Crunchy RPGs can take up time and the more time you give your players, the more they’ll take to decide on what to do. They want to get their bonuses all counted, make sure their defenses are optimized and use exactly the right equipment for the job. That desire is understandable but is it realistic? Is it even fair?
I would suggest it isn’t. If the character really were charging into a situation, are they really going to change up tactics and equipment mid leap? Hardly. It’s also not fair because one player can spend 15 minutes deciding what they want to do and how to do it perfectly when other players know exactly what they’re going to do and have to wait.
That’s why I like the idea of limiting a player’s time to declare and roll for their actions. The GM might take longer to resolve those actions, calculate its effects etc but when it’s a player’s turn, I think 30 seconds should be enough to say what they want to do and roll for it. In The Artifact RPG that’s three times longer than the turn actually is so I’d say it’s reasonable. You might ease into it by saying each player has 45 seconds but that’s quite a bit when you get down to it.
Other reasons to use time limits
Limits meta gaming
Lets face it, a lot of a turn can be used up with players discussing what they’re going to do between each other. If this was real, this kind of planning would have to be done before hand. Coordination would have to be with quick shouts to each other. Players might argue that their characters are experienced and so would have set these plans up before hand but are they really? Most characters start off at low levels with no experience. The players are likely to be even more experienced than their characters if they’ve played several in the past. If the players don’t have that level of planning and coordination then the characters probably wouldn’t either.
Keeps players engaged
If you have to quickly declare your actions, you’re not going to wander off or get distracted. If you do, you’ll learn quickly as your character stands there saying “What’s going on? I wasn’t paying attention.” If they’re talking when their turn comes around, the timer starts and if they take 20 seconds to realize you just started their turn. . . oh well. It’s a little harsh so I’d start off the practice with something the characters can handle relatively easily and up the difficulty later when they understand you’re not joking about it.
Fights off slog
This is the core reason to introduce time limits. Slog is when your turns are moving like they’re moving through waist deep mud. If a round takes more than two minutes for each player (4 players = 8 minutes, 6 players = 12 minutes) then something is wrong and you’re deep in slog territory. Slog can turn even the most exciting encounters into yawn inducing, staring off into space, looking for the snacks, what’s been going on with the kids, dud games.