Roleplaying Tips Weekly E-Zine Issue #2
THE TIME BOMB SOLUTION
One of the most destructive events that happens every few
game sessions in my campaign is the Time Bomb. A missed or
incorrectly interpreted rule, a forgotten fact or just a bad
play and everybody realizes a little later that a mistake
has occurred. And the mistake has deeply affected events
that followed. Perhaps a character would have succeeded if
Rule B had been used. Or maybe you forgot that it was dark
and the bad guys could not possibly have been so deadly
accurate with their shots?
So, do you decide to press forward or stop everything and do
it all again?
I call this the Time Bomb and it used to drive me nuts.
Murphy's Law says that whenever this situation occurs the GM
is faced with a lose/lose dilemma. For example, if you carry
forward, regardless of the mistake, the players feel
resentful that they unfairly got the short end of the stick.
But if you do it all over again, then that special ability
of your monster has already been revealed and the player's
can't ignore that the second time around.
The Time Bomb Solution is simple and effective, and should
work for your roleplaying group as well. But please note:
the Solution's purpose is not to magically transform Time
Bomb events into situations where everybody wins and are
happy with the outcome. I do not know of any solution that
does this. [If you've got one, e-mail me now!
mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org ] Instead, it is designed
to reduce the pain and negative impact on game play as much
as possible so that everybody can get on with the game with
no lasting hard feelings.
The Time Bomb Solution is: clearly establish your policy
*before* game play begins that "all mistakes are final." If
an error occurs, time is not stopped or reversed. Events
This policy applies to the players AND the GM.
By doing things this way you: * Set the expectations and
procedure before the actual event occurs which helps reduce
the pain and the negative reactions; * Make it fair for
everyone because the monsters and bad guys are also
affected; * Encourage everyone to pay attention, be alert
and know their stuff; * Get everybody's agreement on the
protocol ahead of time. It's easier to accept a mistake
you've made if you have already agreed on the consequences;
I suggest giving some time leeway on this policy as well so
that players don't feel trapped or develop paranoia about
their actions. My group has agreed that if the mistake
occurs during combat and if it is discovered within the same
round that it occurred then the player or GM can redo the
action. If the Time Bomb occurs outside of combat then all
results are final after a minute of character time.
Also, by using this solution and looking at the positive
side, Time Bombs can actually become a fantastic way to add
realism, depth and opportunity for your games. My group also
agreed that all Time Bombs require a made-up explanation to
justify events as they occurred. And, surprisingly, the
explanations quite often provide great details, plot hooks
and interesting events to launch encounters and stories
from. Looking on the bright side, unexpected and unusual
events (from a Time Bomb) mimic how our real lives work.
Just be sure that your players agree all explanations are
subject to game master approval.
Remember, agree to the Time Bomb Solution before play and,
while Time Bombs may not become fewer, at least they will
become less painful and disruptive.
How do you handle Time Bombs in your games? I would be
pleased to pass on your tips and techniques in future
Have more fun at every game!
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