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Explain "20 Minutes of Fun over 4 Hours" to me

DM_Jeff

Explorer
Something's bothered me this past Sunday afternoon, after the Phillies game but right before my Eberron game. :) I read recently here on EN World, regarding 'future editions' of D&D, that Ryan Dancey was quoted as saying something like "D&D is 20 minutes of fun condensed into 4 hours".

I wish I could find the original quote, and its context, because I can't quite wrap my head around it. Was he referring to combat? That combat is the most fun but it only takes 20 minutes of a game? Certainly not! That there are, on average, about 20 minutes of fun in an average D&D session, while the other 3 hours 40 minutes are...what? :confused: Bothersome? Dull? Un-fun? Why? Who would play in such a worthless time-wasting session?

I mean, I did, once. I never played again (and to be fair it was Warhammer not D&D). :) I bet I have fun 3 hours and 40 minutes out of my average 4 hour D&D game!

So, does anyone have a link to this very strange quote or personal reflection on it's meaning?

-DM Jeff
 

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molonel

First Post
My understanding of that statement was that it referred to getting bogged down in mechanics, often combat. I would ammend it, personally, to include an endless preoccupation with fiddly bits.
 

Flexor the Mighty!

18/100 Strength!
The only thing I can think is that his games must really suck. :)

There are parts where things slow down, but if I was only getting about 20 min of fun every four hours of playing I'd find a new game to play.
 

DanFor

First Post
I think it was an exagerration meant to point out all of the other things (rules referencing, out-of-game conversations, etc.) that go on during a typical gaming session.
 

mmadsen

First Post
I'm not sure what's so hard to understand. I doubt most groups are having a blast for four hours at a time. Someone's counting squares to determine how to avoid Attacks of Opportunity, someone else is checking e-mail on his Blackberry, another player is spinning dice, etc.

Adjudicating the rules and looking things up is not fun for most people, but it has to be done to play D&D "right".
 

WizarDru

Adventurer
molonel said:
My understanding of that statement was that it referred to getting bogged down in mechanics, often combat. I would ammend it, personally, to include an endless preoccupation with fiddly bits.
Here's the actual quote: "Dave Wise, who was one of my Brand Managers at WotC, and was a talented writer and editor for TSR, is married to the person who first made the observation, after watching his gaming group, that D&D seemed like 20 minutes of fun packed into four hours - which was her way of saying “shouldn’t this game be more fun, considering the work and time everyone seems to be putting into it?” Ryan Dancey made this on Mike Mearls' blog right here.

The most relevant line towards your question is this: "Many RPG sessions consist of a very limited amount of "roleplaying game", surrounded by a lot of argument, community dialog, eating, and other distractions."

In other words, Dancey was commenting on how little actual time during the typical D&D session is actually spent role-playing versus a lot of other activities that aren't part of the game per se. In a game of Football, arguing over whether someone got a first down doesn't degenerate into a 15 minutes discussion of the rules determining first downs with most of the team off getting a coke while the ref and the quarterback argue. ;)
 

JohnSnow

First Post
DM_Jeff said:
I wish I could find the original quote, and its context, because I can't quite wrap my head around it. Was he referring to combat? That combat is the most fun but it only takes 20 minutes of a game? Certainly not! That there are, on average, about 20 minutes of fun in an average D&D session, while the other 3 hours 40 minutes are...what? :confused: Bothersome? Dull? Un-fun? Why? Who would play in such a worthless time-wasting session?

I mean, I did, once. I never played again (and to be fair it was Warhammer not D&D). :) I bet I have fun 3 hours and 40 minutes out of my average 4 hour D&D game!

So, does anyone have a link to this very strange quote or personal reflection on it's meaning?

-DM Jeff
As I understand it, that quote was a comment from Ryan Dancey's girlfriend after watching a D&D session. Basically, it looked to her like there wasn't enough fun in a D&D gaming session for it to take 4 hours.

I think you can probably find the details if you go to Ryan's site.
 

maddman75

First Post
Typical 4 hour gaming session

15 min Waiting for chronically late player to show up
5 min argue with chronically late player about what time we were starting
25 min Talk about video games, movies, TV shows, and the internet
15 min Get snacks out, sodas
20 min Bathroom breaks
15 min Treasure-hungry player arguing with GM about prices of magic items
30 min messing with minis, battle mats, and rearranging books and snacks to make room
35 min Monty Python/Dead Alewives quotes
30 min arguing over an obscure feat or grappling rules
15 min clearing the room when Taco Bell has its revenge
15 min the GM crying into his notes as he realizes everyone forgot his plot when one of the NPCs names vaguely resembled a dirty word and they can't stop laughing about it
20 min actual fun

An exaggeration? Sure. But don't tell me you haven't had games like this. Enough of it sounded familiar that the quote 20 minutes of fun crammed into four hours really motivated me to cram in more minutes of fun. What did I come up with?

- Treat gaming as a social event. Gamers got to eat, so open the game with a meal. Have everyone bring something, and just plan to spend some extra time before the game having some burgers or pizza or sandwiches or whatever and chatting and socializing. Plus it means that people are more likely to be on time. Tell them there's food at 5, they'll be there at 5.

- Keep it simple. You don't need 400 suppliments at every game, you don't need minis for every fight. Try to keep the rules down to a minimum. Ideally you shouldn't have to open a book during the game.

- Keep things moving. If a dispute comes up, rule on it and move on. Don't let players browse for feats or items at the table. They need to do that during downtime.

- Use strong pacing and scene cutting My blog has more details if you're interested. The short verson is cut out all the fluff. Don't think of the game as a continuous chain, but as a series of scenes. Only put scenes in where there's a conflict to resolve. Don't waste time checking into the inn or taking watches or whatever. If need be establish S.O.P. and go with that. Now if there's a conflict there, then play it out. Otherwise keep things moving, rising to a climax, and resolve it at the end of the session.

Its worked well for me. :)
 

WayneLigon

Adventurer
The source is Mike Mearls' Livejournal. The quote is:

Dave Wise, who was one of my Brand Managers at WotC, and was a talented writer and editor for TSR, is married to the person who first made the observation, after watching his gaming group, that D&D seemed like 20 minutes of fun packed into four hours - which was her way of saying “shouldn’t this game be more fun, considering the work and time everyone seems to be putting into it?”
So, it's really a quote about another person whose non-gamer SO makes this observation.

Now, at first blush I thought this was a load of crap. For most games I've been in, that would certainly be true.

Then...

Then I got involved in a pickup game at the FLGS and after a few sessions with a fairly bad GM all I could think of was 'Wow, he was right. If I was observing this game from the viewpoint of someone not involved in gaming at all, I'd see:

Play stops for sometimes ten minutes at a time because of people arguing about the rules.
Play stops while some people try to tell other people how to play their characters.
Play stops while the GM looks up something.
Play stops while the GM roots around for 'the perfect miniature'.
Play stops while three of six people order food and eat at the gaming table, forcing us to move the battlemat and everything out of their way.
Play stops while they have an arguement about movement.
Etc etc etc.'

If I had gotten 20 minutes of fun every four hours in that game, I'd have been happy.

The problem is not with the game per se but that so many people do it so, so damn badly.

I would gladly bet a very large sum of money that if I had some way of magically looking at all the D&D session run this past weekend that the majority - let's call it 60% - would be done much the same way.

In fact, I think this - bad DMing - is the primary reason most people either leave the hobby or never get into it in the first place. (Before people start trotting out the rule complexity of 3E, just stop. The worst, by far the worst, rules lawyers and rules arguements I've ever dealt with were when I was playing 1E and 2E).

You think about it. If such a debacle as I witnessed at the FLGS had been my first introduction to D&D I doubt I'd have ever played again. That sort of silliness just what drives people away from roleplaying games.
 

DM_Jeff

Explorer
OK, I get it and I truly appreciate the responses. And to answer "what's so hard to understand" is that my games do NOT run like the examples above.

I don't know, apparently I run a pretty tight ship. Nobody's playing with their Blackberry or taking personal cell calls or discussing transmissions during my sessions! We schedule bathroom breaks and the like. But my players are all atuned to the game and what's going on. They pay attention, even when it's not their turn, to be ready to act when it is. I have all my minis ready before the game or right within arm's reach. I have my maps preprinted and ready to slap down in a moment's notice. I guess I've done all the work to ensure my games never run like those that spawned the quote. :)

I run two D&D games, and they are both 90% fun. Sure, we once in a while we confirm a rule or pause to make a descision, which adds up to a few minutes, but that's part of the game. I played recently in a seafaring game. When it wasn't my turn I watched the others. I checked some stacking my guy was about to perform. I looked up a possible feat I wanted next level, then it was my turn. I had fun, that's D&D.

I have, however seen games like those mentioned. There's a lack of focus and a lot of lollygaging around. But I totaly agree that that's the DM, not the game system. It's not my D&D! :lol:

-DM Jeff
 
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Lord Zardoz

First Post
I will agree with the pseudo consensus...

The amount of entertainment derived from D&D should be greater considering the time spent playing / prepping a game.

Games can get slow or bogged down way too easily, and while I am content with the current system, I would not mind seeing things sped up or streamlined.

END COMMUNICATION
 

When I game, I game with friends. Sure, there's OOC talk, there's eating, etc. That's part of the fun. The best gaming experiences (IMO) involve the people far more than the game.

If you're looking at an RPG as a source of non-stop, on-topic amusement, ya picked the wrong hobby.
 

JustinA

First Post
DM_Jeff said:
Something's bothered me this past Sunday afternoon, after the Phillies game but right before my Eberron game. :) I read recently here on EN World, regarding 'future editions' of D&D, that Ryan Dancey was quoted as saying something like "D&D is 20 minutes of fun condensed into 4 hours".
My understanding is that he's referring to a couple of different things:

1. Many gaming groups will spend a lot of time during the session doing things which aren't fun in order to start having fun.

2. The DM usually spends a lot of prep time compared to the amount of time it takes for the players to actually chew through that prep.

I find there's a minor problem with Dancey's thesis (and I'm generally a Dancey fanboy): It makes assumptions about what is and isn't fun for people.

For example, as a DM, I enjoy my prep work. As a player I enjoy tinkering with my character.

That being said: The solution lies in tools which will make it easier to prep games and get to the fun stuff.

Dancey's later comments about how to design efficient game systems is important.

I wish I could find the original quote, and its context, because I can't quite wrap my head around it.
AFAIK, this is the original use of the quote: http://mearls.livejournal.com/105311.html

I find his analysis of MMORPG's growing impact on the RPG market to be the more interesting part of his post. I think it's spot on. MMORPGs don't compete with the type of RPG play with character immersion and high quality DMing, but it does compete with the hack 'n slash style of RPG play... and the hack 'n slash style of RPG play is notably the gateway drug of the RPG market.

When I was first attracted to RPGs, I bounced off several games because I literally couldn't figure out (at 10 years old) what I was supposed to do with them. The 1984 D&D Basic Set finally got me addicted because it gave me a simple formula:

(1) Draw rooms on graph paper.

(2) Put monsters in room.

(3) Fight monsters.

The dungeon crawl is the secret of D&D's success because it's what makes the game easy for beginning DMs to prep and intuitive for beginning players to play. But that simplistic style of play is completely out-performed by MMORPGs, which do the exact same thing without the inconvenience of getting together and with the awesomeness of really cool graphics.
 
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Crothian

First Post
It really depends on the focus of the game. If it is a more social laid back group then that 30 minutes of talking about the latest video games could be seen as fun.

I'm with DM_Jeff though in that when I run games they aren't like that. we don't stop the game for bathroom breaks. When we are looking things up I have a player do it so I can keep talking and the game moves. When they want minis and such I also keep describing things and keep the game moving. We handle food before the game starts. And all that shopping and dealing with prices and other non important details we handle on our own message boards as much as possible. Once one realizes what is being done instead of the fun one can lessen their impact.
 

JohnSnow

First Post
Wasn't there a related comment that 3e would be the perfect game:

"If we could clone Skip Williams and include a copy of him with every Dungeon Master's Guide."

Or something to that effect?

In other words, a great DM makes a great game session. Which I personally believe is the entire focus of WotC's digital initiative - to make better DMs.

So, for those of you are involved in great, fun-packed games, congrats - you are (or have) great DMs. The rest of us are less lucky.
 

LostSoul

First Post
I played in a boring game a while ago.

We were playing in some module and, before the game started, I said, "Let's just start out at the front entrance to the dungeon." Because I wanted to get in there, kill things, and take their stuff.

Instead we had to wander around town looking for someone to tell us where the front door to the dungeon was. It was boring. Those 3-4 hours could easily have been summed up by the DM in 30 seconds, and we could have started having fun right away.
 

RFisher

First Post
WizarDru said:
"Many RPG sessions consist of a very limited amount of "roleplaying game", surrounded by a lot of argument, community dialog, eating, and other distractions."
<shrug> All essential parts of the supertext to me. (Though I choose a smaller portion of arguments these days.) Minimizing these "distractions" would be like only watching a movie's climactic scene. (& only the dramatic climax at that) Or only having the main course of a meal.

Rodrigo Istalindir said:
The best gaming experiences (IMO) involve the people far more than the game.
Yep. IMO also.
 

mmadsen

First Post
J Alexander said:
The dungeon crawl is the secret of D&D's success because it's what makes the game easy for beginning DMs to prep and intuitive for beginning players to play. But that simplistic style of play is completely out-performed by MMORPGs, which do the exact same thing without the inconvenience of getting together and with the awesomeness of really cool graphics.
Well said. This raises the issue of what the DMG (and other products) should do to make the game easier to run. We probably need a list of adventure-story cliches and sample plot structures that are as easy to put together as (1) draw rooms on graph paper, (2) put monsters in rooms, (3) kill monsters.
 

Rackhir

First Post
It sounds like a parody of a classic description of military life (possibly the Navy to be specific) "Months of boredom, punctuated by minutes of sheer screaming terror."
 

Vanuslux

First Post
I usually get pretty good fun mileage from my sessions, but I have low tolerance for rule lawyering and have no trouble making judgment calls without having to consult the books. Brushing up on rules is something I do between games. If I can't remember exactly what the rule is on something during the game, I ad lib it. It seems pretty simple to me that the biggest mistake a group can make is getting more concerned about the fine details than the overall flow of the game.
 

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