D&D General How often are your stories on a clock?

So over the years we have discussed long/short rest alot, and something I always hear is "If your party doesn't have time limits on the adventure that is the DMs fault"

Now I have run games where "You need to race for X" or "You need to do X by Y" or most often "The quicker you get this done the better" however I don't normally run whole campaigns that way.

So the other day I was talking with 2 other DMs (one VERY new to DMing but got lots of online advice, other one DMing 20 years, me 30) and the new DM (but old player he has been playing with us since other DMs 2nd campaign so close to 20 years) said he is having problems putting the urgency into every set up. We both told him "just don't" but he pushed back that he was told players would take too many rests.

So we asked him if he felt OUR games were to easy (he didn't) if he felt he himself as a PC took too many rests (he didn't) and how many time crounches he could count that we put him in the last few years (limiting to 5e)... he counted 3 (1 was an almost campign long one though to be fair) and we pointed out that 100s of adventures over the years ran on PC time tables... not DM ones.

he is not a great DM right now (who is out the gate) and my whole friend group has been trying to help him (despite not one of us having fun in his campaign at all...and he seems to only get the worst online advice) but he is pushing back against this. He thinks that any quest without a ticking clock will turn into PC 5 min work daying through it.


soo I ask, how often do YOU use this?



my answer is that in my 2 current campaigns I have 1 that has a date that something is going to happen (and PCs know and have planned 7 months in advance) but other than that it has only had 1 time limited adventure (free captured kids before they are killed). in the other it is running practically on video game logic (Players don't actively know that) so plot points only turn on when they are close to them.

I can't remember a time I ran 3 back to back to back adventures that where time sensitive (although in 4e I can name 2 different occasions in 2 diff campaigns that I ran 2 back to back)
 

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iserith

Magic Wordsmith
Every adventure and campaign I present has time pressure, whether it is events that happen at predetermined times (subject to the PCs meddling with it) or wandering monster checks that occur at specific intervals or, often, both.

Time is a valuable resource and it adds more meaningful decisions and trade-offs for the players to consider in my view. I believe the more meaningful choices the players have to make per unit of game time, the more engaged they become with the game.
 

delericho

Legend
I very rarely have a fixed deadline for the adventures - whenever I've done so I've inevitably seen the PCs make a mess of the early phase of the adventure and make the rest impossible. I do frequently have a "the Big Bad is going to do..." without a fixed deadline. It's not terribly satisfying, but it does mostly work.

That said, one thing that I think is perhaps of more use than a straight-up deadline is instead some clear indication of a failure condition for the adventure, so that the player don't keep trying, and retrying, and re-retrying long after they simply can't succeed. Which isn't always possible, or indeed desirable, but does have its uses.
 

Jer

Legend
Supporter
The vast majority of the games that I've run over the years either have no clock at all, or a deadline that is so far off into the future that it's there for flavor more than to encourage the players to move faster or not take rests. The players will often come up with their own deadlines - and sometimes short term deadlines come up naturally (like in a recent game the players ended up with an NPC ally who was under a curse that needed to be reverted within 48 hours or they'd permanently come under the control of the big bad guy) but they tend to emerge from the players' actions rather than anything I'm setting up on purpose to hit a daily encounter budget.

I think a lot of bad advice about this on the internet comes from the dumb decision that Wizards took to scale the number of combat encounters per day in 5e to 6-8. That's a ridiculous number to try to hit constantly IME, and trying to hit that number of encounters and also have any kind of non-combat encounters and then also come up with reasons why the PCs can't take a break often starts to strain the fiction of the world. And it doesn't flow naturally with the idea of having "days" to mark time and recharging abilities either - even in dungeon crawl games I find it far too much (and it doesn't match how we played back in the day either where we'd get through about half that many in a day and then be looking for a safe place to make camp). 3-4 is a much more natural number of encounters to expect in a "day" IME.
 

TheHand

Adventurer
I prefer to use organic interruptions to discourage overly restful PCs rather than ticking clocks. By this, I might use random encounters, noises, bad dreams, or dangerous environments to keep the adventure moving.

Where I have used a ticking clock, I usually have a notecard where I tick down a list of outside events going on while the party snoozes. It's not a hour-by-hour timer, but it might be things like, "Lord Evilman will find the Orb." "Lord Evilman takes the Orb to MacGuffinton." "Lord Evilman begins the ceremony." etc

I've also heard of the random dice counter, where you periodically roll dice and remove 1s and when there are no dice left the doomsday clock is over. I haven't used it myself, but it sounds fun to try.
 

payn

Legend
Occasionally, I use time clocks to spice up an adventure and put stakes on it. Its a tool in the GM box that shouldn't get overused. It's also a tool that certain GMs should leave behind if they don't like it.

I have more of a tendency to put forth numerous objectives that are playing out at the same time. The players must decide which ones are the highest priority. Maybe, maybe, if they act fast they can effect all of them, but its likely they wont be able to.
 

Oofta

Legend
I use the alternate rest rules for many reasons, probably the most important is just to slow down game world time passage and verisimilitude. It should take a while to heal up and recover. You also generally need more than a week for leveling as you practice and master new skills.

It also means that the clock keeps ticking and things will progress as the world doesn't stop just because the PCs take a week off. So in some ways I always have a ticking clock as a side effect.

That works well for my style of campaign, it may not for others.
 

delericho

Legend
I think a lot of bad advice about this on the internet comes from the dumb decision that Wizards took to scale the number of combat encounters per day in 5e to 6-8. That's a ridiculous number to try to hit constantly IME, and trying to hit that number of encounters and also have any kind of non-combat encounters and then also come up with reasons why the PCs can't take a break often starts to strain the fiction of the world.

Indeed. I tend to think they'd do better to have some mechanics that encourage PCs to press on for "one encounter more" - perhaps they gain an extra d4 to all damage rolls after the first encounter of the day, stepping up a dice type with each extra encounter; or perhaps later encounters grant more XP; or something else.

That way the game can discourages the dreaded "five minute adventuring day" without mandating it. (That said, there's still a problem with spellcasters recharging all their big powers on a long rest, meaning that they dictate the cadence of the adventuring day.)

And it doesn't flow naturally with the idea of having "days" to mark time and recharging abilities either - even in dungeon crawl games I find it far too much (and it doesn't match how we played back in the day either where we'd get through about half that many in a day and then be looking for a safe place to make camp). 3-4 is a much more natural number of encounters to expect in a "day" IME.

The other option, since short and long rests aren't strictly markers of "days" is to divide the world into areas where resting is 'easy' (you can take a long rest here), 'hard' (you can take a short rest here), and impossible. With the bulk of adventuring locations being 'hard'. The problem with that being that if the PCs have a bad encounter, they may find they really need to rest where there's no ability to do so.

Basically... it's just a hard problem. :)
 


Medic

Lawful Neutral
Only as often as I feel that it makes sense, as I run other, better systems.

Though when I did run 5th Edition, I usually ensured that taking a long rest simply wasn't feasible for my players if they wanted to complete whatever objective they had set out to accomplish. Yes, there was time to take a few hour-long breaks to catch their breath, but the pirates would be gone by noon, or the necromancer would attain lichdom by midnight, or the gnolls would be done burning and pillaging the countryside by morning. They could disregard this and sleep for the whole eight hours, of course, so long as they were fine with the results of their inaction.
 

Jer

Legend
Supporter
Indeed. I tend to think they'd do better to have some mechanics that encourage PCs to press on for "one encounter more" - perhaps they gain an extra d4 to all damage rolls after the first encounter of the day, stepping up a dice type with each extra encounter; or perhaps later encounters grant more XP; or something else.
I don't use per encounter XP anymore, but I think the idea of XP scaling with the number of encounters you have before taking a rest would have been an interesting variant to use back in the days when I did. Like the first encounter for the day gives normal XP, the second gives a +10% bonus and so on. It would definitely change the dynamics of resting and the 5 minute work day if it is built into the rules that the group is actually giving something up by choosing to rest rather than relying on the DM to bake it into the narrative.

Your other idea made me think of an interesting idea for an Escalation Die variant - instead of having an escalation die that increments per round, the players have an Escalation Die that increments after every encounter and gives them a bonus to attack and damage for that encounter. So the first encounter of the day is a +0 to all attacks and damage, the second is a +1, the third is a +2 and so on. The harder they push the more psyched they get the more of a bonus they get. I'd have to think about how that would interact with the rest of the 5e rules to see if it was game breaking though.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
I don't use per encounter XP anymore, but I think the idea of XP scaling with the number of encounters you have before taking a rest would have been an interesting variant to use back in the days when I did. Like the first encounter for the day gives normal XP, the second gives a +10% bonus and so on. It would definitely change the dynamics of resting and the 5 minute work day if it is built into the rules that the group is actually giving something up by choosing to rest rather than relying on the DM to bake it into the narrative.
I've done this and posted about it before. Call it something like "Fight Through the Pain" or "Fortune Waits For No One" and give +10% XP after the 5th encounter in an adventuring day. It works well if the players are motivated by character advancement. Most are in my experience.
 

Yora

Legend
I don't think I've ever done stories on a time table.

But I do random encounters based on time, and they are not padding, but potentially real serious danger.
 

The game I am a player in uses the gritty realism healing variant, so long rests take a week. The bad guys continue to advance their plans while we are resting. This could have consequences like bandits recruiting more followers so they are stronger the longer the PCs wait to attack their HQ, assassins killing key NPCs, goblin raids impacting the local economy, etc. Big events happen on a fixed schedule unless the PCs disrupt it, so delay long enough and those cultists ARE going to end up summoning Cthulhu.

So there is rarely a ticking bomb scenario, but we are absolutely motivated to accomplish as much as possible with each rest because we know bad guys are out in the world doing bad stuff. There are not necessarily any imminent consequences, but the players understand the longer we take to accomplish our goals, the worse the outcome will be.
 

Mort

Legend
Supporter
There's always SOME kind of time pressure from minor (characters miss out on an opportunity of some kind) to major (characters fail to prevent something bad from happening and game world consequences ensue).

All a "ticking clock" really is, is the world progressing forward as opposed to scenarios "waiting" for the PCs to come along.

I used to have the world "wait" for the PCs all the time (the scenario is a diorama that starts moving when the PCs get there) but I've found players (at least my players) respond better and have more fun when they see the world move around them.
 
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nevin

Hero
So over the years we have discussed long/short rest alot, and something I always hear is "If your party doesn't have time limits on the adventure that is the DMs fault"

Now I have run games where "You need to race for X" or "You need to do X by Y" or most often "The quicker you get this done the better" however I don't normally run whole campaigns that way.

So the other day I was talking with 2 other DMs (one VERY new to DMing but got lots of online advice, other one DMing 20 years, me 30) and the new DM (but old player he has been playing with us since other DMs 2nd campaign so close to 20 years) said he is having problems putting the urgency into every set up. We both told him "just don't" but he pushed back that he was told players would take too many rests.

So we asked him if he felt OUR games were to easy (he didn't) if he felt he himself as a PC took too many rests (he didn't) and how many time crounches he could count that we put him in the last few years (limiting to 5e)... he counted 3 (1 was an almost campign long one though to be fair) and we pointed out that 100s of adventures over the years ran on PC time tables... not DM ones.

he is not a great DM right now (who is out the gate) and my whole friend group has been trying to help him (despite not one of us having fun in his campaign at all...and he seems to only get the worst online advice) but he is pushing back against this. He thinks that any quest without a ticking clock will turn into PC 5 min work daying through it.


soo I ask, how often do YOU use this?



my answer is that in my 2 current campaigns I have 1 that has a date that something is going to happen (and PCs know and have planned 7 months in advance) but other than that it has only had 1 time limited adventure (free captured kids before they are killed). in the other it is running practically on video game logic (Players don't actively know that) so plot points only turn on when they are close to them.

I can't remember a time I ran 3 back to back to back adventures that where time sensitive (although in 4e I can name 2 different occasions in 2 diff campaigns that I ran 2 back to back)
If all games are ticking clocks then everything is an emergency therefore an emergency is a normal event and nothing is an emergency anymore. I'm playing in an almost finished campaign like that we are having fun but if one of the gods were to drop dead at our feat we'd just shrug and keep going because it wouldn't be a surprise and it would just be another earth shattering event that week.
That's why I only use the clock sparingly when I run games.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
I think the term “ticking clock” may be too loaded a term here. It implies a limited amount of time the players have to complete their goals before they become unattainable. The whole “the dark ritual will be completed during the celestial alignment on this particular date” setup. My adventures don’t often have that (though they occasionally might). However, my adventures always have time pressure. Often it’s something minor, like periodic checks for wandering monsters. But there’s always some reason not to loligag.
 

Stormonu

Legend
I don't generally use time clocks for my campaigns/adventures, but when I do it's usually a sort of Superhot death clock - things don't move until the PCs take actions, and sometimes the action can get quite lively. Moreso, I put constraints on when and where the PCs can rest. Works a lot better than having a death clock looming overhead all the time.
 

Mort

Legend
Supporter
If all games are ticking clocks then everything is an emergency therefore an emergency is a normal event and nothing is an emergency anymore. I'm playing in an almost finished campaign like that we are having fun but if one of the gods were to drop dead at our feat we'd just shrug and keep going because it wouldn't be a surprise and it would just be another earth shattering event that week.
That's why I only use the clock sparingly when I run games.

But it doesn't have to be "an emergency," it just has to be a bit of time pressure.

My players learned that the temple of Heironeous in Greyhawk had a potion of supreme healing available, which they wanted -but they didn't have the means/funds to get it. They did however have an opportunity to acquire the funds, they pursued the opportunity.

The opportunity took them 5 days. I had privately determined that, after 3 (1d4+1) days (It's Greyahawk, lots of wealthy people), a 3rd party would buy the potion.

So when the players returned for it, it wasn't there - a bit of a loss. But they still had a boat load of gold and had gotten experience along the way - they weren't exactly crushed.

Not any kind of emergency, just a time pressure.
 

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