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Tuesday, September 29, 2015

How Do Adventurers Track Time in a Dungeon?

I got to thinking about how time passes in a dungeon as my work hours changed - and changed again. Sleep cycles are strange things. I work overnights 5 days a week and am in bed by 7 am when I return from work, but the two nights that I don't work, my body wants to sleep like a "normal" person. This is with the help of clocks and alarms to keep track of time.

Just how well do adventurers keep track of time in a dungeon or the like? Perhaps by burning torches or lanterns, but that often get's replaced by the light of magic swords and such. How does the spell caster know he spent 8 hours resting and can now memorize new spells? I don't see the party bringing along a water clock just for the occasion ;)

I'm not saying these thoughts keep me awake at night, but they certainly make me think.

15 comments:

  1. Most people has a time sense which we as modern people have kind of allowed to lapse due to cellphones etc. I would think makes and Rangers would have a pretty sharp sense and clerics might know the time from their god? Maybe marked slow burning candles? Magical or mechanical timepieces? A hourglass for watches and stuff?

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  2. Makes is mages..freaking autocorrect

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  3. Makes is mages..freaking autocorrect

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  4. Most people has a time sense which we as modern people have kind of allowed to lapse due to cellphones etc. I would think makes and Rangers would have a pretty sharp sense and clerics might know the time from their god? Maybe marked slow burning candles? Magical or mechanical timepieces? A hourglass for watches and stuff?

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  5. By light source......a flask of oil has an 8 hour burn time, so every three flasks equals roughly 24 hours.

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  6. Treating time like a resource is fun. I don't know out how to make realistic uncertainty about time fun as well, so I don't bother with it. I just tell my players what time it is. Their PCs may as well be wearing watches.

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  7. I recall a study that when people are removed from normal signals (sun, watches, etc.) they move in unison to a 26 hour clock. Thus they always move things forward. Stay up longer, sleep in later, etc.

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    1. Just did some light research on the subject. In the past, estimates were all over the place, but now scientists are pretty sure it's an average of 24 hours and 11 minutes, with a standard deviation of 16 minutes (though there have been reports of those with 26- or even 28-hour clocks). Switching the lights on or off can shift the cycle more than 40 minutes

      Under normal circumstances, this drift seems too small to worry about

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  8. Ooh, this is gold! Matthew Tuell's right about not bothering with it if you can't think of a way to make it fun, but I wanna give this some thought and see if I can come up with anything. It certainly sounds like an interesting idea

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    1. I was thinking about variable durations, but that'd over-complicate the game and undermine the idea of time as a resource. The best solution might simply be to not help the players. Require them to keep track of how many turns have passed since they last lit the torch. I suppose they could ask how much oil's left, so maybe round to a nearby, simple fraction or roll a die and to see how much your answer deviates from the actual amount

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  9. You just need to buy a pedometer for the fighter who wears plate armour. Every time it says they've moved 60' you know that 10 minutes have elapsed.

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  10. My take on it would be if the party has someone in it that has underground survival skills, keeping track of time doesn't become a problem. Otherwise there should be a chance of the party losing track of time. It could be tied to a wandering monsters roll, along with the chance of them getting lost.

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