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Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Moldvay Musings III

First off, let me just quote the entire paragraph on time (from page B19):

"TIME: Time in D&D adventures is given in turns of ten minutes each. A turn is not a measure of real time, but is a measure of how much a character can do within a given amount of time. A character may explore and map an area equal to his or her movement rate in one turn. It also takes a turn for a character to search a 10' x 10' area, for a thief to check an item for traps, to rest or to load a bag with treasure. The DM should decide how long other actions that characters might try will take."

When I first read the book, I took this to mean that a turn didn't represent ten minutes of "table time." Rather it represented ten minutes "in-game." Now, I have a somewhat different take.

The "real time" the book refers to is in-game, but the point is that only a certain amount can be accomplished within a given stretch of time (in this case, ten minutes), not that these tasks all take exactly ten minutes to complete. Is it an abstraction? Absolutely! But what a lovely abstraction it is! 

If –as some folk purport – old-school D&D puts a focus on resource management, then time certainly becomes a crucial factor. Not the split seconds of combat; but the days of food you have left, the hours of light, or the last time you rested. The turn is a simple, digestible chunk of time that allows the players and the DM to keep track of time and other resources. 

Damn! I thought torches lasted EIGHT turns!

The examples of "One Turn Tasks" given above also bring a smile to my face. Do you spend an hour searching that 20' x 30' room for secret doors? A thief needs a turn to check that chest for traps, too. "Loading a bag with treasure" taking a turn brings to mind careful loading of things like potions and statuary to avoid crushing them under the weight of coins.

Players often have confused –IMO– opinions of how quickly many things are done, often trying to "fast-forward" through the mundane stuff. A quick tap of the pommel on the wall as you walk past counts as "searching for secret doors." (Another favorite of mine is how quickly they can count thousands of coins and separate them by type.) Maybe a given task doesn't take exactly 600 seconds, but in the interests of keeping the game moving, it's a fair approximation. Further, the "mundane" can turn quite nasty if a DM is on his game and keeping track of things. 

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