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It’s Not The Size That Counts
(It’s How You Use It)

gssizeevnyShort form games are a newer type of RPG that I find fascinating.  Rather than the standard convention slot of a one shot clocking in at four hours, slipping a short game in can happen practically anywhere in nearly any amount of time.  Most recently my fascination led me to experiment with running five minute RPGs on the convention floor of Denver Comic Con for just about anyone I could catch. It was an interesting experience, and helped me distill the unprepped short game to what I would consider the absolute key components:

 The end result of this experiment was a bunch of heroic moments, punctuated by both success and tragedy, that left both me and the players jazzed and excited about playing. 
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Since my whole purpose was to run super short “vignette” games — one very interesting or pivotal point in our PC’s life or adventure — I came prepared with some tools to help me with player engagement and finding the best starting point.  I brought a pack of Evil Hat’s It’s Not My Fault cards as my starting point. Each person I played with drew a character, a location, how they had gotten there, and how it was about to get worse. We briefly decided on a setting stereotype. Each story started in the compromising situation with how they got there, and was escalated into the decision/action point by the “how it’s about to get worse” card. I’d ask my player the coolest possible way they could resolve the problem, and we rolled on it with a basic Fate difficulty of 0. Beat zero, you succeed at the amazing thing you attempted, we describe, and send our hero off into the sunset and further adventures. Fail, and you die, in the coolest, most tragic way I can imagine.

The end result of this experiment was a bunch of heroic moments, punctuated by both success and tragedy, that left both me and the players jazzed and excited about playing. I’m not going to give up my normal play for five minute games, but as a means and method for a specific purpose I will absolutely be bringing them out again. I could also see this style of game working extremely well as an introductory tool to get new people into RPGs, especially if they are questioning how much time and effort to commit to a hobby they are not sure they’ll enjoy. And why shouldn’t we be able to play a game in whatever time is available to us?

While there are many games that I feel play better in a shorter time frame (I always run All Outta Bubblegum and Lasers and Feelings in two hour slots, not four), there are more and more games that are exploring this shorter play time intentionally and with purpose.  A few that come to mind are Doll and The Sky is Grey and You Are Distressed from Ginger Goat Games, and Holding On by Morgan Davie. The four hour slot is a construct of convention time, and works well for more intensive systems, but we shouldn’t be constrained in when and how we play just because it’s traditional.

Do you know of or have some favorite short form games to run or play?

Edit: You can hear some five minute RPGs from Gen Con 2016 over on She’s a Super Geek [6] (finally!)

5 Comments (Open | Close)

5 Comments To "It’s Not The Size That Counts
(It’s How You Use It)"

#1 Comment By Angela Murray On July 13, 2016 @ 12:41 pm

These little mini games sound like so much fun. They’re like little mini candy bars, though. You can’t eat just one! Did you have anyone coming back for seconds? 🙂

#2 Comment By Senda On July 13, 2016 @ 1:52 pm

I didn’t give them the chance…I think they might get old if you did them over and over again. But as a quick hit they were a BLAST, and it gave me this awesome way to interact with people. I recorded most of them but the audio is terrible — I may get them together for She’s a Super Geek and release them anyway at some point.

#3 Comment By Angela Murray On July 13, 2016 @ 9:28 pm

Oh, I also highly appreciate the suggestive nature of the article’s picture… 😉

#4 Comment By restlesshead On July 13, 2016 @ 3:16 pm

I had a great time last PAX Prime running a short Masters of Umdaar (Fate) game while waiting in line. It was very ad hoc, but my two players had fun regardless. I think this year I will come prepared for exactly this setting (30-40 minute line games).

#5 Comment By Rickard Elimää On July 20, 2016 @ 6:36 am

I attend at the indie room in Sweden’s roleplaying conventions – it’s a room where people come in, pick a roleplaying game, gets a game master and starts to play. My games that I pitch have usually around 45-60 minutes of playtime. If they want to play more, we play another session. I experienced the same thing as your headlines. No need for long story scopes, use of tropes to speed up time and, because it’s so short, anything goes.

I think all the tiny different topics in this article could had been divided into articles of their own to form a full series. As example, I wondered about how you pitch the game, and some examples of how it could sound like when you kick things off.