Time in the Campaign
Time in the Dungeon


Game time is of utmost importance.
Failure to keep careful track of time expenditure by PCs will result in many anomalies in THE GAME. <alt>
The stricture of time is what makes recovery of HP meaningful.
the time spent adventuring in wilderness areas removes concerned characters from their bases of operation --
be they rented chambers || battlemented strongholds.
Certainly the most important time stricture pertains to the manufacture of magic items,
for during the period of such activity no adventuring can be done.
Time is also considered in gaining levels && learning new languages and more.
All of these demands upon game time force choices upon PCs,
and likewise # their days of game life.

One of the things stressed in the original game of D&D was the importance <>
of recording game time with respect to each and every PC in a campaign. In AD&D it is emphasized even more:

Use whatever grouping of days you find desirable for your milieu. There
is nothing wrong with 7 day weeks and 31, 30 and 28/29 day months
which exactly correspond to our real system. OTOH, there is
nothing to prevent you from using some other system if it pleases you
and you can keep it straight. What is important to the campaign is that
you do, in fact, maintain a time record which logs the activities and
whereabouts of PCs and their henchmen.

For the sake of example, let us assume that you begin your campaign on Day 1 of the Year 1000.
There are four PCs who begin initially,
and they have adventures which last a total of 50 days - 6 days of
actual adventuring and 44 days of resting and other activity. At this point
in time two new players join the game, one of the original group decides
to go to seek the advice of an oracle after hiring an elven henchman,
and the remaining three "old boys" decide they will not go with the newcomers.
So on Day 51 player A's character is off on a dangerous journey, those <alt>
of B, C, and D are resting on their laurels, and E and F enter the dungeon.
The latter pair spend the better part of the day surviving, but do well
enough to REST a couple of game days and return for another try on Day
54 - where they stumble upon the worst monster on the first level, surprise
it, and manage to slay it and come out with a handsome treasure.

You pack it in for the night.

Four actual days later
(and it is best to use 1 actual day = 1 game day when no play is happening),
on Day 55, player characters B, C, and D enter the dungeon and find that the AREA they
selected has already been cleaned out by player characters E and F. Had
they come the day after the previous game session, game Day 52, and
done the same thing, they would have found the monster and possibly
gotten the goodies! What to do about that? and what about old A and his
pointy-eared chum off to see the oracle?

Some penalty must accrue to the non-active, but on the other hand,
the over-active can not be given the world on a silver platter.
Despite time differences, the activities of the newcomers to the campaign should be
allowed to stand, as Destiny has decreed that the monster in question
could not fall to the characters B, C, and D. Therefore, the creature was
obviously elsewhere (not dead) when they visited its lair on Day 52, but
it had returned on Day 56. Being awore of time differences between
groups of player characters will enable you to prevent the BIG problems.
You will know when the adventuring of one such group has gone far enough ahead in game time to call a halt.
This is particularly true with regard to town/dungeon adventures.

Returning to PC A and his trek to visit a far-off source of
supernatural lore, he and his elven companion set off on Day 51, journey
across the land for 11 days, visit the oracle and remain 3 days, then come
back in another 11 days (wonder of wonders!). This comes to a total of 25
days all told, counting Day 51, so they come "home" on Day 75 and are
set to adventure on Day 77, let us suppose, as a brief REST is in order.
Allowing that activity to be not unusual for a single session of play, then
PC A and his henchman are ready to play about the same
actual time as the other players - only A is at Day 77, 8, C, and D are at
Day 54, and E and F are at Day 58. The middle group must go first, and
alone, or it can opt to "sit around' waiting for A or for E and F or for both
parties, or they can operate alone for another short adventure in terms of
game time, thus taking advantage of their temporal position.

Other options include any of the players singly or in time-related groups going off on outdoor adventures.
In the case of players so segregating their characters, it then becomes necessary for you,
as DM,
to inform prospective participants in a game session that there is a hiatus which will necessitate only certain members of their number playing together,
as their respective characters cannot locate the others of the separated groups.

At this juncture they should be informed of their options, and if
players B, C, and D do not choose to take advantage of their favored
position, then game time will pass more swiftly for them, as the other
participants must be allowed to adventure - in the dungeon if they sa
desire Thus, players E and F would have the choice of awaiting the return
of A or of going on adventures which involved only the two characters. In
effect, player character A is out of it until game time in the central playing
area reaches Day 75, when communications can be made- or until other
player characters contact him on his return from the oracle, let us say,
assuming nothing important transpired during the return trip.

In effect, the key is the relative import of the PCs' actions in the time frame.
Generally, time passes day-for-day, or turn for X number of real minutes during active play.
Players who choose to remove their characters from the center of dungeon activity will find that
"a lot has happened while they were away",
as adventures in the wilderness certainly use up game days with rapidity,
while the shorter time scale of dungeon adventuring allows many game sessions during a month or two of game time.
Of course, this might mean that the players involved in the outdoors someplace will either have to come home to "sit around"
or continue adventuring in wildernesses and perhaps in some distant dungeon as well (if you are kind);
otherwise, they will perforce be excluded from game sessions which are taking place during a period of game time in which they were wandering about in the countryside doing other things.
This latter sanction most certainly applies to characters learning a new language,
studying and training for promotion in level, or
off someplace manufacturing magic items.

At some point, even the stay-at-homes will be forced to venture forth into the wilderness due to need, geas, quest, or possibly to escape the wrath of something better avoided.
The time lines of various PCs will diverge, meet, and diverge again over the course of game years.
This makes for interesting campaigns and helps form the history of the milieu.
Groups of players tend to segregate themselves for a time, some never returning to the ken of the rest, most eventually coming back to reform into different bands.
As characters acquire henchmen, the better players will express a desire to operate some of theirs independently
while they, or their liege lord, are away.
This is a perfectly acceptable device, for it tends to even out characters and the game.
Henchmen tend to become associates -- or rivals -- this way, although a few will remain as colorless servitors.

You may ask why time is so important if it causes such difficulties with record-keeping,
    dictates who can or can not go adventuring during a game session,
    and disperses player characters to the four winds by its strictures.
Well, as initially pointed out,
    it is a necessary penalty imposed upon characters for certain activities.
Beyond that, it also gives players yet another interesting set of choices and consequences.
The latter tends to bring more true-to-life quality to the game,
    as some characters will use precious time to the utmost advantage,
    some will treat it lightly,
    and some will be constantly wasting it to their complete detriment.
Time is yet another facet which helps to seporate the superior players from the lesser ones.
If time-keeping is a must from a penalty standpoint, it is also an interesting addition from the standpoint of running a campaign.

Question: When a character is in a dungeon, the passage of time is usually quicker than normal.
But when you take a character “out of action” to learn a new language, for example, does normal time apply to the character?

Answer: With respect to a character, all activities are defined in
terms of “game time.”Review page 37 of the DMG for a full explana-
tion of time. — J. Ward, W. Niebling
(Clarification: Normal time applies on a 1 real day : 1 game day when the characters are "out of action").

Keeping track of time in the dungeon (or on any other type of adventure)
is sometimes difficult, but it is at least as important as the accurate recording of time in the campaign.
As has been mentioned elsewhere,
    the standard time breakdown is ten<10> one-minute rounds to the turn,
    and six<6> turns to the hour.
All referees should keep a side record of time on a
separate sheet of paper, marking off the turns as they pass
(melees or other actions which result in fractional turns should be rounded up to make complete turns).
It is essential that on accurate time record be kept so that the DM can determine when to check for wandering monsters, <(OSRIC.138: 1 in 6, check once every 3 turns)>
ond in order to keep a strict check on the duration of some spells (such as bless, haste, strength, etc.).

The DM must also know how long it has been since the last time the party took a REST.
A party should be required to REST at least [1] TURN in [6] (remember, the avg. party packs a lot of equipment),
    and in +addition+, they should rest [1] turn after every time they engage in combat or any other strenuous activities.

Originally Posted by grodog
Hi again Gary---

In the AD&D DMG, you wrote useful guidelines about the importance of time management for campaign play. How important was time management in the GH campaign when you ran it (both alone, and with Rob), and how did you manage to keep straight the multitudes of PCs running around in the Castle, City, and Outdoors???

I've always found time management to be something that I've enjoyed about campaign-level DMing, but haven't generally found much in the way of tools to assist in that endeavor. Any thoughts, anedotes, or examples of how to do it (well or poorly) beyond what you detailed in the DMG would be appreciated.

Thanks, as always! 

Howdy Alan,

The reason that most regular players in the campaign had two or more PCs was for the very reason you mention,
timelines in the campaign.

Dungeon adventures are relatively short in that regard,
and thus they are easy to keep track of.
A sheet of paper with a running count of days suffices until some of the group heads for an outdoor adventure.
Then one must keep tract of days, weeks, and possibly months.

Neither Rob nor I were sticklers for exact dates.
When the main party of players was enagaged in a trek somewhere,
others could do likewise,
delve underground,
or just sit sround and await the return of the main PCs.
A rough estimate of time passed relative to the separate PC groups sufficied for eventual rejoining.

When only one or two PCs were off on a long adventure somewhere,
we would usually SPEED time for the others if they wanted to eventually catch up with the wanderer(s).

Group play is far more important than timekeeping an an RPG.