“Game time is of utmost importance. Failure to keep careful track of time expenditure by player characters will result in many anomalies in the game. The stricture of time is what makes recovery of hit points meaningful. Likewise, the time spent adventuring in wilderness areas removes concerned characters from their bases of operations – be they rented chambers or battlemented strongholds. Certainly the most important time strictures pertains to the manufacturing of magic items, for during the period of such activity no adventuring can be done. Time is also considered in gaining levels and learning new languages and more. All of these demands upon game time force choices upon player characters and likewise number their days of game life…YOU CAN NOT HAVE A MEANINGFUL CAMPAIGN IF STRICT TIME RECORDS ARE NOT KEPT.” - Gary Gygax
I like this. I read it and I think "yeah, that's how I feel". But I've never done it. I've never done a lot of things that I want to do in campaigns. I think it's because I never know if they're going to last. I've only planned out one campaign (my campaign last summer) and it was some of the most fun I've had. I had a map, which is something I never do, and I mapped out dungeons, something I never really do. But I didn't track time. Only abstractly.
It's because I don't like difficulty. Or, I don't like the kind of difficulty that seems like ego-stroking. Like many dungeon master, I take pride in my world, but when I look at calendar systems that other DMs have made, they always make it complicated. They don't treat time like the tool that it is. It is only there to show the passage of time. It's a ruler laid under the campaign that shows progress and change. It should be THAT first, and then it can be used to add to the world, to the lore.
How to make it an easy tool though?
Just look at Stardew Valley. Sun-Sat, 4 weeks to a month, one month to a season. Simple. I'm sold already.
1. It's easy to understand and to grasp. Anyone can look at this and be like "okay, yeah, I get it."
2. It's easy to manipulate. You can make it 12 months like our year, you can switch it to two summer months, two winter months, keep the world in a perpetual spring, whatever.
3. It makes me think about tracking weather and stuff like that. Give each season a small table of weather with some results for wacky weather in each and you're done. Automate it with lastgasp's generators and you're ready to go with the click of a button.
4. There's a chance of making variable encounters based on weather/seasons. Maybe dragons sleep in the winter and the forest is safer then? Maybe manticores migrate in the spring and are extra horny so more likely to be vicious? Stuff of that sort.
5. It lets the party track their own time. Give them a blank map (or a map with some stuff on it, like festivals, migration dates, etc) and let them mark days off and write down special events of their own.
6. BIRTHDAYS! Let the party roll randomly (or just choose) their birthday on the calendar, and there will be a little sub-table of birthday surprises that can happen on that day. Things like: your mother sends you a plate of cookies and eating them heals 1d6 hp, you gain advantage on one roll today, for some reason you feel like you cannot die (if you were to drop to 0, drop to 1hp instead. Thinkg like that.
I'm going to start working on these things right now. So the next few posts will probably be the tables and weather and shit like that. Or maybe I'll finish my map. I'm excited for my map.