Detailed Timekeeping

As noted, however, there are disadvantages to such simple time-tracking. Problems become more pronounced as the characters advance in level, your campaign world becomes larger, and more players take part in your game.

At low levels, characters tend to go on short adventures. A few hours in the dungeon followed by a speedy return is about all they can survive. Therefore, it is easy to have a week's interval within adventures, since the time passed does not impact on the characters' activities. As characters reach higher levels, however, their ambitions grow and their adventures become longer. More precise time-tracking proves useful.

More precise methods can become unworkable, however, when player characters split into small groups, undertaking separate, simultaneous adventures. If one group sets out on a long journey while the rest of the party stays in the city, their game sessions are going to be at very different time scales.

In their first session, the city dwellers may go on a short dungeon expedition. Several hours of game time (the amount of imaginary time spent on the adventure) pass. The DM then has a session with the travelers, and they spend three weeks of game time in the wilderness during their game. There is now a game time difference between the two groups of three weeks minus one day!

If the travelers return to the city at the end of their adventure, the group in town must suddenly be moved forward in time to catch up with them if both groups wish to adventure together. Fortunately, this is not a great problem. The DM can simply say, "Three weeks have passed and you are all reunited again."

The city adventurers can spend those three weeks doing background work--training, researching spells, making a minor magic item, building a house, etc. This is a good use of free time. However, if one of the city characters decides to join the travellers (perhaps using a teleport spell to catch up with them suddenly), the three-week difference becomes a problem. Was that character actually with the traveling group for three weeks without doing anything? Must he wait for three weeks before he can join them? What if the other characters in town want to adventure more during that time? At this point, keeping track of time (or having the players do it) becomes pretty important.

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