Downtime Timeticks

This is going to be a kind of strange fragment. Nothing helpful by itself. It's one of those "Towards a Theory of X" posts. You're welcome! Figure it out!

When playing Iron Valley in parallel with my friend Lino of Pink Space, I ended up modifying it on the fly because I found the basic procedure and surrounding rules to be so nothing as to be frustrating. Not that I like crunch, but that the text was actively avoiding any obstacle or challenge in the way of play. This is what I came up with.

Basic Loop

Each day has two time ticks, represented by two diagonal slashes that make an X. When one tick passes, you draw 1 line. When you have a full X, or 2 ticks, that day is over. The trick is that although each action may result in a tick, it also may not necessarily. Ignoring a time tick is a reward for skill or chance.

Check out this Farming move, sort of PBTA style on 2d6: (2–6) Make 1 progress and mark 1 time tick; (7–9) Choose to mark 2 progress or to make 1 progress and ignore the time tick; (10+) Mark 2 progress and ignore the time tick. Each crop unit can only be ‘farmed’ per day, but if a crop goes two days without progress then it wilts and dies.

The idea is that you make progress no matter what, but the more skilled you are the more efficient you are in terms of making more progress or spending less time. It's the difference between having 2 moves in a day, or potentially more if you invest in skill or prioritize quantity over quality.

Any progress clock can be handled this way.

Need to rework the crop value table.

Other Moves

You can reapply this template to other moves. For Crafting: (2–6) Add +1 value and mark 1 time tick; (7–9) Choose to add +2 value or to add +1 value and ignore the time tick; (10+) Add +2 value and ignore the time tick. This is the same thing as farming except it's one and done, instead of there being a progress clock. You choose between generating higher value or wasting less time.

Lino and I were just talking about how this could apply to relationships. For Being Out & About: (2–6) Mark 1 time tick and do whatever you came to do; (7–9) Improve relationship by +1 or ignore time tick; (10+) Improve relationship by +1 and ignore time tick. The idea is that while you're out shopping or hanging out in a park or whatever, you could get carried choosing to also hang out with someone or choose not to spend that time. This could be a move in combination with other moves. How you justify it in-fiction is whatever!

More Thoughts

This was originally meant to simulate the daily passage of time in a farming game where you take care of your crops, run to town, fish at the lake, and all that. Could the same procedure be refactored to be on the scale of weeks rather than days? Probably, right? Would require different scales of activity but, theoretically, right?

I like this because there's an open-endedess to it that makes you want to stretch out play. It's a perfect mindless zen game, just like Harvest Moon! I would love to be in between sessions and then to play out how my little character's week goes, whether it goes day-by-day or the through whole week as an abstract unit (of 2 ticks). On that note, Zov asked why not 1 tick per turn instead of 2: I think that makes more sense for downtime weeks, but for pretending to play something like Harvest Moon I like the day to be more granular. :) Depends on the vibes!

For d20, I would put success bands from 1–9, 10–19, and 20+. This incentivizes picking downtime tasks that align with your ability or, if you’re nasty, your aspect (which I think is both more freeform and interesting!).


  1. I like this! It's similar to how I like to think of thief skills or kicking down a door--you're going to succeed, but a pass lets you succeed effectively instantly, while a failure takes a turn or more. Time is like the HP of exploration & downtime, if you don't know what the mechanical effect of a failed roll should be, you can always default to it.

    1. thank you!! super agree, especially in that messing with time is much more interesting than flat-out failure. :)


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