Monday, September 10, 2012

Conformat and Wow, Adventures in 3 Hours or Less?

Well, I went to my first roleplaying convention which was a rather small and intimate one down at the German Club. There were about fifteen or so games going and I got to try my hand at Deadlands (fantastic, by the way) and a strange and psychological World of Darkness game involving wisps of dreams and coming to terms with who we are and what we've done.

I also ran a Vampire: the Requiem investigative horror game which turned out suitably tense (lucky for me, it was mostly improvised on my part) which had precisely one encounter with the enemy before the big finale and where the ending involved no combat but rather the luring of the enemy and the ringing of the bell. All of my players were one's I knew although I did get a couple that I'd never run for before so that was a good experience.

I did pretty well with five players considering only two had booked in beforehand and one was my fiance (such is life when you register your game four days before the con).

It's amazing how much plot and adventure you can get through in a con game. There was no wasted time ... yet people still developed their characters. There was conversation but it was more like movie conversation than real world conversation. It grew relationships, revealed personality, but didn't devolve into:

"Yeah, well, I dunno. Maybe it might be a good idea."

"Yeah, like that other idea?" (Recounts several anecdotes with other characters throwing in their bits and pieces)

Oh, and with all the usual converational "Hello." "Hello." "How are you?" "Good, I guess. And you?" "I'm all right." "That's good."

Not to say that realistic conversations aren't good. It's just that after running so many games filled with realistic conversation and procrastination, I was literally gobsmacked that even a simple adventure could be completed in under six hours. I was seriously under the impression that a simple adventure required at least two sessions of 4 - 5 hours each if you didn't want to compress the entirety of Act III (and some of Act II) into the final hour.

I've been trying to run episodic games for awhile before giving up and running semi-episodic sandboxes. Yeah, these still have 'adventures' and 'missions' but they're not expected to be resolved in any particular number of sessions and you can pick up more of them as you go along. Its only very recently that I managed to get a nice investigative horror episodic game in the style of Supernatural with my fiance and I figured that one only worked because it was a solo game.

Yet there before me were games involving between 5 - 6 players and while one did run over time and would've required 4 1/2 hours to properly finish that's still well under the eight hours that I would normally require (if not more).

Again, these aren't complaints about my particular player set. I think part of the trouble with a continuing campaign is that you want to establish deeper background ties, you don't have the sense of urgency that propels you to action and to snappier dialogue, and you have baggage from earlier sessions and plans for later sessions that all affect what you do and how you do it. In a stand-alone, you can't get distracted by the past because you don't really have one.

Has anyone else had the experience of believing well and truly that an adventure can't be completed in only a few hours? Or do you have the opposite problem?


  1. All the time! In a few weeks we (the local uni gaming society) will be running three weeks of one off games for freshers to try out. I've had to pick a system that specifically allows only a session at a time. My last attempt at a 'one-off', took two four hour sessions, and the ending was still rushed.

  2. For the Deadlands game, it wasn't act III that was compressed (it was cut short, but I didn't intend to) it was act I. Rather than having a bunch of red herrings and irrelevant information, I trimmed it down to the main plot points. Right at the start you saw Mr Whateley acting suspiciously, both of the tracks would have led to the monster (the rustlers were getting stealing cattle to feed the Horror and perform evil sacrifices), and the only encounter on the plains involved Justine Whateley. The trick is cutting out anything not vital to the plot.

    1. Well, it was an awesome game and I really enjoyed how you ran it. A shame we didn't have that extra hour to really get into it though. In truth, I think there are few pre-made adventures that expect to be completed in three hours. Four hours is the general average.

  3. I once ran a changeling the lost game where I set a discreet timer on my watch, the pcs were being chased down by a briarwolf that had escaped from the hedge. Every fifteen minutes no matter the scene or dialogue they were interrupted by this rampaging monster. Each time they started to get embroiled in a discussion, or slowed down, this forced them to refocus on what they were up against.

    1. Nice. That must've freaked them out and is a great use of a static timer as it didn't have to be every fifteen minutes in-game. It gets tricky when you're trying to measure in-game time.

  4. Finally catching up on your posts again - you're terrifyingly prolific!

    I tend to have this, though it's partly because typically either some players are new, or we're not familiar with a system. One-offs or taster games seem to either end up as two sessions or a full-day game.

    Sometimes it's just that you underestimate how much possibility a scenario offers, or how much the players will get into it. My latest Pathfinder game took about four sessions because we'd introduced a fair bit of extra RP and investigation. Dan H has been running a Cthulhu scenario that was supposed to be a one-or-two-session break while I worked up some more plot seeds for my campaign, which so far has been five or six with plenty left untouched, because we're enjoying it so much.