An English Prof once told me - everyone falls in love with a particular critic, when they study literature, and I fell in love with M.M. Bakhtin. Bakhtin is an obscure academic, a contemporary of JRR Tolkien, but from the heart of Mordor. He was one of those eccentrics, who produced weird ideas in total obscurity; his field of knowledge was language and literature, philology, and his strange ideas turned out to have real power in our mundane world. Unlike Tolkien, who studied dead languages, Bakhtin studied the living language, or Speech. Specifically, he believed that there is a constant struggle between the narrative of those in power, and those who struggle against them. The High Speech versus Vulgar Speech, that is marginalized by those in power. His study of literature centered primarily on Satire, which in Europe tends to have bitter political roots. Had he lived in the land of Elves, he may have been totally ignored, but in the Stalinist Russia, powers that be deemed that his work is gibberish, but that he is ideologically not trustworthy, so they gave him a small prison sentence, and the exiled him to the middle of nowhere, where he taught literature for the next thirty or so years, his work not really banned, rather unrecognized in his own country.
It so happened, that his students became influential in their own careers. Some were granted access to the West. Some took Bakhtin's unpublished work, translated it into French, and it was published in France to a wide acclaim. Bakhtin got further recognition in the US in the 1960's, because the Black Panther movement discovered his writing in France, translated them into English, and used it to either train their people or shape their political message. Twenty or so years later I discovered him in English. He founded theory of modern literature. Back then in the 1950's he defined modern literature and fleshed out how it would differ from the classics. On my level, I was learning writing, and I was looking for ways to a more accurate, more realistic storytelling, and Bakhtin was IT.
He laid out a lot of concepts. One of the hardest one is the notion of Chronotope. When you are telling a story, in any narrative, there is a relationship between space and time. The Place and how time flows through it determines the flow of the storytelling itself. Bakhtin postulated that different genres of literature have different Chronotopes. Relying primarily on Ancient Greek literature, Bakhtin, postulated different ways that space and time flow are represented in the narrative. When I first learned of it, it was very hard to wrap my head around it, or find a practical application for it. I wrote a term paper on it, got an A, but looking at it now, I missed the mark. Coming back to it now, I realize that Chronotopes are more obvious in role playing, where they can help the GM better run their games.
If you play D&D, you already know Chronotopes - Dungeon Crawl, Sitting in the Tavern before the adventure, Hex Crawl. For the purposes of the game, AD&D and other role playing games impose a scale on both the space in time. Space is represented in terms of the map scale and time is subdivided into varieties of Turns, Melee Rounds, and Combat segments. At each scale is a unique form of play. A good GM is able to freely switch the focus of the game session and change the mode of the gameplay as players move through an adventure. Problems occur, when a DM is stuck in a particular mode, because they are not familiar enough to be comfortable running other modes of play. Thus, we might have a Mega Dungeon crawl, because the DM does not know how to design a wilderness adventure, or we may have an encounter a day hex-crawl, because the DM does not know how to design a true sandbox campaign setting. I seen a group of D&D players with their DM totally miss the experience of playing Traveler, because they ran it in the D&D style site-based adventure mode, that got nowhere. The DM played the Chronotope that he was most familiar with.
Having said that, let's look at some of the Chronotopes presented in the Gygax's DMG: There is Combat Chronotope, broken into 1 minute Rounds, with a detailed step-by step procedure. Six second Combat Segments are used to determine initiative and who goes when. Then there is a Dungeon Exploration Chronotope, broken down into 10 Minute Turns, where players explore the Dungeons, and look for traps, secret doors, and treasure. Then there is a Wilderness Travel Chromotope, broken into Days, with chances of getting lost and checks for combat encounters between the once and several times per day, based on terreain. Finally, there are sub chronotopes for psychic combat, combat in the air and on the sea. Wilderness Survival Guide adds survival of the outdoors to the aforementioned Wilderness Travel chronotope. Of course, Gygax was writing before the advent of the Node-based and Event-based adventure design, and the D&D game was taken by its desgners in tbe direction of the linear railroad adventure story arcs, with WOTC reducing the game to a version of a pencil and paper Diablo with dice, simplifying down to the Room/Encounter Chronotope, omitting the task of getting there.
On my part, I have evolved several other Midlands Chronotopes of my own: Wilderness Crawl - Time reduced to hours, players navigating a topographic map in tactical mode pursuing an enemy. Boat Journey - players spending about a week of game time sailing down a river, no combat, extensive role play interaction between PC's and NPC's.
The practical implication of the Chronotope for the GM is in preparing for play. Think about what your players will be doing during the game session - Are they traveling? Are they adventuring? Are they between adventures taking care of business? What is the ground that your players will cover - are they traveling within the County? Are they moving between the locations in the town? Will they soend their whole time at a King's reception or at a tournament? Also consider the type of the Encounters that will move your adventure forward. Leave a chance for combat/confrontation, even if none should occur. Figure out how long the events covered by the game session will take, and also figure in the travel times between the common locations, if the players will be shuttling between them talking care of business. Knowing all this will give you and idea of what kind of turns to use dring the game sessions, for by breaking down the time into discrete turns, you are pacing your narrative and regulating the flow of time for a vivid and an interesting game, for instead of saying "you rode for one day, roll for an encounter", players actually RODE for one day and experienced your world.