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D&D 5E WotC Is Designing Adventures With Shorter Content Chunks

In a recent interview, WotC’s Jeremy Crawford talked about how WotC’s D&D design accommodates streaming and busier adult gamers by dividing adventures into shorter, bite-sized content.


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“So you’ll notice that around the time we came out with the Essentials Kit and then continued on with a lot of our adventure content — even when it’s a large, epic campaign, like last year’s Rime of the Frostmaiden —they’re much easier to divide up into digestible segments that where … if the DM wants to just read a part of this big book, or just run one of these little quests, we’re making that easier to do. Not only to make things less arduous for a brand new Dungeon Master, and with new groups of players coming to D&D for the first time, but also because of that format of play, also suits streamed games better.

“We know streamed games, with the exception of maybe Critical Role, tend to be shorter than a lot of [traditional] tabletop games. You know, in the old days and even today, a lot of people’s tabletop games [sessions] might range between three and four hours, although we’re seeing the average length go down — most streamed games are often sometimes as short as two hours, or even 90 minutes.”
 

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Russ Morrissey

Russ Morrissey


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Kurotowa

Legend
Well, it's good to know it's not just my group. Between jobs and kids cutting into everyone's life we've definitely fallen into the 90 minutes to 2 hours of actual playtime demographic. So it's not just livestreamers who need those more bite sized adventure chunks.

If this recognition of actual play habits is changing adventure design, I have to wonder how it would change system design if they had the chance. The question of how long your play sessions are probably has an unrecognized impact on the whole "Does your party get enough short rests?" issue. I mean, some people have said outright that they don't like having to track resources between sessions, which for some people is a longer gap than just a week, so they try to maneuver to end a session on a long rest. If you session is on the shorter side that just doesn't allow for enough time to have many encounters.
 

Parmandur

Book-Friend
Well, it's good to know it's not just my group. Between jobs and kids cutting into everyone's life we've definitely fallen into the 90 minutes to 2 hours of actual playtime demographic. So it's not just livestreamers who need those more bite sized adventure chunks.

If this recognition of actual play habits is changing adventure design, I have to wonder how it would change system design if they had the chance. The question of how long your play sessions are probably has an unrecognized impact on the whole "Does your party get enough short rests?" issue. I mean, some people have said outright that they don't like having to track resources between sessions, which for some people is a longer gap than just a week, so they try to maneuver to end a session on a long rest. If you session is on the shorter side that just doesn't allow for enough time to have many encounters.
We are seeing more abilities keyed to Proficiency than to Short Rest these days.
 

Kurotowa

Legend
We are seeing more abilities keyed to Proficiency than to Short Rest these days.
Yeah, that's certainly a thing they're doing to sidestep the issue with new material. And it's probably the best solution if we're committed to not wholesale revising anything in the PHB. I'm just commenting because I hadn't traced the root cause of "not enough short rests" all the way back to "because most people are running shorter play sessions than in the old days". While the actual game devs obviously had, and were taking further ranging design choices to handle it than I'd realized.

So good on them, and that's why I'm happy to keep giving WotC my money for their work.
 

Zardnaar

Legend
No big surprise I've suspected for a while the 6-8 encounter thing isn't done and large adventures often don't get played or completed.

Makes sense basically.
 

AcererakTriple6

Autistic DM (he/him)
‘Not only to make things less arduous for a brand new Dungeon Master’ - Frostmaiden? Seriously 😒?
Yeah. When running Rime, I kept thinking "Okay, there are all of these starter quests (a lot of them are really cool, too), but how the heck am I supposed to get them out of Sandbox mode and into Linear-Story mode? The book doesn't tell me how to do that!"

It's kind of like Tomb of Annihilation, where it expects you to just wander around Chult long enough to level up high enough and then miraculously wander into the place you're supposed to go to, but Rime of the Frostmaiden is even worse at this than ToA, IMO.
 
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Keldryn

Adventurer
If this recognition of actual play habits is changing adventure design, I have to wonder how it would change system design if they had the chance. The question of how long your play sessions are probably has an unrecognized impact on the whole "Does your party get enough short rests?" issue. I mean, some people have said outright that they don't like having to track resources between sessions, which for some people is a longer gap than just a week, so they try to maneuver to end a session on a long rest. If you session is on the shorter side that just doesn't allow for enough time to have many encounters.
If you're able to mostly keep to a regular schedule -- say weekly or biweekly -- then tracking resources between sessions isn't too big a deal. When I'm actually able to get a game going, what usually happens is that we'll play every 2-3 weeks for maybe 3 sessions and then life happens and then the next time we play is 3 months later. So I definitely don't want to just "hit pause" and try to pick up from there the next session.

My preference is not only to end a session on a long rest, but end the session back in town (or a place of safety at least). So if we end up having an unplanned break for several weeks or months, it's easy to just say that a few weeks have passed and then nobody really worries about trying to remember specific details from the last session. When it's the next day in-game but eight weeks later in real time, I find that everyone settles into the game session much more readily. It's also easier to accommodate player absences or guest players.

I haven't done 6-8 encounter days in years. As in, the early 90s. I feel like 4e handled this a little better (at least pre-Essentials), as everyone had a roughly equivalent schedule of recovery.
 

Sacrosanct

Legend
Publisher
In the old days we'd regularly play for 10-12 hours. Heck, as recently as ten years ago we'd play for 10 hours with a big meal I'd cook in the middle. Only in recent years has the time shifted down to 5 hours every other Saturday
 

OblivionDrive

Adventurer
About 10 years ago our session went to 2-3 hours and I've never looked back. It works far better than 8-10 hour sessions of my youth in every way.
IMO I can see 2-3 hours working fine for online sessions because of the relatively low overhead in terms of getting everyone together.

If my in-person sessions ran 2-3? After spending two weeks trying to wrangle schedules and some players having to commute a half hour or more plus time spent just socializing and/or getting into the mind space of game? Would be a huge waste of time IMO. But I get everyone’s experience varies there.
 

Retreater

Legend
‘Not only to make things less arduous for a brand new Dungeon Master’ - Frostmaiden? Seriously 😒?
Exactly. It's one of the trickiest campaigns I've tried to run.
They should look at the streamlined, bullet point adventure formats of OSE to see how to create an adventure for a busy GM.
 

Hussar

Legend
I think the advantage of "Modular modules" can't be stressed enough. There's no reason that you can't mix and match adventures that way. Slot in a couple of Ghosts of Saltmarsh adventures into your Rime of the Frostmaiden adventure and maybe toss in a Giants one as well. Candlekeep adventures can be tossed into virtually any campaign.

Makes the modules very repayable and reusable. Plus, you can shore up the weaker elements of one module with the stronger elements of another.

Like someone said upthread, very similar to how Dungeon magazine was used in the past.

Another point too is that DM's Guild adventures become a lot easier to slot into AP's as well. There's a whole series of Bookend Adventures, for example, for Candlekeep where you start the DM's Guild adventure which leads into the Candlekeep Adventure, and, once you're finished the Candlekeep adventure, you go back to the DM's guild adventure to wrap up. I.E. it "bookends" the Candlekeep adventure. I ran the first one as part of the first Candlekeep adventure - Joys of Extradimensional Spaces - and my players really liked it. Curse of Beregost is the name IIRC. Fantastic intro adventure that really brings the whole JOES to life.
 

Reynard

Legend
My sessions are also about 2.5 hours now, and overall Rime does a good job at providing relatively short quests. I still think smaller modules would be preferable. Candlekeep is a good start except its framing device is a little heavy handed.
 

MarkB

Legend
Yeah. When running Rime, I kept thinking "Okay, there are all of these starter quests (a lot of them are really cool, too), but how the heck am I supposed to get them out of Sandbox mode and into Linear-Story mode? The book doesn't tell me how to do that!"

It's kind of like Tomb of Annihilation, where it expects you to just wander around Chult long enough to level up high enough and then miraculously wander into the place you're supposed to go to, but Rime of the Frostmaiden is even worse at this than ToA, IMO.
Yeah, I managed the transition okay in the run I'm currently DMing, but if I were to run it again I'd pick a selection of the quests in each of chapters 1 and 2 and string a plotline through them rather than using the plot hooks and rumours.
 

pming

Legend
Hiya!

Nice, I suppose. I prefer "modules" over "campaign story arcs" every time.

That said...why can't we have both? I mean, with the amount of money and exposure and "mainstream, normal-person acceptance" that D&D has gotten in the last few years, why not? Maybe go back to a more "older style" of Adventure Module design style.... A1, then A2, then A3, then A4. You could buy and play A2 for your campaign and ignore the others. Or you could run A4, then run A1 with a few lines of creative explanation (re: "After escaping from the Island with your lives, you discover that new Slavers are starting right back up again...and you're gonna stop them!", or whatever). Or, a DM could buy them in order, and play them in order, filling in the 'between releases' with their own stuff, like it should be.

This also leaves the option to do full on "Compilations" (re: A1 - A4 and call it "Scourge of the Slave Lords" or something ...wait...that's ringing a bell... ;) ).

Huh, it's almost like 1e did something right the first time... AGAIN... ;)

^_^

Paul L. Ming
 

Stormonu

Legend
I was happy that Ghosts of Saltmarsh was broken into smaller hunks that were thematically tied together, but could be run seperately. I'll probably be setting the book aside after the Final Enemy portion, but the option to go back to it for a couple more adventures is nice.

I do find myself one of those whose gone from 6-8 hour sessions just a few years ago to 2-3 hour sessions. I don't know why exactly, but even with all the automation on a VTT, it feels so much more tiring to try and keep a game going for hours upon hours anymore.
 


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