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In 5e character levels tick off at a pretty predictable pace: given level-appropriate encounters it's usually 10-15 hours of table-time for each level. Particularly in Adventurers League, where so much is prescribed to the GM.

As such I've often run into the scenario where during a few in-game weeks the party has gone from nobodys to saving the world. This feels... ludicrous.

How, within the strictures of Adventurers League, can one infuse a campaign with a sense that things take time, that there's a rhythm and pace to the world around the party?

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Use the downtime they give you.

AL awards downtime by rule: the general rule is 5 downtime days per two hours of play (ALDMG p.5), though individual modules may vary.

At one of my sites we've created a strong culture of "spend your downtime before leveling up." It's not a rule, since we can't do that, but it's a norm. And in doing so we spend table time discussing who spent some days looking for clues to the next adventure's location, who went back to their farm and dug potatos, who spent two weeks studying Draconic. The players log these expenditures, interact briefly with recurring NPCs... in short, they're "playing world."

And this gives GMs a chance to insert signifiers that time's passing. "Johnny's not at the stables anymore: he went off and found a merchant ship to work, should be back for the winter." "After two weeks visiting outlying farms and plying wares, you've got a lead on where that trade delegation was last seen..." &c.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I like this, but based on my experience with the published adventures it seems like it would often be difficult to fit it into the story. "We just took the castle, but the dragons will be coming soon!" "Cool, I want to spend the next 2 weeks doing X." \$\endgroup\$ – Miniman Dec 18 '17 at 21:20
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    \$\begingroup\$ So, for us that'd be "we just took the castle, but the dragons are coming in only two weeks!" The caveat is that those two weeks are explicitly downtime. We're not going to play out two weeks of castle-prep against dragons (despite the many barrels of ink spent on that in Dragon magazines), we're going to spend two weeks of downtime on it. We could craft sheafs of arrows, ply our trades to get some money for hirelings, do some research and find a nearby retired sharpshooter... methinks these examples should find their way into the post? \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 Dec 18 '17 at 21:31
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    \$\begingroup\$ Ah, I think I get it. I got a bit hung up on the "farming potatoes" example. \$\endgroup\$ – Miniman Dec 18 '17 at 21:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ I think some examples showing that kind of context would definitely help. \$\endgroup\$ – Miniman Dec 18 '17 at 21:50
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I am trying, in my current campaign, to incorporate changes in the weather in a predictable (but accelerated) rate. They started in autumn as first level characters. By they time I'm describing snow on the road they will probably be 4th level. By the time it's hot and humid out again, they will probably be 6th level or so.

I'm not playing Adventurers League but I wonder if similar changes in the seasons can be described without (which I assume is important) changing the mechanics of the scenario. Even something as simple starting each session with a new description of the season might be enough to give the feeling that "time elapsed" since the last session.

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You cannot. That's not what AL is for

The problem is that you are not hitting the right format. Adventurers League (AL) and other organized play (OP) are not meant to replace your home campaign. They are an avenue to play more and meet new and different people than your regular group.

I assume that you are talking about playing the adventure books, such as Storm King's Thunder, Curse of Strahd and the like. When run and played within the confines of AL, what you want is not really possible. Heck, I don't know many adventurers who live in Barovia for too long without simply turning into a local...

The thing I found in most OP is that time is relatively irrelevant. You travel from point A to point B "off-camera".

I run and operate the Legacies OP campaign (FOELegacies.com) and I move time forward through a series of methods:

  1. I write adventures that follow each other, time-wise. Adventure 1–2 are in the spring, 3–5 in the summer and 6–8 in the fall and winter (I have few winter adventures).

  2. The setting advances with the time and season. So children are born, marriages made and broken, wars started, etc.

Legacies takes these things into account. However, Adventurers League is not concerned with those things. They have seasons and I find the word very appropriate.

So, to answer your question, I do not think it is possible, as a pure AL game, to do what you want. There is no need for it.

AL, Pathfinder Society (PFS) and even Legacies are not home games where you can worry about whatever detail you like. Would it be great if they did? Perhaps. However, the format of "play anytime, join when you can" does not lend itself to a linear time-determined game.

So, no.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I don't understand why what you say works in your organized play wouldn't work in AL? I get that AL doesn't incentivize it and that it's not optimized for it, but not possible? It may be true, but I'm not seeing why in your answer. \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 Dec 18 '17 at 15:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ @nitsua60: Because AL does not take time into account of its adventure. They are assumed to take place within "a" short time of each other, or in the case of the Ravenloft season, within a few days. It's just how they write their stuff. Not good or bad, they just don't don't take it into account. \$\endgroup\$ – JP Chapleau Dec 18 '17 at 15:41

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