A Change of Tempo: How To Consider Pacing In Your Recreation

I wrote some ideas about tips on how to measure and handle session pacing that ended up being about 2,557 phrases. So I’m splitting it up right into a multi-part collection to assist make it a bit extra digestible.

Earlier than we dig into pacing ideas although, a few fast gadgets.

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Ed Larmore, a good friend who produces the Scabard app, has created a Random Encounter Generator for 5E. It’s a bit totally different from different encounter planners I’ve seen on the market. For those who run a D&D 5E recreation, you may discover his encounter generator helpful.

Okay, let’s get into half one in all my pacing ideas now.

– Johnn

A Change of Tempo: The right way to Consider Pacing in Your Recreation

RPT Wizard of Journey Stephan asks:

How would a brand new GM measure whether or not his pacing is nice?

Thanks for the very attention-grabbing query, Stephan!

A Fast Definition

Let me begin with my broad definition of pacing:

Pacing is the notion of your recreation’s pace and movement.

The important thing phrase is notion, which I don’t assume different definitions embody.

A two-hour thrilling film might appear brief. However for those who’ve ever been caught on the improper aspect of the toilet door, a minute of CON checks can look like a lifetime.

Subsequently, I contend that our job as GM is to information pacing for finest perceived narrative and gameplay expertise. And it’s one other software in our GM Toolbox.

Notice #1: I purposefully don’t advise gradual or quick tempo. As an alternative, I counsel that you just learn the desk at any given second, determine if you wish to pace up or decelerate the tempo, after which make GM Strikes accordingly. And that you just do that with the intent of serving to gamers have extra enjoyable by way of their notion of the sport’s tempo.

For instance, you may detect on spherical two that fight’s feeling like a boring slugfest. So you are taking actions to make the fight appear quicker. Alternatively, you is perhaps working a journey sequence, nevertheless it’s going too quick and also you wish to gradual issues down so gamers can savor your world and its selections and particulars extra.

Notice #2: Altering the notion of pacing may truly contain altering the precise tempo. Confused but? Sorry. Right here’s an instance: to make our slugfest really feel quicker we are able to amp up the stakes to make it extra thrilling, and thereby make time appear to go by quicker. Or, we might have half the foes flee as a result of the chief was simply smashed, and have the opposite half give up, thereby truly ending the struggle quicker.

Notice #3: Lastly, I warning in opposition to prepping tempo. We’re enjoying a recreation. We can not management our gamers, and we don’t wish to management their characters. So we’re not the one arbiters of tempo. If the get together desires to decelerate and seek for traps and secret doorways each 5 ft, that’s their resolution.

My method as an alternative is akin to how I steadiness encounters. I let gameplay dictate my present GMing state of affairs. I then reply by way of GM Strikes to aim to have an effect on problem and tempo. This reduces prep, removes GMing cognitive load and stress, and makes the sport much more enjoyable to run (and hopefully play, too). To summarize, I care rather a lot about participant engagement. Notion of tempo contributes tremendously to this. Managing tempo can contain precise pace of gameplay and movement, or the notion of it. I don’t plan pacing as a result of I can not management gamers or their PCs. As an alternative, I attempt to grasp my table-reads and GM instruments so I can tweak tempo on-the-fly to cut back my total GMing burden.

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Three Varieties of Pacing

After we have a look at pace of gameplay and movement, we are able to break pacing into three huge buckets:

  • Plot Development
  • Mechanics
  • Exploration & Downtime

Plot Development

The speed at which our journey, story, or marketing campaign progresses. A quick-paced recreation may see gamers touring internationally and confronting main villains in a single session, whereas a slow-paced recreation may spend a number of periods on a single location or occasion.

This bucket has traditionally foiled me essentially the most. On the one hand, I wish to drop a number of plot factors onto the desk each session for a quicker tempo. Gamers interact with nice tales, and nice tales on the whole have to advance quick sufficient so gamers don’t overlook their targets or get bored.

Alternatively, I struggled for years attempting to drop extra plot. Both I protected secrets and techniques an excessive amount of, ready for good reveal moments that by no means got here, or I wrote advanced plots with too many layers considering that will give me extra factors to share, however I simply ended up complicated myself or burning out.

One GM Device we are able to wield to assist preserve plot development going regular is 5 Room Dungeons. 5RDs are brief adventures, so you’ll inform full tales extra usually, together with Room V: Reward & Revelation. As well as, as I educate within the Grasp of the 5 Room Dungeon Workshop, you may add a twist to every Room, leading to unbelievable notion of plot development.


Fight, motion scenes, talent challenges, and edge circumstances like grappling and underwater encounters, can set off many rounds of exercise and density of recreation guidelines.

If we’ve mastered the principles and referee them easily, we improve the tempo. But when we get slowed down within the mechanics, engagement suffers.

We will research the principles and get higher at them with observe. However I additionally see guidelines serving as puzzle items. There’s the narrative a part of our recreation the place gamers request to do stuff and make selections, and we don’t roll however as an alternative simply determine and describe what occurs. After which there’s a mechanics a part of our recreation the place we’ve an agreed upon contract (such because the Participant’s Handbook) with everybody on the desk that we’ll use particular guidelines in particular conditions.

By mastering our guidelines data, we are able to then create wonderful puzzle encounters. Consider it like constructing encounters attuned to the character sheets. We nonetheless go away it as much as our gamers to determine what to do. However in the event that they determine how sure selections are higher than others in every encounter, they’ll really feel like your pacing could be very robust.

Exploration & Downtime

This class is a coin with two sides.

Some video games contain determining what the get together does whereas not adventuring. Pathfinder, for instance, has intensive choices starting from coaching to working kingdoms. That is heads.

Tails is exploring your world. For instance, when gamers roleplay with NPCs only for the enjoyable of it or head to a vacation spot on the map as a result of it’s clean or has a cool identify. These are exploration kind actions.

Pacing is perhaps hardest to handle right here, as a result of totally different gamers like totally different elements of the sport. One participant desires to farm one thing, one other desires uncover the realm’s historical past and legends, and a 3rd participant simply desires to assault monsters and get loot.

It’s vital we perceive participant motivations so we are able to cater to every group’s distinctive mixture of preferences. Then we are able to plan periods and campaigns based on ratio of time spent on adventuring versus downtime versus exploring – to not say these are at all times mutually unique actions.

Realizing what sorts of pacing we wish to handle helps us perceive our GM Transfer choices for every, which I’ll cowl in a later half. I see three sorts of pacing we wish to optimize for throughout periods:

  • Story
  • Core Gameplay
  • Non-core gameplay
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Okay, that wraps up Half I. Sorry for the onerous cease there. In Half II we’ll decide issues up once more and speak about how we are able to measure our pacing after which consider it.

See you once more quickly!


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