It's getting close to Gen Con and I'm trying to get people's tips on running games on time, what to do when you're getting close to your limit or what to do when you're finding yourself without enough material to fill your time.
For me, as i run module style games (RPG)< if its starting to look like the session will run quicker, i add in another encounter or three, to help fill out the time. BUT THERE is nothing saying you can't finish early.. BUT that also depends on how early.. For a 3.45 hr RPG session, running 30-40 mins is ok. Running a full hr+ is a bit much.. Need to add more..
On the running close to time.. LET players know! Have your watch readily available, make markers in the module you are running "By this time, only XYZ amount of REAL time should have gone.. Ensure you have X amount of real time to run these last 2 scenes" and so on.. When getting close, let players know..
I definitely try to start on time and finish about fifteen minutes early. This gives players the stuff for their money.
For running long, perhaps drop hit points slightly, or have an npc drop a hint, or even ask the players if they WANT to run long (And you can do so).
For running short, first I give credit to the players, since chances are they did things intelligently. I also ASK if they want to end early, or have me flesh things out. Sometimes they schedule back to back to back and WANT to have some extra time.
I work backward. "The climax and final battle are going to last 1 hour and the game lasts from 1-5, so I better make sure the characters start the climax at 3:30-3:45." If it's 3:00 and the characters are reaching the end-game, then throw in an extra encounter or two, or encourage role-playing.
Feel free to narrate the final battle or adjust HPs if the game is running long. "With a final blow, you kill X."
I'm of the opinion of not asking if people want to end early or late. If you get some who are OK with it and some that aren't, you need to choose and you'll end up disappointing someone. But, that's just my take.
Finally, if you are forced to end early, you can spend the rest of the time talking about the game. This is especially true with players who aren't familiar with the game -- they may be on the fence on buying it for their gaming group, and you can give them more information to make that decision. Or if they already know about the game, you can talk about house rules and such.
Improvise and do your best let the players have a good time.
Thanks for the pointers!
This is hypothetical and I've never done so in my games at Gen Con, nor plan to, but what people ended a game on a party wipe before? Or where one character died early on. I've attended one where it did happen, but that seemed to have soured the group, namely more that it seemed there was nothing we could do. I think that game sort of gave me a lesson to avoid those situations whenever possible.