Do PFS scenarios take too long to play through?


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Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Maps Subscriber

I attended the Conception convention in the UK this last weekend and took the opportunity to get back into playing PFS (I dropped out after GMing in season 0).

One thing I noticed was that all of the scenarios I played and many that I observed overran the 4 hour time slot for each game. Some overran by just 20 minutes or so (but with only an hour between slots that is significant) and others overran by more and had to be "called" - i.e. we didn't properly finish the scenario.

I wonder therefore whether PFS scenarios should perhaps be a little more simpler in their plotting to allow completion in the appropriate amount of time for a convention slot (in the UK at least slots are 4 hours).

One scenario I played and observed a second group play (they were playing in my lodge) seemed to have about 4 or 5 combats in addition to some social and investigative scenes. Way too much for a con slot.

Perhaps scenarios could be rated for how long they may take to run, perhaps by GMs who have actually run it, at least that way certain long scenarios could be avoided for cons, or tabled for a double slot.

Also, I know it may be controversal, but I sometimes think the faction missions add an extra layer of plot that isn't really needed and detracts from the time that can be given to the main plot itself.

Taking into account initial introductions, paperwork at the end, and comfort breaks, a con slot only really provides a little over 3 hours of actual play time. With challenging combats lasting 45 to 60 minutes it seems that you should only be looking to have two such combats per scenario, maybe 3 if two of them are time limited (e.g. city watch turn up after 3 rounds and arrest everyone, the PCs must hold the line for only 3 rounds while the NPCs get to safety etc).

What does everyone else think? Bearing in mind 80% of my PFS play will be at cons, this is a significant issue for me.

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

If you dropped out after season 0, you likely didn't notice that slots are up to 5 hours now. :)

The Exchange

Initial introductions should really take 10 minutes at the most ... paperwork really doesn't take that long unless it has to be explained and then there is no way that those two things can take up to two hours.

Most GMs I know can get everything done w/in the 5 hours.


Gorbacz wrote:
If you dropped out after season 0, you likely didn't notice that slots are up to 5 hours now. :)

A lot of conventions and game store slots are only able to allow for four hour slots, so a lot of people still have to run these in that time period.

When I had mentioned, in Season One, that a lot of adventures were running over, I also mentioned that I didn't think it was quite fair that the solution was to just announce that you should add an extra hour to the slot.

Four hour slots are kind of the standard at this point in a lot of places I've seen. At Gen Con, or at your own con you can kind set your own times, but in a lot of places you don't have that luxury.

At the convention over the weekend nearly every table ran over in every slot. We all had fun, but man, it would have been nice having that hour break or so to visit the vendors, get lunch away from the convention, etc.


Is Thea running your table? If so, you'll be done in 2 hours or less.

Higher level scenarios almost always take 4 hours. Scenarios that encourage role play can take a long time too, but it depends on your GM and your players. Scenarios like City of Strangers can (should) be player driven. This can cause problems though, again depending on the players at the table. It's the GM's job to keep poking them along in order to wrap everything up within the alotted time.

All of that said, there are certain scenarios that are all but impossible for me to finish in under 4 hours. (looking at you Rebel's Ransom, you wonderful amazing crazy long scenario)


Kyle Baird wrote:

All of that said, there are certain scenarios that are all but impossible for me to finish in under 4 hours. (looking at you Rebel's Ransom, you wonderful amazing crazy long scenario)

That was one at the convention this weekend, to be sure.

Lantern Lodge 5/5 Regional Venture-Coordinator, Asia-Pacific aka DarkWhite

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Hi DigitalMage,

May I enquire whether Conception UK's schedule was three scenarios per day? That's pretty common for most cons, and certainly the schedule I've run Pathfinder Society sessions by at Melbourne and Brisbane cons for the last three years.

This was fine in Season 0 when scenarios were written for four hours play. However, things became tight when scenarios were changed to five hours play, particularly a) high level scenarios; b) six player tables; c) heavy roleplay; d) new players.

It's just not possible to schedule 3x 5hr sessions at most cons, even playing 8am - 11pm (and some of our cons run 10am - 10pm) that's leaving no time for meal breaks. We found ourselves running to the same timetable as we were in Season 0, but with an extra hour per scenario to jam in. It just wasn't working.

I've often described GM/organiser stress of running three scenarios per day, with meal-breaks consumed by reporting, player/GM questions, preparing tables for the next session, and eating Rogan Josh on rice takeaway gone cold at the hotel room after midnight. I've also regretted not having the time to share those meal-breaks getting to know the players or supporting my GMs away from the table, and actually enjoying the convention. I've also feared that in some sessions roleplaying is quashed due to a need to power through encounters to get them done within schedule.

It all came to a head last October at Unicon when a session of City of Strangers Part I ran so badly overtime that the players didn't even get half way through. It was an evening session, we couldn't simply play through the next session, we were being asked to leave the venue.

City of Strangers is easily one of my favourite scenarios, one I'm familiar with having run it three times previous, and I was running it for a familiar table of players I enjoyed GMing for.

This wasn't an isolated case, either. For a while now, I've instructed GMs to skip optional encounters to keep games running to schedule, and yet games still run over. But this instance of City of Strangers was the wake-up call I needed to implement change - a half-played game reflects badly on the Society, so I swore never to allow this to happen again.

So, for Arcanacon two weekends ago, I scheduled two scenarios per day:

  • 9am to 3pm (lunch-break 12noon-1pm)
  • 4pm to 10pm (dinner-break 7pm-8pm)
I consulted a few GM opinions. The common concern was that players attend a convention expecting a "get wrecked" experience, playing as many scenarios as time would allow, and getting value for their convention dollar. Nonetheless, I believed it was worth a trial, so I stressed that if it worked, we'd keep it, but if we received negative feedback, we'd switch back to three scenario per day for future cons.

Having it played out at Arcanacon, I have to say, feedback has been overwhelmingly positive from both GMs and players! Benefits I've noticed include:

  • Less stressed GMS! I would even say relaxed and enjoying the event! It's important to support your GMs, and not con-fatigue them, so they'll want to help out at the next con; and for players to perceive GMing as something fun not stressful, that might encourage them to volunteer themselves. Depending on your local community, attracting new GMs may be a prime concern.
  • GMs can take time-out to grab a cofee or meal, sit down with each other and discuss the convention, any problems or concerns, share their memorable moments, provide feedback about the scenario they just ran, ask questions about the one they're about to run, feel supported and part of a team!
  • Players have more social time with each other away from the table - this can be important for community building, making new contacts, especially for players that come to a convention because they're new to the game or have no other gaming connections. It also gives players a social reason to attend a con, catch up with familiar faces, rather than just burn through scenarios.
  • For GMs or players I don't see regularly, eg those from interstate or out-of-town, this is time to catch up and discuss how Pathfinder is going in each of their communities, exchange ideas with each other, make them feel like they're valuable members of the Pathfinder network.
  • GMs have adequate time to deal with new players before, during and after a session. I saw GMs sitting down at length with new players, helping them transfer their pre-gen to a fresh character sheet when they leveled up, and explaining each bonus and where it was derived from! There would never have been time for this with back-to-back sessions.
Strangely, while writing this list, the last benefit that came to mind, but the one that triggered this change, is that sessions run on time! Not only do they run on time, but there's ample time for optional encounters, encourage roleplaying, not rushing through encounters.

Another benefit which might not become apparent until the next convention or two, is slowing down the scenario burn rate, creating fewer conflicts when mustering tables. With more PFS being played at local game stores and at home, this has been a constant struggle at recent cons, one I'm hoping will ease with the addition of exclusives such as Midnight Mauler and Year of the Shadow Lodge, and the change to two scenarios per con-day.

I don't think players felt cheated out of their third scenarios each day. Everyone enjoyed the event and was having a good time. If anything, I think players felt more relaxed too, not having to rush their encounters, having more time to roleplay, having more access to GMs and time to level their characters during breaks, new players feeling welcomed and supported, not neglected or bewildered. One player said as much to me after the event, noting the change as a friendlier relaxed con than previous.

When session time was increased from four to five hours in Season 1, it was claimed this was to allow time for out-of-game needs, such as table mustering, introducing new players to pre-gens/golarion/factions, chronicle sheets and other administration. When the change was announced, I thought to myself: this is the start of the arms race, authors will think they now have five hours to write their scenarios instead of four, and we'll be back to not having time for important out-of-game needs. And that's exactly what happened.

I'm glad I've found a way to reclaim valuable out-of-game time needed to support both players and GMs and create a relaxed friendlier convention environment that everyone enjoys!

If you or your GMs feel time-stressed or con-fatigued, if you think you're missing some of the magic of the con experience, getting to know the players, spending time with the GMs working so hard for the cause, putting some time into community building, if you don't enjoy a cold lonely Rogan Josh on rice after midnight at your hotel room, you might consider trialing two scenarios per day, and compare the experience/benefits - I'd be really interested to hear feedback from anyone who trials this schedule change as I did.

It's possible to lose sight of the bigger picture when you're focused on the detail. Sometimes less is more.

Cheers,
Stephen (DarkWhite)
Pathfinder Society GM
Venture-Captain, Australia

Grand Lodge

Digital Mage

I did GM 10 slots at Conception. In 9 of them I finished in time or ahead. And in only one of them I called it, as the main mission was accomplished, the group was pretty down and I ruled that they rather would leave after having defeated the main mission instead of going back to the single room that they hadn't visited yet.

There was one game where we overran by at least 1 1/2 hours. This was Saturday night - and we ended at 1am (?) instead of 11 pm as the official slot would indicate.

Finishing in 4 hours can be done - but you have to work on it. It helps if a GM knows the scenario well. GMing a second (or third, fourth etc.) will speed up gming. It's not possible in most cases - but it helps.

Good preperation helps. You might have seen me carrying big boards with the Blakros Museum build up from my car to the table. Using props can be a big time killer. Having everything ready helps a lot. It did save me approx. half an hour each slot instead of me building it up (and another 20 min not needed to take it down). I learnt this the hard way a PaizoCon UK where I left the table for a total of 15 min on the first day - one slot running directly into the next.

But if everything is ready - good preperation also can save time. My layout definately helped to get me through all slots in time. And the only reason I managed Sniper in the Dark in time is thanks to my players - as they walzed through the adventure. This was the first time I GMed it - read it in the early morning - and without the fantastic players I wouldn't have managed this one on time.

Big groups and new players are an issue as well. The one game where we didn't explore all rooms was a 7 people table with two first time players on it. The group did struggle a few times - yes - that's the table that gave me 3 combat rounds to eat the brains of the poor gunslinger (not including the extra round needed ahead of that). In the other game I stuggled to survive the suprise round with my monster. That group was a lot more experienced.

And then we have role play. The one game we overran 1 1/2 hours (or more?) was at our lodge. The whole group did heavy role play despite it being the fourth day and late at night. I did have Russ as 'backseat GM'. He did a splendid role to add to the whole scenario. His impersonation of the Noble Taldan Knight, the mourners and the water merchant will live with the players. But alas - games like these won't be finished in four hours.

Are there solutions? Two slots a day would make for a much more relaxed schedule. At the same time there are players who like to play, play, play as much as possible. You can't have it both. Three scenarios a day and there will be a struggle for time. two scenarios a day and players will complain that they can't get enough games.

Thod

Edit: Players can also help by rolling their attack and damage together and by being prepared when it is their turn. I'm not expecting it from a new player. Alas - I only started to roll both (or in case of my Barbarian two attacks and twice damage) last week.

Grand Lodge

Stephen White wrote:


May I enquire whether Conception UK's schedule was three scenarios per day? That's pretty common for most cons, and certainly the schedule I've run Pathfinder Society sessions by at Melbourne and Brisbane cons for the last three years.

Yes - three slots a day.

Morning 9:00-13:00, Afternoon 14:00-18:00 and evening 19:00-23:00.

You had to be out of the hall at 24:00 (or soon after). If you played at a lodge (this was at a holiday village - due to limited tables you could end up to run at your own lodge), then at least the last slot of the day wouldn't have any time restriction.

Thod


Stephen White wrote:
Amazingingly long but very well written post.

How very V-C of you. :-) Well said.

I think it was Dragon*Con that had 4 slots per day. 4 hours for each slot, no breaks except maybe around dinner time. It's hard to remember any more. Regardless, it was a pain in the arse for GM's and players alike.

While getting the maximum number of slots off sounds great, in the end, less slots per day results in a better experience for all.

Silver Crusade 3/5

Heh, I can just visualise Russ waxing lyrical as a a Taldor Knight


In my experience, the time required to finish can vary wildly. At the low end, you have a (more or less) linear chase scenario and at the high end, you have a scenario where you're supposed to do some investigation or solve a mystery.

The Exchange 5/5 Regional Venture-Coordinator, Western Eurasia-Middle East aka Wintergreen

As Conception is a very large convention and Pathfinder Society is just one part of it then we have to fit in with their timetable.It is three slots a day and those slots are four hours. A lot of people want to get the maximum out of their time at the con in terms of playing as many games as possible and enjoying the actual roleplaying going on at the table.

I did advise GMs to always skip the optional encounter in a scenario and I think we were fairly well prepared and the paperwork got sorted out quickly.

Inevitably though, scenarios designed for 5 hours are going to be tricky to get done in four hours. Personally I wouldn't want the scenarios to have reduced numbers of encounters and I dislike hurrying the players to get the combat encounters done (I often find the intro section can take a long time as PCs research and ask questions).

Unfortunately that really doesn't help solve the problem of the games over-running in a 4 hour slot. Last year for PaizoCon UK we knew that the idea was games take a 5 hour slot but most players wanted to have 3 games in a day. We shall see what people want for PaizoCon UK this year and as this is a Pathfinder only convention run by me then I have the luxury to structure it as I wish so I am very interested in player opinion on this. Thanks Digital Mage for starting the discussion.

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Maps Subscriber

Thanks for all the responses, and yes if PFS scenarios are designed for 5 hour slots then that means GMs and players will be up against it (especially as faction missions often mean players will want to explore every single room!)

I remember ages ago hearing that the RPGA were going to 5 hour slots and I thought that the wrong solution then, unfortunately it seems PFS seems to have followed suit - pity no one told the conventions I go to of that fact! :(

Stephen White wrote:
When session time was increased from four to five hours in Season 1, it was claimed this was to allow time for out-of-game needs, such as table mustering, introducing new players to pre-gens/golarion/factions, chronicle sheets and other administration.

At Conception muster for the living games is now 15 minutes prior to slot start (whereas non living games is only 5 minutes), I beleieve this is something that was introduced this year, and to be honest it was a real pain, it meant only 45 minutes now to get back to lodge, cook, eat and get back to the hall - so any overrun of the previous slot meant it was unlikley you got to eat (or ate at the game table as some did) - not good! If the 5 hour slot recommended was to account for stuff like that it wouldn't be so bad.

Stephen White wrote:

When the change was announced, I thought to myself: this is the start of the arms race, authors will think they now have five hours to write their scenarios instead of four, and we'll be back to not having time for important out-of-game needs. And that's exactly what happened.

This definately seems to be the case with Bloodcove Disguise (I think that was the title). In total there was supposed to be 5 combats, some may have been optional I am not sure, and running at low level at least one was fairly easy - desite that we had the last combat called and never got to the last. When I observed it run the next day for a higher tier they did one less combat than that.

I like the idea of a two scenario day:


  • 9am to 3pm (lunch-break 12noon-1pm)
  • 4pm to 10pm (dinner-break 7pm-8pm)

But if this was to be enacted at any of the existing cons like Conception, it would basically mean you have two seperate conventions going on without even the meal break times coinciding. Also, would this apply to just PFS or all living games? I guess you could mix and match regular games and PFS games in this situation you would just have to give up two regular games to play one PFS scenario.

I will have to ask whether PaizoCon UK will have such a schedule this year.

I had been considering whether to bite the bullet, read the PF RPG rules cover to cover and offer to GM PFS again, but knowing scenarios are meant for 5 hour slots may make me less inclined to do so, at least until I have maybe run some locally with plenty of time and become familiar with the scenarios.

Lantern Lodge 5/5 Regional Venture-Coordinator, Asia-Pacific aka DarkWhite

DigitalMage wrote:
But if this was to be enacted at any of the existing cons like Conception, it would basically mean you have two seperate conventions going on without even the meal break times coinciding. Also, would this apply to just PFS or all living games? I guess you could mix and match regular games and PFS games in this situation you would just have to give up two regular games to play one PFS scenario.

It's likely a different set-up depending on which con you're hosting your games at.

In Melbourne, free-from (live-action roleplays) are very popular, and they schedule around those - 2.5hr or 3hrs per session. Of course that doesn't suit 4hr or 5hr PFS scenarios (or Living Games). In the past, Living and PFS have required con-goers to purchase 2 con session tickets for one scenario, or 3 tickets to play two scenarios. It's always been awkward, free-formers have often been interested in PFS to fill a gap in their timetable, but not wanted to sacrifice a session and a half, and our meal-times never co-incided, which sometimes meant missing out on a BBQ. For timetable purposes, yes Living Games and PFS were basically a separate convention from the freeform, boardgames, wargaming and other events running.

This year, however, was quite different. Living 4E Games actually cut their scenarios to fit a 3hr session. Meanwhile, we increased ours to 6hr sessions, including an hour meal break. It meant you now required 2 con session tickets for one PFS scenario. Oddly, this suited the freeform players better - they didn't mind a double session, as they weren't wasting a half session.

For us, it was the perfect solution, because it meant for the first time in living memory we actually synched with the con timetable, instead of running out of step with it as we had every other year.

If running two games per day instead of three means you're now out of synch with the con's timetable, that's unfortunate, but it can be managed, as we've done in previous years. Con organisers might give you a hard time for not complying with their nicely ordered schedule of events, but it's better to have two five hour sessions with meal breaks and over-run time already built into the schedule, than four hour sessions you're never going to be able to adhere to anyway.

Cheers,
DarkWhite

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Maps Subscriber
David Harrison wrote:
Last year for PaizoCon UK we knew that the idea was games take a 5 hour slot but most players wanted to have 3 games in a day. We shall see what people want for PaizoCon UK this year and as this is a Pathfinder only convention run by me then I have the luxury to structure it as I wish so I am very interested in player opinion on this.

Just saw your post after I posted mine!

I think the thing is, we want our cake and be able to eat it too (which doesn't sound unreasonable, what's the point of having cake if you can't eat it?) At a con I want to play as much as possible - and usually pack in games every slot, so 3 a day.

At Conception I was hoping to play 4 PFS, 2 Living Forgotten Realms as well as run 3 Doctor Whos and 1 Mongoose Living Traveller - i.e. playing in every one of the 10 slots I was there. In the end I only got 3 PFS games as there was not one available for my tier on Saturday afternoon that wasn't already signed up twice over (I also only did 1 LFR but got to play an extra MLT). This left my character 1 scenario shy of 3rd.

I think I would be happier with a 2 scenario a day schedule at PaizoCon UK assuming I was staying over, the first PaizoCon UK I went to I only attended Saturday daytime and so played just 2 scenarios - if I did the same again and could only play 1 scenario I would have to reconsider going at all. Having said that I think for PaizoCon UK target those attending for the whole con and suggest a 2 scenario day.

Of course the ideal way to have our cake and eat it is to have scenarios that run comfortably in 4 hours. The main plots could be fairly simple, with faction missions being the complicating factors.

Maybe a framework something like

Introductions
Mission briefing (in character)
Shopping
Initial investigation / exploration / social scene
Combat 1
Second investigation / exploration / social scene
Non combat challenge /action scene (a chase, mountaineering scene, trek through a desert etc)
Combat 2 (the finale)
Epilogue
Out of character debriefing and paperwork

Lantern Lodge 5/5 Regional Venture-Coordinator, Asia-Pacific aka DarkWhite

DigitalMage, until last weekend, I would have agreed with you. Let's get authors to write four-hour scenarios to fit our con timetables - problem solved!

However, after having played two five-hour sessions per day at Arcanacon, I really appreciate the longer play format. There's more story, more roleplay, more enjoyment. You just need the time to run it and not cut optional encounters and not rush through it. It felt more like the enjoyment of playing a home game with friends where you have room to explore, instead of a rushed series of encounters at a convention.

I think it's the Pathfinder experience we should be selling to our players.

Cheers,
DarkWhite

The Exchange 5/5 Regional Venture-Coordinator, Western Eurasia-Middle East aka Wintergreen

I agree that we all want to have our cake and eat it - GMs too want to have long, fun roleplaying-filled games that fit into time slots and allow them to have a break, socialise and eat!

I'm not sure if your scenario structure would satisfy people. But is worth trying.

Last year at PaizoCon UK we did suggest to people that we have two scenarios each day but that on Saturday evening we have a third scenario for those who really wanted to play 3 (and felt up to it!) As we had Josh Frost as a special guest and access to a playtest of The Year of the Shadow Lodge special game just about everybody decided they wanted to play that (rather than the 30 people we had anticipated).

I think we'll do the same this year (ie 2 games each day with Saturday evening available for a 3rd game/special event).

Dark Archive 5/5 Regional Venture-Coordinator, Midwest

I think that there is a fundamental assumption on this thread that the WRITING is the only cause of a scenario running too long, while I think that the party makeup and player type play a huge role in how quickly a module is done.

Our local judge pool is 4-6 people. We are all experienced players and come to the table knowing each others play style and what to expect at a table. We also know each others judge styles so no matter who is GM-ing the slot zero, we know how to move things along.

If you have an entire table of new players who are trying to play classes with animal companions or spells, you are going to have a long session as a GM, no matter if you are trying to push them along. Consequently, a group of 4 players who have played together since Season 0 can take the less-than-ideal pre-gens and blaze through City of Strangers.

The Exchange

Kyle Baird wrote:

Is Thea running your table? If so, you'll be done in 2 hours or less.

Higher level scenarios almost always take 4 hours. Scenarios that encourage role play can take a long time too, but it depends on your GM and your players. Scenarios like City of Strangers can (should) be player driven. This can cause problems though, again depending on the players at the table. It's the GM's job to keep poking them along in order to wrap everything up within the alotted time.

All of that said, there are certain scenarios that are all but impossible for me to finish in under 4 hours. (looking at you Rebel's Ransom, you wonderful amazing crazy long scenario)

sheesh .. is it my fautl if the players decide to skip the time-waster rooms and go right to the main two fights?

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Maps Subscriber
Stephen White wrote:
I really appreciate the longer play format. There's more story, more roleplay, more enjoyment. You just need the time to run it and not cut optional encounters and not rush through it.

Perhaps then the answer is for 4 hour scenarios but have several "double slot" scenarios as well - these should give double XP and appropriate gold etc as well.

I know there are already two part adventures (Bloodcove Disguise is a part 1) but those parts are still written as 5 hour scenarios. Such two part 5 hour scenarios could perhaps be 3 part 4 hour scenarios?

I just think that unless this can happen, I may only be pursuing PFS at PFS only cons and in home games, perhaps at Conception & similar cons with the aim of playing solely in lodges to our own timetable or only playing in evening slots so I can hopefully at least get food before hand.


Todd Morgan wrote:
Consequently, a group of 4 players who have played together since Season 0 can take the less-than-ideal pre-gens and blaze through City of Strangers.

Unless they're playing the level 4 pregens. That "thing" in the first room of the "main building" in part 2 at tier 3-4 really messes up those pregens. RAWR! ;-)


Thea Peters wrote:
sheesh .. is it my fautl if the players decide to skip the time-waster rooms and go right to the main two fights?

Yes, it is your fautl. ;-) See you soon girly!

The Exchange

Kyle Baird wrote:
Thea Peters wrote:
sheesh .. is it my fautl if the players decide to skip the time-waster rooms and go right to the main two fights?
Yes, it is your fautl. ;-) See you soon girly!

Lol ..

I know it's like 2 weeks... *bounce bounce bounce*

p.s. did you get my email?

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

The fastest games of PFS I've either played or run have been those with fewer players in quiet environments. I made it to Conception this year and the 5 person game in a silent chalet was a blast: we started late and finished early. In fact I wished the mod had been longer as I was enjoying it so much.

Conversely the 7 person game in a very noisy hall struggled to finish on time, was difficult to hear and I had time to go and get food in between my turns in combat without holding anybody up. I'd have had no chance to do that in the 5 player chalet game as the combat rounds were so swift by comparison.

Both games were year 0 dungeon crawls in 4 hour slots, which should have been plenty. I know DM style and group dynamics play a part too, and searching a room should be a one minute set of checks at the end of combat rather than a laborious process of asking which PC is doing what, where and how, but the noise was the biggest factor.

If Paizocon UK has a series of small rooms with one or two tables in each, then you could do 4 hour slots and warn people about the notorious mods (Rebel's Ransom for example - brilliant but slow). If you have all of your tables in one large room then I think it has to be 5 hour slots, just to give everyone an extra hour to repeat themselves because no-one could hear them the first time they said it...

The Exchange

Stormfriend wrote:
(Rebel's Ransom for example - brilliant but slow).

I keep seeing people say that this was a slow mod.. I didn't think it was that slow. Maybe it was the GM (the notorious Kyle "Death to them all" Baird, or maybe it was the group, but we were able to get thru the scenario in the allotted time.

Grand Lodge 4/5 Regional Venture-Coordinator, Great Lakes aka TwilightKnight

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For those of you who know me, I have been known to run a tad long GM'ing, most of my tables. No, really it's true ;-). However, over time I've learned a few things.
(1) Keep a clock in eyesight. That may mean your cell phone next to your hand or a clock in your line of sight (we all know what that is right?). This will help you keep an eye on the pace and you can hand-waive minor things if you need to get back on track.
(2) Be aware of where the faction mission solutions are located. Too many of them are completed after the final encounter. If you have to call the game due to time, it "hoses" players out of the opportunity to complete them. I don't mind if a player fails, after all we're not expected to earn every one, but if they don't get a chance, that's a poor experience.
(3) Don't make the players kill every last minion. If the earlier encounters, which are typically vs. minor NPC's/creatures, once it is clear that they are no longer in danger, call it and complete with a cinematic description. This can save you valuable time later on.
(4) Prep as much as you can before hand. That means printing pages from the Bestiary, spells, rules for a special combat maneuver, etc. Whatever the encounters are using. If the encounter refers to using stats block from earlier in the scenario, print an extra copy of that page so you don't have to flip back 'n forth. This will save you time from surfing the books during the game.
(5) Have your maps ready to go. It is always quicker to remove a tape-over cover to reveal the next room than it is to draw as you go. Use Flipmaps and Map Packs whenever possible.
(6) Use something quick and easy to track combat. Some use the Gamsemastery Combat Pad. If so, prep the magnets with the creatures, including their initiative rolls. Saves time later. Many (including me) use index cards. This is a great option because you can hand one out to the players at the beginning and have them jot down anything you want to refer to during the game, like initiative modifier, skill modifiers, AC, whatever. You can also make notes on their cards as the game goes on to track resources used/gained, who is holding a key item, or ongoing affects like poison/disease. On the opponent cards, you can do the same and add all their combat info so you have a one-stop shop for tracking them in combat.
(7) Use highlighters (of different colors) on the printed scenario so you can find important points more quickly. Sometimes, all the dialog isn't contained in the boxed text.
(8) Keep the players on task. They often spend so much time deciding what to do next, they waste time. Let them discuss for a minute or two, but if it looks like they could ramble on for hours, remind them that they are on a "real" clock, even if their characters are not.
(8) And the most important one...Know Thy Scenario! Whenever possible, run it at least once for a local/home group before a con. Typically, local groups run quicker and often have a bit more leeway in time constraints. Regardless, you should definitely read it at least 2-3 times. I have learned to read it straight through without breaking. Take a short break to relax, and then read it again, slower, taking some notes as I go. Finally, I read it though a third time, creating my index cards and printing pdf pages or writing important info as I go. By then, I'm pretty familiar with the scenario.

I, for one, liked the change to a five-hour slot. I seem to make the time limits more consistently now. However, if you think that all this did was allow the writers to push the scenario time out, then what's to stop that "arms race" from happening again if we increased to 6-hour slots? One thing I notices is that the daily start times at regional cons sometimes hurts their available time. Starting at 10am, can lose you an hour or two that could be used for break times. I like the three slot schedule 8am-1pm, 1pm-6pm, 7pm-midnight that is used at GenCon. I know it doesn't give you a break for lunch, but at least you get one for dinner. I would even be in favor of moving up to a 7am start so there is an hour break between slot one and two. A quick muster, combined with a prepared GM who keeps the players on task, can go a long way to getting the scenario completed ahead of the five-hour window so there is time for a quick restroom break and grab some grub before part two of your marathon.

The Exchange

TwilightKnight wrote:
For those of you who know me, I have been known to run a tad long GM'ing, most of my tables.

yes, yes you do.. I blame it on the Indiana school system..

TwilightKnight wrote:
blabbed on for a bit

longwinded but well said and truthful... prepping is the majority of the GM responsibility imo

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Thea, don't pick on BobBob. I think he gave a good summary of ways to keep things on track :)

I think that GenCon is actually the exception in allowing 5 hour slots. Most of the conventions I attend are still 4 hours. Fortunately, I can speak reallyreally fast.


Living Muster is 15 mins early at conception, but tables are always lacking and games never get started in the living bit till at least 20 past the hour

You just need to keep the pace going, remember its a modern world and not old skool spending 30 minutes buying a cloak

I played the Jester one, that overran, but it was a night slot so not too bad.

we hammered through master of the fallen fortress. congrats to GM and 7 players, two new to PF totally. great game

the first scene in the heresy mods took ages as it went horribley worng. This is the difficult to judge bit. If one scene takes forever because of terrible dice rolls, what do you do? Luckily in mods 1 and 2 of thayt may conjuror ruled the dungeon and we 'pwned' it!!

if im running a game ill ensure it finishes bang on the slot at conception, cos i like to go back to the lodge and eat healthily...have had no on-site food there for 3 years now!! Now sure why but the beer had gone downhill too

I see no reason a GM cant call a combat if its obvious the players are gonna win...am long past the point as a player where an easy combat needs to drag on for a round or two in the 'hopes' the GM will utterly fluke a crit, and every last kobold is slain

It was the first time for a year id played any PFS so its rekindled my urge for it

Grand Lodge 4/5 Regional Venture-Coordinator, Great Lakes aka TwilightKnight

I think the organizers can help with this as well. If there are scenarios that we know, traditionally, run long, try not to run those in slot one. That one typically runs right into slot two and probably has the highest stress factor. Not to mention on day two or three of a convention there are some sluggish players at 8am :-).


Thea Peters wrote:
p.s. did you get my email?

Yeah, some guy named Todd is picking me up at the airport? I guess I'll write that name down my handy-dandy list... ;-)

A lot of times when my scenarios run long, I've kept the NPC alive longer than I probably should have. I've had 15 round combats in some games where other tables take 2 rounds. Then there's other times when the PC's refuse to just die. The writing's on the wall folks, just hand me your character sheets already so I can rip'em up! NOM NOM NOM.

(One of these days I'll have to write a thread about how I don't actually like *killing* characters, to which Neil would write, "No, but you do enjoy torturing them.")

The Exchange

K Neil Shackleton wrote:

Thea, don't pick on BobBob. I think he gave a good summary of ways to keep things on track :)

I think that GenCon is actually the exception in allowing 5 hour slots. Most of the conventions I attend are still 4 hours. Fortunately, I can speak reallyreally fast.

Awwwwww I only pick on him cause it's fun, besides I'm in my email soothing his shattered go as we speak. It was a very well written summary and one that all coordinators should hand out to their GMS as a reminder lol.

Gamicon is offering 5 hour slots.

The Exchange

Kyle Baird wrote:
Thea Peters wrote:
p.s. did you get my email?

Yeah, some guy named Todd is picking me up at the airport? I guess I'll write that name down my handy-dandy list... ;-)

A lot of times when my scenarios run long, I've kept the NPC alive longer than I probably should have. I've had 15 round combats in some games where other tables take 2 rounds. Then there's other times when the PC's refuse to just die. The writing's on the wall folks, just hand me your character sheets already so I can rip'em up! NOM NOM NOM.

(One of these days I'll have to write a thread about how I don't actually like *killing* characters, to which Neil would write, "No, but you do enjoy torturing them.")

I'm sure "the todd" will be happy to note that you called him "some guy named todd" sheesh ..

edited to fix the spelling of a word


TwilightKnight wrote:
you should definitely read it at least 2-3 times

pfft. Reading is difficult. On that note, hopefully Bob didn't mention this already:

If your NPCs call out certain spells in their tactics, know those spells. If you remember 'em, print 'em out. Same goes for universal monster rules and/or special defenses.

Have an elemental monster they're going to fight? Print out a card with the elemental subtype rules on it. (Yes they are immune to sneak attack!)

If you're crazy like me, try to memorize 3rd, 4th, 5th round spells/tactics for each NPC. Imagine you're a wounded NPC and 5 hungry PCs are trying to take your cake. What are you going to do now to protect that delicious cream cheese frosting (assuming it's not spelled out already)? Often it's in those moments that an odd spell or feat comes up. Have them ready. Know what they are. This saves precious seconds and keeps the players engaged.

Grand Lodge 4/5 Regional Venture-Coordinator, Great Lakes aka TwilightKnight

Thea Peters wrote:
It was a very well written summary and one that all coordinators should hand out to their GMS as a reminder lol.

**Ego stroked, blush**


Thea Peters wrote:
I'm sure "the todd" will be happy to note that you called him "come guy named todd" sheesh ..

SOME guy named Todd. And he will be happy, because he's on my list!

Grand Lodge 4/5 Regional Venture-Coordinator, Great Lakes aka TwilightKnight

Kyle Baird wrote:
Reading is difficult

Especially for someone of your advancing age ;-)

Dark Archive 5/5 Regional Venture-Coordinator, Midwest

Kyle Baird wrote:
Thea Peters wrote:
p.s. did you get my email?
Yeah, some guy named Todd is picking me up at the airport? I guess I'll write that name down my handy-dandy list... ;-)

I'll be there with a sign that says "GM of Death"

The Exchange

Todd Morgan wrote:
Kyle Baird wrote:
Thea Peters wrote:
p.s. did you get my email?
Yeah, some guy named Todd is picking me up at the airport? I guess I'll write that name down my handy-dandy list... ;-)

I'll be there with a sign that says "GM of Death"

suckup

Shadow Lodge 5/5 Regional Venture-Coordinator, Southwest

Thea Peters wrote:
Stormfriend wrote:
(Rebel's Ransom for example - brilliant but slow).
I keep seeing people say that this was a slow mod.. I didn't think it was that slow. Maybe it was the GM (the notorious Kyle "Death to them all" Baird, or maybe it was the group, but we were able to get thru the scenario in the allotted time.

In my experience Rebels Ransom requires quite a bit of judge prep. If that is done it is.much easier to complete within a regular con slot.

The Exchange

Eric Brittain wrote:
Thea Peters wrote:
Stormfriend wrote:
(Rebel's Ransom for example - brilliant but slow).
I keep seeing people say that this was a slow mod.. I didn't think it was that slow. Maybe it was the GM (the notorious Kyle "Death to them all" Baird, or maybe it was the group, but we were able to get thru the scenario in the allotted time.
In my experience Rebels Ransom requires quite a bit of judge prep. If that is done it is.much easier to complete within a regular con slot.

Exactly .. I can see it taking over the allotted time if the judge is running it cold -- there are some tricky spots, or if the judge didn't adequatly prep.


Eric Brittain wrote:
Thea Peters wrote:
Stormfriend wrote:
(Rebel's Ransom for example - brilliant but slow).
I keep seeing people say that this was a slow mod.. I didn't think it was that slow. Maybe it was the GM (the notorious Kyle "Death to them all" Baird, or maybe it was the group, but we were able to get thru the scenario in the allotted time.
In my experience Rebels Ransom requires quite a bit of judge prep. If that is done it is.much easier to complete within a regular con slot.

Re: Rebel's Ransom

Mine always run long because I spend a long time roleplaying the red-head. She's one of my favorites. I can get through that entire encounter with her and the PCs w/o ever lying or fully tipping my hand.

The Exchange

Kyle Baird wrote:
Eric Brittain wrote:
Thea Peters wrote:
Stormfriend wrote:
(Rebel's Ransom for example - brilliant but slow).
I keep seeing people say that this was a slow mod.. I didn't think it was that slow. Maybe it was the GM (the notorious Kyle "Death to them all" Baird, or maybe it was the group, but we were able to get thru the scenario in the allotted time.
In my experience Rebels Ransom requires quite a bit of judge prep. If that is done it is.much easier to complete within a regular con slot.

Re: Rebel's Ransom

Mine always run long because I spend a long time roleplaying the red-head. She's one of my favorites. I can get through that entire encounter with her and the PCs w/o ever lying or fully tipping my hand.

But the one I was in seemed to run smoothly


Thea Peters wrote:
But the one I was in seemed to run smoothly

Smooth /= Quick (or on time)

That scenario is also highly dependent on player capabilities to solve puzzles, or at the very least come up with a plan to solve them.

Refresh my brain. Did you let her go the first time? Did we have enough time that she came back? Was that the one where I cooked the crocodile? (tasty by the way)

The Exchange

Kyle Baird wrote:
Thea Peters wrote:
But the one I was in seemed to run smoothly

Smooth /= Quick (or on time)

That scenario is also highly dependent on player capabilities to solve puzzles, or at the very least come up with a plan to solve them.

Refresh my brain. Did you let her go the first time? Did we have enough time that she came back? Was that the one where I cooked the crocodile? (tasty by the way)

Lol .. she left, didn't come back, and yes you cooked the crock .. it was tasty

Honestly, while I haven't played a huge number of games with you as the GM, the only frustrating scenario was the 1st heresy and I think that was more that the party makeup was horrible than the mod itself -- even tho it is a challenging mod. the GM is supposed to challenge the players and that's what you do -- despite all our jokes about you being a killer GM.

Lantern Lodge 5/5 Regional Venture-Coordinator, Asia-Pacific aka DarkWhite

TwilightKnight wrote:
Starting at 10am, can lose you an hour or two that could be used for break times. I like the three slot schedule 8am-1pm, 1pm-6pm, 7pm-midnight that is used at GenCon.

If you're staying in a hotel room on-site, this probably works. However, for most local cons I've been, players have to commute often by public transport to/from the venue. 8am starts mean more players are late to the start of their sessions. 11pm finishes mean you have no room should your last session run over and the venue organisers are trying to push you out the door. 9am - 10pm (allowing possible spillover to 11pm if required) I find is the perfect mix of getting players to the table on time, allowing for a late final session, and still leaving before the last bus home. But often start/finish times are set by the venue or con organisers anyway, and is out of your hands.

Thea Peters wrote:
Gamicon is offering 5 hour slots.

Real question is, have they scheduled meal breaks between those 5 hour slots? Because in my experience, 4 hour sessions with 1 hour meal breaks = 5 hour sessions back-to-back without meal breaks, so you may not really be gaining anything.

Cheers,
DarkWhite

The Exchange

Stephen White wrote:
Thea Peters wrote:
Gamicon is offering 5 hour slots.

Real question is, have they scheduled meal breaks between those 5 hour slots? Because in my experience, 4 hour sessions with 1 hour meal breaks = 5 hour sessions back-to-back without meal breaks, so you may not really be gaining anything.

Cheers,
DarkWhite

They are back to back slots -- however, we do have some wiggle room and there is a cafeteria w/in a quick sprint of the game room.. and the gms in the area are pretty easy going about players running for food.. or taking a small break -- GMs need food too ya know


Thea Peters wrote:
gms in the area are pretty easy going

Good thing you're bringing in all the out-of-towners to whip those players into shape! NO SOUP FOR YOU!

The Exchange

Kyle Baird wrote:
Thea Peters wrote:
gms in the area are pretty easy going
Good thing you're bringing in all the out-of-towners to whip those players into shape! NO SOUP FOR YOU!

pfft .. just be glad we're willing to let you come and pretend to GM.. we only invited you cause Doug said we had to :P

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