We are making a new version of our first role-playing game, -U- the Game of Stories. We are also entering it into a cntest support by TheGameCrafter.com. Because of the requirements of the contest, we have had to come to some interesting decisions. One of them is the philisophical change that an RPG has to last all night. Let us explain.
All-Night Long Gaming of My Youth
When I (Aaron) was a younger man with little time, no job and the idea of a "school night" was an affair, my friends and I would meet up, and spend all night playing a role-playing game. It even would go into the next morning. It was fun. We were carefree. We drank lots of caffinated beverages. When we didn't do these all-night endeavors, we would meet regularly for about 2 hours at a time, and tell part of the story.
The Reality of My Adulthood + Board Games
Fast-forward to the present. I am happily married to my favorite player, and fellow game designer. She and I have a wonderful son together. We have jobs, and responsibilities, and church on Sundays. Board games, especially ones with quick set-up and take-down, entered into our view, and has provided hours of fun. But... we still role-played... always.
Time, it seems has become the greatest commodity. It seems like there is less of it to do things like play RPGs all night long. If that happens, it is far and few between. And that is not a bad thing. See, in designing games, in crafting experiences, limitations are your friend. You end up finding ways to make it a quality experience, a quality game. And that is what we do now. we are selective in our games, and make sure when we play an RPG, it is only the most exciting stuff.
How We Play RPGs These Days
Quality and communication are the keys to to our games these days. In the past we might have spent an entire session on a conflict.or a convoluted discussion between two characters. Now, we really cut to the chase, and just play the most important parts, while peppering in subplots and great character moments along the way. This is how we do it.
First, Once a week, Steph and I talk about what we want to do in the next adventure, or what characters we want to highlight. We then start writing gown those characters, and somewhere in all the discussion, a very simple plot emerges. At its core, the process looks something like this.
The 3 Hour RPG Philosophy
All in all, the game actually takes about 2 and a half hours to play, from the Beginning Scene to the Ending Scene. And this has become important to us. In fact, we are gearing everything in our game to get players up and playing as fast as possible, and then letting them enjoy it in a reasonable time.
We don't have the long nights of our youth or the time to put into a "lifestyle" type game that most role-playing games can become. We do have time to chat in one evening, and play in a long lunch, though. And we tell at least a story a week between the two of us. This has let us explore a world in multiple sessions and stories instead of one long tale of adventure. More importantly, we get to see the characters in the world show their strengths and facets as they are facing new challenges more often. There is something to that. It is really rewarding and very satisfying as an entertainment.
As we continue the playtesting of the game, we are going to see if we can keep the stories to the 3-hour time frame regardless of players. The idea that there is a simple conflict with 6 Scenes or so really helps keeps to that. it also means we get to spend more time, more episodes, with the characters we created. And growing your character in a role-playing game is half the fun.
Next time, we'll talk about one of the biggest parts of making a game: the cover. Thank goodness for DriveThruRPG and licensed art.