Isryn – Time Management

One week has passed in real life, and 2,800 words have been exchanged between my first player and I on our private Discord chat, along with dozens of pieces of imagery and maps.

The management of this little idea of a game has been easy so far and the creation of a ruleset, somewhat rewarding.

I’ve had to create a Word file detailing my player’s civilization and I asked him to keep track of his own information, which he reassured me he does, in a dedicated notebook.

I’ve also had to create an Excel file (nothing too complex) which I use to keep track of some statistics like population numbers, resources available, and the topic of today’s post.

Task progression

How does time progress in a play-by-post game of kingdom management? In the eventual addition of more players, how do you keep things fair-play?

I’ve already warned potential players that they “get what they put in” in terms of progress. That being said, some players will be more active than others, and without the benefit of being together physically and having dedicated turns like a board game, things could quickly become chaotic and unfair.

For a one-on-one experience I’ve decided to create this simple system (I am committed to keeping things as rules-light as possible) which helps me keep track of tasks, and their progressions.

depending on the faction workforce available (in this case, very small at the moment), there are three “lengths” of action available for any task, which shall always remain at the GM’s discretion.

These lengths are simply:
Short-term actions
Medium length actions
Long actions

The progression of Medium and Long actions is based on “short-term actions”.

A short-term action fills up one time block (one cell in my Excel sheet). Once all short-term actions have been accomplished, a “turn” has passed, and a medium and long time block are filled up in consequence.

Let me give you an example with a fictional list, of how a “turn” may proceed.

The faction player has specified that he wants his general population to:
-Hunt, forage and fish for food
-Cut wood for lumber
-Mine a mountain for stone
-Build houses
-Set up farms
-Explore his surroundings
-Conduct sacred ceremonies
-Install a garrison
-Erect a temple

To keep things simple (always) I’ve decided to divide these tasks up like so:

Short-term actions:
-Hunt, forage and fish for food
-Cut wood for lumber
-Work a mountain for stone
-Explore his surroundings
-Conduct sacred ceremonies

Medium-length actions:
-Build houses
-Set-up farms

Long actions:
-Set up a garrison
-Erect a temple

With our real-life time difference (my player lives in Canada and I live in Vietnam), we have two time windows that connect well: 8 am and 8 pm. I’ve started to think of those as “server update” times. Usually around these times we’ll both be very active on the chat for about an hour (while doing other real-life actions at the same time).

Each action mentioned above is resolved with a dice roll. That’s a lot of dice rolls! But to roll dice is why we got in this mess in the first place! Embrace the dice rolls!

I’ll make time progress by constantly going through my list of dice rolls from top to bottom, starting with the Short-term actions.

I’ll start the turn with short-term actions, by sending the faction player a message like “A new day beckons! Roll a general D20”.

This d20 is his basic luck for this turn. I don’t always need it. Sometimes I roll it myself. I can also use it for story progression.

Like any good d20 system, low number = bad, high number = good. If the player rolls lower than 10, the weather could get bad or maybe there’s a cold going through the population. Think of this roll as the “Camping in the Wild” roll of a fantasy setting. If the player rolled a 1, something terrible should happen, like the sudden death of an important character, a bandit attack, or anything else you see fit (T-rex attack anyone?). If the player rolls high, things go well. A 20 could be a population boom, the blessing of a deity, or a treasure dug up.

I like to keep in mind what the player has asked in the past as well. Small questions like “Ey what kind of birds are around here?” could lead to him/her domesticating birds of prey, for example.

Following through, I’ll go down the list of short-term actions and ask the player to make rolls and apply bonuses.

“Roll for your food!” I’ll say, and I’ll eventually receive his dice roll. Don’t forget to reward your player for playing well, just like other TTRPG games! For example, recently my player’s rolls in that category have been low. Getting a 5 or lower could mean possible starvation and subsequent abandonment of physical labor by his workforce, but since he had previously taken the time to set up farms, he avoided that problem. I also made sure I mentioned that the farms saved his hide this time around.

When his faction was solely living off hunting and gathering, I applied his Survival bonus (like a DnD or PF character’s skill check), which he first obtained by rolling very high in the past.

Every time I receive a dice roll, I update my check list, moving to the next item.

I grouped his “Materials” rolls together to avoid flooding our conversation with numbers. Again, a high roll has positive results (maybe the lumberjacks came in contact with a new animal or even new peoples or the miners found a new vein of ore, depending on what he was trying to accomplish) while low scores have consequences. Did someone get lost in the woods, or injured doing their tasks? Or did they finally find some rare herbs or ore?

I put exploring in its own category, which I secretly roll myself. I do this to represent the fact that his scouts are far away and do not come home every night. If a faction had a way to stay in contact with these far-ranging adventurers then I would give more precise information about their happenings. If say, a mage could speak telepathically with a ranger once a day, I would update the player’s map immediately after the roll. At the moment it’s not the case, so I privately move his explorers’ units on the map a distance I see fit, based on the private rolls I make.

For the conducting of sacred ceremonies, that’s where flavor gets developed. I wouldn’t make a player roll for this unless he was requesting something specific from his deity (good weather, harvest, fertility, war, etc). As a house rule in my TTRPG games, good descriptions usually give a small bonus and that house rule has carried over to this game.

Next is the progression of his Medium-length actions (the building of houses and the setting-up of farms). I’ll simply add a “progression check” to each item on this checklist. If this is the second checkmark I add, I consider this action complete and will inform my player of its completion. If there hasn’t been any rolls in a while or if the request was for a very specific, or crafty-like task, I’ll make the player roll before deciding on the results.

Here’s an example of this turn progression. I check the last item on the short-term actions list then I move down to the medium-length actions. “Building houses” already had 1 check, so adding a 2nd one means my player now has one new house in his village. I’ll update the map and let him know. Since he requested 10 houses total, I’ll erase the two checkmarks before moving down to “Setting up farms”. There’s no mark here so I put the 1st one, meaning the farm isn’t done yet. If my player asks for a progress report (as he often does) I’ll perhaps explain that the foundations of his first farm have been put up or the fields have been sowed but the building is not operative yet.

All this is done while very lightly keeping track of materials. This faction has access to lumber and stone, so the player requested stone buildings. I didn’t write this down but I know he will remember, and I added a “1” in the defense tab of his village.

Finally, the Long actions:
Setting up a garrison and erecting a temple can take a long time. I’ll add a checkmark to each task as I move down the list and update the map as I see fit. I could set an unspoken goal of 3 marks for the garrison, and 5 marks for the temple (depending on the complexity), so that would mean that after completing all the tasks the checklist 3 times, this faction would have erected a garrison. I would update the map with a new building then ask the player how much population he’d wish to convert to armed guards, if he had any systems in mind, check if there’s enough materials available and see if I should move the task to a now-recurring “training” roll.

I know this sounds complex and is hard to read (it must be, I’m having a horrible time trying to write this down) but please keep in mind that we’re both having fun doing this. If it stops being fun, the rules will have to be adapted to make sure fun is being had again.

Feel free to ask as many questions as you’d like, this helps clarify my thoughts.

Thanks for reading!

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