D&D General Time Pressure and Adventures

Your DM says that tonight's adventure has a time limit. What's your first reaction?

  • Personally offended ("Okay first of all, how dare you?")

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Negative ("Ugh, boring. Nobody wants to watch their resources so closely.")

    Votes: 1 1.7%
  • Completely uninterested ("Gosh, look at the time, I forgot I had to go to a thing. See ya'll next w

    Votes: 2 3.4%
  • Combative (Argument after argument, hoping to wear the DM down and force them to change their mind

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Inflexible ("Whatever, we do what we want. If we fail, it's the DM's fault for imposing a time limi

    Votes: 1 1.7%
  • Indifferent ("Sounds good. I'll go load up on potions and coffee, and meet back here.")

    Votes: 13 22.0%
  • Positive ("It's a puzzle! So first, we need to prioritize stealth and save resources. If we...")

    Votes: 24 40.7%
  • Enthusiastic ("HECK YEAH! Right to the point, no dilly-dallying around! Let's move, team!!!")

    Votes: 15 25.4%
  • Other (allow me to explain)

    Votes: 3 5.1%

CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
However... if the DM starts to apply time constraints to players, with shenanigans like countdown timers in the middle of the table, I will play along but probably leave the group after the session.
Oh yeah, absolutely. I once suffered through a gaming session where the DM used an egg timer to "help speed up combat." When your turn came up in initiative, you had 60 seconds to call your actions and make your rolls, otherwise you were skipped, or your spell fizzled, or whatever else you were trying to do didn't happen. (And to make matters worse, we were using Pathfinder rules, so there were fifteen thousand different kinds of actions to consider.)

I said that I "suffered through a gaming session," but there was a mutiny after the first or second battle and we all threatened to walk if the DM didn't lose that timer.

Time pressure on the characters and the adventure? Absolutely yes.
Time pressure on the players and the gameplay? Absolutely not.
 
Last edited:

log in or register to remove this ad

BookTenTiger

He / Him
I want to post separately about ticking clock campaigns.

I like ticking clock adventures.

I really strongly dislike ticking clock campaigns.

D&D has so much fun stuff you can do with time. Crafting, carousing, exploring... Gaining allies, seeking treasures...

I've had DMs who always use a "the world is going to end in three months unless you do x y and z" plots, and I'm burnt out on them. I want time to explore town, invest in a business, and see what's haunting the forest! Feel free to put time limits on adventures, but let me breathe in a campaign!
 

Jer

Legend
Supporter
Oh yeah, absolutely. I once suffered through a gaming session where the DM used an egg timer to "help speed up combat." When your turn came up in initiative, you had 60 seconds to call your actions and make your rolls, otherwise you were skipped, or your spell fizzled, or whatever else you were trying to do didn't happen.
I swear that I remember this being DMing advice from my youth that was in Dragon magazine or some similar source. Lots of folks really worried about players spending too long figuring out what they were going to do on a turn. I didn't run into this issue myself until 3e, when the number of choices a player could make really increased as they leveled up, and even then I never thought to put the players on a timer - that only would have made it worse!
 

payn

Legend
Oh yeah, absolutely. I once suffered through a gaming session where the DM used an egg timer to "help speed up combat." When your turn came up in initiative, you had 60 seconds to call your actions and make your rolls, otherwise you were skipped, or your spell fizzled, or whatever else you were trying to do didn't happen. (And to make matters worse, we were using Pathfinder rules, so there were fifteen thousand different kinds of actions to consider.)

I said that I "suffered through a gaming session," but there was a mutiny after the first or second battle and we all threatened to walk if the DM didn't lose that timer.

Time pressure on the characters and the adventure? Absolutely yes.
Time pressure on the players and the game? Absolutely not.
lol, love it. I used to have the players keep track of initiative but found out a couple things. Some dont want that work at all. The ones who really like doing it, suck badly at it. So, I took it back as GM. VTT actually does a fine job of helping out these days!
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
While I don’t think every adventure needs a Ticking Clock (tm), I do think that the game functions best when time is a valuable resource. Whether that be because the dark ritual is going to be completed in X hours if you don’t stop it in time, or simply because there’s a check for wandering monsters every hour, it’s best that the adventurers not have the luxury of being able to loligag without any pressure. So, if the DM announces that this next adventure has a ticking clock? I’m happy about it.
 

However... if the DM starts to apply time constraints to players, with shenanigans like countdown timers in the middle of the table, I will play along but probably leave the group after the session
I said that I "suffered through a gaming session," but there was a mutiny after the first or second battle and we all threatened to walk if the DM didn't lose that timer.
Addmidedly Ive tried this stunt with little to no success but it was more in an attempt to keep people engaged and thinking about their next moves rather that being a dicktator. As long as people started declaring an action within that 60-90 seconds that was enough for me. Keeping with the theme of being under a time limit, I never liked when players analyzed every possible thing they could do before deciding on an action. Combat or stressful situations are stressful and fluid, you dont have the luxury to consider every outcome of every possible action so I think the game should flow like that to an extent. Regardless I abandoned the sand timer and eventually replaced it with a gavel at the table. 🤣
 

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
I personally find an adventure where time is not of the essence, to be not only boring but also frankly lazy and unrealistic.

Sure, but there is a HUGE difference in the time pressures Frodo and Company had (Sauron was not going to take over and destroy anything tomorrow - in fact the timeline was a mystery and up in the air a lot of the time) and Luke needing to destroy the Death Star before Yavin is in range and it destroys the planet and the rebellion.

In the former, there can be long swathes of time that have no particular immediate pressure (they spend a month in Lothlorien!) over the course of a campaign with a vague time limit (that can become immediate if the One Ring is lost to Sauron's forces) while in the latter it is a specific scene with a time pressure
 

CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
The poll results are a lot more positive overall than I expected. I must have spent too much time in those threads about Long Rests and the Optional Gritty Rules.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
I think one important factor of a ticking clock adventure is clear consequences.

If the consequence of not completing the goal in time is out-and-out failure... Well to be honest I don't find that as fun.

If the consequence of not completing the goal in time is a loss of reputation, the treasure hoard being cut in half, losing some hostages, the villain gaining more power... That kind of stuff is fun!

All in all, though, I want a DM to be clear about what the consequences are. It wouldn't be fun to arrive at the dragon's hoard and the cave is empty, and for the DM to announce, "During your week of downtime the dragon took the treasure and flew away."
Yes, making the stakes clear as to what the time pressure is and what happens on success and failure is important so the players can make reasonably informed decisions. It also removes any potential "gotchas" from the situation should they fall short of achieving success.
 

payn

Legend
Yes, making the stakes clear as to what the time pressure is and what happens on success and failure is important so the players can make reasonably informed decisions. It also removes any potential "gotchas" from the situation should they fall short of achieving success.
As GM, I will discuss this with players. I often frame it maybe terms. Maybe, the fleeing bandits are gone for good? Maybe, the fleeing bandits will be a problem tomorrow? Maybe, the fleeing bandits will regroup and be a problem in the next few hours? They can deduct the likelihood of any outcome and then make their decision. Also as GM, I do not make every decision screw the players over. That just forces their hand in a different way.
 

Hex08

Adventurer
I chose positive. I wouldn't want every adventure to be that was but it's fine as an adventure hook. If the bad guy kidnaps the princess and demands a ransom he's probably not going to say "Get me the gold whenever it's convenient for you".

Changing adventures up a bit should make for a more interesting campaign.
 

Sure, but there is a HUGE difference in the time pressures Frodo and Company had (Sauron was not going to take over and destroy anything tomorrow

Hey guys (ignores Balrog chasing them). Lets long rest!

Pick an action, sci-fi, rom-com or any other movie. There is always a temporal pressure, where the protagonists cant just chill out and take their time. There is always a ticking time bomb (often literally), a girl to confess your love to before she flies out of the airport for good, a loved one to rescue from the BBEG, a terrorist or nemesis with an evil plan to foil etc.

Star Wars has them all throughout as already shown. Evacuate the Rebel fleet, blow up/ escape the Death Star. Rescue Leia and Han etc. Action movies have them (can Matrix save his daughter before the evil dictator realises he's not on the plane), Superhero flicks have them (can the Heroes stop Thanos before he gets the Infinity stones and wreaks havoc; can Batman stop the Joker before his girlfriend gets blown up in the death trap, or detonates the bombs on the ferry etc).

Our protagonists never have all the time in the world to thwart the antagonist, and it's usually down to the final seconds of the ticking bomb, or just as Yavin 4 comes into range of the Superlaser that they prevail. That's what drives the story forward, and gives the climactic victory its tension, desperation, and pay off for the hero and the audience.

Why should your DnD stories be any different?

A quest where I could just wander off for a few days and it doesnt matter, doesnt matter.
 


Oh yeah, absolutely. I once suffered through a gaming session where the DM used an egg timer to "help speed up combat." When your turn came up in initiative, you had 60 seconds to call your actions and make your rolls, otherwise you were skipped, or your spell fizzled, or whatever else you were trying to do didn't happen.

You were lucky. I give my players around 6 seconds to tell me what their PC is doing, or they take the Dodge action, and their turn ends.

On a related note, my players are never on their phones at my table, and watch battles intently, using time between turns to discuss future actions and organically plan as the battle unfolds.
 

J.Quondam

CR 1/8
Hey guys (ignores Balrog chasing them). Lets long rest!
6bresp.jpg
 

You were lucky. I give my players around 6 seconds to tell me what their PC is doing, or they take the Dodge action, and their turn ends.

On a related note, my players are never on their phones at my table, and watch battles intently, using time between turns to discuss future actions and organically plan as the battle unfolds.
I wish I could get that type of commitment out of my players sometimes.
 

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
Hey guys (ignores Balrog chasing them). Lets long rest!

Pick an action, sci-fi, rom-com or any other movie. There is always a temporal pressure, where the protagonists cant just chill out and take their time. There is always a ticking time bomb (often literally), a girl to confess your love to before she flies out of the airport for good, a loved one to rescue from the BBEG, a terrorist or nemesis with an evil plan to foil etc.

Star Wars has them all throughout as already shown. Evacuate the Rebel fleet, blow up/ escape the Death Star. Rescue Leia and Han etc. Action movies have them (can Matrix save his daughter before the evil dictator realises he's not on the plane), Superhero flicks have them (can the Heroes stop Thanos before he gets the Infinity stones and wreaks havoc; can Batman stop the Joker before his girlfriend gets blown up in the death trap, or detonates the bombs on the ferry etc).

Our protagonists never have all the time in the world to thwart the antagonist, and it's usually down to the final seconds of the ticking bomb, or just as Yavin 4 comes into range of the Superlaser that they prevail. That's what drives the story forward, and gives the climactic victory its tension, desperation, and pay off for the hero and the audience.

Why should your DnD stories be any different?

A quest where I could just wander off for a few days and it doesnt matter, doesnt matter.

Okay, but this just repeats what you said and doesn't actually address the differences and distinctions of different kinds of time pressures (or occasional relief from them) that exist in those stories. Let's put it this way. At the beginning of Star Wars, Luke and Obi-Wan don't even know there is a time pressure but later there are different degrees of time pressure (or not) throughout.

So while I agree with you that time pressures are a useful tool, "all time pressures all the time" doesn't actually provide any sense of the nuance in how they are put to use (or not).
 

Mezuka

Hero
I'm on board with playing on a clock once in a while.

We even did 'real time' clock once. Three hours to play Tower of Inverness in the RPGA tournament style. Talking outside character also removes time from the clock. It never gets stopped, not even for going to the bathroom. The DM had an old clock with two bells ticking away in front of his screen. It was pretty stressful but overall I enjoyed it.
 

Okay, but this just repeats what you said and doesn't actually address the differences and distinctions of different kinds of time pressures (or occasional relief from them) that exist in those stories. Let's put it this way. At the beginning of Star Wars, Luke and Obi-Wan don't even know there is a time pressure but later there are different degrees of time pressure (or not) throughout.

Yeah, just like there is no time pressure at the start of an adventure when you're in town relaxing, but then comes the hook, enter the antagonist, and the race against time to stop them.

Name me a single Superhero, Action, Fantasy or Sci Fi movie where the protagonists just meander about, free from temporal constraints, free to do what they want.

The Heroes are always in a race against time, trying to foil the villains evil plan.

So while I agree with you that time pressures are a useful tool, "all time pressures all the time" doesn't actually provide any sense of the nuance in how they are put to use (or not).

No, that's self evidently not true. They're as nuanced as you make them. 'Lack of nuance' is not an inherent property of a temporal constraint.
 


Dungeon Delver's Guide

An Advertisement

Advertisement4

Top