Cookiemonger and I finished watching the first season of Game of Thrones over the holiday weekend. No, I haven’t read the books. Shut up, I’ll do it later.

It’s had me thinking about the time it takes to do things like travel or raise an army or whatever. Then there’s how much time it can/should/would take to advance in character level, or to “politic” or “intrigue.” What does “leveling” mean? And I’ve been thinking about Chess. Oh, and “social estates.”

In other words, lots of stuff.

Really, it came down to this weird intersection between Chess and Monopoly, fueled by thoughts of the intrigue in Dune and Game of Thrones, juxtaposed with some spontaneous narrative development ideas found in “Pattern of Raindrops” from Mike Bourke of Campaign Mastery. Stuff from all over the place.

“Pattern of Raindrops” features some interesting ideas about narrative flow that I’d love to discuss but nothing has quite made it out of my head and into words yet. But I have an idea about adapting this concept with the integration of more Chess concepts. Oh, and Monopoly for some reason. And Arkham Horror.

Arkham Horror features the Doom track with its inevitability leading the game to with a defined narrative arc. Investigators find clues, beat back the Mythos, and eventually confront (or head off) the awakening Ancient One.

Keeping track of it all is a chore though, when so much of it is “automated” stuff handled during the Mythos phase. Plus, it creates largely passive encounters that must be sought out by the players — otherwise they sit there and take up space.

So how do you bring the encounters to the players? How do you build tension without accumulating extraneous details? How do you provide the feeling of a ticking clock without the players feeling like downtime is a waste of time?

How do you effectively manage “background processes?”

I thought about how advanced Chess games often feature codified Pawn structures — there are “openings” in Chess that are used to develop consistent options for players to exploit as needs be. These opening strategies aren’t useful against “low-level” players, who lack the discipline or expertise to use them.

They are “patterns” however — or templates, whichever you prefer — that can be applied to create a consistent opening. I think that if you can create consistent beginnings and endgames (see Arkham Horror above) then you can create a consistent, albeit varied game experience throughout a campaign.

Taking time to level is a factor in this process, since time spent training between levels is time not spent on other tasks. You don’t want to force every player to take time leveling however, which means devising rules for splitting the party.

That’s going to be… interesting.