What is a good RPG to play for sessions of 2 hours or less?
As a GM I prefer my two-hour games to be crunchy. REALLY crunchy. So crunchy in fact that the players spend the entire two-hour session (or more!) wading through obscure rules and creating their characters. This makes way less work for me, since I don’t have to come up with any sort of story, and allows me to bask in the limelight that all GMs love by demonstrating my superior knowledge of rules to the poor fool players who are trying to wade through them to create characters!
That’s why my go-to system for two-hour games is Aftermath! In Aftermath it can take as long as six hours to create characters, which means I can have a multi-game mini-series without ever having to write a line of plot! Since the rules for character creation are scattered over multiple books, I can include inter-party conflict elements before there is even a party! Plus, the combat system is realistically lethal, which means that if any bastard player actually manages to get through the process early, a couple of rounds from even a small caliber pistol will drop that character in their tracks – and since it’s a “realistic” post apocalypse game, NO CLERICS, BOOYAH!
A few tips on how to run a good game of Aftermath:
- No more than one copy of the rules at the table. This is essential for dragging things out.
- No pre-printed character sheets for the first game. Not only is trying to do an Aftermath character without character sheets somewhat akin to trying to put together a 10,000 piece puzzle at the bottom of Carlsbad Caverns during a power outage, but you can then draw the game out even more by having a second two-hour session weeks later where players try to decipher what they wrote down before and get it onto the character sheets that you “thoughtfully” brought. WIN/WIN!
- Be cryptic about the setting. Tell the players “I would rather that you knew as little as possible because the game will involve a lot of discovery and…”
All right, cut the crap. Seriously – what’s a good RPG to play for sessions of 2 hours or less?
For one-shots, Fiasco is probably the king. Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple is also very good.
For multi-session play, Golden Sky Stories is good. Fate Accelerated also works well. You want a system that allows for fast resolution so the system can be learned quickly and doesn’t slow things dowbn.