Thursday, October 03, 2013

Absolute vs. Relative Time

How often do you actually refer to a specific date (October 1st, third day of the first moon of spring, etc.) or year in your campaign, rather than a relative date? (Next week, two days from now, next summer?)

I've used the relative time a lot but it occurs to me that even when I know the former, it doesn't actually come up in play much. In Risus Monkey's Buffy game I usually knew the exact date, but that was because it was a real historical date, (the game was set in the early 90s) and since we were college students, what holidays were coming up and whether it was the weekend or not was pretty important. Also, because we used the actual weather in the area from that date, part of the "beginning of session" ritual involved looking up and discussing the date.

In Trollsmyth's game I have no idea what the calendar date is and never have. This is partly because the pace of that game tends to be really slow, but also because, as adventurers, what I care about in terms of time is "how long until we get to the dungeon?" and "how does it take to recover from the last dungeon?" It also just doesn't come up a lot from other players/characters in the game. If Brian mentioned it at the start of every session I'd probably remember.

I seem to remember doing that in the cyberpunk/post-apocalyptic d20 Modern game I ran in high school, and I think the people who cared remembered and wrote it down. I don't know that we used it that much, in play or in talking about play, though. Same with the Arcana Evolved game I ran at the end of high school. I don't know that I've even known myself in all the games I've run since then, although that's partly because they've been rather scatter-shot. I haven't started keeping real thorough track of time in the ACKS game, but I've been keeping the notes that I'll need to go back and normalize it if/when I decided specific dates are important.

39 comments:

  1. I'm notorious in our group for having holiday focused adventures, regardless of setting. Even in non-historical games, it's a great way to add atmosphere.

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  3. I read some stuff about Eberron recently that said the proximity of all the planes to the world affects things, often seasonally. For example, every 5 years you'll get a really cold year because the ice plane is closer (don't quote me on the specifics). That makes for interesting calendar-related events that are predictable, encouraging players who care about those events to keep better track.

    When I DM, I typically update the players when the season changes since weather is the most obvious effect of the ongoing year. I don't say something like "hey guys it's Spring now" more like "the snow is starting to thaw and the rivers are swollen and dangerous" and maybe have them encounter a bridge that's fallen down or swaying alarmingly in the strong current, or muddy roads making travel slower.

    Otherwise, we keep time by using relative descriptions like "okay, you spent two weeks in town carousing, we went through all the stuff for that, now what do you want to do?"

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