Are your games too long?

“We don’t have enough time to play a game. Lets just watch a movie.”

Have you ever heard that? At least something similar? If you started playing RPGs when you were a teen you may be like me, expecting games to take 4-8 hours to finish. Then real life started and your games started to get harder and harder to get together.

Now let me ask you this, would you actually get to play more if you played less? Instead of a four hour session once in two months, would you be able to play six one hour sessions?

There is a problem with this if you have a low show up rate. If people are not showing up for 50% of the sessions then they’re back down to 3 hours and they’re still getting less time playing. Not to mention the problem of trying to keep everyone in the loop if they don’t show. So be wary of that and be prepared to discuss it with your players.

How To Play A 1 Hour Game

Playing a one hour game is mostly psychological. The first thing you need to do is set your sights lower. Instead of a story arc completed in one session, only play one scene. This can be really hard to do, especially if everyone is having fun. I know that I want to keep on going. Our last game was 6 hours long, we were having fun and didn’t want it to stop.

You may need to do more planning also. When I GM I have some fuzzy idea of how the game will go, we traditionally play until the PCs meet their goal. To be able to stop mid-story, I need to have intermediate goals planned out. Something concrete that will be a satisfying end point.

If you have players that are used to long sessions, be ready to defend the idea of short games when you say “That’s it for tonight.” Remind them of the last time you played and the time before that. Explain how much momentum is lost when you have to remember what was going on weeks ago.

What about experience?

One of the things that can be thrown off course by having short games is experience. Unless you are awarding according to monsters killed or treasure found (shudder) the normal rate of awarding experience could be thrown off. There are several ways of handling this. One is to allow for a high rate of progression to sweeten the pot for these shorter games. Another is to give a few experience each session and then at the end of the story arc award the balance of what would have been earned. If the players are willing, they may be fine with no experience until the end of the story arc but I’d ask the players if that’s okay with them first. If they are at all reluctant, do something to give some experience in between.


Filed under GM Advice

5 Responses to Are your games too long?

  1. Tarnoc

    I would be willing to go straight on board simply to keep on gaming. In a way this reminds me of the comic’s in the news paper. A frame or two in the weekday editions and still a full round on sunday.

    • Loc

      I’m not saying don’t play a long game when we have the time but proving that a game could be short eliminates a lot of reasons not to sit down and play.

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  3. Tarnoc

    Sure I agree. I think the girls would need to be shown. We would have to independently talk things up and then implement.

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