IC vs RL Time

Comparison of various time ratios.
by Faraday

One of the coolest things about MUSHes, IMHO, is the fact that time passes. Things change, characters grow, and you can look back over the IC history and see how the current situation developed. But the concept of “IC Time Scale” can also present a number of maddening challenges. This editorial examines some of the benefits and drawbacks of various time scales.


Most MUSHes I’ve seen use a 1-to-1 time scale. In 1-to-1, it’s easy to remember the current IC dates and times. There’s a certain symmetry, for example, in celebrating Christmas ICly when it’s December RL and you’re in the holiday spirit (if you don’t celebrate Christmas, insert the holiday of your choice). Last but not least, it’s a little easier to keep track of when things happened because you can match RL dates and IC dates and figure out, “Oh yeah, this happened 3 years ago.”

Of course, there are always downsides. The 1-to-1 passage of time may be too quick for roleplaying out some scenes since people can’t be around 24/7. Things that take a long time in real life (pregnancies, training) take a long time in-game too, which can be frustrating.

Still, 1-to-1 is a comfortable middle-ground, familiar and common.


One extreme of MUSH time scales is 4-to-1. For every day that passes in RL, 4 days pass ICly. The fast time speed is interesting because stuff changes very rapidly. Long-term plots can come to fruition in a reasonable RL time, and you can watch your character really grow and change.

On the flip side, though, keeping track of dates is not very intuitive. You really have to rely on +time to keep track of things, since Winter will happen four times every RL year. You also have to timestamp logs and such with the IC time as well as RL time to remember when things happened ICly.

There are also a few odd phenomena. One is the passage of time -during- a scene. Like starting RP when it’s breakfast time, and having someone log in after a half-dozen poses later and join the scene assuming that it’s lunch time (because that’s what +time says it is now). Another is the passage of time -between- scenes. Like a scene which only took 1 night ICly, but which you have to continue over three RL nights due to scheduling conflicts. By the time you get done RPing the last part of the scene, you’re 12 days “out of synch” with IC time and you have to retroacively handle other things.

In short, 4-to-1 can be very dynamic, but it’s not for the faint of heart. Things can get out of control, with too much happening too quickly.


The other end of time scales is 1-to-4. It takes 4 RL days to pass before 1 IC day passes. This slow time speed gives you a better chance to RP scenes at the speed they actually happen. There’s less retro RP because scenes can be spread out more without getting “out of synch” with IC time. You can go more in-depth into things because time passes more slowly, and it’s more difficult for things to get out of control.

The main down side is pretty obvious - it’s sloooow. Long term plotlines take forever, and even short-time plots can seem to drag on.

So 1-to-4 allows for a great deal of detailed and rich roleplay, at a relaxed pace.


Of course, there are other scales inbetween these extremes like 1-to-2 or 3-to-1, which are probably more practical than the 4-to-1 and 1-to-4 examples. I just used the two extremes to illustrate some of the issues inherent to the fast/medium/slow time scales.

So which is best? I think it all depends on what effect you’re trying to go for on your MUSH. If you have a particular “theme” you want to go with for awhile before things change, a slow time scale might be best. If you want your MUSH to cover vast time periods where things change rapidly, a fast time scale might be best. As with anything on MUSHes, it’s all a matter of which you prefer.

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