Night and Day

Turns are very abstract, which is terrific. But what do you individual GMs do when tracking time becomes important?

I’m about to run a game that is somewhat vampire-heavy, and I would like to have daylight as a managed resource alongside turns. This probably isn’t appropriate for all campaigns, but I would love to instill a little paranoia about the sun slipping below the horizon.

My plan is to give 12 turns of daylight and 12 turns of night. Time continues to pass during camp – each check spent in camp advances the chronometer by one turn.

Camping does not automatically reset the chronometer. If the players wish to wait for more suitable light, they can make a Scout test to “keep watch”, either with a check during camp or a turn on the grind. Success will advance the time to daybreak or nightfall, as the player desires. The more turns you wish to wait, the higher the obstacle.

How would you interact with such a system? What would your strategy be? Do you see any weirdness or interactions with other rules I may have overlooked?

Beyond that, what strategies do you all have for managing time in your games?

Oh, and for those of you with lycanthropes on the brain, you can apply the same logic to Town Phases and the Moon.

The order of phases is: New, Waxing Crescent, Waxing Gibbous, Full, Waning Gibbous, Waning Crescent, New.

Full and Gibbous moons provide ambient Dim light.

Each full adventure (not adventure phase) advances the moon phase by two on the cycle. Entering town advances the moon phase by one, or by two if any one party member has a lifestyle cost of four or greater.

Moonlight interacts with some druid spells and abilities, and in a big way with the Skinchanger class.

I’d shorten your day/night cycle (6-8 depending on the season).

Or use camp phases to track the day/night cycle (one camp phase = 4-8 hours).

Have you got a specific reasoning behind shortening the cycle? If so, I’d be eager to hear it. I should also mention that I have a largish group for this experiment, so it would be nice if several different people could take the lead on an action in a single day.

This is how we treat it now, more or less, and it works well enough. But for a special vampire themed game I want to remove some of the control that this gives to players. Especially because vampires are significantly weakened during the day, I want the players to be responsible for timing on the same level as they are responsible for managing the Fresh condition through camps. I want them to game it, and I want that game to be a little challenging.

I did lots of math and ultimately gave up. Short version: it takes 3 days to die from lack of water. After 28 turns, a character will die without removing the hungry and thirsty condition or camping. So about 9.3 turns per 24-hour period. If sunset to sunrise is 12 hours, that’s 4.65 turns. I’d err on the side of more turns, so 6-8.

I would be interested to hear how this works out. I like the idea of Twists “burning daylight” by introducing complications that require tests to solve. Meanwhile you know the vampires are rousing in their caskets.

As a player I would be more judicious about burning turns to get to Camp phase. As in, "It’s turn 9, what should we do before we camp at turn 12?

In theory this sounds great for a Ravenloft-esque goth setting.

Well, we just played for three days straight, and the rule worked out pretty well! Much of the time people were underground and fighting things other than vampires, but it was actually trivially easy to count up the turns and find out where the sun was – we keep a record of all rolls anyway.

The final rule that we ran with was this:

12 rolls for day, 12 rolls for night. (We might play with seasons some day). Play starts at sunrise, (6am).

Each roll on the grind advances the clock by 1. Each check in camp advances the clock by 3.

Fast travel with cartography advances the clock by 1+, GM’s discretion.

A Scout test can be used to advance the time, every three hours raises the Ob by 1.

Camping does not reset the clock, but a Town phase does.

I’m glad it worked out but this one seems really odd to me. My first thought would have been “camp is +8, modifiable by Scout test”. I’ve had players camp with 6+ checks, which would be 18+ hours. Anything that encourages players to not spend all their checks in camp feels off… and gaming how many you spend seems pretty important sometimes.

Why couldn’t significant time be the resulting twist for a failure? “You want to decipher this magical book you just found? Ok, test arcana, on a failure you lose track of time and it becomes dusk by the time you are done.”

I’m not sure how I feel about the clock as it kind of goes against the spirit of the rules (tracking literal turns) and most of those ticks of the clock are meaningless, which means nothing significant happens on a Roll and it also seems to put to much control of the clock in the hands of the players.

I see the potential for something cool, but I wonder if it might be better abstracted within the rules somehow instead of defaulting to a literal clock. Like, maybe when someone gets the “afraid” condition that triggers nightfall or something.

I would also be inclined to trigger dusk automatically whenever camp is made as well, so then any twists in camp could relate to the vampires.

I forgot to mention that you can stop the clock after 12 hours in camp no matter how many checks you use. I forgot it because it never came up!

I wanted earning a check to be a bit more of a boon when camping at night, and to discourage camping during the day a little bit.

This might need a little more development, but in practice it certainly felt right. Although I’m the first to admit we didn’t push it, so no weirdness was encountered.

Only if the twist requires another roll. The act of losing a backpack takes no time at all. The act of tracking down a lost backpack does, however. The example you gave above wouldn’t work as a twist for me since it implies success – I might consider advancing the clock more as part of a conditional success but that seems counter to the rules too.

I had the same reservations about the spirit of the rule. In practice, it worked pretty well, though. All it did was remove the arbitrary GM-decides nature of time and replace that with something the players could predict. I definitely don’t recommend it for every game, but I will probably use it as a guideline for situations where I want nightfall to be ominous.

The other thing about this method is that it helps to remind me to embrace Good Ideas. I started to think about the tests = hours exchange rate, which made me slightly less likely to call for another roll before an hour’s worth of stuff was done. Ideally, we’re all embracing Good Ideas as much as possible, but I did actually feel pressure from the timekeeping, which I think is a good thing.

When GMing without timekeeping, I tend not to associate camp with a full night. If the players only spend one or two camps, I consider it a short break. I only use nighttime if it suits the atmosphere of the adventure at that time. Adding sleep into the description – especially if nobody is recovering from a major condition – can trivialize the menace of a smaller dungeon.