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%

It's the most nail-biting shopping scenario you'll ever experience. I ran half a dozen groups through that one and almost all of them failed due to poor time management.
Im dying laughing at this because it reminded me of an old 1990s episode of supermarket sweep. The winning contestant at the end is getting all hyped up for the final Super Sweep, clock starts, 5 seconds in they're running with their cart and crash and burn into the canned green beans and are left rolling around on the floor of the aisle while time runs out before they can get up. I wish I could find the video its hilarious.
 

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Mort

Legend
Supporter
Lack of time pressure is how you get (most) complaints on 5e being "easy mode."

If the players are fully allowed to dictate the pace of play then the DM is going to have to absurdly over CR every encounter to provide any kind of real challenge
 

CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
Lack of time pressure is how you get (most) complaints on 5e being "easy mode."

If the players are fully allowed to dictate the pace of play then the DM is going to have to absurdly over CR every encounter to provide any kind of real challenge
That is also a good point.
 

ad_hoc

(he/they)
I am assuming an in-game ticking clock. Solve X puzzle within a time frame... or rescue Y before dawn on the 5th day etc...

Most general adventures won't have a time limit per se. The adventure just takes as long as it takes. My 1e group is exploring an underground complex, for instance, and there's no rush or imperative. They go in, explore, map, etc... retreat to their camp to rest and plan the next day's exploration. Classic expedition style.

If you're referring to an IRL time frame, well, yes, we usually schedule our games around a 4 hour session.

I don't mean a literal countdown. I mean, time pressure.

I've played dungeon expeditions and they all had time pressure. All 5e published adventures have time pressure.

The most classic and famous time pressure mechanic in D&D is the random encounter.

I guess I just don't see the thrill of it. In my game I would just hand wave that and tell the players they successfully looted the place.
 


Mort

Legend
Supporter
Not following you, how so?

Most adventures have a "roll every X minutes (or whatever) to see if a random encounter happens."

Since random encounters take up party resources and can disrupt rests - they impose time pressure on the party to move along rather than just linger around forever.
 



Most adventures have a "roll every X minutes (or whatever) to see if a random encounter happens."

Since random encounters take up party resources and can disrupt rests - they impose time pressure on the party to move along rather than just linger around forever.
True, now I understand. That pretty much keeps the party moving constantly if the players are constantly worried about a possible random encounter showing up within 5-10 minutes of them beginning to explore an area or situation. I don't use them anymore except for very rare occasions.
 

CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
I remember running the original Freeport trilogy. At least 2 of them had a time limit, which I thought was very effective at enforcing resource management, and led to some really tense fights.
In my experience, it's that whole "enforced resource management" part that some folks struggle with. Most are happy to have "really tense fights," but only if they can also have infinite arrows and bottomless lunchboxes...
 

ad_hoc

(he/they)
True, now I understand. That pretty much keeps the party moving constantly if the players are constantly worried about a possible random encounter showing up within 5-10 minutes of them beginning to explore an area or situation. I don't use them anymore except for very rare occasions.

I love random encounters but don't use the generation of them based on lingering around very often either.

I was just responding to someone who cited classic dungeon crawls as D&D without time pressure which was just not how they were typically designed.
 

ad_hoc

(he/they)
In my experience, it's that whole "enforced resource management" part that some folks struggle with. Most are happy to have "really tense fights," but only if they can also have infinite arrows and bottomless lunchboxes...

And that amounts to either an illusion of a tense fight or a TPK around the corner.

If the party "barely" wins all fights then that's just the DM making it look that way.
 

Mort

Legend
Supporter
And that amounts to either an illusion of a tense fight or a TPK around the corner.

If the party "barely" wins all fights then that's just the DM making it look that way.

Always reminds me of the poker saying "everytime but once.." (Referring how going all in works every time... but once.)

If the group is REALLY barely winning their fights then at some point they won't and it will be a TPK or near TPK.

This is especially likely if the DM is overclocking the CRs by a whole bunch - at some point a monster or monster(s) will overwhelm the party unless the DM does something to intervene (and then we are right back to illusionism etc. again).
 

I agree and I've tried the same with various groups of players, and I usually get the same response either outright or passively. They just aren't invested enough to put the time in.

Then they're going to be taking the Dodge action a lot on their turns when the 6 second countdown ends.

I get that there are casual gamers that cant be bothered learning the rules of the game they're playing, but they can find a different table. Im not going to bother putting in hours of prep work every week for someone who cant be bothered learning the basic rules of how their class operates.

If you dont know how Action surge, your spells or Cunning action works after 3rd level, you're either not very bright (they're not that hard) or you havent been bothered reading the rules for your own class.

Particularly after I've explained to them a few times how it works, and given them a warning that if they dont learn it themselves, they will find their character paralyzed with indecision and standing there not doing much.

I always prefer the carrot to the stick when teaching the game to players (and that's one of the DMs roles) but sometimes you've gotta use tough love to get the message across.
 

All of my adventures and campaigns have time pressure of various forms, so it's normal in my games. I think overall the game works better when different time pressures are in effect. This may be in the form of events that occur at a specific point, day, or time or something like wandering monster checks at regular intervals. These create a sense of urgency and present the players with meaningful choices to make with their resource of time relative to their other resources. To my mind, the more meaningful choices the players have to make per unit of real time, the more engaged they become with the game.
This is similar to my approach as well. There is very often some type of time pressure, to discourage the 5-minute workday and give more power to fighters and rogues that are less rest dependent.

The manner of time pressure varies greatly from adventure to adventure, and a lot of them are not fixed. Enemies have some way to attack you in your dreams if you long rest, you are subject to a creeping curse, ritual at midnight, flooding dungeon, rival parties, or your goal is to save hostages and you don’t know how long they will be kept alive.
 
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I can definitely see old ruined keeps taken over by monsters, or keeps in very good condition that are currently upkept. Having hundreds of them around tho, starts to stretch the imagination. Which is why I like wilderness, urban, and dimensional. Spice it up and get creative!
Haha! This was one of the issues I had with our game of Abomination Vaults! The dungeon is a 15 min walk from a town, and no one has cleared out the treasure in the X years it’s been there.
 

Oofta

Legend
I am assuming an in-game ticking clock. Solve X puzzle within a time frame... or rescue Y before dawn on the 5th day etc...

Most general adventures won't have a time limit per se. The adventure just takes as long as it takes. My 1e group is exploring an underground complex, for instance, and there's no rush or imperative. They go in, explore, map, etc... retreat to their camp to rest and plan the next day's exploration. Classic expedition style.

If you're referring to an IRL time frame, well, yes, we usually schedule our games around a 4 hour session.
I get that this is a classic play style, but it never made sense to me. Someone is raiding your home, or your neighbor's homes days on end and you do nothing to stop it? Even if you aren't very fond of your neighbor, after a while you're going to set up blockades and a neighborhood watch, the enemy of my enemy is my friend after all.

If someone tries the "raid, retreat, rest, repeat" cycle it might work a couple of times. After that the delve (if I still did those, I don't) would get harder and harder with ambushes, prepared defenses, enemies organized specifically to counter the PCs as they've now figured out the pattern. That or a contingent of the enemy would track them back to camp and ambush in the middle of the night.

Enemies aren't locked in stasis waiting to be triggered. If Grung doesn't return from patrol, someone will notice. It would be different if Bob didn't return from patrol, then there would be a celebration because nobody liked Bob anyway. But Grung? A little stinky (and who isn't?) but otherwise a solid guy. :)
 

Musing Mage

Pondering D&D stuff
I get that this is a classic play style, but it never made sense to me. Someone is raiding your home, or your neighbor's homes days on end and you do nothing to stop it? Even if you aren't very fond of your neighbor, after a while you're going to set up blockades and a neighborhood watch, the enemy of my enemy is my friend after all.

If someone tries the "raid, retreat, rest, repeat" cycle it might work a couple of times. After that the delve (if I still did those, I don't) would get harder and harder with ambushes, prepared defenses, enemies organized specifically to counter the PCs as they've now figured out the pattern. That or a contingent of the enemy would track them back to camp and ambush in the middle of the night.

Enemies aren't locked in stasis waiting to be triggered. If Grung doesn't return from patrol, someone will notice. It would be different if Bob didn't return from patrol, then there would be a celebration because nobody liked Bob anyway. But Grung? A little stinky (and who isn't?) but otherwise a solid guy. :)

I was keeping it simple for the purpose of brevity. Things are a'happening within context (for instance on the last excursion the group found that their exit was sealed off by the residents. I was simply alluding to the fact that there's no baked in plot-based ticking clock.

Time passage is a thing, naturally, as are the responses to player actions.
 
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tetrasodium

Legend
Supporter
I think the poll's wording is a bit push poll-like to gravitate towards the last four options by making the others seem rather combative & leaving out the mechanics driven methods.

The rest & recovery rules in 5e are setup in a way that is both extremely fast and generous when it comes to how low can the bar be when it comes to a suitable spot to rest. That combo results in extremes of "yea there's a clock, but it doesn't really matter cause we have plenty of time" or a contrived feeling "sonicthenesong:gottagofastfastfastfaster" with almost o room for grey area between the two. At one end the gm sees players totally ignore the not at all pressuring time pressure & at the other end players feel frustrated by a contrived metagame level time pressure they feel justified in looking for loopholes to fight against it.
 

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