Wednesday, December 21, 2011

And the Old man waves away...

by Kevin Dooley
And the Old man waves away...
By Tobie Abad
Originally published before 2009

I guess best to begin again with some fiction.  (I blame Classic World of Darkness for that habit.  For those who never played any World of Darkness games, the books were one of the first few that I recall to ever start a chapter or a book with a fictional story.  Most other books from other game studios back then just jumped directly into a "What is a Role-playing game?" opening.)

"Don't you even dare place that thing on my doorstep!" the raven haired woman wailed as James displayed a cinnamon-scented wreath of acorns. Much to the retainer's expectations, his Mistress was not one who appreciated the season.

"But Maria," he mockingly complained. Maria would have none of it, though, and with the speed that was part of her blood, the Brujah blurred past her retainer, plucked the offending wreath from his fingers and tossed it across the street.

"I will NOT have christmas ornaments on my doorstep," she spoke, more like an order though than a statement.

"Even if-"

"Even if the PRINCE himself decrees it!" Maria roared, and James shut himself up. He could see that he pushed too far this time. Maria was seething and inches away from a frenzy, and such an event was not acceptable in a pleasant Christmas eve.


What was that about?
It was an example of making sure you give a semblance of time in your games.

How did a heated discussion on Christmas wreaths do that? Well, how often does Christmas happen in real life? Once a year. And in your game, how often has Christmas occured? Are you saying it has been one very loooooong year?

If that was your intention, then you're okay. But if you have had a game that stretched beyond a single "game year" then perhaps you should hint at time passing with these approaches.

Let me begin to state each one:
Seasonal events
Obviously, this is the example I gave. By simply adding a small scene where a seasonal event occurs, you have given a taste of time passing without having to go through the "four months have passed since bla bla bla...". And you made it fun too.

Do keep in mind that you do not have to resort simply to holidays. Note environmental changes. When does the cold front begin? How about the cherry blossoms in Japan? Or the leaves during Autumn. Hell, maybe even the start of the Superbowl.

Give the players the feeling that their character is in a new time and they will be more immersed in it.

Flashbacks
Throwing a flashback can be tricky, but is best lead to by starting with the character either in a very calm setting (talking to his mentor, for example) or in a high octane scenario (bleeding from numerous wounds, and pushed against a wall).

The flashback basically yells at the player "TIME HAS PASSED AND THIS IS WHAT HAPPENED".

Many avoid using flashbacks because it requires a lot of preplanning and assuming. And because some players believe that flashbacks are pointless scenes because there is NO threat of loss or dying ("hey, if i remember that, then i lived through it no problem, eh?")

Vampire: the Masquerade offers an escape from this. TORPOR. If the player isn't exploring the flashback with appropriate responses -- such as doing the lamest strategies in combat since he knows he won't die -- then toss him into torpor for a few years.

Other games, though, do not offer that much escape except for:
Mistaken memories/Memory tampering
False intro (the mentor isn't there, its a Virtual Reality interrogation attempt)
Intentional near deaths (worse to do to often because players feel the Deux Machina curse coming).
Magic/Psionic powers
Alternate realities

Keep in mind though that the best uses of flashbacks is to both introduce more information on the game and at the same time, add an element of depth to the approach in roleplaying. If it comes out fun, then pat yourself on the back for a job well done.
by Rileyroxx

AGING
Yes. Let some NPCs pass away from old age. Or show the buildings to be less wonderful. Or a park that was once across the street is gone now. Or a young boy the PC met before is now a teenager.

Weave the loom of time around the setting and let things CHANGE.

And watch your players squirm when they realise that some things do change no matter what you do.. and its a tragic truth that should never be forgotten.

WORDS
The choice of words too can show the passage of time. And this need not be as drastic as "Thou" into "You". This can be as simple as using slang words like "wicked" and later using "cool" then later still "phat".

The web offers a lot of sites that give you ideas on what slang words have changed. For example, how many out there still know what it means if your computer "HANGS" ? What about "FLOPPY drives" ? Strange but true, a lot of formerly common words have already been either phased out or less used to the point that they sound a bit obscure.   (More so now with terms like flash drives, and cloud computing which were unheard of back when the internet was merely about accessing a BBS and the like.  And mind you, these are changes which happened so far within my own lifespan.  What more characters who can live for centuries?)

Use that fact in your games and watch the PCs unknowingly get the feeling of age creeping over them.

And by the time they realise it,
it is too late...

...because time already passed and they know it.
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