When do you start/end your sessions?

The first couple of times I ran BitD, my sessions usually started with Free Play and ended with Downtime–i.e., I followed the order in which each phase is presented in the book.

But I quickly discovered that that wasn’t ideal: after the Score, and after the Payoff, my players were usually pretty tired. Resolving Downtime right after the drama of the Score felt a bit like a tacked-on chore. Which was unfortunate, because Downtime is a great opportunity for RP, exposition, and for introducing new plot threads.

So, for my most recent sessions, I tried ending after the Payoff (and after calculating heat and XP). Then, for the next session, I started with Entanglements. This worked pretty well: it introduced some meaningful drama at the beginning of the session to get things rolling. Then, we resolved Downtime, which pretty seamlessly transitioned into Free Play, as the players traveled around Duskvol, gathering information and deciding what to target during the Score.

How do you structure your sessions? Do you follow a set structure, or does it vary from session to session?


I run an online game with sessions between 2.5h and 3h. We fell into a rhythm where we alternate between sessions which are for downtime and free play and those which are for a score. But I don’t see this as a strict rule. Once a score ran longer and took two sessions. I think with the short sessions it’s quite easy to be flexible.

In another offline game we have longer sessions, maybe 5h of actual play time. From this game I totally know the problem of ending a score mid-session. It somehow kills the flow to go right into downtime. The score is like the end of a TV show episode.
Downtime also takes creativity and initiative and those resources may be exhausted at this point.

Your plan sounds like a good thing to aim for. I think it won’t always work out, though. I guess if your score ends near the end of your session, just end the session there. If you don’t want to do that maybe take a 15min break, get some snacks or fresh air, talk about something else before you continue.


Like JoeRogg, I play 2.5-3hr online sessions, and we also have a rough pattern of alternating sessions for scores and sessions for downtime. If we wrap a score early, we usually try and fit in whatever our most busywork downtime actions are so we can start the next session off with the more exciting, flavorful, free-play downtime stuff. Similarly if wrap downtime early, we usually don’t start a score, but we’ll talk about what we want the next score to be, other big picture stuff, etc.

Starting a session with momentum is great, so I’ll often do like you and do the Entanglement at the top of a session. I also like opening with the engagement roll (or ending with the engagement roll to let people stew in it until next week) for the same reason.

But for downtime sessions, I also like to put the onus for momentum on my players. Why should I have to do all the planning between sessions? I encourage them to show up knowing what they want their characters to do and with a plan to do it. Then they can take point from the get-go.

The real best advice I have is to just feel it out. Sometimes you finish a score, and people are excited for downtime. Sometimes not. Sometimes people have entirely busywork downtime actions – I once had 3 players, at war so 1 action each, take 8 recovery actions in one downtime. That one went quick, and we did two scores in three hours! More than anything else, read the table, see what feels right, and it’s far better to end early and leave them wanting more than to end late and rush good scenes.


I’m going to take this as advice and try and start session on entanglements in the future I think. It’ll give you a week to think of something good too :slight_smile: