Pacing an Adventure: Some Hints
This article originally appeared in the May/June 2020 issue.
Sometimes, your adventure has a time limit. If that time limit is measured in days (vs. hours), it may be helpful to track and pace the ‘action’. Assuming that you’re on the surface of a world, here are a few things that you can do:
Remember that a [standard] day is 24 hours, and that on average, a person needs about eight hours of sleep per night. You can get by on less for a while, but it will have an effect. With that understood…
In a city, allow two hours for an actual meeting, and allow additional travel time based on the city population as [city pop digit]2÷2—that is, for example, if you are in New York City (pop ~8.5 million, pop digit 6), allow 62÷2, or 18 (round up to 20) minutes to get from where you are to where you’re meeting. Meetings with contacts can happen during the local business day (three meetings if one is “over lunch”, two otherwise), plus one in the morning (if “over breakfast”) and one in the evening (two, if one is “over dinner”).
Visiting a location as a tourist, with contact or alone: allow four hours, at most two per day.
Visiting a location to investigate/gather clues or data/acquire an object: If aboveboard, treat as a meeting, but allow three hours, so no more than two per day. If surreptitious, at least four hours to actually do it, and no more than one per day. Surreptitious visits may be at any time, but see below on sleep.
If a location is outside of the city, travel time is double what it would be in the city, with a minimum of one hour. Most likely, you’ll only be able to fit in one meeting per day, two if one of them is “over lunch” or “over dinner”.
If you skimp on sleep (six hours instead of eight), you can squeeze in an extra meeting, provided that you have meetings “over lunch” and “over dinner”, both. However, your mental acuity is dulled, and any tasks that require rolling vs. INT are at DM –1 for each two days total that you’ve skimped on sleep. You can ‘sleep in’ to neutralize the DM by not having any meetings on a given day before “over lunch”; you cannot “store up” sleep to avoid the DM by doing this before skimping on sleep.
If you need a surreptitious visit to occur overnight (or otherwise outside business hours), you can shift your sleep cycle—but while doing so, you cannot have any meetings or activities for the day of the surreptitious visit or the previous day. If, instead, you do it by skimping on sleep, DM –2 for all INT-related tasks.