Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Deep Time

Hill Cantons had an interesting post recently about the handling of time in games. 

Basically, D&D, and most other games have three levels of time, Turns, where you explore, or search, or move in a dungeon, Rounds for combat and other time sensitive endeavours, and Campaign time, where there is something more like DM calculating the necessary time to do some task, or hand waving to move things along (e.g. "it takes three weeks for the armorer to build your full harness, during which time you regain 10 hp, and spend 30 silver on rent", or "your journey to darkest Endash takes 5 days").  Chris posits that there ought to be a fourth level of time, which has more to do with seasons or years, which has the benefit of making realm level play more reasonable, and might as a side benefit fit in better with a world where understandings of time were somewhat longer than they are now. (further discussion here)

There were a number of great comments discussing various ways that games had handled this sort of time,and what you could do with it.  Some of the discussion centered around the impact of campaign seasons on player behavior.  In a prototypical-Western-European-medieval-pastiche setting (pwemp), it would be very hard to travel in the winter season, as roads are impassible, and seas are more stormy.  Therefore, PCs should adventure abroad in the summer when travel is easier (and indeed when armies went to war), and adventures in the winter should be local or city based.  At the very least it encourages players to think about the world a bit more like their character would, in terms of seasons and years.

Another aspect of longer time spans is that it opens up the possibilities about what goes on at home when the player is away.  While we like to think about adventurer PCs as free agents, in most game settings they would be subjects to a king, have feudal obligations, have friends, patrons, neighbors, families, realms to guard, jobs to maintain, religious duties, and so on.  More so as they advance in rank and responsibility.  Normally these things are used by DMs as hooks for adventures, ways to include other game styles, or as ways to limit the growing power of higher level players; however, once you are opening up longer time spans, other possibilities arise.

For example, while Lord Graxnar is off slaying orcs in the dungeon for two months, his wife takes up with one of his retainers back at home, who works with one of the Dukes to have Lord Graxnar's fief given to a neighboring baron.  Lord Graxnar's daughter is promised to the baron on the other side as a counter.  Absence from the heart of things becomes another cost of adventuring, and one that the PCs have to recon with.  Going away for a season has a cost, both in loyalty of followers and possibly in money, due to the lack of the PCs firm hand on the tiller.

This sort of thing certainly happens in the real world too, think for instance about King Richard off on crusade, and his "loyal" brother scheming to get the crown.  Someone goes off to war, and is reported dead, and then comes back later  to find his wife remarried.  Phillip spends time in Thebes as a hostage to constrain his father, but learns about phalanx combat as a result. These more realm/clan/association events open up new game play opportunities to explore the world as well, which can certainly be a plus.

For those seeking greater verisimilitude in their games (which you know I do), this seems like an interesting avenue to explore.

Also, welcome to Beithir Seun, increasing my follower count by 20%!

1 comment:

Beithir said...

Many thanks for the welcome! Glad to be here :D

A fourth level of time is an interesting idea, and one I look forward to trying out. It keeps the wider world moving around the adventurers, rather than standing still as it can appear to do at times. Definitely something to consider for those looking for greater verisimilitude, as you say.