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A local game day is coming within the next month and I am planning on running an adventure. The slots are three hours long. Given that time slot I would like to see the players complete the adventure. I will be running a 1st edition AD&D or Swords & Wizardry system with premade characters.

Given the time slot, the system choice and let's estimate about an hour of role-playing and preperation, how many encounters do you think I could squeeze into that time frame? This is specifically for the 'dungeon crawl' time. Encounters meaning how many combats, rooms and or traps total do you think I could comfortably sqeeze in so the players can finish at the end of a 3 hour period?

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up vote 12 down vote accepted

I have a completely different idea. Rather than making it so "tight" that there has to be an XYZ progression of encounters, why not set up your session with several goals, make those clear at the beginning and let the players decide what they want to do?

When I wrote my Quick Start dungeon, I designed it so that the players could do a number of things - save the prisoners, go on a looting/exploration spree or any combination thereof. Based on the feel of the players, you should be able to grok what they're in the mood for and work the game towards that end. Let the players guide you. Let them figure out what seems doable and strive for that.

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I really like this idea. Thanks Mike. – no thanks Aug 27 '10 at 20:49

Twelve. Why? Because the Ruins of the Ramat which has 16 rooms fits in a 4 hour convention slot quite nicely. You should average three to four rooms per hour.

But a note of caution. Unlike newer edition it is hard to pin down how long an older D&D adventure will last without playtesting it. It was never designed with the encounter system in mind, the closet equivalent is the idea of the "dungeon level". The quick nature of combat means that roleplaying and exploration are a bigger part of the game.

I ran another adventure with 8 rooms plus a village that took most of a 4 hour slot. And another still with 18 to 20 encounters that I can run in about 4 hours.

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An interesting contrast. Most 4e games the answer would be 3! – Iain M Norman Aug 27 '10 at 11:24
My experience with 4e is that for a 4 hour convention slot it goes. Roleplay, combat encounter, roleplay, combat encounter, conclusion. Note that this an issues of tactically rich RPGs in general not specific to 4e. (GURPS, Hero System, etc) – RS Conley Aug 27 '10 at 12:34
Heh. I don't know that we ever had a single combat encounter using Hero System that took less than four hours unless it was woefully unbalanced. – user366 Aug 27 '10 at 15:21
Agreeing with RS Conley. AD&D combat is much faster, often over in one to four rounds. If it's going longer than that, the DM has probably forgotten to check morale for the monsters or the PCs should be fleeing to plan an ambush or how to go around the monster. – SevenSidedDie Aug 27 '10 at 15:54

Check out these articles on crafting adventures from the wotc site. They go into good detail on how much time to allot for encounters in an adventure designed for a convention.

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