I mentioned yesterday that my Deathwatch game is coming back (soon) after an in character 10 year hiatus. I've also mentioned before that my L5R game is about to hit a generational gap where we're going to be skipping somewhere between 30 and 45 years before we truly return to the city for further play and exploration. Because of this, I've got a lot of my brain dedicated to rebuilding my play worlds, and in a lot of ways it is a lot of fun. Today I want to talk about it, and some of the core goals/thoughts I have on the subject.
The Heavy Lifting Is Done
One of the more awesome things when it comes to rebuilding the world is that all the heavy lifting is done. For the most part, things are in place. Particularly the more monotonous things like the economy and things of that nature. Because of this, and because it is already established, you can focus on the things you want to focus on. This can be very freeing because things you don't cover can just be assumed to be the way that they were. However, it can also be confining because sometimes the changes we want to make can have big consequences for the rest of the world. For example, if you were running a White Wolf game and did a time skip right after the Masquerade was revealed to the world at large, well, that is a rather huge change to the world. A lot is going to change because of that, and you need to address it. Even still, most of your work is still done for you.
Honor The Players
I don't necessarily mean to erect statues in their likeness, but take the time to specifically flesh out the areas where the players previously spent a lot of time. For example, numerous characters in my L5R game have spent a lot of time and effort in an area of the city known as Anaba. Because of this, Anaba is going to reflect their efforts when the city is "rebuilt" for after the time skip. The actions those players took are going to reverberate and have repercussions that will be felt in future play sessions. Some of their plans may ultimately fail once they don't have the ability to push things anymore, but other things could come of it. Heck, one of the things I've had on the book for a long time to happen was just asked for at the end of the last session.
Something Familiar. Something New
I feel like I've used this topic a lot lately, but it holds true here as well. The location should feel like the world it was before the skip and the return to play. There should be parts of it that are very familiar. There should also be parts of it that are new or very different. Think of it like visiting your home town after years away. Odds are the down town area will be very reminiscent of what it once was, but certain areas are going to be completely different. The school you went to may have burned down and been rebuilt somewhere else. The complex you lived in may have been turned into a mini-mall or a convenience store. The park may still be the park, but maybe now it is completely cleaned up and the gangs thrown out - or maybe it is the complete opposite.
The point is you have a whole lot of ground work already laid for you so you might as well use it. However, this is also a different place now. Time has had its way while the players were away, so use that as well. Inundate them with how things are the same. Shock them with how things have changed.
New People, Same Faces
At the same time, you can do the exact same thing with the people. People die as time goes on. People leave as time goes on. People leave vacancies as time goes on. Other people fill those vacancies. Other people are born. You get the point. It can be remarkable how much one generation - even when not related by blood - can resemble the previous generations. Was there anyone before the time jump that was particularly friendly, hostile, or otherwise memorable? Who has replaced them? How could this impact the new PCs? Maybe it is time to show a different side of the game group?
The last fun thing about doing this is playing with inheritance. This works especially well if it is a large time jump (my L5R game for example.) Sometimes it can be a real kick to find that the person who is now the PCs boss was the son of the PC's right hand man earlier on. Other times it can be good to play with expectations. Have the child of an old antagonist be a helpful ally this time around. You have lineages in your game, already set up from the last time you were in this world, use that to your advantage.