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How to manage game time?

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  • How to manage game time?

    One thing that kills my suspension of disbelief is when roleplaying games are in real time, when the ST is asking every moment what we're doing next and not using any downtime. Imagine a TV show like that, like if a season of Buffy took place over a span of 16 hours of show-time instead of a year. Who would watch that? Probably the people who liked 24. And yet that's how a large proportion of games I play in seem to go. Our player characters are interesting, but no one is that interesting, that every moment of their lives are worthy of being rendered into story.

    So how to avoid this as an ST? In WoD games other than Werewolf tend to be driven by individual PC's stories, and not so much party-based like D&D. When everyone has their own thread spinning out at a different pace, it can seem pretty clunky to just suddenly declare a month or so as down time. I came up with an alternative that I want to try next time I ST. Get out a calendar, start it at whatever period the game starts, and proceed to go through week by week. Instead of "what is your character doing this second?" it's, "what is your character doing this week?" (or this 10 days, or this fortnight, or this month). From there I can initiate scenes relating to what they want to accomplish--and so can they. And of course I can always initiate scenes based on metaplot elements. We can always zoom in and slow down when we have to, when some urgent thing is happening. But that wouldn't be the default mode.

    Let me know what you think of my idea, and also how you address the pacing of game time.

  • #2
    I like your "weekly" idea. I will have to use that. I, like probably most of us, use day by day when things call for it then switch to down time interludes that can be a day, week, or even a month.

    My stories also switch between story and player driven. I usually start a new chapter by describing a few things that are going on that catch their attention im various ways. What they do with it, even if they ignore it, depends how and if it escalates. Not everything needs their attention and there are many times they have decided to continue their "down time" by flat out letting thing take their course. Which is never really an issue. Sometimes it's even benificial. Plus it allows me to throw out a few story ideas and see what they want to bite on. Then that is what I will introduce and they never feel railroaded.


    • #3
      I play using rough 'seasons' in my WtA game. A few years ago I came up with some rough drafts for 4 different chapters of Apocalypse that I wanted to play out. They were detailed enough to have an over-arching narrative but vague enough I could adapt to whatever craziness my players engage in.

      Play is usually centered around a frenetic series of negotiations, mysteries, and/or battles. Once that wraps up and the big bad is dead or the opposing tribe is placated, I like to skip months ahead. I let the players largely choose what their characters do during this downtime. Many of them have chosen to have spouses and kids (this also lets the females actually have pregnancies without being hobbled). Others might study- rites take time to learn and communing with the spirits is always interesting. I have one player that journeys to a far-off caern during the downtime and spends it learning with his wise mentor.

      It is a balancing act, to be sure.