In the next few weeks my L5R game is coming off of hiatus and back into being regularly run. While the game has been on hiatus, the game itself has had a time skip. It's a fairly short time skip, just a few months, but it's a time skip where the PCs have been up to stuff. I mean, they're PCs, they're always up to stuff. Coming back to the game means we need to define what happens. Today, I want to talk about that.
Set Them Up
The first thing I try to do in my games is not go into time skips blind. By this I mean I try to have an idea what the characters will be doing during the time skip. In the case of this skip the story of the game meant I could group the PCs together and send them off to handle various, specific tasks. In other games, I've just had more general ideas of what is going on and where the PC is going. Either way, this gives me a system of control and a means of thinking about what is going to happen with the player, while also giving the player that same freedom.
If both the player and I know the character is going home to Mount Sugarlock then we both know - and are preparing - for what sort of things will be around for the character to participate in at home.
I Handle The Broad Strokes
The thing about time skips is they should cover downtime. By that I mean that what happens during a time skip shouldn't be more interesting than what happens during game. This doesn't mean interesting things can't happen, but they shouldn't be happening to the PCs. Why? Well, because if something is that interesting, it should really get session time, don't you think?
Because of this, I like to handle the broad strokes of the time skip with the character. I email them and give them the basics of what happened. This includes what the situation was like when they arrived, what is going on, and some other general/basic things that are going on.
The Players Get The Details
This leaves the specifics to the players, and that's a good thing. Let them define what their character did - within reason. I say within reason because some players will find a gap in the broad strokes and next thing you know they saved the Emperor on their summer break. That's not really cool. However, them getting into a duel on a bridge is perfectly fine. Give the players the broadstrokes, let them fill in the details, and you have a story the player is happy with but bounded with what you're willing to accept them changing without having screen time.
Clarify With The Player
Finally, anywhere there could be consequences and reactions you should clarify. If the character makes a choice that impacts the broadstrokes, give them how that plays out. If they want to know if they can or should do something, help them out. If there are going to be game impacting consequences, let them know that something could be coming.
Basically, consider this the finalization. You have the broad strokes, and the details, and now you just need to lock it in to the story. Locking it in is going to bring up questions and confusion. Solve those, and get the break into the story. You'll have more fun.