D&D and the one-hour game

March 22, 2012

I guess I’m not the only one talking about a full adventure/game in an hour’s time.

Mike Mearls lists some pretty good concerns for the 1 hour game, though, I wonder how the same adventure would have worked out with folks who have no background in D&D as the group running it – whether it would flow in an hour or not.

Mike Mearls talks about the rules, but I think there’s specific issues D&D needs to address to make a functional 1 hour game:

Clear goals from the beginning, getting into adventure quickly

The goal of the adventure should either be simply told to the players or roleplayed in the first few minutes. This, should never happen:

“Oh. I guess we’re in town. We look around. Oh, I guess we’ll need to ask for rumors if anyone is hiring. Oh. I guess we’ll hang out at the tavern. Oh. I guess we’ll talk to 4-5 people before talking to the skeevy guy in the corner who is hiring. Oh. I guess we’ll have to convince one of the other PCs to come along with us. Oh. I guess we’ll have to find our way to the dungeon…”

That’s made up the first session (or more!) of games I’ve seen, and it’s terrible.

So, the set up should probably always be at the beginning of the dungeon/adventure site with a clear goal of what the players need to do by the end.

No blocks

If you have anything like a puzzle, or trap, or locked door which is the sole means of getting on with the adventure, and it can’t be bypassed, then you have something which could potentially be a giant waste of time. Especially if the players go about it the wrong way, or get the wrong idea.

Hidden stuff has to be handled differently

D&D has had many different ways of handling traps, secret doors, and hidden treasure- ranging from “Describe how you examine things” to “Roll 1D6 on a 1-2 you find it”. That said, whatever method you end up going with, you do not want the players spending most of the game saying, “I carefully search” every 10 feet of dungeon because they’re afraid of getting instantly killed or missing the uber +5 sword hidden in Otyugh dung.

The thing about this, is, it’s not terribly difficult to teach these to new players- the problem is being able to teach these to people who’ve already played D&D, and, likely, will be the ones running it for new players as the gateway gamers in the future.

While D&D is many things, and adventure can mean anything from desperately scrabbling to escape giant spiders to taking on dragons by yourself, no matter what, I don’t think anyone considers walking around town, trying to find out what you’re supposed to do, or sitting in front of a puzzle, being stuck, to be an adventurous time… much less a fun one.

And that is what’s going to matter for new folks.

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