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I want to run a game in Eberron, but start it on the Day of Mourning (using the adventure in the back of the 4E book), then advance the time four years. However, as I want to use 5E, I want them to use what amounts to four years of downtime. I don't feel it's fair to take that away.

But here's the problem: I know they'll try to say that they continue adventuring, but that undercuts the point of the time skip. I want them to be able to do everything except explicitly adventure. How would I justify telling them they can't?

I initially thought about saying that Khorvaire is too unstable for adventuring to be viable, but that feels flimsy. Are there other reasons I could use?

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    \$\begingroup\$ What are the goals and inspirations of the PCs before the time skip? Do they have a reason to continue to adventure? What are the reasons for the time skip? Why are they together after the time skip? \$\endgroup\$ – Chepelink Aug 21 '17 at 8:24
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    \$\begingroup\$ I have yet to launch this adventure, but knowing them as players, they'd likely all try to continue adventuring just so that they're adventuring. I don't know their goals and inspirations yet. The reason for the time skip is that the adventure calls for it, but also because it's four years after the Day of Mourning that a lot of Eberron's material seems to set itself, making it easier to use. As to why they'd be together, it'd be because they'd be called back together by someone they met on the Day of Mourning. \$\endgroup\$ – MisterGunpowder Aug 21 '17 at 8:31
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    \$\begingroup\$ I have run that specific adventure recently, each player arrived at the tower because of there background ocupation and it is infered that they continue that ocupation for the 4 years, they only become "adventurers" when they work together to foil the plot and get a taste for it and each other. \$\endgroup\$ – Skeith Aug 22 '17 at 11:05
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I have had similar instances in the past involving required time-skip, or what I call "interrupted adventuring" for one reason or another. There is a few things I would recommend doing. First and foremost, just inform them of the situation from your side. Something along the lines of..

"We can't have you adventuring when you are not in the party, but we need to do this time-skip because of [reasons]".

People are usually fairly happy with that on its own. However if they ask for something more here are a couple of suggested methods for dealing with it.

  1. Use some role-playing finesse. Last time I had this situation happen most of my players had intricate background stories that I used to fill the void and give them a "purpose". This can be anything from their background, or something you discussed with them that they are happy with. Maybe they will go to work for four years... maybe they will open a tavern.

    "So we will be having a time-skip now of 4 years. [Player1] I see your background is from a farming community [someplace far to the south]. You receive a letter from your Mother, and your dad has become deathly sick and they need you to return home."

  2. Give them something to compensate the "lost time" that takes their mind away from the fact that they just lost 4 years to nothing. You can even give them some rewards (this is especially useful if the party has fallen behind in gear/gold). My favorite is something along the lines of...

    "An acquaintance of yours has discovered clues to [some lost treasure]. He has invited your group to assist in recovering it. The expedition will take you across the world and take four years to recover."

  3. Traveling can be used as well. Depending on location, you can use travel time as a way to pad your numbers. For example, if the location of the next adventure is months of travel time away, perhaps they had to work in a town to gain enough gold to pay for the trip. Perhaps its dangerous to attempt without a proper guide. This alone (work day-to-day, pay for trip, and travel time) could easily equal a couple of years.
  4. Magic. Your greatest fall back is to just simply use magic to somehow stasis them and skip the time as required. It is very heavy-handed in terms of DM powers, but useful if they do not cooperate with any other ideas.
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    \$\begingroup\$ Nice suggestions, but I think that if the players are not cooperating with a time-skip, point 4 will only cause them to not cooperate even more. I think that would have to be handled very delicately. You could use it to timeskip in the middle of a campaign though. If for example you have a big showdown where the players, through some accident, are put in stasis and then come back to the world where evil had had 4 years of free(er) reign. That could make for some interesting developments. \$\endgroup\$ – JAD Aug 22 '17 at 9:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ To be fair, my finesse with RP is minor at best so I usually just club my players over the head with story to move it along. Certainly any of these ideas can be drawn out in a much more realistic/fun way with some good storytelling. \$\endgroup\$ – Sh4d0wsPlyr Aug 23 '17 at 13:20
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    \$\begingroup\$ I was subjected to a time-skip once, but not as long as four years. I asked to keep adventuring so that I could locate a magic item that could let me fly. The GM went with it; all the "off-camera" adventuring was limited and inconsequential enough that it didn't substantially change my character. Except, of course, he could fly. \$\endgroup\$ – Shawn V. Wilson Aug 25 '17 at 16:57
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You can simply justify it by saying that for mechanical/story reasons, you don't want them to do it. They can come up with the specifics. Ideally, just be up front with it when they build their characters, and they can come up with something.

Hi all, for this next campaign we will start with a short introduction story (containing one adventure) and then after that, everyone will be required to take 4 years of downtime as we skip over a bunch of events, during which no adventuring will happen. When making characters, make sure you figure out what they'll do with that time.

It is generally a good idea to outline the general idea of new campaigns anyway, to make sure your players are on board. If they are absolutely opposed to the idea of taking downtime like this, that doesn't mean you need to justify anything, it means you need to talk with them about what they like to play, and what you like to play, and figure out a way in which you both get what you want.

(A simple example; if this is an introduction story for the setting it might be as simple as playing it with throw-away characters, and only introducing their real characters after the downtime has been done. But that's really something you need to talk to your players about)

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    \$\begingroup\$ Not only what Erik said, but also it's the players responsibility to come up with reasons they have all stayed together or met up 4 years later. \$\endgroup\$ – JPicasso Aug 21 '17 at 12:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ Have you tried this in your own games, or seen it done? How has it worked, in your experience? \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Jul 9 at 5:14
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Since this is at the start of play, you can actually mess around a bit narativistically . You officially start play, 4 years after that adventure. Narrate that scene a bit, and then do a flash-back to the adventure you wanted to do as an intro.

For example you narrating as the GM:

Our story starts with you all meeting up in a tavern -- a bunch of old friends who haven't seen each other in years. [do some roleplay here] You get to talking about the last time you were all together, back before you all settled down and got real jobs
What crazy adventures you had, and to think it all started in this very tavern, four years ago to the day.

You then tell the players that we are going to roleplay a flash-back. And then you play that adventure.

You can do some roleplay in the tavern. So they get to the feeling that these are their characters. Then in the flash-back they are playing a younger version of themselves.

So you haven't skipped forward in time -- you are not taking away adventures they could have had together. Because in this narrative it is already established that they have spent the previous 4 years "settled down". You are instead giving an extra adventure, one that happens in the flash-back.

The other nice thing you can do, is start/end each flash-back session, with a scene in the tavern. Building up the frame of what will be your next adventure. E.g. if it seems like they will be done with the adventure by the end of session 3 and your next story involves an army, then session 2 has some people spreading rumours about seized crops 2 counties over. and maybe session 3 has a recruiting sergeant turn-up and begin his speal;

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    \$\begingroup\$ +1 for flashback. Just framing the idea so it doesn't feel like four years pass without them being able to do anything. \$\endgroup\$ – JollyJoker Aug 22 '17 at 7:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ Ditto. Very nicely done, and feels quite organic. \$\endgroup\$ – docwebhead Aug 22 '17 at 14:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'd add this to the idea: at the end of the flashback one character goes to jail to protect the others from consequences of their shenanigans. The story picks up again in present day, and the one who went to jail walks in and starts laying out their next scheme. \$\endgroup\$ – JamesB Jul 9 at 3:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ This seems like a good suggestion. Have you tried this in your own games, or seen it done? How has it worked, in your experience? \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Jul 9 at 5:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ I've definately told players (and been told by the GM) we are going to do a prequil session/couple of sessions, (often because not everyone can make the first few sessions. that has generally been fine and fun. And i think I've done or played in a flashback. XP/Abilities is a bit weird, but one can brush over it. \$\endgroup\$ – Lyndon White Jul 9 at 10:14
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I had a GM do that to my party once. He gave us a small dungeon to explore, where we collected items that all had the same theme (in this case, starfish), and at the end, there was a place to put all the items. That activated a statue that turned us all to stone. We weren't turned back into flesh for quite some time.

We were fine with this approach. There seemed to be no reason not to be. It's an adventure, after all!

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    \$\begingroup\$ How did it sit with the players? Did you feal cheated or tricked? \$\endgroup\$ – Szega Aug 21 '17 at 20:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Szega: We were fine with it. There seemed to be no reason not to be. It's an adventure, after all! \$\endgroup\$ – ulatekh Aug 23 '17 at 15:51
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Provide an intermediary adventure.

You have an adventure that starts with a brief introduction, then skips forward. Allow them to complete the introductory section of the main adventure, then provide a side adventure for them to go on that can take up much of the intervening four years. This intermediary adventure might not be terribly profound and could be your typical "dungeon crawl", without a lot of world-shaking events, but it could provide your characters some useful gp, xp, and/or items that they can have to show for four years of otherwise doing nothing. Let them get involved in some minor political kerfuffle, pit them against a small-time criminal gang, offer them a contract to reduce the number of werewolves in a nearby nature preserve, or give them some other diversion that will have minimal effects on your main quest.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Have you tried this in your own games, or seen it done? How has it worked, in your experience? \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Jul 9 at 5:13
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Maybe you could reuse the "3D2Y" scenario from the Manga "One Piece"?

The main characters are separated and are to meet again in 3 days (3D). However, in the meantime, the lead character suffers a painful and humiliating defeat at the hand of his arch-enemies and barely escapes

Realizing neither he nor his companions are strong enough (too young, not experienced), he signal them that the meeting is postponed to "2 years" (2Y) instead.

All the characters understand that they have to train and strengthen in the meantime.

2 years later, when they meet again, they all gained various and incredible skills that they are eager to show off to their friends.

This creates plenty of cool scenario opportunities.

Maybe you could make your players have a similar experience?

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    \$\begingroup\$ I didn't downvote, but I understand why someone did. This kind of thing breaks a typical expectation in D&D — that the players have basic freedom of action and trust that fights are basically "fair". That is, not a guaranteed win, but either that there is a reasonable chance of winning or the game is set up sandbox style so that there's the opportunity at least to know if a fight is unwinnable and then go somewhere else. This kind of setup — if not planned with the whole group in advance — can feel like having the rug pulled out from under you (dumping you onto the proverbial railroad). \$\endgroup\$ – mattdm Aug 23 '17 at 0:07
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    \$\begingroup\$ That said, this could be a fine initial setup... but I don't think I'd bother to even play out that first scene, but it seems like that's what the question-asker her really wants to do. \$\endgroup\$ – mattdm Aug 23 '17 at 0:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ Have you tried this in your own games, or seen it done? How has it worked, in your experience? \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Jul 9 at 5:13

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