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Wizard of Story
Wizard of Combat
How To Run A Lunch Hour Game
From JohnnFour | Published April 4, 2022
Roleplaying Tips Newsletter #1,198
Wizard of Adventure CD asked me this question about squeezing some gaming in at lunch:
I supervise a D&D club at my high school and run one group of new players.
Due to bussing we can't really run sessions after school or weekends, so I rely on our lunch period to run short sessions.
Any tips for running an hour-long session that will make most efficient use of that time?
Thanks for the question, CD!
I've run two lunch campaigns at work over the years.
Alas, I was just getting into the groove with each when they folded due to evolving work demands.
Here's what I learned to hopefully help you avoid that awkward inefficient period I went through.
Begin With StoryMake story your top priority so each session feels rewarding.
Begin with the 5 Room Dungeon mindset where each session:
- Has a strong beginning (see RPT #1,176 | How To Start Every Session With A Bang!)
- Builds to great action via roleplay and challenges
- Pays off with a climactic encounter
- Sets up a strong start next session with a revelation or reward (likewise, see above)
In this way, we're managing time through tight encounter design and quick session pacing.
I'm not saying sessions should be five encounters.
But do use the 5RD structure to help fantastic story emerge from whatever gameplay transpires.
Try to also shine the spotlight brightly on each character once.
Brainstorm a list of cool spotlight moments for each PC and then keep an eye out for how to use at least one idea per PC at each lunch.
For example, list what each PC does best and what each player wants for treasure.
Then add something to each new encounter that serves up such options for at least a couple of PCs.
There's a lot more we could talk about on tight encounter design here, such as borrowing from episodic TV or D&D 4E adventure approaches.
But our main goal here is to keep players interested in a solid and clear direction to move the story forward at a brisk pace.
Make Combats Quick, Easy, and PurposefulIf combat does erupt, here's what you can do to make them fast.
Use minis in the spirit of "a picture is worth 1,000 words" for efficiency.
Physical maps and objects help people focus. They also help people sort out positioning and other aspects with less confusion.
I'm not saying use the grid for combat. Instead, use physical representations of gameplay where it helps.
On that note, try to fight using theater of the mind, combat zones, and the grid in that order, based on your game system and group preferences.
Use RPT #631 | Combat Missions and RPT #1,148 | 3 Round Combat Plans so you don't fight to the last health point every time.
Ask players to handle certain combat tasks for you like initiative (see also RPT #1,197 | 3 Ways Your Players Can Help You Out Next Session).
Create cheat sheets compatible with phones and update them with tricky rules that emerged from last gameplay.
Reduce foe counts, weaken foes, and make it so combat is not the purpose of the story but a means to tell it.
If lunch ends mid-combat, take a photo so you can set up fast next game.
Create Smooth Session LogisticsReduce your props, equipment, and GM aids.
We want setup and takedown to be as fast as possible so we don't rob gameplay time.
Do a session recap as you set up.
Handle treasure, administrivia, and a session recap as you tear things down.
Worry less about cliffhangers and end with clarity on how you'll start next session.
Consider starting each session RPT Newsletter #608 | In Medias Res.
Present simple choices early in sessions so you get back into the mindset fast and drive play forward rather than stall on group discussion or risk split parties. "Do you talk with the mayor or head back to the dungeon?"
Keep a clock visible to all.
Do what you need to get people to show up on time.
Create clear goals. Side quests are ok, just avoid subtlety.
Use backchannel communication to help players chat, make decisions, do character sheet updates, and handle admin stuff between games.
Think weekly cadence too. You could literally play one Room per day and end each week with a bang if desired. In other words, you cue one scene per session. That allows easier prep too.
Use the simplest game system everyone can enjoy.
Use mechanics that encourage story over combat (e.g., milestone XP).
Create strong, team-oriented roleplay hooks for each PC. For example, every PC has at least one other PC in their background.
Get simple yet pointed personalities written on each character sheet so players have personas they can get into, and get into fast.
Get food logistics sorted. Ensure there's a garbage that's impossible to miss for fast clean-up.
Any Other Tips?Those are my learnings off the top of my head. I hope this helps, CD.
RPT GM, have you run short, one-hour, or lunch games? What tips do you have for CD?