Content of the article: "A lesson from Vsauce and Critical Role"
Today I saw Vsauce's latest video, where Michael Stevens discusses how our perception of time is entirely dependent on our own biases. Importantly, he talks about how an event, if it is boring and monotonous, will feel long in the moment, where it will feel short and unmemorable after the fact. On the flip side, if an event is exciting and interesting, it flies by in the moment, but feels long when reflecting on it. He calls these Long-Short and Short-Long pairs, and it's something that we are all pretty familiar with.
So why bring this up? Well, while watching the recent episodes of Critical Role (potential spoilers!), the party has been on a long, arduous journey, through a largely empty wasteland. These episodes, though perhaps less eventful than past ones, have still been engaging, featuring yetis and deadly snowstorms. Yet I realized that whenever I have a long period of travel, it ends up being boring, bringing the session to a crawl, and remaining so unmemorable that one of my players forgot it entirely. Even though the setting was far more populated than the barren wasteland of CR's Eiselcross, in practice it was uninteresting.
I've never been a fan of random encounters, but I'm beginning to realize that they serve a purpose – they break up time and make a journey more interesting. When the giant owl swoops down on the campsite in the middle of the night, players are more likely to remember how they scrambled for their weapons half-asleep. You are, in effect, choosing how an event is remembered. In the opposite way, I suppose if you wanted to make your players forget something, you could make it long and boring.
Obviously DMs have been preaching this for a long time, but consider me converted!
- Feedback on Travel Framework
- Use average damage output instead of CR. Insights from last nights session.
- [D&D 5e] Number of encounters per day, long rests and short rests
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