Well here’s a first. Laurel is just as stoked as Thief about today’s eclipse, so they banded together to bring you a 2nd panel. I feel a little sorry for Thief though. Trying to find one pair of eclipse glasses is hard enough today, let alone three! 

Any dang way, what say we talk a bit about time-sensitive questing? When handled properly they can be absolutely amazing. After all, you want your players in unbearable suspense. You want them on the edge of their seats as events unfold towards an exciting conclusion. But ask yourself: Do your players want that? 

Pacing is the hardest thing to learn. New GMs often stutter their way through overplanned session notes or belabor rules lookups to the point of existential ennui. Now that I’ve got a few years worth of campaigning under my belt though, I find myself going too far in the opposite direction. I’ll wind up chasing that sense of breakneck speed you get from action movies or page-turner type novels. And even though those sessions can be exciting, they can also be exhausting. Even worse, they’re also just a little bit selfish.

Players like to be storytellers too. They want moments to let their characters breathe and grow. You know all those dots they put into Contacts? All those tool proficiencies they picked up? That whole backstory they invented about a secret college of assassins? Well that stuff will never get its moment in the sun if every quest must be done right now. Sure you want your players to have a sense of urgency, but maybe not every single session. I mean, if the kingdom is in imminent jeopardy all the freaking time, you wind up being exhausting rather than exhilarating.

Of course, you don’t want the world to feel stagnate either. Case in point, my megadungeon party discovered a dragon’s lair about a year ago. They heard it snoring, decided that discretion was the better part of valor, and summarily ignored the beast. They kept on ignoring it for months, passing those chambers by in favor of exploring deeper in the dungeon. Well you recall that I like to include an anti-party in my games, right?  A couple of weeks back my players finally plucked up their courage and decided to confront this dragon. They readied their weapons, kicked open the door, and breathed a huge sigh of relief when they found that it was a goodly gold dragon. It turned out to be a quest giver, and a talkative one at that. The big guy went on and on about this legendary diamond tipped lance in his hoard. How it was forged by the gods. How it was the only thing that could defeat his ancient foe. How he needed someone strong in arms and valiant of spirit to wield it.

“Good thing those guys from the Friendly Rivals were here last week. I have no doubt they’re putting my Diamond Lance to good use. I’m afraid I have no further use for adventurers at present. Thanks for stopping by though.”

My cavalier was beyond outraged. Weirdly though, I think that’s a good thing. Just as it’s possible to have too much urgency in a campaign, it’s equally possible to have too little. Finding that balance is the trick.

So what do the rest of you guys think? Do you enjoy driving the party forward with time-sensitive quests, or do you prefer a more relaxed campaign structure? Let’s hear it in the comments!

UPDATE: The Handook’s latest con appearance is this weekend!

We’ve got a table at Fort Collins Comic Con. Both the writer & illustrator of this here Handbook of Heroes will be there August 26th and 27th. If you track us down, we’ll have a super-exclusive giveaway for fans who find us! We’ll even make it easy on you by wearing our Handbook of Heroes shirts. And if you’re at Dragon Con this year, keep an eye out. We’ll be doing the same giveaway for any fans who track us down in Atlanta.