Lesson Learned: Strict Time Records are Crucial In High Level Original D&D

YOU CAN NOT HAVE A MEANINGFUL CAMPAIGN IF STRICT TIME RECORDS ARE NOT KEPT.”

Advanced Dungeon Master’s Guide Gary Gygax

Recently, I have become horribly disorganized and aware of time passage of my campaign in a only a coarse way. I think, we are 3 1/2 years from the beginning of the campaign, somewhere close to midwinter. For the first 50 sessions or so , I was on top of it. I had a calendar, tracking where the NPC’s were, what they were up to when they would complete certain activities etc. I got complacent eventually, and now, I’m a little lost. I have to tell you, if you intend to run a long term campaign lasting years or decades in game time and you expect your player characters will hit “name” level; Uncle Gary was right about this one. Keep good time records.

One of my challenges is that I play with adults and we all have a variety of responsibilities which don’t necessarily match up with our desire to play games every week. I built my campaign setting so that even if someone couldn’t show up, we still play and hand wave something the other character is up to. It doesn’t necessarily fit a continuity but we get to play more regularly that way and the players seem to be fine with it. When I was on top of it, I was marking down time that passed in game so that I could take into account what the character was doing and what the outcome of their activities were. We’ve had characters training the troops, going on diplomatic missions, reading/studying texts, communing with the Chaos gods, carousing and similar events.

With high level characters this has gotten much harder to manage without “strict time records.” Due to a variety of real life disruptions, we’ve been missing players regularly. The characters are travelling all over the campaign map utilizing their pet roc, flying carpets, teleport, portals and into the plane of Limbo through the Hall of Infinite Doors. Weeks or even months will pass in game time in a single session. Matching up what the characters of an absent player gets accomplished with research, inscribing scrolls, or training troops has gotten far more complicated. The characters can travel long distances without opposition in certain parts of the map. Mainly because they’ve spent the past two years (game time) systematically wiping out the opposition to their rule in the civilized lands.

The PC’s do a fair amount of travel to meet with allies, gather information and negotiate deals. I could create artificial constraints like video games do. I could keep them in one spot longer by creating problems they have to respond to with negative incentives like loss of trade revenue. I’m resistant to both of those solutions because one of my personal principles is not to limit the powers or activities of high level characters because it’s convenient for me. One of the cool parts of getting a character to high level is that they can do stuff that they couldn’t do before. It seems not fun to limit characters because I struggle to keep track of things.

No, I’m just going to re-establish my time tracking and do my best to stay on top of it.

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