Chapter 14:

Time and Movement

The passage of time in an AD&D campaign can have relatively minor or extremely significant effects on the play of the game. The importance of time is decided almost entirely by the DM. Some DMs care very little about strict timekeeping; others track every moment of action, using a rigid calendar. Either method is acceptable and each has its advantages and disadvantages. The two can even be combined, as appropriate to the situation.

Regardless of how time is handled, some timekeeping is unavoidable: Combats must be fought in rounds; spells have specific durations which become important as characters explore caverns and ancient ruins; days are used to measure overland travel; characters must sleep sometime.

However, most passing time occurs within a single adventure: Spells rarely carry over from adventure to adventure (unless the session is stopped with the characters lost in winding caverns or the like); rounds of combat, while taking several game minutes, don't affect or spill over into subsequent adventures; days of travel often have no effect other than healing and the consumption of supplies.

If the DM wants, this is the only sort of timekeeping required. Time passed in previous adventures has little or no effect on the current session—each session or adventure is distinct and separate. For example, in one adventure, the characters spend a few hours in the dungeon, get injured, have some success, and return wounded. The night's game session ends with them returning to their home base. Next game session, the DM announces, "A week or so has passed since you last went out. Everybody is healed and rested. People with spells can pick new ones." The DM has chosen not to worry about the passage of time in this instance. An entire campaign can be played this way.

Here's another example: In one adventure, a group of characters travels for three weeks and has several encounters, ending camped outside some ruins. The next session starts after the characters have camped for five days, so they can heal their wounds. Several hours pass as they explore the ruins, but no one is particularly hurt when they return to camp, and the game session ends.

The next session starts the morning after their previous adventure, everyone having gotten a good rest. The characters set out again. They spend a week on the road and arrive at a village. Here, the mage insists everyone wait while he researches a vital spell. Again, the game session ends. The next session begins two months later, after the mage has learned his spell and continues from there. Throughout all this, the DM is more or less winging it, estimating the time required and time spent.

There is nothing wrong with this method, nor is it particularly unrealistic. Medieval travelers often stopped at friendly or safe heavens for long periods while on their way to a final destination. There was little pressure to hurry.

Using this simple time-tracking approach frees the DM from many of the concerns of timekeeping and prevents some obstacles to the adventure from occurring. ("We can't go on an adventure! We're all hacked up and have to heal.") Most of all, it is easy.

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