1. Don't bring or Distratct players with things not revelent to the game.
Bringing comic books and talking about stuff not relevent to the games slows down the game...
This is the dumbest thing I've ever heard uttered by a gamer of any system. It only slows down the game if you let it. Who cares if Ralph, The Godfather of DnD in Miami, and Rene are talking about Thor getting pwned in a comic book or that half the table is watching Teen Titans. It's your job as a judge, all of our jobs as DMs, to set the players straight and get them on track.
2. Pay attention and Listen for your turn.
For one round to pass in that game it took close to 25 mins. I timed it. Keep your focus on the game and what your going to do before it's your turn...
Unfortunately Mario I'm going to blame you for this. (Wait for the collective intake of breath...) Yeah, I said it. It is your job as the judge to keep the game moving, ensure it does not get bogged down in the "details" and to ensure that everything is running efficiently.
Now before the backtalk begins I will point to SEVERAL instances where this was accomplished with larger tables than what you had to deal with and the solutions used there.
*The six second rule should have been used. If you can't figure out what you want to do after six seconds then too bad, so sad, your turn is over.
Temple of the Frog 2005 - I got to run a 15 player table and an 18 player table of this ONE ROUND module for Blackmoor and EVERYONE got to move, they had the six second rule (it was suspeneded during roleplay) and they finished the module. The second table died a horrible deeath but it was orderly and EVERYONE got a chance to participate until they were executed. MegaCon 2006 - The Night of Goss (I ran three tables of this game: two 12s and one 18 players table) it was a two round module. Each time it finished in eight hours. EVERYONE GOT TO MOVE, PLAY, INTERACT and no one was bored or doing "other stuff." WIPOU 2004 - The rewritten battle interactive provided to us required me to run a table of thirteen MAGO students and ROB for an entire battle interactive. They finished before Peter's Table did in every ecounter AND they even hit the monster attacking them with a catapult strike. EPISODE 41: Confectionary King - NEVER IN THE HISTORY OF THIS MODULE DID I EVER RUN A TABLE SMALLER THAN SEVEN PEOPLE. And everytime we finished it within four hours (it had five combats all of them above the EL) and everyone got to play and have a good time.
Many of the actions taken in those combats were unesscessary and could have been easily averted had there been proper communication between the players and the judge.
And being that the judge's word is law does not mean it is to be used like a cudgel to beat the players back into submission. It is simply there to remind them that you are the final arbiter of the rules. Beging confrontational back towards them is a poor way to retain that control; or by saying, "I'm doing what the module told me to," is just a cop out.
Do I care about last night? Not really, my actions are simple: My tURN: (Cast Hex), Standard; (Cackle), Move.
That's it, I'm real easy to play.
In fact I'm so sure I could do a similar module in length and number of combats with the VERY SAME table participants and prove that it could be fun and still only four fours.
Because I specialize in ridiculous situations and crisis management when it comes to getting gamers on the ball and in the game. You would be amazed at how the propsect of missing one's turn with the imminent threat of character death movtivates players to pay attention and think ahead.
And as for tracking their initiative there is a much easier way to do it. I know you watch me stumble and bumble about with it because I don't like doing it but when it comes time for me to manage my numbers I've got the easiest way to remember it. And what's great is that it works. Ask the homegame players. Thaal of this because they are forced to play at eight person tables, with over twelve different initiatives, seven source books and a deathwish dealing DM every sunday and are they pissed off? I guess not cause they keep coming back.