Game Day: Lunchtime Gaming Revisited

The Gamer Working Group, my lunchtime gaming crew, is restarting this month with Waterdeep: Dragon Heist (Amazon), Wizards of the Coast’s new urban adventure set in the City of Splendors.

It’s my first full-time campaign set in the Forgotten Realms, WotC’s signature campaign setting. Historically my group played in the World of Greyhawk, which has much less of a focus on powerful non-player characters and is far less exhaustively detailed. Our last GWG campaign — Broken Land was set there, functioning as a spin-off of my Obsidian Frontier campaign. It was a sandbox-y game set on the Pomarj and while we had a lot of fun with it, it was a challenge to run over the 45-60 minutes we have for lunch.

The two issues I ran into with Broken Land:

  1. Preparation time was a problem. Originally I thought piggybacking on Obsidian Frontier would simplify things. It did initially, but as the two campaigns diverged, prep time increased. Eventually prepping for two full-time campaigns became too much — I was creating two storylines and two sets of NPCs to go with them.
  2. Setup time was a challenge: We ran GWG in my game room, driving from work to my house. To be as efficient as possible, I’d need to set up the game table in the morning. If we were in the middle of a fight, I’d need to manually restore the battle map and minis. It only took 10 minutes or so, but many mornings I didn’t have that kind of time.

These hadn’t been issues with earlier Gamer Working Group campaigns for Savage Worlds, Numenera, and Dragon Age mostly because I had more free time. Now that my kids are older and their activities have proliferated (and our involvement in said activities has increased), that free time is in short supply.

A More Efficient Lunchtime Game

  • Prepared adventure: Waterdeep: Dragon Heist is a ready-to-run campaign book. While it’s inevitable that we’ll expand on the source material, I’m not responsible for the story. My campaign prep time should be more limited and focused as a result.
  • Detailed campaign world: The Forgotten Realms is likely the most detailed campaign setting ever written, and Waterdeep likely one of the most detailed cities. While I could (and likely will) create some NPCs of my own, the benefit of the Forgotten Realmsoverwhelming detail is that I don’t have to.
  • Digital battle map: To solve the setup and teardown conundrum I’m turning to Roll20 and their Waterdeep: Dragon Heist online module. The module comes with 20 maps and a ton of NPC and monster character sheets, all of which sounds like it’ll make for an excellent virtual tabletop. With Roll20, we can let the website maintain state between sessions. It’s not clear to me how much set-up time I’ll need to get that table ready to go before the game, but at the very least I’ll be able to do that prep over my morning cup of coffee in the kitchen.

Taken together I’m hoping that this will reduce prep time and make our lunchtime game much more sustainable going forward.

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Cover art for Waterdeep: Dragon Heist. Credit: Wizards of the Coast.

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