That’s a really fair piece of feedback. I can think of at least a dozen pieces of loot or spells that are vague and require a ruling. Some of that vagueness is intentional, as it allows DMs from different schools maximum flexibility in terms of how they handle those rulings. That being said, I think it depends on how folks handle the questions as they come up. In most of my games, I rule pretty quickly, on the fly, in the moment, and I am blessed that I have players who just roll with it, and we all move on. Immersion is broken only for a super short period of time, and then we are back on track. On the other hand, I can see how a group with lots of critical questions could break immersion and slow things down, especially if the players don’t take the onus to “know” their abilities.
I would be careful about doing away with loot altogether, though. In addition to playing games for social interaction, acceptance, and stimulation, a lot of gamers come to gaming for that feeling of progression and accomplishment. I am a huge loot guy. I love each piece I earn. I enjoy pouring over the pieces and stats, and I love using a sweet piece of loot to great effect in a game to shine and help my team. The dopamine spike I get from that is very addictive for me. So, I think as long as you understand as a DM that some players really love it, I think you can strike a balance — especially in a game driven by loot and milestone advancement.
So, in terms of solutions, there are a few ways to handle it, but the best one is probably going to be handling loot details between sessions. We are doing this right now in the RFE game. We rolled for loot in the chat after our last session, and just this morning, I emailed Joe a question about the loot I got, asking him if we could tweak it slightly and use it in a certain way that made sense for my character. We will work this out in chat, so that when we reconvene, I will be ready to go.
Beyond that, I would just have an honest conversation with the players. “I don’t like when we get bogged down with loot. Let’s make sure we’re clear before we start next week. If a question comes up during the game about a loot item, spell, or ability, expect me to make a quick ruling and move on. If you have heartburn, we can reattack the issue in chat after the game, but I don’t want to break immersion. It is expected you will know your character’s abilities and clarify before we start next week.”
And those are about the most cogent thoughts I can summon on the matter. Hopefully some of these lumpy heads have ever better ideas.