Time Procedures for Liminal Horror
Appendix T: Measurements of time are often abstracted in games, sometimes to the point of not being explicitly mentioned in the text.
With investigation/mystery style games, it can be important for the players to have time between events.
The PCs sit in the diner, drinking what has seemed like the same cup of coffee for the past week. It’s gone as cold as the trail. Progress had stagnated.
Sometimes the problems need time to gestate and grow.
Giving a larger scale of time can help prevent a mad dash of events. Variation in timescale is important, and not every sequence of events needs to be crammed into a single in-game night. Sometimes the evil needs to fester, and filling the spaces in between events of normality can make the horror hit even harder.
In order to do this, integrating explicit procedures can help scale the action in a way that supports progression.
Phases & Actions
Create distinct phases of time: Morning / Afternoon / Night
Actions: Have the number of actions the characters take limited to 1-2 per phase. This keeps the procedure manageable by generalizing the length of time for actions.
Reinforcing through in-world cues: Leverage narrating daily rituals to help frame the movement of time (focusing on what the characters eat for their meals, etc).
Timeframes: This structure allows you to influence encounters based on what phase of time it is.
Zooming out from the immediate action and moving through time (days, even weeks) can help give space for the story to progress. Not every moment of the PCs lives need to be played out at the table.
This also helps you focus on the normality of the world around the characters (provides a foil for the horrifyingly weird to juxtapose with).
Downtime: Depending on the measurement of time you fast forward, have each player give details about what they did over during that time (go to work, visit friends, try to heal, etc).
Clues: During these sequences the Facilitator has the opportunity to make seeds planted earlier in the session come to fruition (a contact reaches out, a puzzle piece final clicks into place, etc)
DOOM Clocks & Factions
DOOM: Adding specific time scales to the DOOM clock is another means of establish scale of time for the narrative. Extending the timeframe between steps of the DOOM clock can help trigger moments where you would zoom out between major events.
Factions: Using a larger time scale can mean that different variables in play, especially faction drives, have the space to interact and ripple through the world.
Calendars, Not Just Maps by Prismatic Wasteland is a fantastic blog entry about how to use time as a major factor in an adventure (and sums up why I structure the DOOM clock as a timeline).
Fear of a Black Dragon: Convergence by Jason Cordova and Tom (procupinerpg) inspired this Appendix entry with their conversation around timelines, breaking into phases, and sitting in coffee shops with nary a lead in sight.
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