#RPGaDAY Day 08: What is a good RPG to play for sessions of 2hrs or less?
  • #RPGaDAY Day 08: What is a good RPG to play for sessions of 2hrs or less?

    It’s August and that means that the annual #RPGaDAY ‘question a day’ is here to celebrate “everything cool, memorable and amazing about our hobby.” This year we’ve decided to join in the fun and will be canvassing answers from the ENWorld crew, columnists and friends in the industry to bring you some of our answers. We hope you’ll join in, in the comments section, and share your thoughts with us too… So, without further ado, here’s Day 8 of #RPGaDAY 2017!

    #RPGaDAY Question 8: What is a good RPG to play for sessions of 2hrs or less?

    Morrus: As long as you all know the game well, and you dive into it without too many distractions, most any game can provide a great two-hour experience. There's a lot of wasted time in most sessions (which is fine - they're social activities, and socialising with friends is important), but if you boil it down to the actual gaming part, two hours is quite doable even with fairly rules-heavy games. Obviously it's easier with rules light games, and games which don't require battlemaps and miniatures, but at least one of my weekly groups tends to be just over two hours a week once everybody has arrived and settled down. I actually find a focused two hours can be great.

    Darryl Mott: Fiasco. (And let's not get into the semantics argument that it’s “not a real roleplaying game”. It’s a collaborative storytelling game where you play a role, and even has dice, so it's close enough.) There are playsets for pretty much any fictional genre you can think of at this point, and it’s a lot of fun. Because of the focus on the story over game mechanics, you fit a lot more story into a much smaller period of time.

    Christopher Helton: My weekly online group only meets for two hours, so I would say "Just about anything." We've played Swords & Wizardry, Marvel Super-Heroes, Rifts, D&D 5E and Werewolf games with that time period in mind.

    Angus Abranson: Most games can work in a two hour session… although some games certainly benefit from longer sessions to really get the immersion and tension going. When I was working out of the Rebellion offices when Cubicle 7 were based in Oxford we actually had a lunch ‘RPG group’ that tried to meet two or three times a week. One of the guys from the novel publishing side of things, three from computer game developments, and myself – with the occasional floating guest player. Being lunch break it was ‘one-hour’ sessions, that usually meant more like 45-50 minutes once everyone had settled. We still managed to get a pretty decent campaign of D&D going though

    Martin Greening (Azure Keep, Ruma: Dawn of Empire): 3:16 by Gregor Hutton. It’s basically Starships Troopers/Warhammer 40K, and has very cool mechanics for requisitioning new weaponry and earning rank. Plus, the silhouette graphics are cool.

    Paul Mitchener (Age of Arthur; Hunters of Alexandria): In play I've found both Blades in the Dark and Monster of the Week really lend themselves to this. The way I run it, a Monster of the Week mystery takes about 2 hours. And for Blades in the Dark, a single score for the rogues has taken between one and two hours in the past. That allows room for downtime along with engaging with complications and the politics between different criminal factions before selecting the next score. As a more self indulgent answer, my game Age of Anarchy lends itself well to a game of two or so hours to resolve a particular issue for the PCs' patron lord.

    Simon Brake (Stygian Fox): Anything with as few rules as possible. Fiasco is my go-to game, but is no good if you have too many players. Cthulhu Dark is a great simple system, if you have a short enough story prepared.

    Lynne Hardy (Cogs, Cakes & Swordsticks; Achtung! Cthulhu): Well, I'm biased, so of course I'm going to say Cogs, Cakes & Swordsticks. But I'd also recommend Untold: Adventures Await, the upcoming family story telling game from the Creativity Hub, which uses Rory's Story Cubes.

    Eran Aviram (Up to Four Players; City of Mist): Savage Worlds is the obvious answer, as it's really straightforward and easy to pick up, but I'd like to also point at the Star Wars RPG dice (soon to come out as Genesys), because in a way they build the game for you, allowing the GM to sit at the table while only still having just a general idea or two. I've used these dice along with the very bare-bones of the rules to run several highly successful 2-hour games, including introducing new people to roleplaying, and GM competitions.

    Simon Burley (Golden Heroes, The Super Hack): THE BLACK HACK. It's D&D stripped back to its basics and all the better for it. I use it to introduce new players to the hobby. I have a standard one hour demo game. I use Matt Colville's "The Delian Tomb". (I like the idea that if the players enjoyed the game they can follow it up by checking out how it was designed on YouTube afterwards.) The thing is - Matt designed it to play for four hours using 5th Ed D&D. Using The Black Hack I can take totally new players through the whole thing in an hour - and they understand the rules. I resurrected the classic module "Against the Cult of the Reptile God" at LongCon last year. There was some debate about whether to run it using 1st Ed, update it to 5th Ed or use some other iteration of D&D. By agreeing to use The Black Hack, everybody was able to buy a copy of the rules (they're cheap!) and we were all on the same page without any of us having to learn a complex new game.

    Garry Harper (Modiphius Entertainment; The Role Play Haven): All Flesh Must Be Eaten, by Eden Studios.

    Stephanie McAlea (Stygian Fox Publishing, The Things We Leave Behind): Ghostbusters or Paranoia.

    Uli Lindner (Space: 1889; Clockwork Publishing): Dungeonslayers - easy to learn and play, and there are tons of One-Page-Dungeons available.

    Ken Spencer (Rocket Age; Why Not Games): If you are looking for a short pick up game, you can't go wrong with Barbarians of Lemuria. The rules are easy and fast, character generations should take about five minutes, ten if the players are new to the game, and it is designed to drop straight into the action. Playing off of pulp fantasy tropes, the movement of any adventure is fast, characters can be stock and cardboard, yet still fun, and there is no top to worry about going over.

    Laura Hoffman (Black Book Editions; Polaris RPG): In my opinion, as long as you have your characters ready, any game can be adapted to make a great short session!

    Federico Sohns (Nibiru RPG): I'd say Fiasco, or some of the one shot games of fellow designer Benjamin Reyna, who has a plethora of simple, two-page long rulesets with plenty of settings to choose from—and that you can download for free here.

    Mike Lafferty (BAMF Podcast; Fainting Goat Games): I love shorter sessions. I think the brevity is so much better for player engagement and pacing. So, I’m tempted to reply and say “all RPGs”. But that’s a bit cheeky and not really in the spirit of the question.
    I’ll say ICONS Assembled Edition. Character creation is fast and fun and the rules are both fast-playing and easy to communicate. You can literally roll up characters and be playing in 20 minutes.

    Marc Langworthy (Modiphius; Red Scar): Puppetland!

    Originally created by Dave Chapman (Doctor Who: Adventures in Time & Space; Conspiracy X) #RPGaDAY os now being caretakered by the crew over at RPGBrigade. We hope you’ll join in, in the comments section, and share your thoughts with us too!
    Comments 14 Comments
    1. TrippyHippy's Avatar
      TrippyHippy -
      Puppetland, by John Tynes, it explicitly and strictly played in precisely one hour. Name: 131c7aaf30b96a04cd695b9b742ae114_original.jpg ► Views: 541 ► Size: 404.7 KB
    1. Oliver Peltier's Avatar
      Oliver Peltier -
      You can easily playa micro session of Fantaji, a Universal RPG by Anphropos Games. You could justsetup a random encounter, simply by drawing some cards (either handwrittenindex cards or the pretty ones already produced- some more decks are going tobe released soon.)




      Another excellentRPG which can be played with or without a Dungeon Master or Games Mistress, isthe really cool game called Expedition. It Handles 1 to 6 players, uses a freeApp. Gameplay is 20+ minutes. Gameplay is really straightforward and it is prettyrules light. The game can be purchasedor you can print and play for free.

    1. JeffB's Avatar
      JeffB -
      Dungeon World
      The Black Hack (and things like The Tekumel Hack)
      S&W WHITE BOX (+ WhiteStar, Ruins & Ronin, etc)
      Searchers of the Unknown
      Call of Cthulhu (plenty of great short oneshots)
      13th Age
    1. Brodie's Avatar
      Brodie -
      I'd say Fate Core is pretty good for 2 hour sessions.
    1. Lon Lademann's Avatar
      Lon Lademann -
      For any group to have a great 2 hour session it would be best with which ever system they are most familiar. That makes jumping into an investigative/puzzle solving session, a role playing session, or a combat oriented session a great success. For my current group it would be D&D 5E.
    1. Ralif Redhammer's Avatar
      Ralif Redhammer -
      Agreed – there should be as little time spent explaining the rules/making characters as possible. For most groups, that’d be D&D or an OSR game like Labyrinth Lord or Castles & Crusades.

      Were I to pick something a little more left-field, I’d go with Kobolds Ate My Baby. Because it's a complete hoot to play.

      Quote Originally Posted by Lon Lademann View Post
      For any group to have a great 2 hour session it would be best with which ever system they are most familiar. That makes jumping into an investigative/puzzle solving session, a role playing session, or a combat oriented session a great success. For my current group it would be D&D 5E.
    1. theoysterking's Avatar
      theoysterking -
      Fate Accelerated, especially if you use "It's Not My Fault!" - characters can be created in 3-5 minutes by drawing three cards, interpersonal drama set in another 3-5 minutes, and the conflict is triggered by drawing three more cards.

    1. Jhaelen -
      Our group's pretty slow and easily distracted, so I'm not sure we would be able to get something meaningful done in 2 hours.
      I'd say the chances would be best when playing 'Trail of Cthulhu'. Any RPGs with tactical combat systems are definitely out.
    1. Batjutsu's Avatar
      Batjutsu -
      #RPGaDay 8 What is a good RPG to play for sessions of 2hrs or less?
      My answer is: any game can work, don’t feel restricted by setting or system. Use the opportunity

      From my blog: I am not trying to dismiss the question with my answer. The question is certainly a good one, since not every role-player is a veteran; also, not every veteran has the same opinion or experiences. From my experience, and from chatting with others, any game can definitely be run in a way that makes it great for a 2 hour or less session, even games renowned for having system mechanics that are quite time consuming.

      I believe that whatever the duration of a gaming session, all the normal considerations for running and playing an RPG apply. When determining how time affects a gaming session, I have presented three key considerations with responses:

      1) How much time a group spends on mechanics, and in particular combat.
      I have known gamers play rules lite games and spend a lot of time processing things, whilst other gamers quickly process more complex systems. There all sorts of ways to help a group learn a complex system, and play it easier. Whilst systems certainly matter, how they are implemented matters more.
      I’ve known role-players that like to embrace the ritual of dice rolling, making the process longer. As well as groups were all the participants excitedly discuss possibilities before the roll, cheer/boo the results, and delight in chatting about the new implications.

      2) How flowing everybody normally is in regards to decision making and describing their actions; this includes the GM.
      I don’t believe that a role-player needs to be very experienced to be able to quickly make decisions, or stay focused on a game. Whilst I appreciate gamer experience helps, as will familiarity with other participants’ gaming styles, I am highlighting that I’ve met a few novices who have grasped proceedings quickly.
      Role-playing and flow-state is something I have been thinking about for a while, but I'll go in to depth with this another time. This is a subject I have been researching for my role-playing guide for years.

      3) The amount of non-game conversation.
      The dreaded RP issue of a game being plagued by people talking about random things. Whether it’s the usually referencing of films/TV, debates about rules/powers, etc. This is not necessarily a bad thing, after all having fun is surely the main goal of a game, but for most players I assume they also want to play the game. I’ve had many different groups, and groups that has changed its requirements over time, and I’ve even had ‘hardcore role-players’ want to mostly socialise on odd occasions. Ideally discuss ideas before a short session (see below); one never knows if players fancy a change, maybe just this once.
      Interestingly, having a deadline can greatly help with regards to keeping the game focused. By discussing with my group that there was a time issue for that particular session, we were able to decide on plans, and then get promptly started. It’s not always fully worked, but having a deadline was still a positive aspect.

      A possibility is for the GM to design encounters that are almost guaranteed to be a lot of dialog. Keep mechanics to a minimum, if mechanics are normally a bit of time drain in your group, but not if that is what the players typically love. Part of the skill of GMing is to avoid be railroaded by your own ideas, you can always use what had been planned another time; any encounter can be tweaked and even used in a radically different way, so don’t worry about having wasted any preparation time.
      Even if the session is in the midst of a campaign, then maybe for this particular short session there all sorts of possibilities:

      • If the GM has big time pressure, maybe let someone else run something.
      • Use the opportunity to try out something new. Many games include pre-generated character, and an introductory story, which is ideal for this sort of thing.
      • Use the opportunity to flesh out backstory, flashbacks to something that was skimmed over, maybe a dream sequence. All of these ideas can be cliché, but can work wonderfully if handled well (avoid being too epic, keep it personal).
      • For some games the session could maybe be used as a downtime/blue-book session. This will be a chance to work out things, maybe each player details characters connected to their PC.
      • Role-play different characters in the setting, maybe relatives or allies of the PCs. Maybe the relatives/allies have found vital information, but since the PCs are in a dungeon, or at sea, the chat is about what to about things. If rarely done this can be a nice way of foreshadowing things.
      • A lot of other ideas, I am sure you get my point :-)

      As there are plenty of posts by other role-players giving system recommendations, I went with my gut reaction to this question. I believe this question raises a deeper issue regarding how gaming styles, session plans, and system mechanics combine to influence what is considered 'good'. I hope that by highlighting the above I have been helpful to a few people.

      I’ve not called any system out, as per my blog mission statement and the guidelines for the RPGaDay event about keep to positive answers:
    1. R_Chance's Avatar
      R_Chance -
      Any RPG can be played in 2 hour chunks with a little work... it helps if things like character generation, battles etc. can be done inside the 2 hour time limit for one session. The real challenge would be a one shot in a 2 hour time frame. Still doable with some work. Mind you I prefer 4+ hour sessions myself (and typically 6-8 ).

      I advise a game club at the school I teach at with typical meeting times of about 2 hours. The biggest issue is usually set up and clean up...
    1. Yaztromo's Avatar
      Yaztromo -
      Great question!!!
      I can see that, the more time passes the more I'm going in this direction, with less time to play and crazy schedules that force to play, basically, only one-offs or, at best, a loose conncetion of one-offs.

      On these occasions I always appreciate Paranoia (various editions and, not rarely, using just the setting with simpler rulesets - see below), often with pre-rolled characters, especially if I don't use a simplified ruleset. Lots of (quick) fun, really!
      Lately I'm appreciating more and more Savage Worlds, although I often start from pre-rolled characters to save some time and create more character-based plots.
      In my experience, however, light d6 rulesets (my favourite is Advanced Fighting Fantasy, but it's not the only one in the world), perhaps with a half page pre-read about the setting, are the best for this kind of games.
    1. Madmaxneo -
      Dreamchaser, it is an awesome game with some innovative mechanics. It was inspired by Fate.
      Here is a link the web page: Dreamchaser
    1. mflayermonk -

      Scarlet Heroes or Exemplars and Ediolons
    1. Lord Mhoram's Avatar
      Lord Mhoram -
      The actual play sessions we do in Hero often only go 2 hours or so. It works there. It means we don't get as much done, but it works.

      I wouldn't say it's built for it though.
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