Hi all and welcome to a bit of a mixed up weekend. Tonight I wanted to briefly talk about something that I discovered in my DM journey, pacing.
Now when I remember back to my early dungeons and dragon days, let alone when I started dungeon mastering, the adventures we had back then were akin to one shots. Quick, to the action and simple – the story was over after one or two sessions. So when I started to DM in campaigns with bigger stories every Adventure was as action packed as I always had them. Every week a new bad guy, a new dungeon or problem to fix which was normally at 100%.
This was fundamentally bad for the game and despite my party of action-JRPG-hack and slash video game playing group loving the sessions the pace was way off. It wasn’t until I introduced a friend, who loved graphic novel and story driven games, to dungeon mastering that I understood pace.
Two to three sessions with no combat and very in little dice rolling made for a slow and tedious Adventure and I was there for it. Enjoying just being a player for the first time in years, about 10 of them, I was fine to throw my gnome fighter who loved tinkering into every session possible including the impossibility dry political intrigue plots that had almost entirely too much reliance on the players (not characters) ability to navigate political intrigue which would put some jrpgs to shame. This taught me the need for pace and having periods of lower action as my friend did it very well (the lower action part.. not pacing..)
The Eureka moment came for me when I started to look at world building and theory around story plot – trying to flesh out my approach where I had these imaginary pins on the board for key moments in the campaign story arc where the party initially discover the villains of the sorry (first 5 sessions) they work towards trying to find and defeat the villains while uncovering information to the world which would be critical in defeating their supposed BBEG (10-15 sessions) and then realising that their efforts accelerated the breaking of the divine seal (keeping the all-father of undeath bound to a magically created second moon) which saw the plot accelerate mid campaign to a new peak, revealing that the quest had grown and was far from over.
Having waves where your party is frantically fighting for their life or helping a farmer find his lost sheep gives players the time to appreciate the peaks and troughs but also doesn’t burn out US as Dungeon Masters if we keep going at 95% all the time.
Now, giving it our all, all the time is a good thing. But to bring the big guns, keep the pedal to the metal, to have the party on the edge of their seats every session is detrimental to the game. To look at a favourite quote of mine and tweak it slightly.
And when everyone’s super… no one will be.Syndrome – the incredibles
To adjust it to.
When everything is awesome… Nothing isSome dude
We can begin to understand that those peaks we work our party towards. Slaying the red dragon, confronting their old peer and mentor, Botherson, or to save a prince from their evil father’s plot and sacrificial altar isn’t that special if we do it every week. Let the troughs create your peaks naturally and when they do come watch your parties faces as they savour and relish that moment and bask in the knowledge that you gave them that feeling of wonderment and enjoyment.
Thanks for joining me tonight, don’t forget to come back this week for anyone month long Adventure and, as always, don’t forget to roll with advantage,
The Brazen Wolfe