A place to share thoughts and ideas about Dungeons and Dragons
June 4, 2016Posted by on
Gary Gygax said “YOU CANNOT HAVE A MEANINGFUL CAMPAIGN IF STRICT TIME RECORDS ARE NOT KEPT.“
I almost didn’t post this for fear of it being misused. Please don’t simply look up the parties travel pace below, determine what was found, mark off the time and move on. This is a role playing game after all. The following is intended as an aid in Dungeon Mastering a game, not as a substitute for it.
Time in a dungeon is measured in minutes – switching to 6 second rounds when there is an encounter.
The following is my interpretation of the official rules and a few of my house rules mixed in, presented here as advice to Dungeon Masters. Where I refer to “you”, I mean the DM. This is specifically for a dungeon crawls, but most of it applies to all similar situations. This is intended as a guide for tracking time passage in a dungeon and also for a guide in deciding when to use a character’s passive perception score or to roll a perception check.
The Dungeon Master describes what the PCs can see, hear, etc. Most of the time you can expect that the PCs are being observant so if they could notice something, they will notice it. So don’t wait for a player to say his character is examining the floor, or looking for footprints to tell them that there’s an obvious set of footprints on the floor in front of him. Players can ask questions or tell you what their PCs are going to do (or attempt to do). Players should never have to refer to skill names to do this. You decide if they need to roll an ability or skill check and which one. To keep the game moving at a reasonable pace, I recommend that you keep the die rolling to a minimum. If a player’s character would most likely notice something or recognize something or understand something based on his abilities and background, no roll is required. Just tell him.
The DM will roll all of the PCs search checks in secret and tell the players what, if anything, their characters found. That way, if they don’t find anything, they won’t know if there wasn’t anything there or if there was something and they didn’t find it. Another advantage of rolling behind your DM screen is that you can ignore the roll when necessary. If you want them to find something (or not find it), ignore the roll and tell them what they found (or that they didn’t find anything).
Ask them for their marching order, but don’t ask if they are moving at a “fast pace”, “normal pace” or “slow pace”. That makes it sound too much like a computer game. Instead, simply ask them what they are doing. Use their answer to determine their pace and use that to help you determine how long it will take and what they do or do not notice.
In addition to the fast pace, normal pace and slow pace listed in the Player’s Handbook, I have added a “very fast” pace and an ”extremely slow” pace.
1) Moving at a very fast pace they automatically fail all perception checks. If they say “We are getting out of here as fast as we can” they are obviously not going to take the time to check for traps or secret doors so they are moving at a very fast pace (600 feet per minute).
2) Moving at a fast pace uses their passive perception scores with a -5 penalty. If they say “We are going to move through here as quickly as we can and still be on the lookout for traps”, you can say to yourself that that sounds like a fast pace (400 feet per minute).
3) Moving at a normal pace uses their passive perception scores. If they don’t give you any indication of how fast or cautiously they are moving through corridors, assume that they are moving at this pace. If they say “We are going to be watching for hidden monsters and checking for traps and secret doors as we proceed cautiously down the corridor”, you know that, even though this sounds like it might be a slow pace it is actually the normal way adventurers would explore a dungeon so it is a normal pace (300 feet per minute).
4) Moving at a slow pace they can be stealthy or search for things. If they don’t give you any indication of how fast they are searching a room, assume that they are moving at this pace. They make a Dexterity (Stealth) check if they are hiding or being stealthy. Make a Wisdom (Perception) check for them if they are searching for secret doors or traps. If not actively searching, they use their passive perception scores. If they say “We are trying not to be noticed as we proceed cautiously down the corridor” they are being stealthy and can only move at a slow pace (200 feet per minute).
5) Moving at an extremely slowly pace they will automatically find anything that can be found. If they say “We know there must be a secret door in this corridor, so we are going to search until we find it”, you know that they are going to keep looking until they find it if they can, so they are traveling at a extremely slow pace (30 feet per minute).
The times listed below are the suggested minimum times required. Additional time may be required depending on circumstances and PC actions. Anything found (secret doors, traps, treasures, and especially monsters) will add to the listed times below as they take the time to deal with what they have found.
- If they find a secret door they may then attempt to find a means to open it.
- I might have the searcher make an Intelligence (Investigation) check and subtract the results form 20 minutes for low long it takes. I will never let them find a secret door and never find out how to open it!
- If they find a trap they may then attempt to disarm or avoid it.
- It takes 5 minutes to disarm traps or pick a lock if proficient with thieves tools; 10 minutes otherwise. This assumes fairly straightforward mechanisms, not complex puzzles
- If they find a treasure they may then check it for traps.
I typically check for wandering monsters every 10 minutes (dungeon time).
Traversing corridors, stairs, and other passageways:
- When moving at a very fast pace (600 feet per minute), all attempts to notice any secret doors, hidden monsters or traps will fail. This speed is equivalent to the Dash action.
- When moving at a fast pace (400 feet per minute), passive Wisdom (Perception) scores, with a -5 penalty, will be used to see if they notice any secret doors, hidden monsters or traps.
- When moving at a normal pace (300 feet per minute), passive Wisdom (Perception) scores will be used to see if they notice any secret doors, hidden monsters or traps.
- When moving at a slow pace (200 feet per minute), the characters can attempt to hide or be stealthy. If hiding, Dexterity (Stealth) checks will be used against the Wisdom (Perception) checks of any monsters that are actively searching for them, and against the passive Wisdom (Perception) scores of any monsters that aren’t searching. Moving at this pace they can actively search for hidden doors or traps. Roll a Wisdom (Perception) check for the searchers and let them know if they found anything in this 200 foot length of corridor. Let the single roll be for detecting hidden doors and/or traps regardless of what they say they are searching for. Note that if they say they are being stealthy, but don’t express an interest in watching out for traps or finding secret doors, only roll Dexterity (Stealth) checks and use passive Wisdom (Perception) scores. Conversely, if they say that they are looking for traps, or secret doors but don’t seem interested in being stealthy, roll Wisdom (Perception) checks only.
- If the party intends to take as much time as required to thoroughly search a section of corridor, the party will be moving at an extremely slowly pace (30 feet per minute). This represents that the character is being extremely cautious and diligent in his searching. At this pace that character will automatically succeed at finding any secret doors, hidden monsters or traps that can be found by that character. [The DMG says “In some cases, a character is free to [retry a failed ability check]; the only real cost is the time it takes[…] To speed things up, assume that a character spending ten times the normal amount of time needed to complete a task automatically succeeds at that task.” This is the 5e equivalent to the 3.5e “Taking 20” rule.]
- One character can search the walls, floor and ceiling of a 5 foot wide passage, or one side of a wider passage out to 5 feet from the wall.
- 2 characters can cover a 10 foot wide passage.
- Characters that are searching can perform no other activities.
- Characters that are not searching can be on the lookout for monsters. For large parties they may need one lookout near the front and another one in the rear. If a monster approaches the group from a direction that is being watched, the Dexterity (Stealth) check of that character will be used against the Wisdom (Perception) checks of any monsters that are actively searching for them, and against the passive Wisdom (Perception) scores of any monsters that aren’t searching.
Searching a Room:
If the party opens a door but doesn’t enter a room and only observes it from the doorway it doesn’t take any additional time to be able to map its location and general notes about it, but not its exact size or anything about the room that cannot be quickly seen. A detailed description will require that the party enters the room.
After they enter the room, describe what they see and ask what each character is doing. Describe the results of their activities. If they say “I am searching the room”. Don’t ask “What are you searching for?” rather say something like “What does searching the room look like? Describe exactly what your character is doing.” If they say “I am looking for secret doors.” Don’t ask which 5 foot section of wall he is searching, rather assume he will search all of the walls and use the travel paces descried below to determine his success or failure. If it makes a difference, or if you simply want him to think it might, you could ask where he is starting his search and which direction he will be searching from there. A room can be memorable and fun if you can get them to describe how they are interacting with the objects in the room.
The party may have a different travel pace for rooms than it does for corridors. Their pace may change in a room if they discover something interesting (or dangerous) but I wouldn’t normally mark off more than 10 minutes per room unless they slow to an extremely slow pace. Your players should be able to search as much as they want. Just warn them of the consequences (time passing, wandering monsters, etc.) ahead of time.
How pace of travel effects checking out rooms:
- Very fast pace (600 feet per minute – measured from entrance to exit by the shortest path). Treat these rooms like corridors. They are almost running through the rooms and won’t notice anything much more than their size and location. They automatically fail all perception checks. They will be surprised by any monsters waiting for them. They may surprise monsters that aren’t expecting them.
- Fast pace (1 minute per room). They are mostly just passing through. They can note what is in the room, its size, number and location of its exits. The Passive Wisdom (Perception) scores of the searchers, with a -5 penalty, will be used to see if they notice any secret doors, hidden monsters or traps. They are moving through the room too fast to search for any hidden treasure but will notice things that are in plain sight.
- Normal pace (5 minutes per room). Use this pace if they want to search the room but want to be quick about it. The passive Wisdom (Perception) scores of the searchers will be used to see if they notice any secret doors, hidden monsters or traps. At this pace they can make a quick search for hidden treasure at a disadvantage using their Wisdom (Perception) scores.
- Slow pace (10 minutes per room). Use this pace if they don’t give you any other indication of how fast they are searching a room. Use this pace if they want to loot the room, or if they want to be stealthy. Roll the Wisdom (Perception) checks of the searchers to see if they notice any secret doors, hidden monsters, hidden treasure or traps. If they are being stealthy, their Dexterity (Stealth) checks will be used against the Wisdom (Perception) checks of any monsters that are in the room or that enter the room and that are watching for them, and against the passive Wisdom (Perception) scores of any monsters that aren’t.
- Extremely slowly pace (1 hour per room). At this pace they can carefully examine every inch of the room. At this pace they will automatically succeed at finding any secret doors, hidden monsters, hidden treasure or traps that can be found by their characters. If there is something in the room that they wouldn’t be able to find even if they rolled a 20 on an ability check and added all of their bonuses, it is beyond their ability to find so it will remain hidden.
- The times above represent at least 2 characters searching.
- Two characters can search the walls, floor and ceiling and everything inside of a room up to 30’ x 30’. Larger rooms, or rooms with a large amount of “stuff” may take longer. Rooms smaller than 30’ x 30’ still take the indicated time to search.
- A single character searching the same room will take twice as long.
- More than two characters searching the room do not reduce the time any further unless it is a very large room.
- Characters that are searching can perform no other activities.
- Characters that are not searching can be on the lookout for monsters. One character can watch only one entrance without penalty. If a monster approaches the group through an entrance that is being watched, the Dexterity (Stealth) check of that character will be used against the Wisdom (Perception) checks of any monsters that are actively searching for you, and against the passive Wisdom (Perception) scores of any monsters that aren’t searching.
April 22, 2016Posted by on
Download your free pdf copy here.
I found this great character creation help sheet on line. It is poster sized, so I modified it into a 5 page PDF file that will be more useful at the gaming table.
Does anyone know who the original author of this is? I would like to thank him or her and give them credit. This is NOT my original work.
April 16, 2016Posted by on
Pitchlight spent all morning going from cartwright to weaponsmith to armorer and to several others in an attempt to re-provision the dragon hunt. In every case they required gold coin on the barrelhead. He was unable to get any of them to accept a share in the dragon treasure for more than face value. The gold pieces struck specifically to be exchanged for a share in Abraxas’ treasure could not be exchanged for more than the value of the gold that they contained. Some even refused to accept them at all. A rumor was spreading that Abraxas would single out anyone that possessed such a coin and that they would be the first to die on his next attack.
He couldn’t blame the citizens of Rockport. They were frightened. He had already spent all that the church of Heironeous had provided for the hunt, and quite a bit of his own personal funds as well. As it now stood, the poorly provisioned campaign could be ready in about a week. It would take that long to build or repair the wagons and assemble the meager provisions.
He left the merchant district and walked through the crowded streets of Rockport to the temple district and to the temple dedicated to his deity. As he walked he passed children playing in the streets and he found himself thinking back on the days of his childhood. Both of his parents died when he was young, leaving him and his three older sisters to be raised in an orphanage ran by the Heironeous church. Their days there were divided into 4 equal parts; rest, study of holy texts, meditation and weapon training. This left little time for play. His teachers were impressed with his understanding of the Heironean Code and tried to persuade him to take an active role in the church, but at that time he was more interested in swords than in holy script. When he came of age, he joined the king’s guard and quickly advanced in rank. One day, when leading his squad against a marauding group of goblins, something happened that changed the course of his life. After bringing down the last goblin with his own sword, he was struck by lightning.
The holy symbol of Heironeous is a fist holding a lightning bolt. Lightning has special meaning to his worshipers. Anyone killed by lightning must deserve his fate. Anyone that is struck by lightning and survives is deemed blessed by Heironeous. Pitchlight remained unconscious for 14 days. When he awoke he found himself in the temple of Heironeous on the isle of wonder being measured for a custom suit of plate mail. From that day forward he has traveled the world as a cleric of Heironeous seeking out and destroying evil.
As he approached the temple of Heironeous he was wondering if the key to defeating Abraxas was in understanding him better. He would ask Heironeous himself for help. He passed quickly through the main entrance of the worship area and arraigned with the head of the church here to have the clerics prepare the inner sanctum for a major ritual. The High Priest that ruled this temple out ranked Pitchlight in the church hierarchy but adventuring clerics were considered “the tip of the spear” in the battle against evil. While the room was being prepared, Pitchlight bathed and dressed himself in his finest suit of plate mail.
All Heironean temples are built on the same basic ideas of presenting a façade of strength and power and providing a strong and easily defensible fortress. Each individual temple varies in design to reflect the specific taste of its priest and the perceived threats that it must defend against. Each temple size is also limited by the funds available for construction. The temple at Rockport was typical for a town of this size. One thing that all these temples have in common is a room near the center that is reserved for meditation, prayer and casting of spells. The room is sanctified and blessed. Anyone not dedicated to Heironeous is forbidden entrance. At this temple, the inner sanctum was a round room 20 feet in diameter with a flat ceiling 10 feet overhead. The room was windowless and contained no furniture other than tall iron candelabrum spaced 5 feet apart around the perimeter of the room, each with four burning candles, and a brazier in the center of the room. When Pitchlight entered he was met with the sweet smell of shagbark smoke, the embers of which were glowing in the brazier. He placed a handful of the most expensive incense onto the coals and began slowly walking around the room sprinkling holy water as he strode and began the incantation to invoke a commune spell, but at the point where the spell requires the asking of questions he fell to his knees and offered up a diamond valued at 1,000 gold pieces if Heironeous would but appear to hear his questions directly.
After an hour of praying and burning of over 500 gold pieces worth of incense, his meditation and prayers were interrupted by the sound of the creaking hinge on the room’s only door as it opened. He turned and saw a priest entering the room. Angrily, he shouted, “I left express instructions that I was not to be interrupted!”
As the man entered, Pitchlight tried to place him. He was sure that he had not seen this particular priest before. He was much taller than any he had seen here in Rockport. As the priest came closer it became clear that the short robe that he was wearing under his cloak was not of cloth as he had first thought, but was indeed made of the finest chainmail. He wore no holy symbol and carried no shield. His only weapon a great battleaxe. He wore no helm. His reddish-brown hair was short and rather unkempt. His face was clean shaven and his skin was the color of burnished copper.
The stranger stopped a few paces in front of Pitchlight. The door closed of its own accord. He spoke in a very calm voice saying, “Have you forgotten how to cast a commune spell, or have you gone completely mad?”
Pitchlight felt the blood drain from his face and his anger was replaced by awe as he realized he was in the presence of his god. He fell to his knees. “Pease forgive me, but my need is great and the commune spell is so limited. This one time, I need more than riddles or cryptic answers to my three questions.”
“Have I not always answered your questions truthfully?”
“Of course, and I am more than grateful, but if you could, just this one time, answer me more fully, so that I might understand. I seek answers regarding the dragon hunt we are about to commence.”
The tall man was indeed an avatar of Heironeous. He was silent for a few moments, studying the pleading face of his cleric. “You have been good and faithful. Rise to your feet and ask your three questions. My answers will be as full and complete as possible. However, you must understand that I do not take this lightly. You must not presume that I will come to your call at your every whim. I am not your servant. You are mine.”
Pitchlight nodded his head in acceptance and paused to think for a moment before he asked his first question, “Will we succeed in defeating Abraxas?”
“You will have the resources, but to succeed you must have the wisdom to use them.”
Pitchlight wasn’t completely satisfied with that answer, but he continued on to his second, “What is this gem he seeks and why is it so important to him?”
Heironeous smiled and replied, “I will be tolerant with you, but you must not break the rules. You must ask that as two separate questions, or rephrase the question.”
Pitchlight thought for a moment. Perhaps he could get the answer he was seeking if he asked it another way, “How was the gem stolen?”
The room became dark and Pitchlight thought for a moment that he had angered Heironeous in some way. Then the darkness lifted and he found himself standing outside in what was obviously the main square of a small village. The square was empty of people and horses, which was unusual for any village in the middle of the day. The only thing in the square was a large open chest that appeared to be about half full of bags, boxes, gilded armor, mirrors, and other items that may have represented the entire wealth of the village.
Then what he thought was a small child darted past him to the chest. Pitchlight quickly recognized that this was not a child, but rather a gnome who climbed into the chest and concealed himself under the treasure as fast as he could. Then a shadow passed over him as a gigantic red dragon landed in the square and dropped a small pouch into the chest. He started to draw his sword when he realized that the dragon could not see him there. It took only a moment to realize that this was only an image being shown to him by Heironeous. The dragon turned his massive head slowly in all directions, looking at all there was to see. He must have decided that this was all the treasure this village had to offer so he closed the lid on the chest, uttered some magical words, and it vanished, leaving only a print in the dust where it had been resting.
Darkness descended upon Pitchlight once again. This time when it lifted, he found himself in a huge underground cavern. The air was hot and damp. There was a lake of molten lava that provided the only light, bathing the rocky walls and stalactite covered ceiling in a pulsating reddish light. He was on the broad shore of the magma lake and standing near a large pile of coins. There was also many treasures of every description. As he was looking at what must have been a dragon’s horde accumulated over the centuries, the chest that he had seen earlier appeared on a patch of clear ground near the treasure. A few moments later the lid began to open, slowly at first, only an inch. The gnome then lifted it the rest of the way open and crawled cautiously out. Once the gnome was confident that he was alone, he closed the chest and began to examine the great volume of treasure. He was very cautious not to move or disturb any of the treasure in any way. After nearly an hour of examining the pile of coins, the many gilded and enameled armors, the fancy dress weapons, the piles of jewels, royal coaches and other valuable items too numerous to quickly tally, a single gem mounted in a simple silver medallion began to shine with a reddish glow. The gnome made his way over to the medallion which was hanging by a simple silver chain on a rocky outcropping on the cavern wall. Pitchlight moved closer for a better view and as they were looking at the gem it began to glow more brightly. As its brightness approached that of a burning torch he heard the unmistakable sound of leather dragon wings echoing off the cavern walls. The gnome quickly dashed into a deep crevice, wedging himself as far back out of site as he could.
The dragon landed more gently than one would expect possible from a creature so massive. He smelled the air and closely examined his treasure. Once satisfied that all was as he had left it, he opened the chest and began the process of lovingly emptying it of its contents, placing each item in its proper place according to some sorting process that only the dragon could fathom. When he was finally satisfied with the distribution of his latest take, he curled himself a tight ball perched on top of the pile of coins. With a contented breath he closed his eyes, and with a final snort of sulfurous smoke he appeared to fall asleep. A couple of minutes passed before the gnome again appeared. Keeping one eye on the dragon he creeped cautiously from his hiding place and made his way over to the shining gem. He tucked it under his shirt and began to make his way quietly along the cavern wall.
Everything went dark and the cleric found himself back at the inner sanctum standing again before an avatar of his deity. Heironeous spoke, “And what is your third question?”
Still dizzy from his view into the past, Pitchlight took a few seconds to remember that everything he had just seen was an answer to his last question. He braced himself for whatever he might be shown next and asked “What is Abraxas’ greatest weakness?”
Heironeous smiled and said, “Arrogance”. Then he turned and disappeared as he walked away.