s going smoothly, especially after long battles or scenes with lots of intense roleplaying — but if something is amiss, taking five is always a good place to start.
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Normally there’d be a discussion going on in the comments below, but due to time constraints I’ve turned off all comments during reruns — sorry about that! You can read the comments on the first-run version of this post [7], and if you need a GMing discussion fix, why not head on over to our GMing forums [8]?