If you are not familiar with #RPGaDay, then please read this page first. For the 8th day of #RPGaDay the question is:
What is a good RPG to play for sessions of 2hrs or less?
My answer is: #RPGaDay 8 #RPG, any game can work, don’t feel restricted by setting or system. Use the opportunity
I am not trying to dismiss the question with my answer. The question is certainly a good one, since not every role-player is a veteran; also, not every veteran has the same opinion or experiences. From my experience, and from chatting with others, any game can definitely be run in a way that makes it great for a 2 hour or less session, even games renowned for having system mechanics that are quite time consuming.
I believe that whatever the duration of a gaming session, all the normal considerations for running and playing an RPG apply. When determining how time affects a gaming session, I have presented three key considerations with responses:
- How much time a group spends on mechanics, and in particular combat.
I have known gamers play rules lite games and spend a lot of time processing things, whilst other gamers quickly process more complex systems. There all sorts of ways to help a group learn a complex system, and play it easier. Whilst systems certainly matter, how they are implemented matters more.
I’ve known role-players that like to embrace the ritual of dice rolling, making the process longer. As well as groups were all the participants excitedly discuss possibilities before the roll, cheer/boo the results, and delight in chatting about the new implications.
- How flowing everybody normally is in regards to decision making and describing their actions; this includes the GM.
I don’t believe that a role-player needs to be very experienced to be able to quickly make decisions, or stay focused on a game. Whilst I appreciate gamer experience helps, as will familiarity with other participants’ gaming styles, I am highlighting that I’ve met a few novices who have grasped proceedings quickly.
Role-playing and flow-state is something I have been thinking about for a while, but I’ll go in to depth with this another time. This is a subject I have been researching for my role-playing guide for years.
- The amount of non-game conversation.
The dreaded RP issue of a game being plagued by people talking about random things. Whether it’s the usually referencing of films/TV, debates about rules/powers, etc. This is not necessarily a bad thing, after all having fun is surely the main goal of a game, but for most players I assume they also want to play the game. I’ve had many different groups, and groups that have changed its requirements over time, and I’ve even had ‘hardcore role-players’ want to mostly socialise on odd occasions. Ideally discuss ideas before a short session (see below); one never knows if players fancy a change, maybe just this once.
Interestingly, having a deadline can greatly help with regards to keeping the game focused. By discussing with my group that there was a time issue for that particular session, we were able to decide on plans, and then get promptly started. It’s not always fully worked, but having a deadline was still a positive aspect.
A possibility is for the GM to design encounters that are almost guaranteed to be a lot of dialog. Keep mechanics to a minimum, especially if mechanics are normally a bit of time drain in your group, but not if that is what the players typically love. Part of the skill of GMing is to avoid be railroaded by your own ideas, you can always use what had been planned another time; any encounter can be tweaked and even used in a radically different way, so don’t worry about having wasted any preparation time.
Even if the session is in the midst of a campaign, then maybe for this particular short session there all sorts of possibilities:
- If the GM has big time pressure, maybe let someone else run something.
- Use the opportunity to try out something new. Many games include pre-generated character, and an introductory story, which is ideal for this sort of thing.
- Use the opportunity to flesh out backstory, flashbacks to something that was skimmed over, maybe a dream sequence. All of these ideas can be cliché, but can work wonderfully if handled well (avoid being too epic, keep it personal).
- For some games the session could maybe be used as a downtime/blue-book session. This will be a chance to work out things, maybe each player details characters connected to their PC.
- Role-play different characters in the setting, maybe relatives or allies of the PCs. Maybe the relatives/allies have found vital information, but since the PCs are in a dungeon, or at sea, the chat is about what to about things. If rarely done this can be a nice way of foreshadowing things.
- A lot of other ideas, I am sure you get my point 🙂
As there are plenty of posts by other role-players giving system recommendations, I went with my gut reaction to this question. I believe this question raises a deeper issue regarding how gaming styles, session plans, and system mechanics combine to influence what is considered ‘good’. I hope that by highlighting the above I have been helpful to a few people.
I’ve not called any system out, as per my blog mission statement and the guidelines for the RPGaDay event about keeping to positive answers: