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This article was written on 21 Jan 2013, and is filled under 4e D&D, Advice/Tools.

From the Archives: Shorter Games Are More Cinematic Games

Note: This post originally appeared here. Having children really limits your time. Once I’m able to get gaming again, I assume we’ll be on the same schedule as I talk about here.

The Game Knights get together once a week (Friday or Saturday) for gaming from 8 pm to about 10-10:30 pm. Of course, it usually takes a little time for everyone to look over character sheets, grab some snacks and drinks, and finally settle down around the middle of the living room floor to play. So, we’ll say 8:30-10:00. Not much time at all, right? How can anything get done?

I’ve found that to compensate for shorter game times, we cut the fat from the game and move on to what’s important.

In your standard 8 hour session, you might run 4-5 combats, many of them plowing through a dungeon towards the solo monster at the end. With our group, that’s not really an option. We’d have to spend 3-4 sessions to get through that same dungeon. This is why it took us so long to run Keep on the Shadowfell.

A while back, in our Lords of Dust campaign, the heroes were traveling down an underground river in boats. Instead of having them attacked at every opportunity, they had exactly one encounter along the way, against a fearsome and very tough winged draconian whose whole goal was to tip their boats and drown them. They dispatched him after some creative fighting, and moved on. Later on down the river, they encountered a lone goblin guarding a doorway built in the side of the cavern. They attacked him, killing him in a few shots, before exploring the room and finding some magical items. I could have had the heroes mow through a veritable plethora of goblins defending the horde, but we don’t have time. Instead, the goblins had dispatched a single guard to keep tabs and make sure no local underground wildlife was going to move in on their territory. They certainly weren’t expecting a group of armed adventures.

Think about it: In what movie do you ever see the heroes grinding through encounter after encounter just to get to the important part of the story? 300 sure, but if you were running that as a game of D&D, that would really be the point of your whole campaign (and with the number of encounters in that movie, you could really run it in a single 12-hour session.)

My point is this: It doesn’t take 8 hours a week to make an awesome game. All it takes is 2 really good ones. Give it a try.

One Comment

  1. Jason
    January 21, 2013

    I’m accustomed to gaming sessions somewhere in between these two extremes. I prefer the 8+ hour sessions (possibly just for nostalgia reasons) but 4 to 5 hours is all I’ve been able to manage in the last 12 months (none before that for 5(?) years) and even those are terribly infrequent. There just isn’t enough time in adult life . . . when you’re in debt (advice: don’t get in debt. Ever.) . . . so this idea of 2 hour game sessions interests me greatly. I think I’d probably have time to manage that once a week. I’d love to hear more about the logistics of this type of gaming session. Types of encounters, numbers, types of adventures, flow of action and especially how the GM should prepare for them. Is there anything additional or less that you do in the preparation?

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