Time Keeps On Slipping Into The Future… From The Past
Posted by docryder
In my past couple of Saturday Night D&D games, I’ve come to realize I’ve been forgetting one of my proposed blog subjects, and it’s created some work for me unexpectedly. That thing I’ve been forgetting is creating time lines for my villains.
I’m currently running a war story in my D&D 4e game. The PCs are coming from a small relatively peaceful valley that they have been working to keep that way. However, past a vast forest, is the Archduchy with imperial dreams. Both demesnes are under assault from a third force, a nation of ogres and goblins. The PCs are fairly certain that the Archduke is either a willing or unwilling pawn of a demon, as is the Ogre King. Both sides are being manipulated, but to what extent the PCs don’t know. I have mapped out the terrain, I’ve provided villains, but I’ve been slipping on recent history.
The recent history is actually not just history, but planning. Back in the ’90’s, I’d stumbled upon something that helped me create a feeling of reality in the extremely intrigue oriented World of Darkness (that I’ve already discussed was a bit more of a “World of ‘Dimness'”). I had stumbled across some discarded paper at the print shop that I was working at that was printed with a table 31 rows deep and I-don’t-remember-how-many-columns-wide in landscape layout. Since that conveniently matched the maximum numbers of day in a month, I struck upon a plan. I remember there were enough columns for me to have one for each major faction as well as some of the major individual NPCs. I also kept a column for the PCs, which was basically tracking what they were encountering in the latest game.
With my table set, I could determine what my villains were doing day-by-day, if I wished (and it seems to be a regular thing for my games to be very intense, time-wise). I could even come up with plans/plots, and extend them into the future, and then foreshadow events, eventually hooking the players into following my plot threads. Some of those plots, as befitting immortal creatures like vampires, could extend across months, being foreshadowed across many, many games.
I continued the practice in my pure Mage the Ascension game, but once my games ended and I returned to D&D, I left this system behind. In fact, there were a few years after my players and I left the WWGS fan club when I did very little to no DMing at all. I forgot (I’m now realizing) a lot of little practices I had back then. And I am realizing that to an extent my game is suffering for it.
In my current game’s case, if I’d been doing my timelines, the ogre invaders and the archduke’s forces would seem much more dynamic. Instead, they currently seem a bit static. So, I’ve been back filling, trying to figure out not only the two armies activities over the last month and a half, but exactly what the puppeteer behind this whole situation is doing as well. The process is making me come up with reasons why the war has stalled out and what the various parties have been doing (moving reinforcements, etc.). However, now that I’ve remembered this tool in my arsenal, I’ve made myself a new set of tables I can print and tinker with to figure out not only what has happened to this point, but what the enemies have planned from here on out, and create a more dynamic plotline for my players to interact with.