Why running D&D at work might be worth a try
Over the last few years I have been introducing my work friends to Dungeons and Dragons though campaigns that I have ran or been a part of and I have found it is a great way to get to know some of my co-workers socially. I think D&D helps show a different side of ourselves. Players and DM’s alike are given ample chance to be creative and collaborative in Dungeons and Dragons, as well as other tabletop RPGs. As a quick aside, I am not going to get into the corny “team building exercise” exposition, as I think I am probably preaching to the choir. But, the nature of D&D and the team work/creative thinking exercises we are exposed to during game play is exactly why I started to bring colleagues into the fold.
With what success I have had in the past with mixing friends from work and D&D, I had always thought that it would be extremely cool to do a work D&D game for teammates from work. One of the biggest things I learned early on was that even though people were on the same work schedule, it was extremely difficult to find a day that works for the bulk of people interested in playing after work. People have lives outside of work and weekdays tended to be busy. So I had the thought, “It would be pretty cool to play at lunch.”
I didn’t think that thirty minutes to an hour lunch session of D&D were doable. Heck, I had thought that the two-hour modules from Adventurers League were just wishful thinking. But I am here to say that I was wrong, I was very wrong, and I am the better for it.
First thing first, I would never ever have attempted a work lunch D&D game if it wasn’t for my good friend, Dan (The voice of Kinien in our live-play podcast Roll With Advantage). Dan started the lunch time D&D at work as a way to practice DM’ing to prepare for running some sessions at home. I leaped at the idea after Dan was done DM’ing. He proved to me that one hour is more than enough time, you just have to learn how to use that time. Thank you, Dan. It is also important to mention that this one-hour format is able to be used in not just a workplace lunch setting, but where ever you want to use it.
Lunch Sessions from the Player Perspective
When Dan approached me with this lunch game idea, I immediately was skeptical that we could get anything done in an hour. When we are recording Roll with Advantage, we usually have about 10-20 minutes of just “Hey how are you’s” and for an hour long session, that is just too much out of character talk. I was excited though, as I don’t usually get to sit in the player’s seat. “It would be a nice change of pace,” I thought and I was interested in using these as a “proof of concept.”
From the player's perspective, what you can expect is fast play. After a few one hour sessions, you will get proficient at your character and the rules because, if you don't, it runs down the clock. What I like about these one-hour sessions is that I don't have time to think about how I am going to play my character, and instead, I am forced to play my character. What this means is I have learned how to slip into character fast, because there is no “warm up time.” This may not sound ideal, but after you have played like this three or four times, it becomes easy.
Hour Sessions as a DM
The long and short of it, hour long sessions are hard. As a Dungeon Master, one of the hardest things you can do is to try and make a story fit into a one hour block and on top of that make sure that each player has the time to feel like they accomplished something. Because it is difficult, I have learned how to think creatively on the fly and have learned to pace all out of necessity. These tools are fantastic for transferring to a longer session format. I have learned methods that work for me for preparing sessions, again out of necessity. If I, as a DM, am not prepared then it is a wash because there just isn’t enough time to read from your notes or a book. After DM’ing about three one-hour sessions each week for a few weeks, I noticed that when we would record Roll with Advantage, a four-ish hour production each week, we started getting though more and more story each time. It is absolutely fantastic, in my opinion.
A interesting thing happened as we were playing though Curse of Strahd using this format. We the players were remembering more about the supporting NPC and the plot then I have ever, thats right E-V-E-R, experienced (as a player and as a DM). We had a fantastic first time DM and friends from work Ryan. He did a wonderful job creating an eire and memorable setting and story, but I think he also had help from less downtime between sessions. Think about it. How much do you or all the players at your table remember out of a 4 hour play session after seven days of not playing. Easy…. not a lot. People have pesky lives that get in the way of remembering your subtle plot devices and hints. But when you play everyday, every-other day, and so on those NPC’s become more real. You begin remembering names and places, because that hippocampus up in your skull now is forced to care. Practice makes perfect and this was one of those happy surprises I loved about short frequent sessions.
Super Fast Tips to Make Lunch Sessions Successful
Try and play two to three times a week with the same group and characters, this keeps the story fresh in everyone’s heads
As a DM or a player, come prepared to play and know that as soon as you sit down, you are now your character.
Curb as much out of character conversation as possible. Trust me you are going to love pure D&D RP.
As a DM, have a clock that you can look at quickly and discreetly, like a TED presenter, knowing your time will help keep you on pace.
If you need a map, use Roll20, it is way faster then drawing your own on the fly, as long as you put in the prep time as a DM away from the table to learn the tool and prep maps.
KEEP IT CLEAN. As always it is your responsibility as a fellow gamer and human being to make sure everyone is included in the game, also try to stay away from topics that can lead to an HR problem. Remember meeting rooms/lunch halls don’t tend to be sound proofed so it is more then just those that are at the table that you need to worry about.
Don’t let rules hold you back. In this format, rules can get in the way A LOT. Use them, but if you are not 100% sure, then use your DM’s discretion, take a note, and then look it up later. If you played it wrong, then note it so you don't make the mistake next time.
Last but not least, as a DM don't try and fit a beginning, middle, and an end into one hour unless it is a super short story. Instead grab, some Adventurers League modules from the DM’s Guild, and just do pick up games. Small format is best way to start this. Note: Two and Four-hour modules work just fine, this is what I use, and it will teach you a little creativity as you have to find the good start and stop points for each session to leave your players wanting more. Larger campaigns are great once your crew is use to the shortened format.
That is where I am going to leave it for this week. As always, thank you so much for stopping in and reading. Feel free to comment, I love to read constructive feedback and love discussing topics like these. Let me know, have you tried this before? If so how did it go, what do you like and what do you wish you could change. Check back in next week to see what else I have on my mind or decide to analyze. Remember to follow The DM’s Table on Facebook or on Twitter @dmstable for updates and to let me know what is on your mind, or what you might want to read about. Also, go check out Roll with Advantage! It is a Dungeons and Dragons podcast that releases every Monday by 5 pm Eastern Time. We play, laugh, and have a good time playing a game we all love. Thank you for reading and if you enjoy these articles feel free to donate, using the button below, to the website to help keep it up and running!
― The DM