View Full Version : Game Time

Gnomish Wanderer
2013-01-11, 03:07 PM
Some GM's seem to know where they want their party to be at the end of the session and have the knack for getting them there. They seem to find good cliffhangers or post-resolution pauses that seem natural to stop, like they were expecting the game to end then. this is especially true at conventions where the GM's seem so good at getting their game to fit such a minimum slot. How do they do it?

I'm planning a game that may be a one-shot for later this afternoon and I wanted to try to get to the ending in just 4 hours, except I have no idea how to do that. Any advice?

2013-01-11, 03:30 PM
Doing this for a one shot or a con is a different art than for a regular game.

For a one shot;

Have the PCs ready to go, with pre-typed info on motives, links to other PCs, and call out any odd tricks lime "Power A lets you add 3 to Power B" in a summary box so the players don't have a need to kill time looking for this info and learning the sheets.

Use an in-world style of information delivery to discourage cross-chat and keep the game moving Have the old man say "I have heard of the dread Fiendish Corgi that guards the lair of the Ericalope." and if player A then says "Wonder what a corgi is?" Have the old man reply "Know you not of the dread Corgi?" This style does not work well for all types of players, but for one offs it does tend to keep cross chat down as players tend to be more careful what NPCs hear them say than chatting to each other. The price of this is you need to be fair and give them info is easy to grab ways... giving the players riddles to sort out or trivia that they need to use their collective wits to debate undermine the fairness of you wanting them to keep up the pace, info that requires time or cooperative debate to decode is not good for a quick paced game.

On a related note, have an adventure in which the action is obeservational and the choices concrete... walking through old ruins is great, you see walls and giant rats, you select go left or right... finding out who killed the Prince three years ago so that the King can be sure he is not putting them on his Privy council is much harder to do this way. Players will need to do a lot of free form RP, meet unknown numbers of NPCs, select from not concrete options, and you will have to detail scenes and people you may not have planned for. "Hey; let's contact the theif's guild!" "No.. why don't we use divination spells...." etc.

Keep combat snappy. Make sure players (and you) select an action and do it, do not allow "Team combat play" where players mull over each option and ask the whole table for input every round. Use monsters that do not have lots of time dragging powers like attacks that negate PCs action or heal themselves.

These are all advise purely based on your desire to have a game run like a tight ship and let you get to a set end in a limited time. Please note that this is not always what players come to a table for, and that I do not in any way claim that these methods have no cost or downside to use.

Edge of Dreams
2013-01-11, 04:02 PM
Tip #1: Be prepared. Have all your loot decided on ahead of time. All relevant monster and NPC stats. Look up rules, spells, and monster special abilities before game so you're ready to handle them. Keep your notes well-organized.

Tip #2: Be ready and willing to give the players clear indications when they are going the wrong way or barking up the wrong tree. For example, if you're running a murder mystery, and the players want to keep interrogating a minor character who has nothing to do with the crime and already gave them the one clue he knows, don't keep roleplaying the scenario. Have them make a roll or two and then say "It seems like he's told you everything he knows. You should move on."

2013-01-11, 05:32 PM
It's a learned knack. It comes from running games and paying attention to how drama flows in books and movies, movies especially. At least, that's how it is for me.

My secret is this: many moments in-game can potentially be good cliffhangers or stopping points, as long as the pressure keeps on the characters. When you do that, all of a sudden opportunities will open up left and right. You then have to know how to spot those opportunities, and how to act on them.

A lot of it is system mastery, too. You know the system, you can run the system, and you know how to pace it well, what parts to cut down on or what parts to delve into.

All told, it's not a science, it's an art, so there's no set list of things which will guarantee that your game winds up like that. It's something you'll have to learn, so don't sweat it. You may end early, you may end late. Just keep practicing, and you'll learn to get it right. You'll learn to know how to slack or tighten the pace, and how to see when you can wind a game to a close (or a cliffhanger) as the clock runs.

Above posts have some very good advice, especially the one about being clear with players. And, honestly, you don't need to get too worked up about giving out meta information like "Hey folks, I really didn't intend to have the plot go so far off in this direction." That works particularly well with friends.

Oh, and one more thing--you could also keep a visible clock nearby, and set a solid time limit for the players. If they know when things are supposed to end, they'll be able to cooperate, winding things down and avoiding starting new things as the end gets nigh.

Finally, if things are running way too late, don't be afraid to cut some material and bring things together sooner than you had planned. Planning for too much gives you the option of cutting things out to make it flow better. (It's much more difficult to cope with planning too little.)

Good luck!

Jay R
2013-01-12, 10:39 AM
The game will not speed up unless you speed it up.

You will never achieve any goal unless you give it some priority. So step one is to actually spend time planning for this goal like you do the goals of providing challenges, designing a world, etc.

Know where you expect to be in one hour, two hours, three hours, four hours. If you haven't reached the milestone on time, drop encounters, give clues, eliminate a third of the guards, whatever. The game will not speed up unless you speed it up.

Time management occurs over time. If your first milestone is the end of the game, then you have no ability to adjust.

Also, the two biggest time-sinks are
1. Failing to find the next lead, and
2. Large melees.

Decide when they should find the next lead, and give it to them then. (This doesn't mean merely giving them the clue. If they need to enter the fortress by 3:00, at 3:00 they need to know which fortress to enter.

Melees are harder to control, but morale of the enemy can be used. If the party needs to win by 3:30, then at 3:30, decide if it's reasonable for the enemy's morale to break.

The crucial thing to realize is that if ending at the right time in the right situation is a goal, then make it a goal, and actually give it enough priority. The game will not speed up unless you speed it up.