Friday, April 26, 2024

The war of Dungeons and Dragins versus Time Management

 I recently watched a Mathew Colville video where he advocated for shorter adventures over big campaign books. (And I’m such an OG D&D player that big hard bound campaign books still look weird to me. Back in my day, Against the Giants came in three booklets. And we used THACO.  And we hated it! You kids can stay on my lawn with your new tangled games that you don’t need an engineering degree to understand)

And that parenthetical note went out of control.

Back to the topic I was trying to get to, his basic point was time management. You can finish a shorter module. As I understand it, the big campaign books are literally designed to be a year of weekly play. Life gets in the way a few too many times, it’s too easy for things to fizzle out.

So I totally agree with him. Yeah, in my twenties, multiple gaming sessions a week were a thing. But by the time I moved away from my old gaming groups, that kind of time sink just wasn’t possible.

However, I feel like you can go a step beyond Colville’s point. Dungeons and Dragons is designed for more long term play and there are systems that are intrinsically more friendly for time management.

Some games are essentially designed for one-shot play. Lady Blackbird or The Quiet Year, for instance, are clearly designed for a very finite playtime. And that is the simplest form of balancing time and tabletop RPG-play.

Which is hardly a new idea. I have friends who feel that the ideal format for Call of Cthulhu is a one-shot, preferably with everyone dead except one madman. Hey, I have some friends who believe in tradition.

Puppetland has a interesting approach to time management. The rules literally state that each session should only be a half hour long. I seriously doubt most folks follow that rule. And, indeed, if I had to travel to someone else's house, that would be interesting too much travel time for too little return. Playing it via video conferencing, on the other hand, sounds ideal.

However, the system that I find myself considering as a time management too is Inspectres. It is one of the early examples of a game where the players share the traditional work of a gamemaster. More than that, the game is centered around a branch of the titular paranormal investigators, not necessarily a specific group of characters.

As long as each investigation is self-contained, you don't need to have the same group of characters every single time. If you wanted to, you could rotate gamemasters or even play without one. (If you aren't used to GM-less games, that option might be one to work up to)

Still, the idea that a game doesn't get derailed by missing players or even a missing game master seems like a way of keeping a game going, even when you have adult responsibilities. More than that, having some kind of organization being the main character of a game instead of the actual players can allow for more freedom. I was in a D&D campaign centered around a mercenary company with that in mind.

Whicu actually didn’t work very well. You do need to a consistent group for continuity. 

In the end, Mr Colville is right. Shorter adventures are the best time management tool. But it was fun to consider other options.

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