How Many Fucks Do We Give About How Long A Turn Is?

File this one under Not Really A Big Deal But Irks Me Nonetheless.

I’ve never quite understood the importance of how many second/minutes a turn takes in game time… so I’m curiously asking y’all.

This used to be a major source of debate with my old D&D group (during 3E, mostly) where a couple of players would debate how far their character could walk or run in 6 seconds or how many attacks a good combatant could fire off in 6 seconds. To end the conversation once and for all, I asked one of the players to grab me something from the fridge in the next room. I timed him. When he came back, I told him that took 3.5 turns (aka 21 seconds) and that if anyone ever tried to use this benchmark to bend the game in their favour (which was personally only transferable to spell durations, IMO), I’d petrify their character for as long it took for them to drive down the block and get me Tylenol for my headache.

That ended that conversation. But do YOU (yes, you) feel it’s a relevant part of any game to know how long a turn lasts in the fiction?

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I hate noting more than people trying to say exactly how long a fight took by assuming every round takes exactly six second. I vaguely remember something from the 2e days about how no matter how long a fight went, assume it lasted about five minutes, unless it literally went longer than that.

Its a vague, nebulous thing to give a broad idea of what should be possible, not an absolute where the gods somehow cosmically reckon time in six second increments.

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In B/X, it’s assumed that a full 10 minute turn has passed after combat ends, regardless of how many 10 second rounds it lasted. Or maybe that’s a “clarification” in Old School Essentials. In any case, I’ve never worried too much about it, unless a player wanted to do something clearly unreasonable in 10 seconds. Which has been rare.

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5e: Movement is feet/round, not feet/second. Real life is not in rounds.

Likewise, [combat mode] spell casting times are in Actions, not seconds. Any duration of 1 minute is instantly translated into 10 rounds when used in combat mode and the seconds vanish (otherwise, we’d have to argue about which of the six seconds the spell “went off”.)

Longer casting times are in minutes/hours/days, but that is considered ritual casting, not combat rounds - so time is the best measure.

I my games the players never talk about seconds, only rounds and actions.

D&D is not, nor has it ever been, simulationist. There are 100s of ways the rules don’t map to “reality” accurately, and thank goodness!

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Zero fucks.

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I’m with @Harrigan - I give Zero fucks about this and I don’t allow such debates in my games.

Biiiiiigggggggg zero!

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I only care when counterpointing someone who tries to do like 6 turns worth of actions in one turn.

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I don’t really worry about it too much. The first time my players got into a fight in my GURPS cyberpunk game, it was a classic fast shootout. When it was done I told them “Well, that was 2 seconds” (GURPS has 1 second rounds). bwahahahahahah.

In Traveller, since we play the 1981 LBB version, all action is considered simultaneous. Each round is 15 seconds. Real simple. I like it. But I don’t stress about how long things take.

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This was where I started my slide towards “zero.” I went from AD&D in the 80s – one round was a whole minute! To GURPS, where it was, as LordBob says… one SECOND!
So now, yeah. It’s as long or short as it needs to be.

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No matter how short the round is by the rules, I always allow a good soliloquy.

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I occasionally care a little bit when I am translating modules from a one-minute round system to a 6-second round system when something is supposed to be happening during combat that is described in minutes. If a pool is filling with lava during the combat in 1E it feels reasonable to be concerned. A four-minute combat (or 10 minutes if we assume a 1 turn min) means a lot of lava flow. The same combat in 5e might take 30 seconds. I feel I need to change the size of the lava pipe or the description or something to make the lave filling threatening. So–when out of combat timing matters during combat, I start to think about it. Otherwise, most of the D&D-style games have fairly clearly outlined action economies based on rounds, and the length of the round doesn’t matter. Call of Cthulhu is more nebulous, but still more about numbers of actions than time.

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I usually measure those types of things (e.g. Lava fills a pool/room) in rounds. I do that because it’s how my group and I think of time. If the round is 1 second or 10 seconds or a minute or whatever we don’t care.

As soon as imitative order is determined, and X starts to happen (lava levels raising!), then we know how fast things are going. What we care about is “X is happening every round! we only have about Y rounds left!!”

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I definitely try to write that way, but a lot of the older “rulings” stuff is written less technically. And there have been a few that just seemed stupid when converted from one-minute rounds to six-second ones. It’s really over for publication that I concern myself because there are so many types of people use the material. If I’m running at a table, it’s all rounds.

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I think those things matter in reference to each other. Rounds matter, because that’s the measuring stick. Either rounds for an action, or actions per round. Do they matter in relation to real time (back to your actual question)? Probably not. There are things like Fafhrd mentioned, where you have a timer of something, then they matter. I’ve had times where they matter if there’s a chase/ flight simultaneous to combat. But even running a non-round system like HackMaster, in which combat is measured seconds, I still don’t note that time in relation to time of day. They’re just kind of asynchronous to one another.

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In gaming you don’t need passage of time, you need sequence of events in a series. Players need to know how many actions they can take within a given series. Tension is built and released within players by altering the number of actions and the sequence of those events.

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On the positive side, perhaps a more useful time conversion is rounds(aka actions) per play-hour.

For example, when I run a one-shot adventure (such as Thunderlock Barcrawl) for my FLGS, Games of Berkeley, the players have until shop close of 9pm to exit the adventure. If they do, they win, if they don’t, they lose.

image

The comic book/module it comes with says the characters have “two hours to best the dungeon (allowing enough time to take a Short Rest if necessary)”. As written, this is actually quite absurd at the table - as it removes all sense of time pressure as maybe a dozen game-round-seconds pass before there’s a call for that first rest, then after that, there’s more than enough game-time to complete the crawl. BUT, THE PLAY TIME IS THE TRUE LIMIT! That is where the tension comes from.

So - that’s how I run it:

  • Typically it is about two hours of play-time. That is the limit. I do not mention the game-time limit in the module. No one cares.
  • I run the entire crawl under initiative (rounds-based play - everything’s expressed in actions.)
  • No rests
  • I have the clock in the game store represent the limit at the Thunderlock bar:
    “1 hour till closing! You’ve still not unlocked the last room!” announces the tavern keeper from the darkness above your group…

So - rounds (or more properly player-character actions) per play-hour is probably the most important “time-related” metric to me: Are my players able to express themselves at the table through character actions often enough to feel engaged? This is true also for campaign sessions, and even when not in combat.

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