So the other day I was noodling on about longer delves in Felltower. I got some interesting suggestions, most of which I waved off.
It's probably annoying to give me advice, because my answer is frequently, "No, not that."
Part of this is just me. But most of it in this case is because I'll know the solution I want to try when I see it.
Also it's because my goal in this case is:
- a player-facing solution, with minimum in-game effects;
- a single solution that fits many circumstances;
- primarily addresses the meta-game issues from multi-session trips in the dungeon while keeping the go-and-return delve setup.
Obviously, safe rooms, one-time same zones, helpful-wizard-in-a-room, dungeon towns, etc. are an in-game solution to longer delves.
But all of those add a place for the PCs, mid-session, to rest, recuperate, and potentially resupply. I don't have an issue with that in some cases. Sometimes, that's what I want - and I've put safe zones like that in my game. The PCs know of one in the Cold Fens, at least one in Felltower, and one that they could potentially use as one also in Felltower.
While they'd explain why a PC can drop out and be safe, so would a sufficient amount of handwavium and willing suspension of disbelief. They also fail to easily explain how new PCs would get there, especially if access to the multi-session areas of the dungeon is restricted in some way. You know, "We read the cursed scroll, how did you get here?" "There was a spare cursed scroll." Or, "We jumped through the closing gate, and it turns out we could have waited until you showed up?"
Like I said, though, I don't need them to accomplish some of what I'd like to do. Neither would they solve the rest. And they'd add complications - a "dungeon town" you can rest in means it's possible the game is now based out of Dungeon Town. I might like that, but it doesn't solved the cursed scroll issue. It doesn't help when we're quitting mid-gigantic-combat because people have to leave because of real-world concerns.
And pausing mid-combat if we have to isn't a big deal. We've done that multiple times and I expect to do it again.
When we stop a session, we pause game-world time for those characters. So if you play on 1/10/2016 and do three sessions in the dungeon that last half of one game-day and the last one is on 4/23/16, and then the next time we play is on 5/24/16, how does time pass? Simple. You were in the dungeon on 1/10/2016 until 1/10/2016, left, and were having downtime until 5/24/16.* We do fixed downtime actions, costs, etc. so it's no more or less than you'd get anyway, just more time passed.
It's also an issue that I expect some of these longer delve areas to be planned delves, but others to be surprises. Sometimes you know there is a one-way door, a one-shot access point, a gate that you can only open once, etc. and you go right there and start the delve. Other times, it'll be one last door, I just pull this lever, let's just read the scroll now in case it's healing, this is probably a secret door to a treasure vault not a treasure-filled-temporary sub-level, etc. It's not really about multi-session trips through the deep dark caverns and sleeping in dungeons or how do I do downtime in a dungeon. It's when Players A, B, C, and D do something that takes a couple of sessions and then next session I have Players B, C, D, E, and F.
Ultimately, what I'm trying to figure out is how to still have a pick-up game where people come and go. A game where we start and end in town whenever possible, just for the sheer logistical ease this has for the players and the GM. A game where delves are rewarded, not sessions, encouraging go-and-return delving and keeping a move on, because dragging things out ultimately lowers the rewards earned. But also to have larger areas that will necessarily take multiple sessions. All solved with a minimum of in-game modifications or additions that could have unforseen consequences.
That's a tough combination, I know that.
Some things I can handwave, sometimes. Others, not so much. And experience when it actually happens will shape it all. But still I need to have some basic rules down so I can see how they work when it comes up. I like the bits I have so far, but the core issue - players coming and going - I still don't have solved. But I expect I'll know what I want to try when I see it.
* Just to simplify further, you ordered a magic item when you left that three-session delve, it would be put down as being purchased on the day you told me you wanted it . . . turns out you forgot to order it until the day you told me. No back-checking, back-ordering, etc. unless circumstances explain that - like when Vryce's player said, "I'll fully re-equip, can I do that when I'm about to run Vryce?" so we back-dated his purchases to then. Because it wasn't back dating since he asked back then . . .