I’ve been asked several times about how I run a successful Rifts demo at conventions. In a word? Quickly.
Rifts is the sort of game where I’ve found a breakneck, gonzo pace enhances play. You hand-wave or simplify whatever gets in the way, don’t worry about, and liberally allow for the player’s brilliance to deliver panic or additional explosions to the enemy, thus shortening combat.
It’s when you show up to a convention, expecting the kitchen-sink madness of Rifts you’ve always heard of, only to find that you’re arguing for 30 minutes over Mega-Damage that things get dull. Stick to the basics, toss out the rest, and emphasize utility. What do they do, what are the reactions to what they do, and what happens as a result. Oh, and why it is Awesome, and Probably Involves Plasma Weaponry.
The pacing in that case is contributing to “Refrigerator Logic”. That is, your players don’t have time during the game to question why the Rogue Scholar is riding a Triceratops—that’s saved for when they go and grab a soda out of the fridge after the game.
As a Game Master, pacing is one of the hardest things to nail down. Too slow, and the game founders. Too fast, and it can seem disjointed and shallow to players. Transitioning between games such as Call of Cthulhu, where going too quickly can stunt investigation and discovery, and Rifts or several Savage Worlds settings, where “Let The Bodies Hit The Floor” should be considered a dainty waltz, can be doubly hard.
I’ve never found a secret to it, except to react to the verbal and physical cues of the players, and to consider what sort of game folks are after (expectations). That comes back to communication, but then again, most things in RPGs do.