RPG covers for Cyberpunk RED, Tales from the Loop, and Alien

S3E11 Pacing Your Game

On this episode of the Lair of Secrets we talk about pacing your game, including techniques you can use and techniques baked into some of our favorite RPGs. First though, we’re venturing back into the Game Room to catch up on new games and new campaigns.

The Game Room

  • Ironsworn: Starforged
    • Evolved from Powered by the Apocalypse games
    • Can be played traditionally, but also has solo and co-op modes
    • Has extras to help you keep track of things in a novel way
  • Tiny Tina’s Wonderland
    • a fun reskin and improvement on the Borderlands franchise (Ken & David)
  • Atari VCS to PC conversion failure
    • It works, but not as well as they say without significant upgrade.
  • New Year, New Campaign
    • Ken’s Elemental Apocalypse campaign
    • Answers the question … What If the Temple of Elemental Evil rose … and the heroes couldn’t stop it?
    • Flips the classic Keep on the Borderlands scenario – the heroes are hiding out in the “Caverns of Hope” (as opposed to the Caves of Chaos), while the bad guys control the keep.
    • Inspiration?
    • Mechanics
      • PCs start at 3rd level.
      • They’re getting bonus feats (1st, 3rd, 6th, 12th level) and we’re swapping out the Inspiration die for Liberation dice. Liberation dice have the following effects:
        • Re-roll any result
        • Double damage
        • Change a story aspect
      • Ken wants players to take risks – yeah, go ahead, jump off that castle wall while being chased by a dozen elemental goblins. You’ll figure it out on your way down.

Main Topic: Pacing Your Game

  • Why should you pace your game? Why does pacing matter?
    • Time-boxed sessions – how to fit the game in the amount of time you have
    • Keeping everyone enthusiastic
    • Reinforcing the game’s themes
  • Types of pacing:
    • Ad Hoc and Organic
    • The Way Games Were
    • Different Levels of Pacing vs. Gamer Skill
  • Cyberpunk RED and pacing – p. 395
    • Cyberpunk RED uses Beat Charts to script the game and set the pace.
    • Games are broken up into Beats. Each Beat takes about 30 minutes.
    • A typical adventure consists of:
      • Hook
      • Development
      • Cliffhanger
      • Climax
      • Resolution
    • Adventures have only one Hook, Climax, and Resolution.
    • The rest of the adventure is made up of Developments (which move the story along) and Cliffhangers (which provide tension/excitement).
    • Scripting the Game: A Few Good Beats [PDF]
  • Blades in the Dark
    • Clocks help drive tension while providing an indicator to the PCs about how much time/effort they have left.
    • Can be used to track progress toward completing a project, setting off an alarm, or other time-based or resource-based progressions.
    • Cinematic vs. Ongoing
    • In their Cinematic scenarios (Chariot of the GodsDestroyer of WorldsHeart of Darkness), the action is divided up into Acts.
    • Acts consist of an overall arc, and may conclude with a particular revelation (e.g. character development cards are flipped to reveal how that character deal switch the situation; e.g. Ash’s betrayal in the original Alien).
  • FATE
    • From the Fate Adversary Toolkit
      • “As we talk about adversaries in this book, keep in mind the Fate Fractal: everything is a character (Fate Core, page 270). An adversary is not necessarily a person, monster, or other kind of creature you can punch. Rather, it’s a thing that exists to hinder, challenge, or oppose the players. There are three main types of adversaries: enemies, obstacles, and constraints.
    • Includes a number of spreads showing how to build out adversaries for a FATE campaign, focusing on low-threat challenges that build toward the confrontation with the boss.
    • It’s a conventional storytelling progression, but the focus on obstacles (a bus full of innocents is about to go off a cliff even as the villain is about to get away; a sophisticated AI counter-hacking measure and constraints (e.g. a bomb counting down, a ritual nearing its conclusions) changes things.
    • Everyone should play FATE at least once to change up your view of how the game world can be transformed to engage with the players.
  • Tales from the Loop
    • Something weird happens, something normal happens
    • The Mystery – p. 81
      • Introducing the Kids – Each Kid gets a scene of her own from Everyday Life, with or without Trouble.
      • Introducing the Mystery – The Kids encounter or discover something that they start to investigate.
      • Solving the Mystery – The Kids visit Locations, discover Clues, and overcome Trouble while at the same time having to manage Everyday Life. This is the core of the Mystery, where most scenes take place.
      • Showdown – The Kids have solved the Mystery, and must now try to stop what’s happening, often in a dramatic scene where everything is at stake.
      • Aftermath – The Mystery has been solved, and even if the Kids are successful, their lives are mostly the same as before. Each Kid gets one scene from Everyday Life.
      • Change – The players may, if they like, change their Kids’ Problems, Iconic Items, Prides, and Relationships. The Kids get experience points which can be used to increase skills levels.
  • Dungeons & Dragons
    • Historically suffered from pacing the most.
    • Reddit – Defeating the 5-minute work day
      • 3rd edition – use all your powers at once, teleport away, rest for a day, do it again.
      • 4th edition – at will powers, encounter powers, daily powers
      • 5th edition – allowing players to slowly expend resources
  • Mythic d6 – p. 199
    • Who
    • What
    • Where
    • Hook
    • Conflict
    • Resolution
  • Spirit of the Century  – p. 278
    • Pulp plot framework


Thanks for listening. If you have feedback, we love feedback. You can send it to us at podcast@lairofsecrets.com or via Twitter @lairofsecrets. We stream this live on Twitch if you want to get your fix of things early and unedited. You can also visit lairofsecrets.com and leave us some feedback, topic ideas, or your own thoughts on what we’ve talked about. We’re also @lairofsecrets@dice.camp on Mastodon.

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