The topic for the 12 September 2013 Twitter #RPGChat was Pacing, Tempo, and Tension.
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Tweets of Note:
Still figuring out how to pace sessions. I haven’t done campaigns yet.
@cthulhuchick Pace your sessions well and your campaign will pace itself.
I like breaking scene between times of day/days. Before and after, I ask people if there’s anything they do.
I tend to play it all by ear, though I am of the opinion that a really good adventure has a chase scene somewhere.
@cthulhuchick That’s a good rule of thumb. I generally go by session time. When we’re nearing the end, I’ll figure a way to break.
How to decide when small stuff is important enough to play out:
@ConceptCrucible It’s a meaningful decision to go and buy a new magic item. But that probably shouldn’t make it “on screen.”
A lot of our GMs build around the three act structure:
Also, for one-shots, the three-act structure is fantastic for wrapping my head around where I think it’ll go.
I’m making an effort to follow an expanded three-act structure in my games now, because I’m bad at making action happen in stories.
That gives me an explicit, well-tested narrative arc to follow, and it’s pleasantly fractal.
Asking what tools do we use to drive a one-shot through the session:
@d20Blonde Star Wars wipes. Forever.
For one-shots, make a list of NPCs, locations, etc. in it. Ask the players how they relate to them prior to play. Helps with focus.
@d20Blonde The best one comes from the Unknown Armies scenario book “One Shots”. A big note to print out and slip to players.
My 1 shots are usually pulp or horror, so I drive them with fast-paced action or prolonged tension.
@d20Blonde The flashback! It sets a goal the PCs know they have to get to.
RT @GamingMeerkat For one-shots, be prepared to cut scenes on the fly. Adding is tougher, so have more than you need.
For one-shots, I love environmental elements to keep things moving. Rising water. Bubbling volcano. The coming storm.
Some general advice for pacing the game:
Best pacing advice: start everything late. Your scene, your adventure, your campaign. Minimize the precursors and get to the meat #rpgchat
Love encounters that spike just as the PCs start to unwind them–it’s never *just* a group of goblins–3 rounds in: Cave Troll!
One way to improve pacing is to watch for when the dramatic question of the scene is answered. When it is, move on! #rpgchat
Being able to ad-lib can be really important with pacing in a game. I’ve had people decide one bit needs detailed attention.
If a one-shot is investigative, be careful about making it TOO complicated or you’ll never get to the action. #rpgchat
One last blog-pimp for The Alexandrian “The Art of Pacing” series. Read the whole thing. Amazing. http://thealexandrian.net/wordpress/31509/roleplaying-games/the-art-of-pacing …
I do think starting games “in media res” can be good for conventions; you just have to keep the rewind-and-explain time short.
For a stalled game: what is your go to response?:
@d20Blonde Ninjas kick in the door. What do you do?
@d20Blonde Check my notes on the villains plans. While the players argue, something is always happening. Of course its nearby.
@d20Blonde Mooks kick in the door!
And for the flip side, what to do when the players go in an unexpected direction:
@d20Blonde This is easier: Roll with it. Let them take charge for a second while you think. Order pizza if you must think longer!
@d20Blonde I adapt on the fly and let it run it’s course. In most cases, seeding in threads back to the main story to follow.
@d20Blonde I used to give out a “Stump The GM” Award if a player succeeded in taking that night’s session off the rails.
@d20Blonde Accept their offer and add to it. “Yes, and…” Then insert appropriate challenges.
@d20Blonde I relish these occurrences. I say take the risk & go with it – embrace the challenge of steering things back on course.
What game systems work especially well for long term play?
@d20Blonde I feel like I should cheat and say “anything not specifically designed for one-shots”. Most really will work.
what games have the pacing built in and done right, my fav #savageWorlds does a great job at keeping the pace fast and furious.
@Alpharalpha The escalation die in 13th age is a good example of mechanics tied to pacing
Now I do think some systems work better than others for very long campaigns. Anything with “petty little victories” along the way.
@d20Blonde Seems like most of the D20 systems can go on forever as long as the world does not end or PCs all die.
@d20Blonde well, I’ve run multi-year campaigns of D&D, Call of Cthulhu, Star Wars, Mistrunner, even Star Frontiers.
DiTV is very relevant to this topic because character commitment to a conflict, pacing-wise, is all in the dice.
@d20Blonde The best campaign games have frequent rewards along multiple tracks. Treasure/new equipment, levels, etc.
How do you keep players engaged over the long term:
@d20Blonde Treasure or Adventure is what my PCs seek. I use the carrot and stick method.
@d20Blonde I like to characters emotional attachments, family, friends, things that they can worry about outside the dungeon.
@d20Blonde I work with players to create long-term campaign goals & I keep a list of shakeups for each character to keep it lively.
@d20Blonde I’m a big fan of the alternate reality fix. Someone finds an item or w/e, takes them somewhere new for a session or two.
RE: Slumps—take a break and tell a short, new story in the same world. I’d even suggest a different system.
If you hit a slump in the campaign introduce Morgan le Fay. Seriously she’s a great character who travels in time and space.
Keeping the atmosphere in a gaming with the pace:
I find that in order to keep things moving in the game it helps to “trim the fat” keeping things to an essential action
@Alpharalpha This works in an action game but other genres have a different rhythm.
@Alpharalpha that’s nice and all, but sometimes atmosphere requires slow and steady pacing, no?
A good way to improve game pacing is to decide when it will end before you begin. Nothing’s worse than a campaign that just dies.
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