Long Actions in GURPS really grind on people. Anything that takes more than a second just feel like forever when you can die between now and when you finish. It's not that people hate the rules, or feel they are unreasonable - they just feel like they're standing in gunfire looking for their keys instead of ducking and firing back.
The other issue we've had is that, what happens when you roll 11 seconds to find something but you'd never spend that time?
It's artificial and game-y to roll 11 seconds on 2d, and say "I know it'll take 11 seconds, so I'll stop looking immediately."
Worse, it feels like cheating to stop, so people feel compelled to keep looking.
What my players suggested, and do, is announce ahead of the roll the maximum time they'll spend looking. "If I don't find it in 5 seconds, I stop." So they have a predecided out, and it doesn't feel like a prescient decision since they don't know how long it'll take, just how long they'll spend.
But I had another idea this past weekend, and I'm trying to think of how to expand it.
Another Way To Roll
In Sunday's game I tried something else - don't roll for time, roll to find it. Instead of 1d6 seconds to pull something out of your pocket, you've got a 1 in 6 chance of finding it. After 6 turns, you just find it. It added a lot of fun, because it was "do I keep trying, or just give the hell up?"
That second part is generous - it never takes more than 6 seconds to find something, which anyone who's looking in their backpack only to eventually need to dump it over to find something will attest.
For a loose item in a bag, it's 2d seconds. This is trickier - with 1d it's clear you have a 1 in 6 chance of any given result. For 2-12, it's not so clear. But on average you'll find it in 7 seconds, and your maximum time is 12 seconds. I'm still mulling this over - it's a question of what the right chances would be. If I wanted the odds to be the same as the 1 in 6, I'd just say roll a 4 or less - you've got basically the same odds as rolling a 1 on a d6. That seems a bit generous, though - you shouldn't have a 16.66% chance to find it in 2 seconds, then 16.66% chance to find it in 3, etc., should it?
So I'd like to come up with a number for it, but math isn't my strong suit. Anyone? Doug? Bueller? What is a "good" roll-under number to match the odds that, yes, sometimes it'll take 12 seconds to find things but most of the time it won't.
Is there another way to do this? - Yes, you can simply have the GM roll in secret and announce when they find the object. This both get rid of the "meta" question (they really don't know how long it will take) and leaves the normal system in place. But I'm not a big fan of things that make me roll in secret, track it in secret, and otherwise take rolls out of the hands of players. If it's possible just stick odds on a roll and let the players roll (and debate using Luck to get it out faster, or bitch about how they rolled all the 1s out when they did damage, and complain about people rolling their dice), I like to do that.
Rolling is fun, so I like to hand as much fun to the players as I can.