And now, for your consideration, a stupid dramatic scene. Ahem:

PC: “What do you mean my aura of fatuousness has faded? I just cast it in the last room!” 

GM: “Well yeah, but you then proceeded to search that room.” 

PC: “How long could that take? A couple of minutes, tops? Aura of fatuousnesslasts ten minutes per level.” 

GM: “You failed your initial check to search the ogre’s collection of gently-used chamber pots though. Remember?”

PC: “Sure I remember. I got it on the second try.”

GM: “But that ‘second try’ was a take 20. Your exact words were ‘I search for as long as it takes.'”

PC: “Well yeah. The friggin ogre ate my Kentucky fried pants of seasoning. You know how expensive it is to enchant all 11 secret herbs and spices?” 

GM: “Your motives are understandable, but they aren’t the issue. Under normal conditions it takes two minutes to search a large size chamber pot. Take 20 means it takes 20 times as long to perform the action. With three chamber pots to search, you spent 120 minutes looking for your spicy pants.”

PC: “But I’m 13th level! There was an extra 10 minutes left over!”

GM: “We spent that time arguing about whether an ogre could fully digest magical trousers.” 

PC: “That was an out-of-game discussion! It shouldn’t count against spell duration!”

GM: “I seem  to recall you using your in-character voice with the party wizard.” 

PC: “That was for comic effect! We weren’t actually having that conversation in-game. Give me my tasty britches and magic spells, dammit!” 

And, scene. I warned you it would be stupid. The above does gesture towards a real issue though. As a huge nerd once said, “You can not have a meaningful campaign if strict time records are not kept.” Yet players are not capable of feeling the same passage of time as their characters.

In my humble opinion, this is one area where d10 system mops the floor with d20. You guys know I love me some White Wolf, and their method of letting effects last for “one scene” always seemed more natural to me the “minutes.” I’m not tracking the exact passage of time in the game world, but I have a pretty good sense for when one “scene” has stopped and another has started.

The only other solution I’ve found for this one is letting the dice decide. If a buff may or may not be active, I’ll sometimes roll to decide how many rounds are remaining (1d12-4 or 1d6-1 or some such). It’s not a perfect solution, but it’s at least more impartial than, “Your spells have expired. Eat it.”

What about the rest of you guys though? When a module says something like, “If the players search for X minutes they find ___,” how do you like to handle it? Do you ask them how long they search? Do you start an IRL stopwatch to track spell durations? And how do you make a fair judgement when these situations are essentially ambiguous? Give us your best efforts at “strict time records” down in the comments!


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