We're all busy people, ya hear? Most Games have a real-world time limit of a single session. If your Game is still running at midnight on a weekday, has gone wildly off the rails to the point where it can't be finished, or just absolutely terrible and wasting everyone's time, split the Game into two sessions or call it a loss and let people move on with their lives.
Here are some tips for making sure your game doesn't drag on for your players.
- Don't run side-games before primary games. Schedule different meetings for downtime play.
- Don't have lengthy character introductions for each character. Try to get the group together as soon as possible and present them with the game as a group.
- Don't encourage Contractors to split up. While it's efficient with regards to in-game time, it doubles the real-world time required to get anything done and forces half the group (or more!) to twiddle their thumbs. Sometimes specific characters will monopolize the GM's time. Avoid it when possible, and don't encourage it.
- Secret ringers (characters that are NPCs masquerading as Contractors) should discretely communicate via text or chat instead of having one on one private meetings with the GM when they want to take secret actions.
- STAY FOCUSED. As the GM it is often your responsibility to keep the game rolling. When Players take an action, respond immediately.
- Don't call for excessive rolls. Remember, rolling is used to determine the result of an action when it is not obvious or high-stakes. You don't need to roll Perception + Alertness to hear a helicopter above you.
- Avoid multiple Combats per Game (Combat often takes a lot of time).
- Avoid Combats with more than eight participants.
- Make it a personal goal to resolve the actions of NPCs as quickly as possible, especially when in combat. No one likes to sit around waiting to hear what the minotaur does.
- Enforce the passage of in-game time when relevant. Players can't talk in-character for an hour in the span of 15 in-game minutes. This is especially relevant when things are time-sensitive in game. If you've got the mental bandwidth, enforce things like travel time and force conversations into the car to keep players on their toes.
High-value and Low-value Time
As the GM, you have a lot of control over how much time is spent in various parts of a Game. Most Scenarios will have some mechanism available to the GMs to move the action along. You often decide which conversations are summarized vs which ones are acted-out.
As such, you must always be aware of high-value and low-value ways that time is spent. Allow high-value times to breathe and use the tools at your disposal to move low-value time along. In general, time is high-value if everyone is having fun and low-value if not.
Examples of Low-value Time
- Some or all of the Players are frustrated, bored, or angry in an unfun way.
- Two NPCs talking to each other
- Time when only some of the Players' characters are present (split group)
- Pre-planning a ton (aka "heisting") for something that is not a major part of the Game or won't have payoff
- GM narration / description. Be concise. Return the ball to the Players as often as possible.
- Players have no thread to follow, are stalled out, or getting frustrated.
- Determining the outcome of things that do not matter
- Low-stakes combat without much context. (e.g. another group of goblins attack).
Examples of High-value Time
- Everyone is having fun
- Two or more Contractors having a conversation with each other in-character
- Everyone is trying to come up with a solution to a problem that is interesting / relevant
- Moral dilemmas
- Interpersonal conflict
- Combat with proper context and stakes (e.g. a situation arises that they, at least in-part, created and must now figure out how to resolve).
When to roll?
Many new GMs make the mistake for calling for too many rolls. In general, you only want to make Players roll when there is some question as to whether or not their chosen Action would be successful. You do not need to make people roll Dexterity + Athletics to jog a couple blocks.
The GM may call for a dice roll when
- A Contractor attempts something difficult or dangerous.
- They want to determine if a Contractor notices something.
- An NPC or in-game event is testing a Character in some way.
- An Action or Reaction is attempted in Combat.
- They have invented a system for an effect in their Game that demands it.
- A Character attacks something.
Dice must be rolled if
- A Power's system demands it.
- A Limit is crossed.
- A Character is attempting to stabilize an Injury.
- A Contractor is attacking another Contractor.
Note well: similar to how easy, simple actions do not require rolls, impossible actions do not demand a roll. The GM may simply declare that your action is a failure without calling for a roll. For example, if your mundane human attempts to lasso a rocket-propelled grenade, the GM should not call for a roll. You should fail and feel silly.
GMs may roll on behalf of their Players when the outcome of a roll would give meta-game information to the player. This is most relevant when trying to gather information. If you are attempting to figure out if an NPC is lying, the GM may ask you to roll Charisma + Subterfuge. If your result is a Botch and the GM says, "yup, they're definitely telling the truth," then you, the Player, know that they were in fact lying, which is awkward and inappropriate. Private rolls can prevent this, but too many private rolls can make Players feel left out or reduce GM trust.