It would be useful (in my eyes) to users of the site to be able to find roughly how long a published adventure for a given RPG will take, for time estimation / planning in real life. This varies widely by play group, so I can't find a way for accurately determining it apart from a survey-type question.

It was suggested as a comment on my linked question (which I then deleted) that I instead ask how to estimate the time, but I believe that's going to have widely varying answers as well.

Is the question "How long will published adventure X take?" an appropriate/on-topic question for RPG.SE?

Similarly: Is the question "How can you determine the amount of sessions a published module will take?" too broad for the site?

I initially asked the following question, then deleted it myself: How long is Waterdeep Dragon Heist?

I realize there is going to be quite a range, depending on how played / your group, but How many sessions do you typically get out of Waterdeep Dragon Heist?

To anyone that wants to close this as due to being different for different groups, (Because I do, and I'm writing the question...) consider, How can you determine the amount of sessions a published module will take, without surveying a community that have run through it?

@Oblivious Sage left the following comment on the question, which prompted me to delete the question and ask this meta:

The first half of this is a survey, which we don't generally allow. The second half looks like an answerable question, though (if you leave off the bit about surveying the community).

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ btw, the book you're asking about I've already run and would be happy to chat about in Role-playing Games Chat--if you're interested in one group's experience =) \$\endgroup\$
    – nitsua60 Mod
    Commented Nov 2, 2018 at 1:50

4 Answers 4

  • "How long did X take you" is clearly not a good Stack-question. Because every answer is equally valid, so there's no way that voting helps, there's no "good" or "bad" answer, &c. (I'm aware that's not the question you asked, I'm just trying to think through the gradations, here.)

  • "How long does X take" is not obviously bad in the way the above would be. And while a survey of a hundred groups who've run something is appealing as a possible answer (and I know of FB GM groups where spreadsheets of such things are compiled), I, personally, can't get my head around the fact that you're the GM, there are about a thousand levers you can push/pull, and so the best answer's probably "however long you want it to." Which doesn't seem very useful.

  • "How do I figure how long X should take" is facially better, but I feel like there are so many playstyle variables in there that I would expect a lot of comments asking for various clarifications.

This isn't really an answer, I guess--just the ramblings of one GM.

I will say: if you posted "how do I sit down, read through a published adventure, and chart out length I should plan for [given I'd like no more than 50% of my time to be combat, my players love social scenes and seem to be uninterested in exploration, and are loot-completionists...]?" I'd upvote it. And hope to see some really good, expertise-based answers come in.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I think, "How do I figure out how long a published adventure/campaign will take," should be answerable. A good answer will include sections about how different playstyles and other variables affect the calculations. \$\endgroup\$
    – Oblivious Sage Mod
    Commented Nov 3, 2018 at 0:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ "What's the shortest reasonable time commitment in which to run X as a series of 4 hour sessions" seems like it'd be another variation that gets around the problem with playstyle variations. While you can stretch out a module/campaign more or less indefinitely, there's only so much you can do to shorten it without throwing out the module's/campaign's identity entirely. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 7, 2018 at 1:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ Adventure Lookup provides page filters for adventures. Could help in these types of questions to ballpark adventures with a resource. You know a 50-60 page adventure will go longer than a 1-2 page adventure. \$\endgroup\$
    – Mattamue
    Commented Nov 10, 2018 at 21:42

It could be an appropriate question, if you ask it right in a stack appropriate manner, but most of the time it's likely only going to be a survey.

As you stated in the question:

How can you determine the amount of sessions a published module will take, without surveying a community that have run through it?

There's your problem. Stack Exchange isn't built for surveying the community.

You also state:

I realize there is going to be quite a range, depending on how played / your group...

Which is exactly correct. How long it's going to take will vary from group to group, making each answer equally valid with no single, "best", correct answer and thus not appropriate on this site.

However, we do have a similar question (How many sessions should Rise of Tiamat take?) which has been well received.

The difference here though is that it's not necessarily trying to survey the community. The OP has already done the research and is asking whether they are correct in their estimations.

So there are potentially ways to ask such a question which makes it on-topic for Stack Exchange but you just have to find that fine line where it isn't a survey question.


I think these should be okay

My initial response to this was similar to nitsua60's: that playstyle, skill level, and group figure into this too much for a useful answer to be given.

After some thinking, though, I think that's wrong. Board games similarly have a wide variety of time commitments, both between games and between different groups playing with the same game (or even just different formats of the same game). Nonetheless, board games usually come labeled with a time estimate, and that estimate is useful to people in determining how long the game will actually take. For example, if you know that your group likes to play games slowly and also that it takes you twice as long to play a new game versus one that you know, you could walk down the aisle at your FLGS, see Agricola, decide you are interested in it, and know that you should set aside about two hours of time since the box says "~30" minutes.

Clearly, people are making 'good subjective' expert evaluations of this, because time estimates on boxes are ubiquitous among board games from all publishers, at least in my area, and there's no law about it or anything. People have to decide what number to put on the box, and other people decide what that number means to them, and everyone gets useful information. This works because if your group is slow at one game, you're probably slow at all of them and if you're fast vice versa. It seems to me like the same is likely to be true of RPGs and so some sort of way of dealing with this would both make sense and be possible.

There aren't, however, numbers currently printed on boxed modules giving time estimates, however, so there's that.


About RL time: NO

If you are asking about sessions, as each group is different:

I play a campaign since over a year with about 35 to 40 sessions in, and we just about finished half of it. Other groups did manage to squash the same campaign in the same time.

Some groups play 10-hour sessions, others meet for 3 hours.

So this question is highly opinion based.

About In-World time: Yes

Some adventures have a set in world length. My best examples come from The Dark Eye:

  • the Year of the Griffon in The Dark Eye takes a little over one in-game year, depending on the players. Some things (like when the enemies attack) are pinned to earliest/latest dates or rough timeframes.
  • The Phileasson Saga takes less than 80 weeks and has a canonical start and end date.
  • The Year of Fire takes about 11 in-game months with a canonical start and end date.

Another example: Pathfinder's Kingmaker campaign starts late winter/early spring 4710 and is supposed to run quite long: some estimates say, that the second part of the campaign is between 3 to 4 years after the start of it, due to the "Kingdom size > 50" requirement and the rules set to expanding the Kingdom.


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