After they express what they want from your game, the players will likely want to know when this game is going to happen.
In part this will depend on what sort of story you will be using. If you’re creating a game from scratch, hopefully you have most of it down on paper and assembled before approaching potential players. No one likes to be promised a fun adventure, only to hear “game under construction – will be ready in 4-6 weeks”.
On the other hand if you’re using a published game module adventure, then your lead time is only how long you need to review and understand the module, and how long the players need to write up their characters.
We will get into both the aspects of the story, and the use of game time during a session, in future posts. Right now let us look at this from a scheduling perspective. And this breaks down into four considerations :
- For how long will this adventure run ?
- What is everyone’s schedule like, day-to-day and week-to-week ?
- How often will this game be played ?
- On a game night, for how long do you intend a session to last ?
For how long will this adventure run ?
The simple answer at this stage of game preparation is “long” or “short”. If you will be building a sweeping epic campaign that will run as an ongoing adventure for the next six months or several years, there’s your answer. If your game will be a module or an all-inclusive one-off (as with my “Moonwatch” game), “short” would be your answer.
What is everyone’s schedule like, day-to-day and week-to-week ?
Now that you have a rapport build with approaching your players and asking what appeals to them in a game, it should be pretty easy for you to come back and ask them what day(s) of the week work for playing. Or, if you’re doing a short or a quick game, to find out when they have free time.
Gathering all of this information from individual players, you will likely find common days of the week and hours of the day that the majority of players can be available. And if you happen to be stuck for a way to pare a large pool of interested players down to a more manageable number, this could be your “out”.
How often will this game be played ?
If yours will be a short-duration adventure, you might try to do anything from a single 2-3 hour session, to a full day, to a weekend or several days over your summer or Christmas holidays or Spring Break. If your campaign will be ongoing, then weekly or monthly game sessions will likely fit your long-duration adventure.
The shorter an adventure is planned to be, the more frequently a game session should happen. With a short adventure there is much less homework and back-story a DM is required to invent, so in the space of a day or a weekend it’s conceivable that a one-off or module could be run start-to-finish without issue. In fact the module may even tell you how long it takes to run.
The longer a campaign will go, consider gaming more infrequently. As a campaign is planned longer and more elaborate, you the DM will need more down-time in between sessions to build nightly encounters and small story arcs, write up monsters and NPC’s and populate towns and dungeons. Availability of prep time will depend on your real-life schedule and how much time you devote to friends and family, work, school, other RPG’s / MMO’s, etc.
It may happen that you decide to do a weekly game. My group plays every Friday night. While some of our players will be able to attend every session, this night may be spotty at best for some players, and completely out for others. As a group you will have to compromise on a day for your game – of course based on what day works for the DM !
On a game night, for how long do you intend a session to last ?
Here we come into a question that speaks more to endurance and attention-span than it does scheduling. Again you will have to think about your players and what they are like to get an idea of what will work.
How much of the scheduled time of a game session do you believe will actually see the players focused on the game ? Let’s talk percentages; do you have a motley crew of attention-deficit slackers, easily distracted, who might spend only 10-15% of the session actually playing in character ? Do you have a hardcore, poop-socking group that will devote >95% of the session to actual story interaction ? Or is the group, on average, probably attentive half the time and debating pizza orders and how awesome “Firefly” was (answer : very awesome) the other half the time ? When you estimate your session length, factor in any loss of productivity based on what your players.
Later on we’ll look at budgeting your time in a session with regards to the intended adventure for the night. For now a mutually agreeable session length is fine. For a module your group may agree to “every Saturday next month, starting at 1pm and running until 6pm.” Or for an ongoing game you might say “every Thursday night, starting after 7pm and going until 10pm, 11pm at the latest.” You’ll be able to change this later if scheduling problems develop.
Again remember some logical constraints. Too short a game session and you won’t get enough done and the game will feel hurried or lacking; too long of a session and fatigue and boredom could set in.
Once you and your players have agreed on the When, next let’s look at the WHERE.