Jim Henley has an interesting post over at The 20′ By 20′ Room where he talks about one of the most difficult things to get right in an ADRPG campaign, time flow.

As is pointed out in the comments, this isn’t just a problem that happens in Amber games, but since I’ve had personal experience with the issue in the one long-running ADRPG campaign I’ve played in, I found Jim’s discussion of the issue right on target. I think it’s a problem that has to be dealt with in some manner that requires the GM and players to work together, rather than just something the GM can fix by forcing the pace and rushing past scenes that the players might want to play out. It’s finding the balance that’s always going to be the problem.

As for keeping the players occupied, I’m one of those “coy” people Jim mentions who definitely does not want to end up with the OOC knowledge that troupe-style play entails, so both that and the method of trying to entertain players by having them at least be able to witness everything that goes on simply won’t work for me.

The idea that intrigues me the most is giving out experience points based, at least in part, on group play. If characters appear in scenes together it makes it that much easier to deal with the different preferences for time flow, and makes it that much more likely that, at the very least, players can play out scenes privately while someone else is getting the GM spotlight.

Of course, there’s still the issue of coming up with a time flow that makes things work for the story. It’s great to be able to keep the other players occupied while slow scenes play out, but that doesn’t help to keep the pace of the game moving in such a way that goals which take days, weeks, months, or even years, can be accomplished in a reasonable amount of real world time. If the game is going to be something more than a collection of witty conversations, there needs to be time passing so things can get done. I guess that brings us back to the idea of the GM and players cooperating to decide when to slow down for some good roleplaying and when to speed up to allow things to be accomplished, but it’d be helpful if there were some general guidelines for how to do that, so less experienced players and GMs didn’t have to figure everything out through trial and error (especially when error can kill a campaign).