RPGs Using long passage of time successfully...examples?





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    Using long passage of time successfully...examples?

    In his article "Leap Year" (Dungeons & Dragons Roleplaying Game Official Home Page - Article (Leap Year)), Chris Perkins talks about advancing his campaign's timeline by 1 year. Has anyone successfully done anything like this?

    In particular I'm interested in those campaigns where a large time leap (months, seasons, years) is deliberately planned by the module or GM, rather than done spur of the moment. How do you get player buy-in and keep them from questioning why they haven't been involved in events? Did you come up a convincing reason why the PCs were on the sidelines or unable to change events? Or did you just hand wave it and let the players grumblings settle?
    Last edited by Quickleaf; Wednesday, 10th October, 2012 at 08:44 PM. Reason: Spelling fix

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    I did a thing kind of like this recently.

    My group had finished paragon tier in 4E, and we took a brief break from the game to let someone else DM for a bit. When we picked back up at epic tier, I decided I wanted to push the clock ahead a bit.

    I picked up the story seven years after their last adventure, and I basically told the guys, "tell me what your character has been doing in the last seven years. There hasn't been any world-shattering events, at least on the material plane, so what have they been up to?"

    The responses varied widely. My wizard had acquired a tower and researched his own "brand" of fire energy, which he named after himself, and started a small school at the tower. My warlord worked off a debt to the Raven Queen, so she would answer any question he wanted (his question was "how do I resurrect Io?"). My fighter spend the last seven years on a bender, hopping from plane to plane, working for whoever would pay him in the most, and strongest, liquor. My bard had become leader of the city they were based out of, and had been trying to keep things there in check. My ranger... I don't remember, but also something awesome.

    There's a whole story there, but we picked up the story for epic, which was a continuation of things they had done in the heroic tier, and we jumped right into the action.

    It wasn't really a hard thing to do. But, it could change depending on how you choose to do the planes/cosmology. Mostly, I just let them go wild, and adapted other things based on what they told me.
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    The Battlestar Galactica gag? I've done that sometimes; not as much as I would like. Last campaign I ran I jumped the characters several months, skipping the lengthy sea voyage to their destination. I've got even better plans for the future

    In particular I'm interested in those campaigns where a large time leap (months, seasons, years) is deliberately planned by the module or GM, rather than done spur of the moment. How do you guest player buy-in and keep them from questioning why they haven't been involved in events? Did you come up a convincing reason why the PCs were on the sidelines or unable to change events? Or did you just hand wave it and let the players grumblings settle?
    I just told them what was happening. No problems. Why would there be?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ahnehnois View Post
    The Battlestar Galactica gag? I've done that sometimes; not as much as I would like. Last campaign I ran I jumped the characters several months, skipping the lengthy sea voyage to their destination. I've got even better plans for the future

    I just told them what was happening. No problems. Why would there be?
    Well, there is a certain player type who balks at anything resembling DM fiat, particularly when they perceive their control over their character is being taken away. Most of my players don't fall into this category, but I've gamed with several who do.

    I wasn't thinking so much travel, which is easy to explain, but more along the lines of "the PCs overwinter at the lord's keep during the harshest snow months and resume adventuring when spring returns."

    I'm concerned a player might go,"Wait, what? We never stopped adventuring!"

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    Quote Originally Posted by Alzrius View Post
    In my personal experience, PCs don't usually try to fill that opportunity by saying that they went on combat-adventures; they realize that's what actual play-time is for. Most (again, in my experience) will try to push forward non-combat activities, usually in various social, political, and/or economic areas.

    ...
    I agree. And for some gaming groups it can actually be the best way to encourage them to realize that downtime exists

    In general I'm a huge fan of those non-combat activities during downtime... I always try to remind the players that they have downtime between adventures, but unfortunately the most common habit is to "fast-forward". My personal custom is to "space out" things a little bit, either spacing the events in time or spacing the locations in distance (which equals again time of travel), but I'm not experienced in doing this to such an extent as in this thread's topic (actually I think I've done this once but pretty much fast-forwarded myself in that case )

    Quote Originally Posted by Quickleaf View Post
    I'm concerned a player might go,"Wait, what? We never stopped adventuring!"
    I certainly wouldn't object in principle to a player saying "I spent those 5 years adventuring as usual", but that would simply mean that he tried, not that he actually found enough challenges to gain XP for example, or that he found treasure. I might simply say that the treasure he found in 5 years equals the stuff he used up in those adventures, and in addition it paid its bills... thus he still has the same wealth and equipment of 5 years ago).
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  6. #6
    You should look into a Pendragon-style Winter Phase.

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by Quickleaf View Post
    Well, there is a certain player type who balks at anything resembling DM fiat, particularly when they perceive their control over their character is being taken away. Most of my players don't fall into this category, but I've gamed with several who do.
    In what paradigm does any player have 100% control of their character's actions over his entire lifespan? Typically, all the things before the campaign (and after it, if it reaches an end and the character survives) are already outside of the player's immediate control. Having a similar period during the game is not fundamentally different. The DM also inherently controls a wide variety of things that affect the character, regardless of his temperament. Certainly the passage of time is inherently under the DM's control. This whole "DM fiat" thing is really ridiculous.

    I mean, I get that players don't want to show up for a session and hear the DM say "your fighter suddenly and inexplicably gave up adventuring and started up life as a pipeweed farmer until being called back into action five years later", but surely any reasonable DM will work with the player and take the character's nature into account to determine what the player did (within his control) during the intervening time.

    I wasn't thinking so much travel, which is easy to explain, but more along the lines of "the PCs overwinter at the lord's keep during the harshest snow months and resume adventuring when spring returns."
    I don't know, D&D travel is pretty eventful by default. Taking away from the players' ability to react to things during that travel can be significant. That being said, I'll get back to you on things other than travel (hopefully).
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    I might be leary of having large jumps in time (I've done 5 years), but having some time pass between adventures or story arcs always seems reasonable.

    I generally look at whatever "safe" situation the PC has going on will continue and probably prosper.

    So a PC who owns a meadery, will find, "nothing horrible" has happened to cause him to adventure or get overly involved, so he focussed on his meadery, growing the business, etc. A year or so passes.

    Then, as cue up to the new adventure, rumblings in the industry, supply chain issues crop up.

    This is of course the hook into the adventure, but it also reflects that the PC won't complain if time passes because he's on auto-pilot to success. He wants control when he needs to take the reins. Which is when problems arise.

    Which is exactly when the adventure starts.

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by Quickleaf View Post
    Well, there is a certain player type who balks at anything resembling DM fiat, particularly when they perceive their control over their character is being taken away. Most of my players don't fall into this category, but I've gamed with several who do.

    I wasn't thinking so much travel, which is easy to explain, but more along the lines of "the PCs overwinter at the lord's keep during the harshest snow months and resume adventuring when spring returns."

    I'm concerned a player might go,"Wait, what? We never stopped adventuring!"
    Why would a player say this though? What would they think they are missing out on? I could see it if there was something really urgent that was left undone at the end of an adventure but that is the whole point of having this downtime - the adventure is over and the PCs are at loose ends.

    I guess I'm just on a different wavelength than those players though.
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    I think that a problem with this particular issue is that it gives the PCs "leave" to go somewhat wild with what they can potentially have accomplished in the down-time.

    Not all PCs will do this, of course, and there are basic limitations on things like the amount of finances they have on-hand, and what common sense will allow, but expect for responses like "I performed an epic quest, earning two major artifacts, forty thousand GP, and the goodwill of two nations."

    Admittedly, that's an extreme example, but I have had PCs who were focused on, say, crafting. With a high crafting skill, one player made a case that he had not only launched a successful (and lucrative) business, but that he was also starting the campaign world's first franchises, drastically increasing his profits. Other PCs had set about making high-powered magic items, or getting involved in politics, all with varying degrees of success.

    Giving the PCs down-time shouldn't be something to shy away from, but the higher-level the PCs are, the more it becomes an opportunity for them to write their own mark on the game world.
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