a whole lot of downtime

In our last maneuver, thanks to a good roll and a previous successful Pin, we generated a LOT of downtime – 21 months! (7 months for GM side)

  1. This doesn’t necessarily jive with everyone’s sense of the story, because of the ongoing conflicts it seems weird to pick up almost 2 years later. (Part of me thinks we should “suck it up” and use what the mechanics are telling us – we were the ones who chose Go To Ground in the first place! But this opinion isn’t too popular.) Any suggestions?

  2. It seems like a lot of practice can be had … aren’t the characters going to get a lot better? And isn’t it going to be a LOT of book-keeping?

  3. Do you normally require players to narrate the practice their characters are doing?


  1. Yeah, it’s fiddly, but it’s a one-time expenditure of scratch paper and book-flipping. Once it’s done, it all reduces to tests and advancement, which is right on the sheet, so that’s easy. It can also be done away from the table very easily.

  2. Of course. It doesn’t have to be extensive, though. “I’m doing wind sprints in the morning for my Speed, then spending the rest of the day in the workshops building guns (to practice Fabrication)” is fine. If you have a cooler idea, though, share it!

I totally love that moment when you have to narrate what happened – not much! – in the intervening TWO YEARS since the last maneuver. Great way to reset the fictional clock as well.


Thanks guys … yeah I think it’ll end up cool having almost two years pass in the story … I think we had 1 year of downtime earlier on so the Infiltration Phase is going to be 3 years long!

Devin, the issue I have with Practice is that, due to being able to practice multiple skills at once, it’s actually a difficult problem to optimize your use of time. I’m probably just being too min-max-y but I actually think it’s a case of the Bin Packing Problem because each test for advancement earned by Practice has two dimensions – hours per day and total time (usually months) – and needs to fit into a certain space (hours/day limited by Will, and length of downtime).

Here is a link to a visual demo of an algorithm that attempts to solve this kind of problem (although there is no known algorithm that is guaranteed to produce an optimal solution).

Okay … definitely being too min-max-y …

Well, yes, it’s a version of the 2d Bin Packing problem, but in this case you’re looking at a 21(months)x20(hours) bin at most (for a high Will character) and the elements are fairly restricted. So while there’s no known optimal-solution algorithm for the general case, this is a small subset and thus much easier to solve.

Further, the numerically optimal solution is not likely to be the game-optimal one, because some skills and tests are more valuable than others. Since the player is likely to know what they need most, they should be able to produce a shortlist of skills that they need now and figure out a satisficing solution based on their needs and tolerance for rejiggering.

In other words, yes in theory it’s a huge thorny nest of work, but I think in practice it won’t actually be very hard.

  1. Your game has taken an unexpected turn! I’m definitely in the “this is what you chose, roll with it” camp.

Man, all that downtime… the plot still moves forward, all that practice doesn’t come from thin air… it just goes underground and into the shadows. I’d LOVE all that practice time.

Don’t forget you can also get a job to replenish lost Resources during downtime.

I remember early on in the Infiltration phase of Prometheus Chained, the human side won 9 months of downtime. It was a huge boon to them, as they had all forgotten to take certain skills that would help them in maneuver rolls.

You mentioned how unskilled some of the characters are when it comes to certain aspects of the Firefight, right? Well, this is the time to rectify it!

Thanks for all the advice guys – and especially for humoring me on the math stuff Devin. I think I’ll be able to quote from this thread to convince people to “roll with it” as Luke says, and see this is as a great opportunity story-wise.

Yeah actually that’s the reason we were aiming for downtime in the first place. We were just a bit surprised by how much downtime we got!

I should also mention Jon emailed me a simple but very useful ‘quick reference’ spreadsheet he and his brother made for their BE campaign; it lists skills, root stat, and practice cycle. Jon you should put this on the wiki!

We got a ton o’ months of downtime during our last BE game. I ended up spreadsheeting the practice time – colored blocks for each skill they were working on each week (iirc it’s all weeks and months of training, right?).

I could probably dig up a sample Excel file and post it if anyone’s interested in seeing how it ended up looking. Really, it was the only practical way we could figure out how to do it.

Bit of an aside here: I swear I could write a ten part series of posts on the various problems that we’ve noticed – and with a lot of success, addressed – in our BE game. I’m not sure why this campaign has been like that; maybe we’ve just been more introspective, willing to identify issues and fix them. (Maybe we’ve been more demanding, not standing for sub-par play.)

One of the things we identified a while ago was that the story was tending to go in circles. Not much new – conflicts, important characters, locales – was being introduced, despite all of the mechanical support for doing so. TJ and I both noticed this and started harping on it, telling everyone to try to use wises, circles, etc. to bring in new stuff. This was starting to work…

… but (and now back to topic at hand) the 21 months of downtime helped us HUGE in this area. Just the idea that almost 2 years had passed really got our creative juices flowing, and many new situations and locales were introduced just in narrating “what happened” during the downtime. The situation in the maneuver following the downtime – the various conflicts and what was going on – felt way different than before, which is exactly what we were looking for.

It also helped to ground the story, kind of “reset” our sense of it. What I mean is, by having to imagine and narrate what the characters were doing in their everyday lives over the last couple years, we all got a sense of them as “real” people, in a “real” place. For me at least, this really helps get the creative juices working, as I absolutely cannot think creatively when something in the story seems out of place.

So yeah, the Whole Lot of Downtime worked out pretty good!

It certainly got my creative juices flowing.

-I introduced a new Vaylen character (Captain/lord Yorick) who was either sent, or decided on his own accord, that Osseita (another Vaylen captain) was failing to make strides in the capture of Guernica. Nothing like having some tension on the same side. I gave the players a taste of what is to come by describing Lord Yorick’s Hammer cruiser “Nighthawk” hanging eerily over the planet.

-I won a Duel of wits against Artellan’s character. He was arguing with Osseita, his lover. I dismissed, and won against him by revealing that Osseita was pregnant with his child (Is it really his? Is she even pregnant at all?)

-Lord Yorick used the Inundate Maneuver to begin building a suitable slave host. He failed one of his Eugenics rolls, causing the creature to become deformed and blind (I reduced his perception stat, and gave it a “blind” trait) It’s still pretty darn lethal though.

I can’t wait for the trait vote!