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Think about a scene in a roleplaying game as a scene in a movie that you have directorial control over (in terms of what the audience sees) but your audience and your actors are the same people, and you don't control what the actors do in the scene.

Now that may sound like trying to direct a bunch of meandering kittens, but OSR+ gives you the tools to herd those cats with a few core mechanics and techniques for managing time across game modes while preserving player agency.

Deferring the Spotlight

One important principle to remember in a game of OSR+ is this:

The spotlight is always on you by default (as the GM), unless you defer it to the players.

No matter how time is moving in a scene (in any game mode), you decide when to defer the spotlight to the players. Moreover, even when the spotlight is on the players, nothing gets "updated" in the scene unless you narrate that it happens (including the outcomes of things PCs do). The cadence of the conversation dictates that whenever a player has their PC do anything, they have to defer the spotlight back to you to get a resolution and update the fiction.

Time in Scene

Since your narration is effectively the camera, you decide how fast or slow you want the players to move through the scene. Generally speaking, there are three "speeds" for narration:

  • Real Time: This is the speed of reality when it's in sync with the game. We're always narrating at this speed by default: players chat with you and interact with things or each other, and time passes as quickly as it does at the table, unless you intervene and change the speed at which time passes with your narration. Either the GM moves the spotlight from player to player, or it's assumed the spotlight moves automatically from player to player if the GM is silent and doesn't intervene.
  • Turn-by-Turn: When you need to resolve each player's action discretely, you narrate time turn-by-turn. Combat encounters are narrated on a turn-by-turn basis using initiative, but you can opt to slow things down to this speed even if there's no combat happening.
  • Abstract Time: The opposite of narrating turn by turn is skipping large gulfs of time through narration. "Nothing eventful happens while you rest. The next morning..." Here you're narrating in abstract time, skipping over stuff that's not interesting to play through. Similarly, when players montage or journey and you resolve their action, you're also narrating in abstract time. You always want to give players an opportunity to interject before you opt to narrate in abstract time, in case they want to do something before you skip ahead.

Time by Game Mode

Each game mode in OSR+ has a default speed of narration:

  • In exploration mode, scenes run in real time, but pacing is controlled by you, whenever you defer the spotlight to the players. The players may then act freely and can defer the spotlight to each other, unless you intervene and take it back.
  • In combat encounters, scenes run discretely (turn-by-turn). The spotlight gets deferred in a procedural way (though initiative) but always returns to you between turns.
  • In the overworld, time moves abstractly, but the spotlight is deferred in a procedural way (player side to GM side).
  • In downtime, the scene runs in real time, and the GM defers the spotlight to the player(s) acting in the scene. Typically the GM then moves the spotlight between pairs of players.

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