Sometimes when we play D&D nothing concrete gets accomplished, and that's ok. Yesterday and the day before we played at night. There was no fighting, there was little exploration (alright, to be fair there were two roleplaying encounters that weren't TECHNICALLY part of the planning, but they were so closely related as to be almost indistinguishable). Instead, every character took a sincere and concerted interest in sorting out their plans as to what adventures to conquer and how to conquer them.
This is the kind of thoughtful session that is necessary to have once in a while. I feel as though they are the result of playing in a text-only environment (something which I am seeking to rectify to the great consternation of Keir's player, who has grown so used to playing with text that he despises now playing with VOIP). Complex ideas take far longer to convey in a textual format and we like to do things in character, so they take even longer as characters express complicated emotions and plans in their own voices.
I don't object to these kinds of sessions, even though they leave me little to do. I love watching the characters interact, particularly once the party has gelled to a comfortable composition. Watching various feelings and alignments pull in all sorts of directions while still maintaining the harmony (or semi-harmony) of a party with goals and at least some mutual respect for one another is entertaining to say the least. Even as they sort out their desires and plans, bits and pieces of who they are as characters always shine through.
There can be no substitution for planning in this way, either. There is the deep-seated and dangerous urge to rush forward with the easiest-sounding job and let that be the plan. Indeed, there is a common mistake wherein an idea is substituted for a plan, the difference between them being completeness and complexity. For example: "When we fight these firedrakes, let us dig a hole and stay in it"and "When we go to take on this goblin camp, we'll set fire to everything we can see" are both ideas. Plans have details, such as "We'll dig this hole here, and that one there, and we'll set up a scorpion in this one."
Detailing plans is always the hardest part of gaming via text. Plans are niggling, complicated, many-parted, manifold things that are difficult to discuss and take apart in an online IRC-based environment and even more so in character. I love planning sessions like this for another reason, as well: it shows my players are thinking, and nothing gets my (pardon the expression) dick hard like knowing that I've engendered some real deep thought between the players. I love to see plans form and fall to pieces, to imagine the thousand possible futures they present.
Bring it on, players! Plan to your heart's content! Too much planning is far preferable to too little!