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

Most of the time.

I find adventures without a doom clock to be boring, lacking in any impetus and unrealistic, just like I would find a movie or story where the protagonists had all the time in the world to 'do the thing' boring, lacking in impetus and unrealistic.

Luke couldn't exactly fall back to Yavin once his droid got blown up to Long rest. He was on a Doom Clock and the Death Star was almost in range. Ditto with him getting the plans to Leia in the first place. Colonel Matrix only had 24 hours to locate and save his daughter before the evil General would find out he wasn't on the plane anymore.

He leaps out of the flying plane, sets his stopwatch and off he goes.

That's what drives stories and builds the tension and the drama. Without those temporal limits, it's all a little 'meh'.

How often in real life are you given all the time in the world to do a thing? Heck just today I had to be at work by 9am, and finish a report by the end of the day. I then booked a holiday to Europe for a wedding in August, and had to plan that out with some precision because I need to be back at my desk by 1 September. I have 8 weeks to save enough money for that trip also.

So many DMs omit turning their minds to temporal restrictions or limitations, to their detriment IMO.
 

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Lanefan

Victoria Rules
How often in real life are you given all the time in the world to do a thing? Heck just today I had to be at work by 9am, and finish a report by the end of the day. I then booked a holiday to Europe for a wedding in August, and had to plan that out with some precision because I need to be back at my desk by 1 September. I have 8 weeks to save enough money for that trip also.
All those deadlines in real life are to me a great reason for not having them crop up so often in the game we play to escape all that. :)
 

Hussar

Legend
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.
Yeah, I think this is the best description I could use for my games. I don't generally set an actual deadline in an adventure - although that does happen, just rarely - but, often there is something in the adventure that is prodding the PC's along. An environmental effect, for example, might mean that taking too long results in making life much harder - think something as simple as heavy snowfall or rain making travel much more difficult.
 

The solution to the 5MWD isn't time clocks. While they work for the occasional change of pace, the real issue is that the world needs to move on without the PCs. I don't think DMs like this, since it requires them to make changes to their designed adventure. If the party ventures into the dungeon, then withdraws after 1 room, the denizens are going to become aware of the intrusion, often setting up more defenses, an ambush, or possibly tracking the party back to town. If the party wipes out one group of monsters, others might move in, requiring the party to fight past the area again. While there will be times there's just no worries about time, most players won't assume that anyway.
 

All those deadlines in real life are to me a great reason for not having them crop up so often in the game we play to escape all that. :)

Yeah, but how realistic is that?

Do you know anyone that isnt bound to temporal limitations in real life (and not just in fiction)?

Even in a CAW campaign, consider the fact that Soldiers are always on strict time limits. Be at place X by time Y in order to stop/ attack/ defend Z.

Example:

The DM creates an adventure midweek, knocks up a map etc, and designs his encounters. A pretty standard large dungeon, recover the mcguffin type quest. He stats up around a dozen or so encounters, plus a few nefarious traps.

He could simply have the NPC employer (or whatever his hook might be) be along the lines of:

'Loot and recover the Tome of Unspeakable Doom, located somewhere in the Ruins of Horror. It's been there untouched for a millennia since the great war of the Elves, and there is no rush to find it.'

Or he could instead have the mission be presented as a simple 'clear out the bandits', leading to the PCs finding a magical portal that, once entered, is a one way portal to the dungeon (a demi plane), that drains their souls while in there (subjects the PCs to DC 20 Charisma saves every 12 hours or else they take a level of Exhaustion and a cumulative 15 percent chance of spell failure for each level so given) seeking to turn them all into horrid undead wraiths (on death), with the hook of:

'You are all trapped in the Ruins of Horror! You must locate and recover the Tome of Unspeakable Doom, located somewhere within, before the soul destroying enchantments of the foul dungeon, condemn you all to to a horrible fate as the undead guardians of this place!'

Not only is the second hook more exciting, and gives the PCs a ticking clock to work on, it has the mechanical advantage of letting the DM basically sit back and let them plan out rests and manage resources to complete the task (i.e. self police the Adventuring day).
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
The solution to the 5MWD isn't time clocks.
To be honest, my solution to the 5MWD is to just let it happen and not see it as a problem.

5MWD used to bother me-as-DM, but then I realized that resting whenever they can is simply what the characters would logically do if left to their own devices and thus I've no reason or justification to complain about it.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Yeah, but how realistic is that?

Do you know anyone that isnt bound to temporal limitations in real life (and not just in fiction)?
I thought the whole point of becoming an independent adventurer or group is that you could set your own agenda rather than have to jump to someone else's orders and schedules. :)
Example:

The DM creates an adventure midweek, knocks up a map etc, and designs his encounters. A pretty standard large dungeon, recover the mcguffin type quest. He stats up around a dozen or so encounters, plus a few nefarious traps.

He could simply have the NPC employer (or whatever his hook might be) be along the lines of:

'Loot and recover the Tome of Unspeakable Doom, located somewhere in the Ruins of Horror. It's been there untouched for a millennia since the great war of the Elves, and there is no rush to find it.'
Yeah, this is often how I present adventures: "There's this thing needs doing, but it's needed doing for a while so if you've anything else on your plate, it can probably wait." Sometimes there'll be a very soft deadline, as in "It's Fall Equinox today, Those Orc raiders and bandits really hit us hard this summer. They don't raid in the winter, so can ya get up into the hills and do something about them before next summer?"

Except I'll present three or four such options, all different, and see what catches their interest. They know full well that they're not the only adventurers in the world, so if they don't pick up on a particular mission odds are someone else will at some point. (and once in a while I'll run something where the PCs and another adventuring group are each trying to do the same mission without realizing it, but those can get messy!)
Or he could instead have the mission be presented as a simple 'clear out the bandits', leading to the PCs finding a magical portal that, once entered, is a one way portal to the dungeon (a demi plane), that drains their souls while in there (subjects the PCs to DC 20 Charisma saves every 12 hours or else they take a level of Exhaustion and a cumulative 15 percent chance of spell failure for each level so given) seeking to turn them all into horrid undead wraiths (on death), with the hook of:

'You are all trapped in the Ruins of Horror! You must locate and recover the Tome of Unspeakable Doom, located somewhere within, before the soul destroying enchantments of the foul dungeon, condemn you all to to a horrible fate as the undead guardians of this place!'

Not only is the second hook more exciting, and gives the PCs a ticking clock to work on, it has the mechanical advantage of letting the DM basically sit back and let them plan out rests and manage resources to complete the task (i.e. self police the Adventuring day).
Sure, once in a while these can be great. But all the time? Bleah!

That, and PC downtime is important to me as a player in that it's my opportunity to interact with the setting in a non-adventuring way, be it a stronghold or family or business or politics or whatever. If we're always on a clock there's much less opportunity for downtime.

As a DM I try to allow them to take downtime, maybe not quite whenever they want but certainly fairly often. Thay they rarely if ever do isn't my fault. :) Hell, sometimes I'd just love it if a party decided to, say, just take the winter off and resume adventuring in the spring, but no such luck; and as a result most of the parties in my 14-year-old campaign have yet to get through 5 years of in-game time.
 

Mort

Legend
Supporter
The solution to the 5MWD isn't time clocks. While they work for the occasional change of pace, the real issue is that the world needs to move on without the PCs. I don't think DMs like this, since it requires them to make changes to their designed adventure. If the party ventures into the dungeon, then withdraws after 1 room, the denizens are going to become aware of the intrusion, often setting up more defenses, an ambush, or possibly tracking the party back to town. If the party wipes out one group of monsters, others might move in, requiring the party to fight past the area again. While there will be times there's just no worries about time, most players won't assume that anyway.

What you describe IS a form of time clock, perhaps more specifically time pressure.

All a time clock really is, is the limitation that the PCs do not have all the time in the world when accomplishing a task. The world moving on without the PCs is exactly this.
 

Vaalingrade

Legend
Yeah, but how realistic is that?

Do you know anyone that isnt bound to temporal limitations in real life (and not just in fiction)?

Even in a CAW campaign, consider the fact that Soldiers are always on strict time limits. Be at place X by time Y in order to stop/ attack/ defend Z.

Example:

The DM creates an adventure midweek, knocks up a map etc, and designs his encounters. A pretty standard large dungeon, recover the mcguffin type quest. He stats up around a dozen or so encounters, plus a few nefarious traps.

He could simply have the NPC employer (or whatever his hook might be) be along the lines of:

'Loot and recover the Tome of Unspeakable Doom, located somewhere in the Ruins of Horror. It's been there untouched for a millennia since the great war of the Elves, and there is no rush to find it.'

Or he could instead have the mission be presented as a simple 'clear out the bandits', leading to the PCs finding a magical portal that, once entered, is a one way portal to the dungeon (a demi plane), that drains their souls while in there (subjects the PCs to DC 20 Charisma saves every 12 hours or else they take a level of Exhaustion and a cumulative 15 percent chance of spell failure for each level so given) seeking to turn them all into horrid undead wraiths (on death), with the hook of:

'You are all trapped in the Ruins of Horror! You must locate and recover the Tome of Unspeakable Doom, located somewhere within, before the soul destroying enchantments of the foul dungeon, condemn you all to to a horrible fate as the undead guardians of this place!'

Not only is the second hook more exciting, and gives the PCs a ticking clock to work on, it has the mechanical advantage of letting the DM basically sit back and let them plan out rests and manage resources to complete the task (i.e. self police the Adventuring day).
A ticking clock and a death spiral. With logistics puzzle?

~The Vaal you thought you were talking too turns out to be a cloud of cartoon smoke. Vaal ran away a while ago~
 

Hussar

Legend
The solution to the 5MWD isn't time clocks. While they work for the occasional change of pace, the real issue is that the world needs to move on without the PCs. I don't think DMs like this, since it requires them to make changes to their designed adventure. If the party ventures into the dungeon, then withdraws after 1 room, the denizens are going to become aware of the intrusion, often setting up more defenses, an ambush, or possibly tracking the party back to town. If the party wipes out one group of monsters, others might move in, requiring the party to fight past the area again. While there will be times there's just no worries about time, most players won't assume that anyway.

There are a few problems with this though. Say a dungeon has 12 encounters. A group, pushing through and being smart could do it in say three days with two long rests.

A slow group OTOH, does it in 6-12 days. Let’s say nine. One or two encounters per day.

How much is the world actually going to change in a week? What is that dungeon going to do in a week that they didn’t do in a day?

That’s the problem with the whole “the world moves on” argument. There just isn’t that much difference in time between the pushing group and the slow group.

Most of the time passing in a campaign isn’t during an adventure. If it takes two weeks to get to the dungeon and two weeks to get back home, adding six days isn’t going to make any difference.

Never minding that the slow group will be much more effective, much less likely to miss things and far less likely to fail.

So outside of something pushing the group to not rest, they shouldn’t push on. The advantages of slowing down far, far outweigh the negative consequences.
 

DND_Reborn

The High Aldwin
soo I ask, how often do YOU use this?
It isn't about a ticking clock in many cases, but about the unknown.

The biggest deterrent to the 5MWD is random encounters IME, I often see (during travel, for instance) a group go NOVA on a random encounter because they understand the odds of another encounter is low and they can get in a short or long rest. BUT a few times the adventuring beginning (due to story constraints) before they get in their rest teaches them to be cautious.

If you never know what is going to happen or when, you will learn to not be so flippant with your resources IME.

Now, there certainly are times when the PCs are on the clock, but it is always due to story reasons.
 

nevin

Hero
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.
but it's no different if it's everytime. my point was if time or emergency or anything is used too much then it simply become's the norm and it doesn't motivate anymore. It's just a predictable fact. If it's used judicously it's a great plot device.
 

Mort

Legend
Supporter
but it's no different if it's everytime. my point was if time or emergency or anything is used too much then it simply become's the norm and it doesn't motivate anymore. It's just a predictable fact. If it's used judicously it's a great plot device.

I'm not sure I follow. I've mentioned in prior posts that overuse of blatant, in your face, time clocks will likely be a turn off to the players. But that's only one (rather ham-fisted) time clock/time pressure.

Time pressure isn't always about motivation, it's more about risk/reward etc.

Say a group learns an area has treasure that they want. Their motivation for exploring the area is - they want treasure.

Now, in exploring the area, they learn 2 things:

1. There's more and better treasure the deeper the go into the area;
2. it's got roving undead. The deeper they go, the more frequent (more random encounter checks) and deadlier the undead become.

Is this a time pressure scenario?

Yes, because, while it's not itself time sensitive (unless the group has other external pressures that limit their time), There's A LOT of time pressure within the scenario itself.

But the time pressure isn't the motivation, it's essentially a consequence of the motivation.

I can see a campaign where time pressure doesn't exist, or is uncommon- but I think they are rarer than you'd expect.
 

cbwjm

Legend
There is a bit of time pressure in a game in running because the players know that a warlock is working to crack a ritual to absorb the energy of a dragon elder and so become a demigod. They'll still make it to final battle, but if they take too long, they may be fighting a mythic version of the warlock instead of just an enhanced version.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
I'm not sure I follow. I've mentioned in prior posts that overuse of blatant, in your face, time clocks will likely be a turn off to the players. But that's only one (rather ham-fisted) time clock/time pressure.

Time pressure isn't always about motivation, it's more about risk/reward etc.

Say a group learns an area has treasure that they want. Their motivation for exploring the area is - they want treasure.

Now, in exploring the area, they learn 2 things:

1. There's more and better treasure the deeper the go into the area;
2. it's got roving undead. The deeper they go, the more frequent (more random encounter checks) and deadlier the undead become.

Is this a time pressure scenario?

Yes, because, while it's not itself time sensitive (unless the group has other external pressures that limit their time), There's A LOT of time pressure within the scenario itself.
Unless they're somehow trapped in the area, the logical approach for the PCs here is to be patient and nibble - go in, take out what undead you can and maybe gain some new ground, then retreat to safety. Do the same the next day, and the next, and so on. Sooner or later (unless there's a spawner or gate in there somewhere) the place will run out of undead; and if there's a spawner/gate sooner or later the PCs will find it and - one hopes - shut it down.

IME what usually does this approach in is player-at-the-table impatience, causing the PCs to overextend themselves into all kinds of trouble. :)
 

I've gotten away from mechanical ticking clocks - I try to make the stakes personal enough that the pcs wouldn't rest even if it was the optimal move - they should care enough about the npc hostage that they would feel bad about resting before going in, even if the fight would be easier if they did.

I won't make extra rolls to see if the npc dies, though.

I do occasionally use hard time limits, but not by default, and then I want them long enough to give the players wiggle room to rest if they want, just not too much.
 

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