Monday, 15 January 2018

Clocks and Calendars

Relic: "Maybe we should talk to that woman we saw on the balcony? Her tattoo had a 13 on it, she probably knows what's going on."
Erky: "I dunno. She seemed fairly important, she'd probably just look down on us."
Relic: "I think she was only looking down on us because she was on a balcony. In fact, if we stood next to each other I'd probably be taller."

Negative WIS modifiers, folks.

That was our Fighter and Rogue last night in the first game of my new campaign, the Graverobbers' Guild. As tempted as I am to do a bunch of campaign write-ups, I feel like telling people about the cool shit that happened in your last D&D game is about as exciting as telling people about your dreams. If you weren't there, it doesn't make a lot of sense and you don't have much reason to care.

This blog is going to be more about stuff you can use in your own games. I'll be referring to my campaign, obviously, but only to pick out gameable nuggets that might prove useful to other GMs. Or at the very least, stuff I come up with that is useful to me. Take as you will.


Speaking of:

Clocks and Calendars

Before we started playing, after we'd spent a good while figuring out Roll20, I got each player to make a roll. 1d12, 1d4 and 1d8, landing us a 5, 1 and 6.

That made it the 6th day (Saturday - don't use weird names, no one will remember them) of the first week of the 5th month.

I'm sure anyone reading this already knows the Gygax quote about "STRICT TIME RECORDS", and if you don't, you do now. The co-founder of our hobby believed you could not play without keeping track of time.

Most old GMs probably already do this. Most new GMs don't do this. I certainly didn't, before now. But you should!

By keeping track of time, verisimilitude skyrockets. You can answer questions like "what day is it?", "what's the weather like?" and "how long since..." with as much faux confidence as you answer questions about the rest of your nonsense fantasy town, and that makes it real.

Relic, the aforementioned Warforged Fighter, escaped from his gladiatorial enslavement to begin a life of adventuring, and the fact that I can tell him, with confidence, that the premier sporting event in the city he fled will begin in exactly six weeks, places the character and his actions in a living world. And that's what we're trying to do in this game. That's the whole game, right there.

You can also keep records of who did what when, travel times gain significance (making what many consider the dullest part of the game carry actual weight), and players feel pressured by deadlines, self-imposed or otherwise.

Casting a spell as a ritual and taking 10 minutes risks the guards completing their rounds and coming by your hiding place again. Downtime rules make more sense when you see the days pass by, and healing rules (I'm half-done homebrewing mine) can produce wonderfully agonising delays.

Dates on your calendar and times on your clock can have significance, and that significance will actually mean something. Holidays, festivals, pilgrimages, curfews, oncoming armies and fell rituals that can only take place under the new moon. Give your characters birthdays!

Basically, everything gains immeasurably more weight and relevance once you have your eye on the ticking clock. Try it, if you haven't. It's a little more bookkeeping, but hey, you've got the time. You're here, you must have.


This is where most blogs run by cool, creative OSR-types would blow your mind with a set of simple rules that can be slotted straight into your campaign.

Thing is, all the rules I'm using to do this stuff are already in the PHB and DMG. It takes a bit of page-flicking and some basic maths, but 5e has rules to track how long anything takes down to the second.

Have a look, try it out. You won't want to go back. I'll try to come up with something original for my next post. I'll probably post up my game's calendar at some point too.

Now if you'll excuse me, Xanathar's Guide just arrived. I'm due a peruse.

(Oh, and welcome! First blog post and everything. I'll do my best to make this a useful resource as I continue, so stick around, tell your friends, all that jazz.)

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