Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Short Games

So I've been playing D&D 5E Encounters on Wednesday nights. For those who don't know, D&D Encounters are, well.. this is from their website...

D&D Encounters is our weekly Wednesday play program, geared for a casual play audience with short sessions each week. It serves as a great introduction to our main storyline events, and uses material right from published adventure product. Each session only takes 1-2 hours to play, so it’s easy to fit your game in after school or work. And each week there’s a new and exciting challenge. Jump in anytime!

It sounds like a cool idea, but I'm having some problems with it. I don't know if the source is the GM, or if this is how they really intend it to go.

One to two hours is not a very long time to game. It might work fine if heroes are given clear problems with quick resolutions every week, such as "You come across a an empty wagon the has been attacked by dire wolves." You fight the stragglers then learn that the wolves have taken the children back to their den for feeding later. You fight the Dire Wolves in their den and rescue the kids. It's quick, it's clear, and it has a resolution.

But that's not how we are playing. We are playing the game like any normal game, with a long quest involving many battles, rping, etc, but we are doing it in 2 hour snippets. The result is we lose the game's momentum every time we stop, long bouts of role playing often leave us with little progress, and sometimes crucial party members are absent for a game.

I've played for 3 sessions now and I still haven't a good idea of how the game flows.

Lastly, my experience at my FLGS with D&D 5E hasn't been the best (although this is a criticism of the group at this FLGS and not the game itself). When I went to join, I was told that all of the tables were full with regular groups. I was finally shoe-horned into a group whose players didn't show up on a regular basis. In short, I felt like I was being treated as an outsider during an event that was designed to advertise the game to people who weren't already playing it.

The North West Pathfinder Society gets mad props on this one. If you walk in and the tables are full, the organizers will draft a gm to start a new table. They will make room for you. Although there are regular players, there are no regular groups. In my experience, I think NWPFS has the advantage since their games are longer and scenarios get resolved that day. No "To be continued".

So what has all of this to do with Savage Worlds?

Well it's good to get out there and play new games. See what is working for the big boys and steal/adapt it for your own game. My take away from this experience is that if you want to run a long campaign, it might be advisable to break it into manageable chunks so that in each sitting a chunk of the plot can be resolved.

Example: 

The overarching plot is that the characters must hunt down a madman who is gathering the power to destroy and reshape the world. However, each night I run this game I will only have about 4 hours before I have to get back to real life responsibilities.

So one scenario might be "The players must retrieve a stone tablet from an illegal art collector that might hold clues as to what the madman is planning." A little roleplay, a raid, and the resolution is getting the tablet.

Next scenario is "to hunt down and find a lost historian who can decipher the tablet." A bit of travel, a fight against cannibal kobolds, and a resolution where they free the historian and get the translation.

This stuff may sound basic, but I've played too many games where the goal for the night is unclear, the party gets sidelined with role play shopping, and by the end of the night the story hasn't budged an inch. The players go home feeling like nothing was accomplished and the drive to resolve the main campaign conflict starts to wither and die.

So be careful with your short games. Don't try to play them like 8 hour games. If you try to stretch the plot told in short games with too much minutiae or off campaign distractions then your going to lose player interest. Short games need to be tight, focused, and move the plot along, even if it's just an inch.

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