Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Time, What is it Good for Anyway?

Over the last few weeks I've noticed that I'm not really all that good at keeping track of time in my games. Oh sure, I do fine when it comes to rounds and that sort of thing; but when it comes to longer scale events I tend to just lose interest. What about you? Do you keep track of time really well or are you like me?

16 comments:

  1. I suck at tracking exploration time. Theoretically, you can calculate how long it takes to move and to search every room and I have done such calculations. But I never used them. I've gone to a default of three rooms an hour/wandering monster check.

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    1. I'm pretty similar in that regard Rod, though honestly I usually just give times that seem to appease my players. Sometimes just making them happy is enough - other times setting them on fire with my unbridled rage takes care of their questions!

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  2. I stink at it but wish I were better.

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  3. Time keeps everything from happening at once.

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    1. Or is it our perception of time that does that?

      Existentialism check Holmes! Do you understand what it's like to be alive? Huh, Bro?

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  4. But on a more serious note... There are some pretty good "DM's Assistant apps for phones & computers. I would probably be using one if I had room for a computer on or near my gaming table. I may start now that I have a medium sized tablet.

    But I developed a simple system a long time ago that has worked really well for me. I keep a couple of dice bags of pennies & dimes handy. pennies represent rounds and dimes turns, Whenever someone starts something that needs tracking like torch/lantern burn time, spell duration, or whatever, I count out the appropriate pile of coins & note what it is for. You could add more types of coins, but i find tickmarks & notes more convenient for tracking the passage of hours & days.

    then during combat or exploring i take a penny out of each "timer" at the end of every round, or a dime every turn.. (it helps to count some pennies into stacks of 9 while you are setting up).

    I also keep a spring driven 5 minute kitchen timer for use when I'm making players do something in real time. It has a very audible ticking sound while running and is great for creating suspense. actions during surprise rounds are always real-time. Players learn to think quickly after a few occurrences of "The ogres are taken by surprise, what do you do? ... (extended discussion) ... Ding! Time's up, the ogres attack."

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    1. That penny dime system is really smart. mO.Om I'm a stealing it.

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  5. Are we talking about hours, days, calendar months here? That kind of thing?

    If not, are you discussing passing?

    I am somewhat unclear as to what 'time' you are having trouble keeping track of.

    I myself am very good with time. I spent many a night studying comedians, talk show hosts (especially those who were great comedians in their own right), and comedic actors in films in order to learn the ins and outs of timing. Action films, and those action thrillers that bank on moments of inaction to build suspense, are also extremely helpful.

    As for calendar time, it really depends on the campaign setting. I am not especially worried about time in Star Trek. My references to Stardates are more for atmosphere and based on what 'season' and 'episode' of the campaign we are playing. Traveller on the other hand requires that I pay pretty close attention to time, as messages travel only as fast as transportation does.

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    1. Honestly I have a hard time keeping up with most anything beyond rounds and years. Weeks escape me and months bore me. Years I get to make up and the players tend to take care of tracking them.

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  6. Very good with days and the campaign calendar (I typically have at least one NPC or villain -- sometimes more -- doing things in the background such that "so-and-so's evil plans will come to fruition on date X if the PCs don't interrupt it in any way", so this is the most important part of time-tracking in my games). Very bad with exploration turns -- I wish I were much more systematic about it.

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  7. I agree with EGG-head, who wrote, in all caps: "You can not have a meaningful campaign if strict time records are not kept." However I am pretty bad about keeping records, and simply accept that my campaigns are meaningless.

    In dungeons, it's not so hard, I just keep a tally going of turns spent in exploration and checking for traps etc. I assume combats go by in one turn. I roll for random encounters once in a few turns (depends on dungeon). Outside the dungeon, I handwave most travel and don't worry about time. I just have the calender follow the real world, so a week or 2 goes by between sessions, usually. I do try to avoid stopping in media res, due to attendance issues. But that's about all I can manage.

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    1. I'm pretty close to how you handle things Mike! I keep wanting to keep track of the time like EGG told us years ago but I'm fairly convinced that the man just had an infinite capacity for keeping all that information that goes beyond the normal human understanding.

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  8. I've had issues with time for years because my players just never cared. In the last game I played (the one where I was a magnificent bastard), I just about cried as our sessions covered progressively less time... first a couple days, then a day, then just a night, then a few hours, then a few minutes... and finally ranted at the players until we got two weeks in-game to just relax and do stuff.

    I have this idea I've been toying with about making time a commodity/resource.

    Some effects in the game will require "time" to complete, but the only way for time to pass is for the PCs to "pay" for it. Basically taking the work of tracking time and putting it in the players' hands.

    So when they've been worn down to the nibs, and they're begging for the opportunity to rest you can wave the Wandering Monster chart under their nose until they cry uncle and someone ponies up for the chance to rest.

    It's still in really early stages of development so I have no idea if it'll be playable in the foreseeable future. :/

    --Dither

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  9. I was about to say that this sort of stuff is DM 101, and suggest that everyone read the sections of their PHB and DMG that discuss time and timekeeping. Then I realized that neither the 3.5E nor Pathfinder rulebooks have any such sections, and I began to understand the depth of the problem. Shame on you WotC. Shame on you Paizo. Thanks to the gaping holes in your core rulebooks, a whole generation of gamers lacks an understanding of basic timekeeping in the game and why it matters.

    So, this stuff used to be DM 101. If you can find copies, read the sections in the AD&D 1E or 2E PHB & DMG about time in the game and how to keep track of it. They aren't anything amazing, but at least they explain the different scales of time passage in the game, what things happen in each kind of time and some of the things you should track.

    You probably already have an intuitive grasp of much of this, but if you never developed the habits of actually doing it, your games will suffer. And that is what I'm seeing in most of these comments & questions.

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