Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Time, Travel, and Exploration

One of the most ignored and overlooked aspects of original Dungeons & Dragons (besides encumbrance) is the emphasis on time, traveling and exploration.

Yet, as Davis Bowman points out, these are indelible elements of the game, linked to other parts in an organic system; taking away one part wrecks the whole.

Consider: the amount of time one spends in the underground (or dungeon, or place of mystery, or mythic underworld) is directly proportional to the amount of wandering encounters a party must engage in.

(Theory interlude begins.) The conventional Narrativist argument against wandering monsters is that it disrupts any sort of story that you, as game master (storyteller, referee, DM, etc.), wish to tell. But if we assume that narrative arises from play, rather than being imposed on play by the referee, a different paradigm emerges where focus and economy in exploration of the dungeon rewards players for clever, quick and strategic play. This can be certainly called Gamist, and strictly speaking it is, but if we assume that narrative arises from play then the nature of that narrative is substantially up to the players and is entirely dependent on their style of play, which they have the freedom of choice to determine as they go along. That’s the freedom of the ‘sandbox’ style, in a nutshell. If the players want nothing to do with dungeons, then there are countless other activities they and the referee can engage, so long as all are willing. (Theory interlude ends.)

So the quicker you make it through the dungeon to get your rewards, the less danger you are exposed to. This is why gp translates into xp, and in fact provides the lion’s share of xp in an old-school game. The point is to get the reward and get out, while being exposed to danger for as little time as possible.

You can’t properly have this work in the game unless you keep strict track of time, which requires rules for movement and time spent for activities in the dungeon. Hence the following rules, which are adapted from a number of sources, including Dave Bowman’s PDF on time, Labyrinth Lord (which are derived from the Basic/Expert D&D rules) and Swords & Wizardry, a retro clone of original D&D.

Time and Travel

Each day, the party may spend up to ten hours in travel or exploration. This is usually broken up into the following schedule:

7:00 – 8:00 AM Strike camp/break fast

8:00 – 12:00 Travel or exploration

12:00 – 1:00 Break for lunch

1:00 – 5:00 Travel or exploration

5:00 – 7:00 Set-up camp/dinner

7:00 – 11:00 1st Watch

11:00 – 3:00 2nd Watch

3:00 – 7:00 3rd Watch

Failure to take a rest after 4 hours of travel results in a -1 penalty on all rolls until next rest, cumulative.

Each day one person consumes one day’s rations or fresh food, one skin of water, and requires eight hours of sleep. Failure to fulfill one of these needs results in a penalty of -1 to Con, cumulative, for the next 24 hours or until the need is met.

Each day of travel & exploration, your party may take one of the following options:

· Travel for a number of miles based on his or her encumbrance, modified by terrain.

o Scavenge for food while you travel. Roll 1d6. On a 1, you find 1d6 days with of food.

· Explore a five mile hex completely (i.e. get the Grand Tactical map for it).

· Hunt for food with no travel. Roll 1d6. On a 1, you find 2d6 days worth of food.

· Search a hex for a specific place based on a rumor, directions or treasure map.

· Restock and rest at a center of civilization like a citadel or village.

· In a city, take a city turn.

In the underworld, time is broken up into turns, which are ten minutes in length. Each turn, you may do one of the following:

· Travel 120’, modified by encumbrance, while mapping.

· Search a 10’ by 10’ area for traps or secret doors.

· Engage in one combat and clean-up.

· Run 120’ for up to five rounds, modified by encumbrance, and then rest for the balance of the turn.

You must rest once every six turns or gain a -1 penalty on all rolls until next rest, cumulative.

Remember, as referee, the standard check for wandering monsters is made every six turns of exploration, with additional checks for combat, loud noises made by the party, etc. In addition, the party must rest one turn out of every six. I have abstracted the amount of time for some common occurrences, such as combat and running away, in order to make time keeping easier. A single page chart summaries underworld movement thusly:

Underworld Time Track

7:00 – 8:00 AM Strike camp/break fast

8:00 – 12:00 Travel or exploration

8:00 __ __ __ __ __ R WM Check □ 1 - 2 (d6)

9:00 __ __ __ __ __ R WM Check □ 1 - 2 (d6)

10:00 __ __ __ __ __ R WM Check □ 1 - 2 (d6)

11:00 __ __ __ __ __ R WM Check □ 1 - 2 (d6)

12:00 – 1:00 Break for lunch

1:00 – 5:00 Travel or exploration

1:00 __ __ __ __ __ R WM Check □ 1 - 2 (d6)

2:00 __ __ __ __ __ R WM Check □ 1 - 2 (d6)

3:00 __ __ __ __ __ R WM Check □ 1 - 2 (d6)

4:00 __ __ __ __ __ R WM Check □ 1 - 2 (d6)

5:00 – 7:00 Set-up camp/dinner

Nightly WM Check □ 1 - 2 (d6)

(Conduct once a night, then roll 1d6 to find the watch it occurred on)

7:00 – 11:00 1st Watch 1 - 2

11:00 – 3:00 2nd Watch 3 - 4

3:00 – 7:00 3rd Watch 5 - 6

Codes: E = Explore S = Search C = Combat and Recover R = Rest N = Negotiate

Enter a code in the line corresponding the activity conducted by the party, and you easily have a mini-record of the exploration conducted by the party for each day.

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