I love John Harper's Blades in the Dark, and some friends and I are going to be running some one-shot games at an upcoming convention.

I want to have some sense of how much I should aim to fit in to one single session (say, 3.5-4 hours). Assume players that are new to the game (and that I'll be keeping rules and mechanics as simple as possible).

Am I likely to have time for more than one score? How much can I fit into 4 hours? How can I get a sense for how much material to plan?

(My biggest fear is that I won't know what kind of pacing to aim for during a run -- rushing a score in order to try to fit two in, or the team zipping through the first score and me trying to run something anticlimactic or unprepared to fill out the session.)

  • \$\begingroup\$ Don't know the game so I won't post an answer but I will suggest play one and if you have time left over socialize or play a completely different game \$\endgroup\$
    – Dale M
    Dec 21, 2016 at 10:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks! Pragmatically, our conventions have time slots and sign-up; if I promise X hours, I don't want to miss that mark by too much. Generally, and perhaps more to the point, I want to learn how to pace the game - rather than saying "eh, whatever pacing we wind up with is fine." \$\endgroup\$
    – Standback
    Dec 21, 2016 at 10:36
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Related: Stras Acimovic's excellent essay So you want to run a Blades one-shot. \$\endgroup\$
    – Standback
    Jun 8, 2018 at 6:04

1 Answer 1


In my experience, I've been able to play a couple of free play scenes, a single score, and payoff/downtime in about three to four hours. This is including most of the rules, explanations and character creation. All this happens in the span of about three to four hours, with breaks.

Character creation takes an hour and a half, generally.

Free play starts with the negotiation of a deal with somebody who needs a job done, and then one or two personal scenes. It takes about 20 minutes.

The score takes about an hour and change.

Finally, bookkeeping and downtime take 10 to 20 minutes.

This is with a group that is fairly focused. I've seen groups that are less focused on playing the game take longer than this.

If you have pre-gens, then perhaps prep three scores and just bring out the second and third if you feel you have the time.


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