Mike Mearls wrote about (and I critiqued) One Hour D&D Gaming Sessions yesterday. Actually, it was more like a 45 minute session of gaming, as character generation took up like 15 minutes (he's currently using his own houseruled version of Basic D&D (1981).
I want that to sink in for a moment. 45 minute session of gaming.
It takes me that long to get to a session of gaming near me ;)
What Mike is doing is gaming at work during the lunch hour. That's actually kinda cool, but than again, he works at a gaming company.
For the rest of us, you might be able to run sessions that short via Google+ Hangout, but otherwise it's just not practical for most groups.
What I'm apprehensive of is that Mike wants to design D&D Next with 1 hour sessions, or 1 hour building blocks, as it's core.
It all has to do with the math. The math behind the expo. The math being the Vancian magic. The math behind the party resources. The math...
Ideally, if you want to run a short session, you limit the party's choices and limit the number of encounters.
Still, the last / current edition of D&D, a single encounter takes an hour plus, and Mike claims he snuck 6 encounters plus roleplaying into 45 minutes. How the hell did he do that?
1 - He's using Basic D&D, which plays pretty fast, especially at low levels. Limited choices and limited resources will lead to faster gameplay than more complicated games. Question - How will Mike make that work in a game that plans on keeping 4e style combat as an option?
2 - I'm guessing railroad. He moved the party along a predesigned path in the adventure. Comment - I hate fucking railroads.
3 - Automatic success for skills. Monte talked about this leading up the the 5e announcement. If your skill in spot or disarm is high enough, you don't need to roll to succeed. Mike doesn't mention this one way or another in his write up, except for mentioning (undefined) houserules. Auto success will speed things up. Comment - Auto success also neuters the game and makes it bland. If there is no risk, the reward isn't very rewarding.
4 - The math. Mike has his expo spreadsheet and has it all worked out. Question - Is the One Hour math going to work the same over Four Hours? I don't think so.
5 - Disciplined Players. They see each other every day at work. Very little small talk. Question - What happens when you haven't talked to or seen the people in your gaming group for the last week or two? Everyone has to catch up on real life. RPGs are social games by nature. Unless your One Hour sessions are daily at a place very convenient for your group, you are going to lose time to the social aspect of gaming.
One Hour RPG Games have their place, but it's limited.
Mike sees One Hour D&D sessions as the core of D&D Next, while admitting some may want to play longer sessions.
I have news for you Mike - I'm not hopping on a train or in my car for 45 minutes each way to play for 45 minutes to an hour. I don't know of anyone who is. I don't know anyone that works with a group of gamers that can game daily during lunch.
Mike, you seem to forget that your gaming circumstances are not the norm.
But hey, it's your houserules. Enjoy them. Just don't expect many to buy them.