Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Epic Time in Runequest and C&S

Time was born in Hell, where the shadows of chaos reigned and held the heart of the universe in greasy paws.” - The Gloranthan Calendar 

Blogging breeds obsessive behavior. I have been so stuck on thinking about epic time in D&D as per yesterday's post that I not only find myself tinkering with some matching sub-systems and mini-games (hey, at least it has some utility for the Domain Game), but also pulling down all my various old school gamebooks to see what they have to say about the march of time.

Most of the rules--unsurprisingly perhaps--fall into line with the D&D paradigm. Curiously however, two games that began life as OD&D spin-offs, Runequest and Chivalry & Sorcery, reject the one-for-one slower pace of D&D campaign time.

Here's what the second edition RQ rulebook says:
A time scale of one real week per game week makes the game drag unless one is running a campaign by mail. The authors recommend a scale of one real day per one game week.
Sadly nothing is given about why one would use such a compressed amount of time (and I admit to being mystified about why slower time would be ok for a postal campaign). You can infer the why from the longer and more frequent training periods and deeper character obligations to such things as cults, but you'd think that multiplying time at seven times the rate would warrant an explanation. (Applied to my own tabletop campaign, for instance, you'd have almost Pendragon-like passages of anywhere from 14-28 weeks between sessions.)

More interestingly first-edition C&S, explicitly contracts campaign downtime in order to capture the larger-stage roleplaying in the ways we were discussing yesterday. Here's the passage from “The Time Frame” section:
...the one day = one game day concept has been dropped in favor of a more telescoped time period...If large-scale actions are going to be fought, anxious War Lords are going to be very frustrated by a real-time winter period in which no campaigning is possible. To permit a few good wars, time has to be compressed. Also, time was compressed to permit characters to live out a reasonable proportion of their lives, and perhaps even descendants to take up the struggle.
One wonders if this was the kernel of an idea that influenced Pendragon's own system.

I rather like how it continues on to lay out a “campaign season” as some of you were suggesting yesterday in comments. Keep in mind it is mostly suggesting a one real week to four game week baseline:
The year is seasonal in nature, and winter is always a quiet period because conditions are simply too bad for anyone to seriously attempt an adventure outside settled areas. Even the monsters get out of the snow storms. The four seasons therefore down as follows.
Spring: April and May: 2-3 real weeks
Summer: June to October: 8-10 real weeks
Fall: November and December: 2-3 real weeks
Winter: January to March: 1 real week
I dig the quirkiness of this system, especially how it lays out game session windows in real weeks. Better get your game on if you want to visit that dungeon in game-time January. (Though I have a strong feeling that I would simplify such matters down more to the Pendragon way of having the adventure be in one stretch and the downtime as punctuation.)

Now I am going back to touching all the door knobs and counting all the pens in my office.  


  1. We like your obsessiveness, Chris. It's quite touching harhar.

    I like the concept behind all this. I would welcome the chance to broaden my horizons as a player during all the downtime between adventures. Captaining a caravan or running a manor would be pretty cool.

  2. @Wampus
    It's good to know that I am treasured. On the second thought, knocking down that other invisible wall opens up a number of areas for players to explore without over-cluttering the at-the-table session.

  3. Very intrigueing. Must say I fascinated by the possibilities for how an accented seasonal presence in the game world might alter the entire world perception of the players- particularly in regard to a poor campaigning season (winter in temperate lands, monsoon season in the tropics etc). Really pronouncing such effects, where, for instance, periodically the characters are compelled to involve themselves with town intrigues, training or research and so on, with perhaps the odd venture into the castle's catacombs or the city's sewers, instead of traipsing around the countryside. Again- campaign depth is always a good thing.

  4. Blerg. "I'm fascinated" sheesh...

  5. It's ok. I have 20-plus years as a professional editor, but I seem to lose it all when I blog. Always missing a word here or there.

    Other climes would mix it up, but I suppose you could account for some kind of optimum moment in the year in just about any.

    Who wants a job where all you do is experience combat conditions and heal up without any real break year-round?