Tuesday, February 13, 2024

How I Used One-to-One Time in the Silver Gull Campaign.

Time Magician's Academy
Generated with Unstable Diffusion

One-to-One time is making the rounds again on Twitter, so I decided that it was time I gave a concrete example of how it worked for me in my Silver Gull Campaign. 

You can see reports about and articles inspired by my campaign here: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12.

Silver Gull is part of my Xen: Weird Fantasy setting, and I played it with a mix of Swords & Wizardry and Deathtrap Lite. (and supplemented with AD&D1e) Xen is a world with an eight-day week and a fairly elaborate calendar you can read about in my setting document. This document also contains a summary of two months of downtime activity.

My rule was that, barring my own ill health, every week of real time was eight days of time in Xen. So, after each Monday night session, my players had seven days of downtime before the next session. I would advance the date in Xen seven days after the last date that passed in the session.

Using 1:1 for Downtime

Some of my players had standard activities they wanted to do in that time: for example 

  • Captain Finch was assumed to spend two days carousing with the locals on any given week. I would produce a rumour table for the week accordingly. He also spent time training NPCs. I kept track of the number of hours he would commit to their training, and convert it into 5XP per hour towards helping members of the crew move towards their next level. I would allow training of up to three at a time. He also spends at least 1-2 days appraising, selling, and having identified various treasures.
  • When Finch was romancing a sorceress, we designated one day out of the week he would take to spend with her.
  • Reine the Alchemist had a standard set of brews she wanted to make in that time, she would decide whether she was gathering ingredients or buying them and mark off the gold or roll for gathering ingredients until she met her quota. Then we would roll to see how long each brewing took. At the end I would tell her how many additional days she had, if any.
  • Zee the machinist was always either doing research, consulting sages, or working on inventions. I used AD&D's rules for the first two, and my own rules to determine the time it took to invent a new machine for the third.

Long Projects

Often the PCs had projects in mind that would take multiple weeks, such as fitting a crew-mate with a bionic arm, sending the assassin in their employ on a long-ranging mission, or having the airship rebuilt.

These tasks required patience. And so we would mark off the days as time progressed. When the deadline passed, the item or even they were working towards would be completed, and they would have the item, creation, or fruits of their labour available for them as appropriate.


When taking long airship journeys, we would determine if the ship could reach their destination before the week was up, and limit the uses of downtime while they were travelling.

If travelling away from civilization, I would roll for random encounters during travel. If they hit any while we were between sessions, I would judge the relative difficulty of the encounter. If it was something easily overcome, I would do all the rolling and summarize it for them.

If they hit encounters that were going to be hard, I might start the session earlier than usual to allow them to play out the encounter, then skip ahead to present time.

Sometimes the seven days would pass and they would not have managed to reach their destination.  In that case, I would start on the road (or in the air, usually,)  and we would play the journey out like a hex-crawl until they reached their destination.

Multiple Days of Adventure

If the Players were particularly driven or cautious events of a session might take multiple days. If that happened, I would subtract those days from the downtime they had for activities abd travel between sessions: If you spent 5 days adventuring during the session, the remaining three days of the week would be all that was left for between-session events or for making progress on their projects,

Living World

Rumour tables became a driving force in my campaign. Before each session I would go  down the rumours from the previous week and note down changes to create this week's rumours. Where it was sensible to do so, I would change a rumour to reflect new information, or events worsening or sorting themselves out as appropriate. 

Where I was unsure, I would give the event a 2-in-6 chance of changing then use the following d6 table to determine what happened.

  1. The situation gets a lot worse
  2. The situation gets worse.
  3. The situation becomes less urgent.
  4. New information comes to light, update the rumour.
  5. The situation changes into something different and unexpected.
  6. The situation resolves itself without the PC's help.

I used "What could have happened in a week?" a my rubric whether I was rolling or changing events according to logic.

Overlapping Parties

I played a few shorts with friends and family set in Xen simultaneously to the Silver Gull Campaign. These sessions were always set a few days after the previous session for The Silver Gull Campaign. The actions of players in those campaigns had a chance to collide with the events int eh PCs campaign, and did on several occasions. This is where things got interesting, as the PCs would often find the traces of other players' actions left in their path,

I also would add a rumour related to the other adventures going on in the campaign in a number of days after the events equal to three plus the number of 24-mile hexes of distance between the Gull Campaign's current location and the location where the events happen.

This included flooding that the PCs in one campaign were dealing with leading to a call for aid to the PCs 288 miles away two weeks after the flood began, and the fallout of a kidnapped princess causing political disturbances in their campaign three weeks after the fact.

If I had more involved players for these secondary games, there was a lot of potential for cross-over, interfering with one another, or even offering unexpected help to one another. However, Xen is a huge setting, and most of the other games I have run in it have been intentionally short.

This is the beauty of adding war-gaming mindsets to your games fused with 1:1 time in campaigns like Shadow over Sojenka, in which I am a player. Our two groups are often exploring different parts of the same dungeon, competing for the best hirelings, accidentally stepping on each others toes, and occasionally murdering one another.

If you really want to read up on PC-on-PC intrigue in a 1:1 time milieu, this post on the Shadow Over Sojenka campaign blog is a good read.

I can see how some of the original 70s campaigns where the GM was able to run games several nights a week could have over 50 players, each with a stable of 2-8 PCs to call on.

Time Out for PCs

My players did not want to keep a stable of multiple PCs: some of them have issues focusing on more than one character, and some just like to worry about one thing at a time. Which means that only one of my three characters had multiple PCs to play with.

There is a good reason to do this, however: Sometimes a character's commitments keep them away from the action. For example I had at least one scenario where a player was present, but his character was still several days away by ornithopter. In this case, I have kept a collection of NPC henchmen in the form of their airship crew. if a PC can't be there in the 7 days allotted, then they can always grab a favourite crew member and play them for a session.

This is generally referred to as "Time Jail" in a lot of the other OSR gaming groups that use one-to-one time. Your character is not allowed to play until they have spent the necessary time to do the activities they are committed to completing. When you do things like magic item creation or have training take substantial time for levelling

Pausing Time 

Now this is where I commit some serious heresy. I have hybridized 1:1 time quite frequently. If my players are getting tired or the hour is late and we need to wrap up, I have encouraged them to pull out of the dungeon or other adventure site, at which point they can have their downtime and the campaign would advances as always.

The idea that I may penalize them with lost time, injuries, or disease as their PCs were forced to spend downtime escaping the dungeon, or might not be heard from again at all can create a sense of urgency to get out. It certainly has worked on me in several campaigns I have played with in World of Wierth and Shadow Over Sojenka.

But as there are real-time constraints on my players, and I have to work with players across five time zones, getting them out of the dungeon, or even having a reasonably long session is not always possible, and while I have seen tools like random "Escape the Dungeon" tables, I personally have no problem freezing time and picking up where we left off. After all, I don't tie the date in Xen exactly with the date in the real world.

If I had multiple long-term campaigns running in the same region, I would then require the PCs to take an extra 8 days of downtime to catch up to the date they should have been at had they rested for a week in town. If I had multiple groups playing in Xen at once this would allow me to make sure that the groups would be in sync again within a session or two. I find it pays to be flexible, but I also try not to do this too often, or it will dispel the tension that one-to-one time creates.

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