Time in D&D

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on April 7, 2010

Raise your hand if you’ve ever created a level 1 PC, entered a dungeon, killed a bunch of monsters, gained a bunch of levels while still inside the dungeon and then realized that only a few weeks of actual in-game time passed when you emerge. I know I’m not the only one reading this that has his hand up.

Time in D&D is an aspect of the game I find is overlooked way too often. Tracking time in your game may not be that big a deal, but the longer you continue playing that same PC the more important time becomes.

So just how long does it take to go from level 1 to level 2? In 4e D&D it takes about 10-13 encounters or about four gaming sessions. But what I really want to know is how much time passes in-game between levels?

I think it’s safe to say that for most campaigns, the PCs are likely to take some time off between adventures. But that’s not always the case. The last two campaigns that I’veparticipated in (one as a player and one as a DM) both involve some pretty controlled timelines. If the PCs didn’t accomplish their goals by a set deadline then bad things happened. This motivated everyone to complete the quest as quickly as possible.

In the case of my last campaign the PCs began at level 1 and reached level 11 after only about 1 year of in-game time. So that naive 19-year-old adventurer (and all of his travelling companions) who weren’t anything special when we started became the richest and most powerful heroes in the land before reaching their 21st birthdays. That just doesn’t seem right to me.

As I thought more about this issue, I remembered that in Advanced D&D PCs didn’t just level when they hit the requisite XP. They had to spend time (in-game) and money before they could level. Here’s what I found in the Dungeon Masters Guide (written by Gary Gygax himself).

Experience points are merely an indicator of the character’s progress towards greater proficiency in his chosen profession. Upward progress is never automatic. The gaining of sufficient experience points is necessary to indicate that a character is eligible to gain a level or experience, but the actual award is a matter for the DM.

The character must spend [weeks] in study and/or training before he can actually gain the benefits of the new level.

All training/study is recorded in game time. The period must be uninterrupted and continuous. He cannot engage in adventuring, travel, magic research of any nature, atonement, etc.

Once a character has points which are equal to or greater than the minimum number necessary to move upward in experience level, no further experience points can be gained until the character actually gains the new level.

So what this boils down to is that if a PC enters a dungeon as a level 1 PC, regardless of how much XP he actually earns during the dungeon crawl, he cannot advance to level 2 until he’s spent weeks in training. That is, according to the old school rules.

Now I’m the first to admit that a lot has changed between editions. Just because this is how things worked in the early editions of D&D doesn’t mean that they’re going to work for the current edition. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the old rules were off-base. Perhaps this is one of those times were we should look to the old rules and use them as a guide.

There is nothing in the current 4e D&D rules that says PC must spend time training between levels, but you may want to introduce this into your campaign. There will be times when it’s just not possible for the PCs to take any significant down time between adventures, but I think campaigns that use the “beat the clock” approach are more of a rarity. By introducing mandatory down time in your campaign the players are more likely to develop flavour for their PCs. How did the PCs spend their gold and their time between adventures? Is there an adventure hook that the DM can generate from these activities?

The next time you’re the DM consider how much time passes during the next major campaign story arc. Make sure that you give the PCs ample down time between levels to represent in-game the time required to learn and practice their new powers and feats. You don’t have to actually role play this part of the character development, but spending a minute or two to acknowledge that it happened gives the players a chance to think about what their PC did to get the benefits that accompany leveling up.

How do you track time’s progression in your campaign. Are PCs required to have a certain amount of down time before they can advance to the next level? If not, do you think it’s a good idea to start using this kind of rule? What’s the shortest amount of in-game time that’s passed for your PC between levels?

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1 Matt April 7, 2010 at 9:37 am

We’ve discussed this to a certain extent in our game. We do not level up during sessions, this much is true. But in many cases, we like to think of the characters developing and training as part of their adventure, until they master a new move, or their god blesses them with a new power, etc. Power acquisition has a very naturalized feel in 4e – wizards don’t even have to read their spellbooks to get powers, and books are actually reserved for rituals (which we do have to buy in town – if they’re even available).

I think an other difference in your thoughts and mine is that Level 1 is the Heroic Tier, not the Adventurer Tier. This is why we can even take on a dragon whelp at Level 1 in 4e. When we made character backgrounds for the game I’m in right now, we actually incorporated small heroic feats into them. My character, for instance, helped fuel a peasant revolt against a local, overly demanding landlord, giving him that Local Hero status. It’s not much, but even Jayne Cobb is considered the “Hero of Canton.”

I think it’s between tiers, then, that we really need to have some downtime, as the characters transition from altering the “fate of a nation” to the “fate of a world.” I see each tier as containing a story arc in that way. After they rescue the princess or prevent a war or win one or whatever, they take some time off, think about what they’re done, enjoy their rewards. A few years later, a demon comes up and wants to destroy the world – and everyones eyes turn immediately to the Heroes of the Second War. Once that’s resolved, at Level 20, they take some more time off, and that’s when the gods themselves descend to let the heroes know that there’s cosmic trouble brewing.

2 Groumy April 7, 2010 at 9:54 am

In our campaign the DM is currently having this questions, he found that we advance to fast (and as the original DM, I must agree, and take the blame). The game run for a year or so since we started, but in game time it’s about 6 months. And we never take a break for level up. Ok we don’t keep track of experience point neither (the DMs call it up when he thinks the party have done sufficiently to earn a level). But still, level up had happen over night once or more in the campaign.

I think, that one of the main reason this practice of requiring down time to level up was abandoned by many DM in early editions just because each classes didn’t level up at the same rate … so it will be a downer to have all the party member waiting for that wizard to level up, then wait again to let him do is magic research, then wait again to let it create a magic item, and wait that often for the rogue, who just level up to rapidly.

The fact that Wizards of the coast, just pull them self out of the governance of anything related to actual Role play in the 4th (will it be profession, crating, etc), explain the lack of info on how to handle levelling up in a role playing view. And just for the sake of let it out, WOTC seems to view the game play of 4th, just like the Encounters weekly event, or their big “Gain 1 level” adventure.

Your not suppose to have player going up a level in a middle of and adventure, your adventure are suppose to cover your level entirely. Then just say that 1 month or 2 has passes between the previous and the next adventure and you got your time line respected, if your player are still playing the same character, since nothing bind really together those adventure, there’s really nothing encouraging keeping the same characters.

All that to say that, in a ongoing campaign with the same characters, I agree with you that it’s the DM’s job to create a sort of time line for the level progression. As we have a gaming session to night I will encourage my fellow DM to start using down time for levelling up, it will be a perfect timing, since we are level 10 and soon to be paragon, and a paragon path don’t appear over night.

Nice blog entry.
A fellow DM and player

3 Neuroglyph April 7, 2010 at 10:35 am

In my last 3.5 campaign, before moving to 4E, it took my Characters 3 full game years to reach 12th level, and about 5 years of real time play. I used a training system based upon level and what you were training for, or if you were researching spells, etc. This added up to a month between levels, invariably with the wizard spending the most down-time, while the rest of the adventurers hung out in the local taverns waiting for him to get out of his library.

I’ve debated about adding a downtime factor between levels to my 4E games, but I came to realize that this really would only have the effect of draining the party’s cash on inn and stabling bills and bar/restaurant tabs. I agree that it does seem odd to have young adventurers gaining immense power and achieving great things. But it happens all the time in fairy tales, and even in books like Eddings “The Belgariad”, where the scullery boy goes on an adventure at age 14, and by 16, he’s become a sorcerer, been made king, got engaged, and was out thrusting an artifact sword through a god’s chest. Not bad for 2 years of exp’ing.
.-= Neuroglyph´s last blog ..Review of The Indomitable Fire Forest of Innenotdar by EN Publishing =-.

4 btorgin April 7, 2010 at 11:26 am

In short, yes, it can seem odd that characters level so fast in game time but look at Bilbo from The Hobbit. He very quickly matures and levels in just a few months.

One way of slowing down the game time is to have periods between adventures and not hook from one adventure to the next, if appropriate. You can say, six months have passed since you defeated so-and-so, but there is word a new evil is on the rise.

Also, travel time stretch out game time. “You spend four weeks traveling to the mysterious lair of the arch demon.” Or, “It takes several weeks of searching for the hidden tomb of the Dread King.” All these little things add up to periods of time passing in the adventure.

These also allow you to advance things at the home base or town while the heroes are away, a la 300 when the bad Senator is making a power play against the King.

5 Ashenblade April 7, 2010 at 11:42 am

My biggest peeve with level advancement in D&D and other games has always been gaining or improving skills and abilities with absolutely no explanation as to how or why. (Hey, I just levelled up. Now I know how to use a longbow and forge chainmail armour!)

Lately I’ve been trying to encourage my players to pick what skills and powers they will gain at their next level well in advance, so we can build their development into the game. You want to learn how to ride a horse? Great, then spent some time practicing that on your way to the next dungeon. Your warlock is learning a new power to conjure flaming acid to smite her enemies? Then perhaps you need to touch base with your demonic patron to get access to those new abilities. We don’t necessarily have to devote a ton of role-playing or in-game time to these actions, but as long as we know they’re happening, the characters’ advancement makes a little more sense, and I feel it adds a lot of depth to the characters as well.

6 yongkyosunim April 7, 2010 at 5:48 pm

I run my current campaign similar to how the RPGA for 3.5 was ran for mods. I would basically have one adventure last about 1 month’s time regardless of how many days were actually spent resting between encounters, exploring, etc. In between adventures would also be half to the same amount of time so in total would be up to 2 months. My modules were played so that characters would gain only about 1 level per three modules so players would have to hit 45 modules to reach 16th level which is the current level. In time, this would equate up to 90 months passing by from the start of the campaign to the end, so 7 1/2 years.

There’s an advantage in gaming this way:

1. If you’re the type of DM who wants their players to be managing their character’s upkeep, having a set time for a module is an easy way. For example, if the standard upkeep is 40 gp per month (making this up), then the PC’s know to spend 80 gp at the end of the module (1 month for adventuring, and 1 month in between).
2. Also, it allows DM’s to arbitrarily set a specified time for player’s who have crafting characters. If a character wants to brew potions, make magic items, or forge armor, then can they do it in the time frame provided? Having a set time in between adventures also allows such characters to do this.
3. For characters who are not crafters, maybe they can ply their trade, seek training, or do other things. I have two players whose characters are professional jugglers and singers. In between adventures, they are performing. If they know that they get 15 days worth of performance checks, they I have them roll, tally up the silver and gold and they’ve earned their keep.
4. It makes tracking the campaign timeline a lot easier. Tracking by days can be a headache because the DM has to keep a handy calendar that shows all the days of the month and then pick when it is. When tracking adventures by weeks or months, then your increments are cut down to just 52 (for weeks if using standard calendar year) or 12 (for months using standard calendar year). If there are special festivals and religious holidays, you just include them at some in the adventure where it would overlap these days if it’s feasible.

Ultimately, it’s up to the DM’s judgement as to how long an adventure will last. I usually set any adventure that involves overland travel to last for a month and a break in between adventures to be 1 month as well. If the adventure is a city adventure and the PC’s encounters are going to be short and small, then the adventure will last 1 week with a similar break. In my current campaign, I had the adventures last as little as 1 week to 2 months (this adventure going from one end of the continent to the other).

7 Liam Gallagher April 7, 2010 at 10:42 pm

Super great article and topic. It’s great to see your content move away from some of the less profund things that so many other blogs cover.

As a DM I don’t let the party advance a level until they do arrive at some down time. While I think the weeks of dedicated study called for in the first addition rules is a bit heavy for learning your new fighter power where you mash your shield into someone’s face, it makes sense for someone who gains the linguist feat. Learning three languages would take years of dedicated study for most; growing up I had a friend who could speak 12 languages, but it still took her 6 months to learn Greek.

My rule is that players have to come up with a reasonable explanation for why it is that their character can do this new thing. If they can’t come up with a good explanation they don’t get to use it. Perhaps one of the most important levels to consider in this manner are the levels that increase your base ability scores.

I have a few questions that might deserve consideration though.
Do some levels require more time than others? Is level 2 easier to get to from level 1 than level 17 is to get to from level 16? Considering that you’re a player who wants to be rewarded, at what point is it not ok to withhold levels from your players? Is there a situation where you would choose to not level with the rest of the party for story reasons?

8 Ameron April 8, 2010 at 9:23 am

First of all, thanks everyone for the great feedback. I really wasn’t sure how well this topic would be received, but it got a lot of traffic and some fantastic comments.

I never thought about the difference between the tiers. I agree that moving from heroic to paragon to epic should require significant down-time to explain the huge power shift. And you’re right that normally you’d expect that when this power shift occurs, the direction of the campaign is also likely to change as well.

I find it’s often difficult to put the campaign “on hold” while the PCs spend some down-time leveling up. At the same time I don’t like to hold back XP, keeping the PCs below where they know they should be for too long. It just makes them angry.

I would think that because everyone levels up simultaneously in 4e it would make in-game down-time easier. But I remember how quickly some classes advanced in previous editions (like the Rogue) and think that equalizing that aspect of the rules was a great improvement.

The “blame” for rapid advancement (if blame is the right word) seems to be with the DM. I know it is in my case. I tried to create an adventure the PCs would find compelling, but in doing so I put enormous pressure on them to act quickly. Because I didn’t build in many opportunities for down-time between levels, the problems I’m facing are essentially of my own making.

I really like to idea of down-time, but I don’t think I’d enforce any mechanics that depleted the PCs of resources, even for day-to-day expenses. I’d just assume that they’d do some odd jobs during that time which would keep their finances about the same. Of course, if they wanted to spend money I wouldn’t object, especially if it provided good role-playing opportunities or developed an interesting back-story.

I’m not opposed to the PCs becoming powerful while their young, but I have issues when it happens with every PC in every campaign. Once and a while, sure, but not all the time.

The only time my group ever seems to get down-time is when they travel. We play in Eberron so travel is a big part of the adventure. Initially travelling took weeks, but as the PCs got rich and famous (or more accurately infamous) they could afford to take the lightning rail and elemental ships which reduced travel time from weeks to days.

I have taken advantage of the PCs being away from home and the longer they’re on the road adventuring the more their enemies plan and scheme back home, much like you’ve described.

Whenever PCs gain new abilities, feats or powers I ask them to explain how and why they got them. I like your suggestion to incorporate some training into the preceding level. If you’re going to take a weapon proficiency next level then I want to see you practice and train with it before you take the feat. I don’t always do this, but it does add something to the game when it’s taken into considerations. Great suggestion.

For adventures like the RPGA sanctioned LFR games it’s a lot easier to incorporate down-time. I agree that if you’re adventures are self-contained then everyone should realize that there was some down-time between games. For home games DMs need to work harder to build chapter breaks.

In a previous campaign we had an Artificer in the party and he was always making new magic items. Knowing he required time to do this the party was a lot more aware of down-time in the campaign and often they decided to rest at times I wasn’t expecting. In the current campaign the PCs are social chameleons and like to use Streetwise to keep in touch with their contacts whenever the campaign takes them to the city. They often take a break in-game to account for this. I in turn reward this by giving them access to information they wouldn’t otherwise get, even with an awesome Streetwise roll.

@Liam Gallagher
Thanks for the praise and the great feedback. Your questions raise a good point that I hadn’t considered. Are some levels more difficult to attaint than others? If you’re going to gain a daily power when you level does that require more work than a level where all you’re going to get is a feat? I’ve never encountered a player who didn’t want to level immediately, but holding back for role-playing purposes is a great aspect to explore. It’s comments like this that make you such a great DM. (Note: Liam is the DM for one of my home campaigns and was my DM for weeks 1-3 of D&D Encounters).

9 Johnn April 8, 2010 at 2:08 pm

Sometimes it’s only days between multi-level progression in my games.

I think it’s part of the level structure of D&D.

We’ve tried different options and ideas, but my current group has the most fun with rapid level gains, no training requirements, ding fries are done.

I compensate with the world reflecting this possibility. NPCs will shock players by being two levels higher since their last trade of insults yesterday, folks are constantly assessing each other before taking aggressive actions, and he who takes initiative will be rewarded (pun not intended, maybe).

10 Daniel Brouwer April 13, 2010 at 2:55 am

Thanks for the article! As it so happens, I was thinking about the exact same thing (and some other things that bothered me about the rules, but that’s a different story).

I am glad I am finding someone that backs up my ideas on character advancement. We recently started playing D&D4, and I only DM’ed a 3.5 game like three times, and at first I wasn’t even sure if I wanted to go to Epic Tier, as it seemed so silly. I am getting back from that opinion slowly, and this article just inspired me immensely to incorporate some well thought out reason as to how characters can become THAT strong.

It also helps me to force just that tiny bit of extra roleplaying onto my players. One of them is a hardcore metagamer, one likes the story element but finds it difficult to incorporate it and steer away from metagaming. This way I can ease them into roleplaying by asking them how they would go about learning this or that skill or power. It could be part of their “experience” (what a good word for it) to explain to me how they would go about it. It could be those final 100 exp points they need to advance. If you can give them experience for succesfully solving a puzzle, then you could just as well give them experience for succesfully coming up with a solid reason as to how they go about learning a new skill.

So thanks!

11 Ronny June 8, 2012 at 1:43 am

I just posted a copy of my Time Travel rules on my site
Take a look, and let me know what you think.

12 john I December 17, 2012 at 3:24 pm

Please give me an idea of the average real-life time spent per game session. We usually play for 2 hours plus 10 minute break, with 6 players (including the DM) and we usually only get through 1 encounter (a large battle) or maayyyybe 2 small encounters like a small battle and a skill challenge with some good role playing. So it can take 2.5 to 3 months to level up. And yes we’ve tried all the ways to speed up 4E combat. Are we just really slow or does the average group play for much longer (like 3-5 hours per session)?

13 Ronny December 18, 2012 at 10:07 am

I haven’t played 4E, but in 3.5 having 1 major battle or 2 minor ones in 2 hours of play is not too slow. Especially with 6 people around the table. That is why I would never play for less than 2 hours, but prefer a 4 or 6 hour stretch of game time.
It all depends on the players, of course. If they are all having fun then it’s fine. If they are complaining about the game going too slow, there are ways to speed up play. My players always enjoyed debating their actions every round of combat. If anyone got impatient, it was usually the DM (me).

14 Ameron (Derek Myers) December 18, 2012 at 12:31 pm

The length of time it takes to complete combat in 4e D&D can vary widely depending on level and experience. I’ve found that during lower level play encounters usually take about an hour (or less). Of course as the PCs level up everyone gets more hit points (heroes and monsters) which means longer battles. Adding a lot of terrain features and secondary objectives to the map will also add to the encounter’s length.

I wouldn’t worry about how how long combat takes if everyone is having fun. However, if the players find things going too slow there are a lot of ways to speed things up. Here are just a few useful links if you need ideas.


15 John I December 18, 2012 at 10:37 pm

Ronny and Ameron, thanks for your replies and links (which I’ve already used and appreciated). I should have mentioned that there is no question about fun–the 6 of us will be entering our 4th year of playing and in those 3 years we’ve almost never missed a night (the consistency is just amazing, babies, marriages, jobs, health and all). But we’re all old school AD&D who’ve returned to the game in our 30’s and 40’s and so with little to compare to I’ve just wondered about the pacing… but your comments are reasurring. Btw, we made it to level 14 and then roleplaying led to an (“honourable”) TPK that was chosen by the party as a whole. I agree, 4-6 hours is best but just not possible for us. Once a year we play an all nighter though…

16 DeWitt March 17, 2013 at 4:33 pm

Time in D&D
Being a DM, the game is about your players. This is a Fantasy game and the idea is to escape from reality. Game session may run short 1-2 hours, average 4- 5 hours, or long anywhere from 7 hours to more than one day. The pace of the game has to be adjusted to the players and the available gaming time and the game style. I remember before Advanced D&D even the game that was out before D&D, yes there have been a lot of changes, what are good changes or bad changes is a matter of opinion.
When I first ran a campaign, Advanced D&D was not out yet. Characters did not level until they were back in a town, but pretty much any town would do as long as a trainer could be found. There was always at least a day layover in a town where the characters would restock, get training, do whatever town things they needed to get done. The Characters would decide the time they were going to spend in a town, based on a variety of things such as crafting time to do something or wait time to get something they had customized. In town time was normally discuss, some things may have been RP’d, but for the most part unless there was a part of the quest in the town it was each character was doing this or that, they stayed X amount of days and now we start out again when they are leaving town. Now if the party was split they may have to wait until the time frames were in sync’ before actually having these characters back in action.
Other things like traveling across open plains for oh say five days. There are four rolls for encounters during the day and four for each night, unless there is reason to step that up or established encounters. You make the rolls, character decide what they are doing while they are traveling, foraging, studying a book, learning a skill from a companion, etc. Then you play out who takes what watch each night and the encounters that may happen, otherwise the journey may take a week for the characters, but the time it takes to roll the dice for the players. It is boring to sit there you travel awhile, nothing happens, you travel awhile, nothing happens, you travel awhile, nothing happens, roll a spot check, huh, you didn’t see it, but it didn’t see you either, nothing happens. On the other side, you could keep it active, encounter, encounter, encounter, wait, those grassy plains with the lovely herds of antelope they are not so lovely or grassy, there are so many gnolls that it is mostly dirt from being trampled and the wild animals are all dead to feed the overpopulated encounters you are experiencing.
What did you do today in D&D, oh we spent four hours walking across an open plain. Sounds exciting. The point is there are in-game time frames that do need to be pushed passed or not played out in detail.
There are times when what is happening may take a lot longer in reality then in the game, if you have a dozen characters fighting an enemy, each round or 6 seconds of battle may take significantly longer in real life. The 1 minute prep for a surprise battle with discussion between players or PCs may take significantly longer especially if you are teaching a new player. It may take you as the DM a few extra minutes reading all the secret notes you have been gotten about what characters are doing.
As for downtime between adventures, well adventures can overlap too, you saved the princess, but while you were doing it you found out that there are a band of robbers terrorizing a town you passed through and you promised to go back and help and this is all happening because you are on a quest for a long lost epic sword are you going to stop for a luxury vacation in the middle of all that is happening in the world? Granted specific members of your team may need to take time here or there for special training or something urgent they have been called back to as part of their guild or home community, but there is a whole world out there.
So the three hours it took you to get to a town may take more real time then the three days you spent in town restocking and searching the library for information.
The other time aspect of the game that has significance would be how do you balance 1-2 hour session with 14 hour sessions? Consider if the average session is 4 hours and the average session is normally X amount of expo and X amount of loot, well you would expect that 1-2 hours would be about half of that, 7 – 8 hours would be about double that. Might even consider making a break every 4 hours to update character sheets. I know some DMS give a fixed amount per gaming session, and add expo for encounters, role playing, obstacles and accomplishments. Some DMs give a base experience per hour and add bonuses.
I do not have a problem with characters that gain experience and levels quickly, the most important part of the game is that the players enjoy it, there is enough of a challenge and sense of accomplishment to keep them playing.
To the players, remember also the game can not progress faster then the DM you are playing with can handle, if there are things you like or don’t like talk to them, but be glad you have a DM that runs a game you like enough to play.
The largest number of players I ever had in one gaming session was 32 and every one of them had multiple characters. I walked into the center and sat down setting up my game and the nine DMs running game in the room stopped their games and huddled, two went back to their games the others picked up their games and joined my game. The players that did not like my style went to the other two tables. I was glad that there were DMs in my game at that point and that they knew my style because there were points when parts of the group would get separated and I could delegate events with groups to one of the other DMs to run subsets. This was in 1978 after Advanced D&D was out.
Again the point is balance the game so your players want to play.

17 Brian V April 1, 2013 at 12:38 pm

In my D&D 3.5 games I always use the rules in the DMG (pg. 198-200, I think) for gaining levels. PCs must train to improve skill ranks, gain feats, learn spells, AND gain class features. I let them have as much XP as they rightly earn (so the spellcasters can craft magic items, mostly) but they MUST train in order to advance. Not only does this cost gold, it also requires time. PCs in my games must seek out a trainer, else training time is doubled (though the cost in gold remains the same). I pretty much use the DMG guidelines verbatim, but I also make players spend a good deal of time learning languages (if they choose to). In my games it takes six months of intense study, minus a number of months equal to your INT modifier with a minimum of 1 month. Learning a language counts as 1 skill for purposes of simultaneous training limitations.

Of course, this means that I have to track time very carefully. I use the Realms Control rules from Dragon #293 to see what’s going on around the PCs and I use a 100 year calendar matrix to track time. Essentially, it’s sheet of graph paper with 10 squares to track rounds, 10 squares to track minutes, 6 squares to track 10 minute blocks, 24 squares to track hours, etc; all the way up to a century. When the PCs do anything, I tick off the requisite number of squares and voila! Time is kept.

I don’t play 4th edition because I hate 4th edition. I hate everything about it. If you like 4th edition, that’s cool, but I just absolutely hate it, so I don’t have any real advice except use the 1st edition through 3.5 edition guidelines for training time.

18 Brad Carey July 14, 2014 at 3:13 am

Heyya, great article!

“So that naive 19-year-old adventurer (and all of his travelling companions) who weren’t anything special when we started became the richest and most powerful heroes in the land before reaching their 21st birthdays. That just doesn’t seem right to me.”

As for my two cents… I’m sure you’ve seen a war movie where the war hardened platoon gets recruits fresh from basic training to replace their losses… and none of the original guys like them because they are “soft inexperienced babies – no older than 17/18″…

Most of those guys that are complaining about the new guys are themselves only 19/20 – yet through experience they are at that moment some of the best honed warriors in the world.

I think that when people become great at something (like adventurers in D&D or real life warriors) they often do it at a young age. Granted, realistically I couldn’t see myself being that successful at that young an age, but that I guess is why I would be a peasant or a shopkeeper as opposed to an adventurer. I don’t see age as being a problem with believability (sic) in a campaign, but I also think tracking time is important.

19 DeWitt July 14, 2014 at 3:49 pm

Something I did not comment on before that seems to be a concern; characters gaining too much power and wealth in a relatively short period of their lifespan in game. This happens in real life.
First, Player Characters are Heroic Class, they are not common folk although at some point they may have come from that part of life.
Second, while some people take a long period of time to progress in life working hard and steady to get to acheivements of medeocraty and occassionally elevated levels of success, others are overnight successes. They had an idea, they step in the right direction, they had fortune or fate in their favor. Unknown ot famous author or actress in a year. From an idea to a corporate mogul in one to five years.
Third, training of youth can suddenly trigger to accomplished understanding as a result of circumstances and events. The way grandpa taught you to paint the barn suddenly translates to defensive manuevers. Or perhaps those lessons in controlled burning of the feilds to put the nurismsnt back in the ground suddenly register as being applicable to controlling fire magic.
Fourth, these characters are out there in the adventure, they see and experience what is going on around them. They learn to jump better from the techniques of their comrads or enemies. They have the crash course of necessity goading their learning process.
Fifth, back to real life, the military and they are not the only ones teach trades in accellerated classes, the most complex languages in nine weeks, professions requriing a four year degree in eight to 10 weeks. I personnally got vocational cross training in the civilian world the equivalent of four years of college in nine months, setting me as a well paid computer tech in a Bachelor’s Degree position and excelling at it.

All that said, as a DM I cringe at the words “down time”. It is simple enough to tailor character time into the game without creating player downtime. There is the option of setting up agreement with the characters to stay in town for a duration of time and having all the characters predetermine what they are doing during their stay in town. This can be completed with appropriate dice rolls and a week or two can pass with minimal player time. Player characters can provide training to each other during travel time and evening down time while other things are not happening. Players may even come up with innovative ways of using time spells when they get them to accommodate training time without interrupting group activity.

I keep track of time, but if a year passes in a month or takes three years to go by depends on the game play, it does not determine the game play.

20 Magicnation May 29, 2016 at 11:31 am

Down time comes naturally to my players. They like coming back home and doing stuff around the town before heading off again. The Fighter has a steady girlfriend (although that’s going to blow up in his face. I’m not saying she’s evil or it’s plot-related, but…) and just the other day they were talking about having a summer camp for the local kids this year. It was actually really well thought out. The end of the world is just going to have to happen some time after that.

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