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Author Topic: Advice on very short sessions?  (Read 1776 times)

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Offline Murometz

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Advice on very short sessions?
« on: July 27, 2007, 11:23:55 AM »
Dear Citadel Geniuses,

I am gaming this weekend with my usual crew, for the first time in a long time.

Due to my 4 babies situation (egads!), my wife is letting me go to my buddy's house for 4, and only 4, hours.

I warned my PCs that 4 hours is all I have, but they want to play anyway.

Here's my question: Anyone have any zippy, snappy, and/or useful thoughts or ideas, on how to SUPER-MAXIMIZE an RP, if one has only 4 hours from start (character creation) to finish (climax).

Thank you. (thought I'd throw this out there)
« Last Edit: November 28, 2013, 10:26:19 PM by Murometz »
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Offline Wulfhere

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Re: Any advice?
« Reply #1 on: July 27, 2007, 12:11:12 PM »
1.) Make your plot a real rail job... Don't let them waste time deciding what to do, just throw them into the thick of it.

2.) Plan on only three fights/action scenes/time eating challenges:  The punchy beginning, the challenging midpoint, and the dramatic climax.

With only 3 1/2 hours of gaming (assuming a total of 1/2 hour spent futzing around getting organized and wrapping things up), you only have time for seven or eight "scenes".  That gives you an average of 20 minutes for each (combats take longer, RP encounters go faster).  A suggested framework might be:

The Classic (if cliched) short adventure format:

1. The PCs encounter a fight or catastrophe. ("Oh No! They're attacking the orphanage!")

2. After the fight, they are given motivation to investigate. ("We'll help that nice old widow!  She even gave my niece a dolly!")

3. They investigate, encountering a non-combat challenge (finessing an NPCs cooperation, sneaking into a secure area, etc.).

4. The villain sends a minion to trouble the PCs ("Ah!  So you are the ones that interfered with the master's plans!  Now you will die!")

5. The PCs encounter some sort of twist or dilemma. ("You mean SHE was a villain all along?")

6. They investigate the new information.

7.  Whoever they sided against tries to achieve some diabolical plan; a violent confrontation ensues.
« Last Edit: July 27, 2007, 07:19:08 PM by Wulfhere »
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Offline valadaar

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Re: Any advice?
« Reply #2 on: July 27, 2007, 12:23:14 PM »
My 0.02$

1. Precomplete the character creation.  Why on earth would you use precious game time for that?  
2. No shopping.  All PCs carry 'expected' items, and roll vs Wisdom (or equivelent) for unusual items to see if they packed it, unless already addressed in point #1.
3. Only planned encounters.



   
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Offline MoonHunter

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Re: Any advice?
« Reply #3 on: July 27, 2007, 12:46:29 PM »
This is how I gamed for nearly six years, in a 4 to 5 hour block.

First, you need them to get down to gaming immediately. We only gamed for 4 hours, we hung out for 30 mins on either side of the game. So I want you to have a "Starting Bell". It can literally be a bell, or buzzer, or it could just be a phrase. AT that point, people know they need to get it together and game.

Second: Pun Tax/ Joke Tax/ Distraction Tax. This should be real money or you can dock them experience points. However if you are docking people things, you need to give them a tangible badge of shame (taking away bonus ex tokens, a yellow sticky that says Tax'd and so on).  Anyone taking away from the game must pony up.

Third: Think of your adventure as a One Hour TV show (and think Babylon 5 or StarGate and how they handle large story arcs as expressed in single episodes).  You have one main dramatic plot line that entangles everyone and one subplot that entangles and spot lights one (maybe two) characters.
- Script it like a TV show. Big Bang Intro, First plot complication, Second Plot complication, Dramatic Ending. (you have one hour per 15 minutes of TV "air time"
- Keep the story and interaction and simple and clean.
- Keep the game going with narration at all time. If there is dead air, something is wrong.
- Keep the Silver Rule going: If it does not seem like a TV episode, you are doing something wrong.

Also bang it into your players head that they are running in a One Hour TV format. So they will start applying the same rules to their own play and understand what you are doing.

Fourth: See the [Running a Game, the MoonHunter way] @ http://www.strolen.com/content.php?node=1462

Fourth and a half: As listed above: No book keeping during the game. Ever. Generate those characters and all that paperwork before the game. Pregenerate the characters if you have to.  If this is an ongoing once a week sort of game, you can spend one session generating characters and doing "tiny roleplay", but I doubt you will get together that often

Fifth: Combat is the major time killer.
[Running Tactical Scenes at Lightning Speeds with Many Players]
http://www.strolen.com/content.php?node=1794
(I might also recomend combat sheets or cards with your initiative, hit/ dodge/ parry/ armor/ penalty rolls and mods plus damage be made up).

In short game runs, you, the GM, need to be in control and pushing the game along.
« Last Edit: July 27, 2007, 01:04:08 PM by MoonHunter »
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Offline MoonHunter

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Re: Any advice?
« Reply #4 on: July 27, 2007, 01:13:37 PM »
If you are just joining in, see above post. This is just an addition.

And this article might apply to you.

[It's midnight (GM time crunch)]
http://www.strolen.com/content.php?node=1459

 
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Offline Murometz

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Re: Any advice?
« Reply #5 on: July 27, 2007, 01:16:46 PM »
Thanks guys, appreciate the words of wisdom! (taking care of many babies saps my creative juices)

Wulf- dang, there is a good adventure there! ('Orphanage Blues', I'll call it :)). Nice on the '3 fight scenes' thing too! Thanks! good stuff.

val but of course! pre-generation. Characters will be created tonight, via phone/fax/email  :up:. Thanks!

Hmm, the 'planned encounters only' thing, is a tough one for me. Even with 4 hours, I wanna leave a tiny bit of room for improv, surprising twists, and unexpected tangents.

Moon oh lordy :)  I knew there was an appropriate article or two for inspiration. Thanks! And of course, great points on the TV show style of gaming.

Nice, killed two birds with this stone. You guys helped 'spark' my brain, AND, if ever a newbie comes by with a similar question/dilemna, well, we have 3 good answers as far as advice is concerned now, for short and sweet play-time.

Kudos.
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Offline Wulfhere

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Re: Advice on Very Short Sessions?
« Reply #6 on: July 27, 2007, 02:49:03 PM »
When your working to a schedule, even the "random encounters" aren't.  Fights have three purposes:

1.) Thematic: They show what an area or adventure is like: "When you go down the alley behind the Broken Sign Tavern, a band of toughs saunters toward you.  They're wearing the colors of the Wolfheads, a local gang."

2.) Plot: They let the PCs show off their "Badassitude" by cleaning the floor with them, and incidentally serve as sources of information:  "Please, spare us!  We only attacked you because Grimarr told us we had to!"

3.) Challenge: They make the PCs sweat bullets:  "Suddenly, an undead abomination tears through the stone wall with massive barbed claws it has in place of hands.  It looks skeletal, with five bleached skulls lashed above a tangled framework of bone and rags.  Green flames dance in its empty eye sockets as the thing's gaze locks onto you.  As it clambers clear of the shattered debris, you realize that it's at least nine feet tall.

"Roll initiative."
« Last Edit: July 27, 2007, 07:18:15 PM by Wulfhere »
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Offline valadaar

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Re: Advice on Very Short Sessions?
« Reply #7 on: July 27, 2007, 03:07:00 PM »
That is awesome Wulf!

Perhaps someone should  make a sub listing that type of generic encounter openers... 
   
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Offline Ria Hawk

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Re: Advice on Very Short Sessions?
« Reply #8 on: July 27, 2007, 11:58:48 PM »
Do you know, I think I'm flattered that one of my subs ended up being an example.  That, or terrified, it's sort of hard to tell which.
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Re: Advice on Very Short Sessions?
« Reply #9 on: July 28, 2007, 01:42:35 AM »
Well let's see. I don't usually have much of a time-frame for gaming with my players, we're usually just done when we're done, but my advice would be:

A. don't worry too much about rolls/rules. Finesse things as you judge fit- use the Magic Hand Of The Game Master to "roll" for your players and tell them how they do during battle and so on. Alternatively, you could finesse away rolls and saves for NPCs and enemies, so that your players get half the real deal.

B. An urgent situation! It's been suggested before, but putting your PCs in a high-stress situation (storming castle/defending castle, chase scene, racing against the clock to stop mass murderer from blowing up a bus full of nuns and orphans) really gets the game going at a good clip, and its easy to end fast as well.

C. If all else fails, you can always cut the game off on a cliffhanger... If you are running out of time, run the players into a very critical, dangerous situation (preferably a nail-biting difficult choice) and then say "And we'll find out what happens... NEXT TIME" and then give them a condescending GM chuckle
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Re: Advice on Very Short Sessions?
« Reply #10 on: July 29, 2007, 11:18:53 AM »
In later years the 4-5 hour sessions have been my meat and staple. I do not follow the same guidelines as the rest of the peeps here.
1. I let the players have a measure of freedom, even if we are on a schedule.
2. I focus on visual and spiritual awesomeness, setting a mood from the very first second. A proper mood should be invoked a.s.a.p.
3. Focus on roleplaying aspects from the very beginning. Press your GMing acting skills to their very limit and pull and prod your players along. Once you are into the flow drive them to the climax with little or no pause.
4. Creating a vibrant and great atmosphere is way more important than finishing the plotline. If it is a long plot do make sure to pause the game in an appropriate place. Oh, and make the gamers moan and lament in grief when the game is done. Make them cheer with sheer joy while you play and then plan the next session before you leave. This can only be achieved by invoking a great atmosphere.
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Offline Murometz

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Re: Advice on Very Short Sessions?
« Reply #11 on: July 29, 2007, 01:08:00 PM »
yep, I'm also a devout follower of Guidelines #1-4

Game ended with my friend Mike (a usually somber 37 year old techie) squeeling "Noooooooo! one more hour! one more hour! Pleeeeeease!" to his wife on the phone.  :)


Overall, I pretty much used every suggestion posted in this thread, in some shape, way or form.



Great Tips Folks! Good thread!
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Re: Advice on Very Short Sessions?
« Reply #12 on: July 29, 2007, 01:33:17 PM »
Great that you provide feedback to both session and techniques. Proves that you care.
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Re: Advice on Very Short Sessions?
« Reply #13 on: November 28, 2013, 10:16:12 PM »
Bump. 4 hour games...

Wulfhere at his finest, AG dropping nuggets of wisdom and truth, CP-verbose  :shock:, MoonHunter's "standard issue .357 magnum", val's "2 cents" and front page linkage thoughts(!), Ria's sub as an example...

This may very well be the *perfect* thread. :P
« Last Edit: November 28, 2013, 10:22:52 PM by Murometz »
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Offline MysticMoon

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Re: Advice on very short sessions?
« Reply #14 on: November 29, 2013, 09:23:11 AM »
A couple of cents from the Touched by Cthulhu Department:

(:cthulhu: Warning! The sanity of this advice may be questionable! :cthulhu:)

My approach is a bit different. I rarely ever do much planning before an adventure. I may mull over some rough concepts and end up with a vague notion about the overall theme. Beyond that, I present the PCs with a situation and then build the adventure based on their reactions, seasoning it with some of the random stuff that has lodged in my brain over the years.

This actually works very well for short-term games, especially one-offs. The important thing, as others have said, is to keep the story moving along. The time limitation actually works to hone my focus and keeps me cognizant of when to wrap things up. The great thing about not having a set plan is that I can throw in just as many scenes as I need to fill the time, forming them to perfectly fit the style and actions of the players. The final confrontation happens just when I need it to.

As a GM, I experience this kind of compressed, off-the-cuff gaming as the ultimate rush. Keeping the details coherent and mostly seamless is where the true challenge comes in. And I love it.

Oh, and using a rules-light system is a must for this. It cuts down quite a lot on time required for things like combat. Plus the idea of GM fiat is usually baked in.
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