This Sunday my Star Wars game came back off a time skip that happened in the previous session. The PCs split into two groups and separated for 2 years in game. Three of the PCs went to train with a pair of experienced force wielders, and three stayed to help the Rebellion. Both had a large amount of growth in that time - and the PCs received a good chunk of XP to reflect this - but there's more to coming back off a time skip than just giving XP. Today, I want to talk about that.
What's Your Power Fantasy?
One of the things I feel is the most important when coming back off a time skip is to establish how the characters have grown. If you have benchmarks in the game already this works out well. One of my personal favorites is taking a recurring villain that before was a threat for the whole group, and showing that they're no longer as big a threat in a fight.
Other examples, outside of combat, can include seeing through people that used to have the PCs wrapped around their finger, able to slip past defenses that used to be impenetrable, or basically any task that involves overcoming an obstacle that used to be seen as nigh insurmountable.
This is a fun thing to do because everyone likes feeling strong, and it gives the player a sense that they've become something, or some one that is powerful and therefor matters.
A New Scale For A New Age
Once you've established that the PC is stronger, you can't just go back to the old status quo. You need to work harder to sell things. Remember in the second Matrix movie where the Agents are suddenly able to keep up with Neo and it is explained with a throwaway line of "Ah, upgrades."? Yeah, don't do that.
Instead, if you can, throw more enemies at the players, or throw bigger enemies at them. If a trio of TIE fighters was a super dangerous fight before, then a trio of TIE fighters should not be a super dangerous fight anymore. Maybe you upgrade to Interceptors or Defenders, but you don't want to just go back to the old form. It kills the sense of growth you just established.
More Power Means More Control
Finally, the more power you give your PCs the more freedom you should also give them. The stronger they are, the more in control of their destiny they should be. It feels weird to be single handedly taking down Battle Cruisers, but still not getting to have even a say in where your talents are best put to use. It feels even weirder - even in military games - to still be a private after you've done all those thrilling heroics.
Remember: It's Not Can, It's Will
Finally, finally, it is a good thing to remember as a GM that you'll have a lot more fun running games with powerful PCs if you aren't so focused on what your PCs can do, but rather what t hey will do.
For example: I personally don't care if my PCs are capable of kicking in the Emperor's front door and teaching him what to in my Star Wars game. What I care about it is will they try to do that, and if so what will happen when they do.
By keeping that in mind I'm constantly challenging my players in a way that isn't just "can you roll above a 20 on this check?" and is more in line with what really matters to the character. In return, my players (I hope) feel safe to focus on the why of their actions because that is what the game is truly about.