Planning can be a big problem in RPG play. An exciting adventure is rolling along at a nice pace, and then the characters have a moment of safety and leisure to ponder their next move, and then, thud. They speculate. They theorize. They second-guess. They argue. They obsess. And the momentum dies. The table loses energy.
There's a reason why TV shows and comics and movies and novels don't dwell on the planning phase. The necessary component of just sitting and mulling the options? That isn't much fun to watch. If someone cooks up a cool plan in a movie, they do it off screen, or they do it in a split second, or they do it as part of a dramatic sequence which develops characters and relationships and maybe happens in a speeding car amidst a hail of gunfire (and even in this case it's usually pretty quick).
A lot of recent RPGs have decided to follow entertainment's lead and elide the planning. If the characters need to decide what to do, the players just pick whatever sounds fun or effective at first glance, and then we jump into it, retconning the characters' process of getting there as needed.
I think this generally works pretty well from a script-writer or audience perspective.
There are other perspectives, though.
Many, many people are drawn to RPGs in order to explore an imagined situation or premise. "Let's see what would happen if..." can be a means to an end, or an end in itself, but either way, I think it's a natural fit with the nature of the hobby, and I think history bears that out. Maybe it's about modeling scimitars vs rapiers via probabilities and dice, or maybe it's about asking how first contact with aliens would go down in Iceland, or maybe it's about seeing how a group of compelling people navigate a challenging situation. In any case, the players are very interested in getting an answer, rather than just picking one. They don't want to just workshop it, like, "wouldn't it be cool if rapiers and scimitars are perfectly balanced for a fair fight?" or "wouldn't it be cool if the aliens bonded with Icelandic culture and then judged the rest of humankind in contrast?" or "wouldn't it be cool if the enemy soldiers trapped in the tunnel together fell in love?"
They don't want that. What they want is to play it out and see.
To me, this presents a problem for the anti-planning approach. Why? Well, most RPGs, and most stories, and most entertainment worth emulating, and most fictional premises worth exploring, include characters making important decisions. And the way RPGs tend to explore "what would happen" (as opposed to storyboarding "what would be cool"), is by assigning the players to act as the characters -- tasking them to develop a good sense of, and then adhere to, how these fictional people work.
Well, if your fictional people are like real people, and they have important decisions to make, and they're not crazily impulsive, and no one's holding a gun to their head... they're probably going to mull things a bit. They're probably going to take their time and make the best decision they can.
If you're playing them? Choosing as they would choose, to see how that plays out? You kinda have to take your time to do the best that they can do too. You need to search for the best solution, and vet your candidates, and troubleshoot, and compare risks and rewards and pros and cons.
Unless we are way smarter than our characters, making the best decisions they can make will take us a while.
I'm not saying that the only two options are (a) shallow making stuff up in the name of pace and action or (b) interminable pondering for the sake of authentic simulation. I'm just saying that I think the tension here is real, and if you care about both pacing and authenticity, you'd better keep an eye on what you're sacrificing from one while pursuing the other.
What do you think? Agreement, disagreement, completely separate takes on the same issue, and ideas for having our cake and eating it too are all welcome.