Work

Well, there goes my last full week at GDS. I think I’ve worked through all the mandatory leaving-related admin tasks now, and I finished off all work that I had in progress.

I’m not expecting much to get done in the two and a half days next week I have left.

Books

This week I read:

  • Deadhouse Gates by Steven Erikson, the second of the Malazan Book of the Fallen.

    When I first read this, in August 2020, I didn’t think it felt so different to Gardens of the Moon. But, now that I’ve finished the series as a whole and have started re-reading it, I can see that Deadhouse Gates is much more like the following books than Gardens of the Moon is.

    This is still one of my favourite books in the series. The chain of dogs, wherein a large-scale uprising forces a military commander and his army to guard and guide tens of thousands of refugees across hundreds of leagues of wasteland and desert, having to fend off attacks almost daily for months on end, slowly losing supplies, people, and will, is a great story.

Gaming

I had an idle thought about timescales in tabletop RPG campaigns. Garry Gygax once famously said:

You can not have a meaningful campaign if strict time records are not kept.

Which is a bit weird on the face of it. I’d hazard a guess that in most campaigns, time is somewhat fuzzy. And yet, looking back at my two recent campaigns, I think it holds true.

Ars Magica lasted years of in-game time. But that didn’t really feel very significant. Yes, a lot of time passed, but it didn’t feel like the characters significantly changed over that time. Nor did the players really get much done: things just take a long time (typically multiple seasons) in Ars Magica, so a single large project might take years of work.

Whereas in Traveller, we’re approaching one year of in-game time. This is much less than in Ars Magica, but it actually feels much more significant. It both feels like a lot has happened, and that it’s happened at a reasonable pace.

I think they key difference is that a week is a much more human-scale period of time, at least to me. I can look back at my notes and think “ah yes, this week they spent a few days at the starport looking for cargo and passengers, and then they spent three days flying to the gas giant to refuel”. That feels sensible and reasonable. Whereas in Ars Magica, it’s more like “ok, so this character spent three whole months studying this one book”, the time is so long that it all kind of blurs together.

I’ve also noticed that the Traveller sessions which feel least satisfying to me tend to be the ones where I get fuzzy with time, and don’t work out how long things actually took until when I’m writing up my notes after the session ends. Then sometimes I’ll realise that three months have passed and they should have been doing ship maintenance or paying their crew’s salaries, and we have to catch up with those admin tasks at the start of the next session.