Thursday, May 29, 2008

Wherein I Discuss Time, and Also Doors

One interesting thing that could be in a dungeon would be doors that open only at certain phases of the moon. This would work best with large dungeons, or if you otherwise had a reason to return to it over time. Then the dungeon would cycle through different areas being open; the players might even need to complete some task or puzzle in one area to get further into another.

Some doors might be open for relatively long periods in the moon's cycle, others for only a single day. And if there was more than one moon, a door might open at certain specific combinations of phases. There'd probably have to be some kind of notation system, a code for the PCs to figure out, that indicated when these doors would be open, so the players wouldn't have to go through and check every door every time they entered the dungeon.

Other time-based doors are fairly simple to imagine. Doors based on time of day, days of the week, months, seasons, and specific times of the year would all be fairly straightforward, though, again, it's a good place for a puzzle, especially if the time when it opens is fairly specific, or a long way away. It wouldn't necessarily have to be code-based (my group likes codes); the information they need might be written down somewhere, or known by other inhabitants of the dungeon.

More exotic time-based requirements are possible. Eberron's planar conjunctions would make an interesting criteria; any fantastical, regularly occurring even would work well, especially if it was somehow important to whoever built the dungeon. (If it was built by mortal hands, that is.) Doors like these would also make a good place to use fantastic calendars. Using the contemporary calendar of the world would encourage the players to actually pay attention to it, while a calendar constructed specifically for the lost civilization responsible for the dungeon could help illuminate its culture and strangeness.


  1. I think this is a really interesting idea. It's basically straight out of The Hobbit, but it isn't anything I've seen in a role playing game before.

    The main problem I see with the idea is that it would take a lot of paperwork to keep track of the calendar, something that I don't think most people care that much about.

  2. It's fairly easy to do without a calendar, just not as flexible. The entrance to the dungeon, for instance, might only be opened once every hundred years, which gives the PCs a bit of urgency in getting in and completing their task.

    If you want something a bit more forgiving, you can tie it to the phases of the moon. Most GMs have at least a vague idea of what the phase the moon is in, just so they know how the lycanthropes are behaving.

    - Brian

  3. Calendars really aren't that tough; I've handled them, and I'm not really very organized, even when I'm GMing. Though it's definitely a matter GM, and campaign, style. (Using a computer helped me, but again, matter of style.) Not everyone needs it. If you like calendars, this is a way to get the players to pay attention to it.

    If you don't much care for calendars, doing it seasonally would probably also work. When I handle time more abstractly, I tend to assume that campaign time is moving at about the same rate as real time, and that the PCs are taking enough breaks (for ale and wenches) to make that reasonable. But that's just because it makes it easier on me.

  4. The Maya had two calenders which would come into sequence once every 52 years. I always thought that would be a good starting point for a campaign, and you could work the Doors idea in too: What's behind the mysterious sliding stone that can only be opened every 52 years....?