Time in the Campaign

Citizen Mane

The Kajamba Lion
I've been reading through D&D Twitter and, although I generally haven't intersected with a lot of OSR/OD&D/AD&D threads/posters for various reasons, I came across a conversation about 1:1 time in AD&D:

1e DMG page 37 said:
For the soke of example, let us assume that you begin your campaign on Day 1 of the Year 1OOO. There are four player characters who begin initially, and they have adventures which last a total of 50 days - 6 days of actual adventuring and 44 days of resting and other activity. At this point in time two new players join the game, one of the original group decides to go to seek the advice of an oracle after hiring an elven henchman, and the remaining three "old boys" decide they will not go with the newcomers. So on Day 51 player A's character is off on a journey, those of B, C, and D are resting on their laurels, and E and F enter the dungeon. The latter pair spend the better part of the day surviving, but do well enough to rest a couple of game days and return for another try on Day 54 - where they stumble upon the worst monster on the first level, surprise it, and manage to slay it and come out with a handsome treasure. You pack it in for the night. Four actual days later (and it is best to use 1 actual day = 1 game day when no play is happening), on Day 55, player characters B, C, and D enter the dungeon and find that the area they selected has already been cleaned out by player characters E and F. Had they come the day after the previous game session, game Day 52, and done the same thing, they would have found the monster and possibly gotten the goodies! What to do about that? and what about old A and his pointy-eared chum off to see the oracle?

Do people play this way? Does it work? Are there any pitfalls? Have folks translated it to other editions of the game with any success? The person who had posted it has had success running AD&D RAW, including this, and has written extensively about it, but I'm curious to hear about other folks' experiences.
 

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Musing Mage

Pondering D&D stuff
I do track time similar to what's outlined, but not 100% exactly. As written in the 1e DMG sort of assumes a West Marches style game with multiple players and characters.

That said, I use the metric of time away from the table passing = to real time, but not all situations in-game allow for such a forward in time, so what I do is 'bank' the time if the scenario in-game doesn't make sense to advance the calendar. When an adventure concludes, and the players are back home with their loot - that's when XP is awarded and I forward the calendar applying all the banked time, which more often than not adds up to several months, or even more than a year when an adventure has lasted many sessions.

I've found that such an advance in time works well for justifying training time, the time characters would need to find buyers for valuables, time off because adventurers want to live off their spoils for a while etc etc.
 

Yora

Legend
Time tracking becomes really quite important when the campaign is dealing with either regular upkeep or maintenance costs that PCs have to pay regularly, or the players have to manage supplies while out in the wilderness that take up limited carrying capacity and might slow down overland travel progress. It obviously also matters when travelling long distances through wilderness where random encounters are rolled.

Time is really what forces the players to make decisions about planning an expedition that have no definitive optimal solution. Carry more supplies in food and water and you have to make fewer detours to resupply, shortening the overall length of the journey. But being more heavily loaded means traveling at a slower pace, increasing the duration of the journey. Having a good amount of spare supplies means being more able to change plans as new things come up, but that comes with increased risk of running into something dangerous. And carrying more food and water means having less carrying capacity that could be used to carry other useful things like tools and extra weapons, or to carry more treasure on the return trip.
Time is essential to all of this, as it determines the amount of random encounters on a journey and the consumption of supplies.
 

Citizen Mane

The Kajamba Lion
That said, I use the metric of time away from the table passing = to real time, but not all situations in-game allow for such a forward in time, so what I do is 'bank' the time if the scenario in-game doesn't make sense to advance the calendar.
This is interesting. Can you give an example of when you would do this? Is it just when the PCs can't get somewhere safe at the end of a session (either because they've delved too deep into a dungeon it the fiction hasn't allowed for a place to pause), or are there other circumstances where it'd come up?
 

Musing Mage

Pondering D&D stuff
This is interesting. Can you give an example of when you would do this? Is it just when the PCs can't get somewhere safe at the end of a session (either because they've delved too deep into a dungeon it the fiction hasn't allowed for a place to pause), or are there other circumstances where it'd come up?

Yes, basically. Any time advancing the calendar won't be appropriate. Leaving off in a dungeon right before an encounter because the game went long for instance. Or a time sensitive adventure where advancing the calendar by the two weeks betweeen sessions wouldn't be logical and could disrupt things is another.
 

Thanks, Malmuria. I hadn't seen that video; that's a great and useful summary.
I think this idea is interesting but sounds logistically challenging. I think some people have set up discord servers where they run open table play for very larger groups, but I'm not sure how this is working out. I would figure that the people with the most real world time to play games have the most advanced characters in these living worlds.

Here's a a good blog post about the rl presumptions of classic dnd play:


Edit, with excerpt from the above-linked post

None of the conditions of play described here should be especially controversial, and while I’m sure a few people are lucky enough to have the resources for a Gygax style large group, long sessions and long campaigns, it seems obvious that it’s not the set of common conditions for contemporary play. Other's will simply deny that these conditions exist, preferring to insist that the strictures for design an the rulesets produced in the 1970's are perfect. However, for those who aren't drunk on nostalgia or who have schedules more demanding then a teenager a half century ago it's worth considering if the conditions they are likely to play in actively conflict with the design of the rules and especially the adventures produced to support the Classic play style.

It also seems to be an open question if Dungeons & Dragons was ever played in the long campaign arc, long session format that Gygax championed. The 1976 editorial referenced above is at least partially a response to and attack on the style of play described in Alarums & Excursions, Lee Gold’s magazine that at the time detailed the ways the community of Dungeons & Dragons players around CalTech understood and approached the game. The CalTech (also known as “Dungeons & Beavers” after the school’s mascot) approach would prove incredibly influential to later TSR design, and its emphasis on genre emulation, steep power curves, and player character primacy appear to be far more influential then the Lake Geneva emphasis on logistics and other war game sensibilities.
 
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Citizen Mane

The Kajamba Lion
I think this idea is interesting but sounds logistically challenging. I think some people have set up discord servers where they run open table play for very larger groups, but I'm not sure how this is working out. I would figure that the people with the most real world time to play games have the most advanced characters in these living worlds.
I think you have the right of things. I'm more interested in it as a way to capture a broader narrative with more scope, rather than as a way to run more frequently or for larger groups. I'm a little too old and a little too busy to get too crazy. And so are most of the people I'd play with.

That link is fantastic, by the way. Thank you for sharing!
 

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