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The One Hour D&D Game

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First Post
One hour is a bit of a short time frame, but I absolutely want this type of game. In fact, if 5e doesn't really support streamlined gameplay where an adventure can happen in a couple hours, I won't buy it, or buy into it.

I already have two versions of D&D that are intricate and feature detailed and time-consuming combat and non-combat resolution (3.5 and 4e). I don't want another one like that.

I want something with the simplicity of Basic, but with the options of 3e or 4e.

I thought this was an excellent article. I agree with it 100%, especially with the bit that noted that this should not be the only way to play.


The one hour game is really a stress test. A good GM can cram more into a session than an average GM. If a good GM can make a one hour game work, then the average, tired, adult, weekday night GM can run a satisfying session in the two-and-a-half hours they have to run.

But, yeah, a great idea.


I think the simple 1 hour adventure is a great building block. You can add complexity and tactical modules to the base as desired depending on the desires of the group and the time available.

GM Dave

First Post
It does help that they were running a party of 3 players and one GM.

I've always found a small group runs through challenges faster. You have several advantages for this;

-- less herding cats as it takes less time for the group to discuss and evolve a course of action
-- less players usually means the GM has cut down the size of the opposition. This reduces the overall size and length of combat.
-- interaction scenes and problem solving are more to the point with only one rogue in the party it follows that the thief leads on the puzzle scene and one of the three would have led on the interaction (who ever was more the party leader).
-- this is 1st level Basic where the Wizard has 1 spell to cast in the entire game night (if it is sleep then it can be a battle ender or a charm then it can be an interaction ender). There is really only one main active player in the fights (fighter) while the mage might toss a dagger or two and the thief is likely maneuvering on the first round or two to get in a 'backstab' unless this rule has been modified.
-- if this is a basic module (like they used to produce at TSR) then the battle space is usually pretty bare with no environmental hazards. It is pretty much move and hit the things.

Also, this is not a 5e gameplay.

It is Mearls usage of 1981 Basic with some of his ideas that are a version of what might be in 5e or tests of ideas.

The aim is good but I would not extrapolate conclusions from the test without knowing how similar the two objects are that the one is testing (a bad test is worse than no test because it can lead to false assumptions or beliefs).

I mean, I've run battles in PF with no terrain where the players (group of 9 players plus me as GM) basically tell me there actions and destroy the opposition in a single round (total time is around 10 min to get their plan and 5 min to resolve).

I've also run battles like Sat night which featured the opposition holding a hill with 10 defenders with armour and shields, 3 ninja (disguised initially as warriors), 3 cannon raining fire every other round on a group that was pinned down (inside a cave where they depended on their light source for seeing and the opponents/ratlings/skaven had darkvision). Two thirds of the players were in the rescue group (they had played the week before) and the other third of the group (missed that week for various reason) along with 3 NPCs were in the group pinned down needing rescue. The group pinned down were at a lower level trapped amongst rocks and one of the NPCs was an enemy/rival of one of the players in the rescue group.

I had one other element to drop on the players as 'trap' (a pair of doomwheels based on Warhammer Skaven like the guns were basically Jezzarails) but figured the players already had their hands full and didn't need an extra wave.

This was a big complex battle that took 5 full turns for the players (with a 6th fudged to mop up) to play out over 2.5 hours (using PF rules). There was plenty of variety and enough battle space for people that were stealth types to move with shadows. There was a variety of opposition types so even people with AoE attacks covered and blasted only a portion of the opposition meaning everyone had opportunities. There was even the final problem when some of the players turned on their own NPC commander for leading them into such a bad spot and the rival player having to make a choice on whether to support his companions or his duties to church and justice.


First Post
It's been a LONG time since I've been able to sit down with a group and complete a short adventure in even 4 hours... I HIGHLY support this goal.


First Post
Ideally, focusing on the adventure as the basic unit of DM design also helps us cover different campaign styles.
I REALLY enjoy this particular quote from the Mearls article because I agree with this concept design-wise. 4e was explicitly built around using the Encounter as the basic unit of DM design - which I though it did an excellent job of - but did skew and limit aspects of the game outside of this narrow focus.

By making the Adventure itself the basic unit, it allows for a wider use of the Three Pillars (Combat, Exploration, Interaction) to work together as an organic whole along with the rules necessary to facilitate this style of gameplay.

If this iS their De Facto Mission Statement of what they hope to achieve in DNDNEW then it is exactly the kind of thing I need to hear to garner my interest.

Basically, this sold me on giving it a chance when, at the moment, my gaming group and I are quite happy sticking to our 4e campaign.


I support the goal.

I just don't know how you can play an adventurer hook in an hour with more than 2 PCs without the game being ridiculously simple and boring.


First Post
Mike Mearls said:
The DM needs rules that can allow for adventures with as many fights as needed, from a single big brawl to a number of shorter fights. I'd like to see an adventure design system that gives me a suggested total XP value for monsters and traps to use so that I can push the characters to the limit of their abilities. I can then spend that XP for one battle, lots of little battles, or just sprinkle monsters in an environment as I choose.
Problem with this is there's a huge difficulty difference between some amount of XP spent on a single fight, and that same amount spread across individual monsters encountered one at a time. So I don't think a simple per-adventure XP pool accomplishes much of anything. If you want balanced fights, it really has to be per-encounter design.

But, old-school D&D isn't about balanced fights. And if you don't care about balanced fights, then there's little point in having an XP pool at all.

I think 'encounter' vs 'adventure' focus is a matter of presentation though. I also think that speed of combat is more a matter of tuning than anything else (and I don't see with 3e or at least 4e that anything outside of combat is slow). You could make combat fast in 4e with basically just tuning the existing rules a little differently. As for XP budget for adventure, I already do that. In fact it is a well-discussed concept here and in other forums at this point, so not even notable.

I think my point is really that I don't get why we have to have a whole entirely new set of core rules to accomplish this goal. It is overkill. Might be a nice way to sell more books, but I'm getting tired of total rewrites of the system for reasons that aren't compelling.


First Post
I doubt I'll ever find a one hour game interesting as anything else than an introduction to an actual adventure.

That said, I'm more interested in Mearl's proposition of allowing for a variable number of combats in a single adventure. When I GM, I like to have a flexible flow and use as many combats as seem appropriate, that means I sometimes have one big battle, sometimes I have two setup battles and a larger finale and, sometimes, I just have several skirmishes leading to a complex social encounter at the end.

Where the system fails, I believe, is how it handles the refreshing of abilities. If I have several skirmishes before the final complex social encounter in a single day, its alright, but if it is meant to represent several ambushes during a journey to meet some NPC, the dynamics are completely different, instead of small ambushes, it has to be several complex and demanding battles or the PCs just nuke their way through. So, Mike's suggestion to have an XP budget for the adventure is interesting, but I believe it fails to address the bigger problem with the number of combats per adventure.


First Post
It sounds so simple, but playing a game in an hour and getting something meaningful done and feeling satisfied is really quite a radical idea. I have a hardtime imagining it happening. Would be nice to shoot for that though.


First Post
The one hour adventure sounds hard to do, but if you've played BECMI (or probably OD&D) you would understand that it is perfectly feasible. Back when:

  • Character sheets were on one page and you even had room to draw a picture of your character.
  • There were only one or two rule books, and people knew the rules or learned them quickly.
  • Combat was quick, without the need for a battle grid to adjudicate rules like flanking or opportunity attacks.
  • The DM had to make more decisions on the fly, and couldn't rely on the rules as much.

The downsides are obvious: less detail, fewer options, less tactical gameplay, and more of a chance of a DM making bad decisions.

But a modular system would allow all that detail if you wanted it, and still allow players to master the rules if the DM doesn't try to use too many optional systems at the beginning.

I like where Mearls' head is at. Then again, I always have, it's just the execution of his ideas by his team that leaves something to be desired sometimes.


First Post
This sounds great, but it runs the risk of being anticlimactic. One on end of the gaming experience, you'll have very fast games, but no sense of tension that builds up and the other end, you have combat grind where you're slogging through hp just to end the thing. The tension was there, but now you've gone waaaaaaaaaaaay past it.

I want my combats to be fast, scenarios to play out fairly quickly, but I need tension to build up in the mechanics of the game that gives BBEG "staying power" so that they won't blow us out of the water in the first round or for us to do the same.

It's a tough order to fulfill. My idea of that "perfect combat" length is going to be different than someone else's, but I think what they are doing now for the next iteration is definitely a step in the right direction.


First Post
I think 'encounter' vs 'adventure' focus is a matter of presentation though.
I think there's a pretty clear distinction. An Encounter is a scene. An Adventure is the chapter, or perhaps a whole book.

A scene is, usually, some set number of actors interacting with each other, essentially simultaneously. In a combat encounter, an XP pool helps ensure that the NPCs are balanced with the PCs.

But over the course of an adventure? Without assumptions on the distribution of XP (which Mike did not make, and it seems to be the point of his idea to not make), I'm not seeing the value.

As for XP budget for adventure, I already do that. In fact it is a well-discussed concept here and in other forums at this point, so not even notable.
But what are you getting out of that XP budget, aside from predictable advancement rates? Is it really getting you much in the way of building balanced challenges? Can you spread that XP across an adventure and be confident of a balanced challenge? Because that's what encounter XP pools get in 4E, for the most part. Follow the encounter building guidelines, use that XP, and as long as you don't do weird stuff with terrain, etc., it's quite likely that you'll end up with a balanced encounter. Do that with Adventure XP pool, and the difficulty will vary wildly between "big battle" adventures, and "a monster in each room" adventures. What is that pool getting you then? Are you making assumptions about the adventure structure when you use that pool?

Ultimately, a adventure XP pool is like an encounter XP pool, but only if there's an assumption that "wave" encounter designs are just as challenging, for the same XP, as "all at once" designs. That's obviously not true. 4E's DMG2 discusses wave design, and what it boils down to is that there should be more XP in the pool in an encounter with waves, but it's really a judgement call. That encounter pool gives a reasonable baseline for 2 waves, but past that, it's more DM judgement than rules. And once that happens, there's little point to having those rules.

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