I had this weird idea.

First, the problem: it’s hard to keep track of passing time in a tabletop game.

It’s like, “are we waiting? What’s happening? What can we do?” All these questions and more have come up during my game sessions. Sure, you can keep track of minutes spent searching a room, or days spent traveling — cross off your rations — but it just doesn’t… who cares? And, why does anyone care?

No, it doesn’t make sense. Why do something things cause time to pass, while other things require time to pass? Searching or resting takes time, while taking actions like traveling or performing rituals — costs some amount of time.

Maybe I’ve gotten my uses mixed up, it hardly matters.

The point I want to get to — the potential solution to this dilemma — may be in charging the PCs a premium on passing time in the game world.

See, the problem I find with the GM strictly controlling the passage of time is, “what do you do with all that time?” How long does it take for things to happen? When do the consequences of the PCs’ actions finally catch up with them?

The answer is — immediately, unless they buy some time.

Bliss Stage points out that the difficulty of the game will largely lie in the hands of the GM — setting the pace by deciding how many “interlude” actions take place between Mission Briefings. My thought is — you can make the PCs pay for it.

Here’s another way of putting it — choosing, setting, and keeping a pace for a campaign is hard — so don’t bother. Delegate pacing to the players by having everything rush them. Did the PCs spoil the latest plans of the Big Bad? Well, immediately follow up the mission with the Big Bad’s retaliation.

Don’t put off to later, what the players will forget about in the meantime.

This has a couple effects I can name off the top of my head — first of all, it makes a commodity of something that players will often take advantage of or ignore.

“What’s that? You want time to rest up for the next fight? Too bad.

Having a GP cost associated with something that typically goes ignored will make it a ‘thing’ that the players can immediately begin trading in — do they want to see a construction project completed? Have them sink money into it.

Second — now that it has a cost associated with it, there’s a very simple way of tracking exactly how much time has passed — the time that passes is based on how much the PCs spend. You now have a cost-in to time-out ratio.

For those of you who are still struggling with the concept, picture this — a narrative with a hero or group of heroes who remain(s) perpetually impoverished despite the clear pay-offs associated with their high-risk jobs — they might be “buying off” the consequences of their respective backgrounds.

Eventually though, the money runs out — or they succumb to fatigue.

The end comes rushing toward them and they can’t put it off any longer.