The first D&D campaign I ran spanned some fifteen-plus months and took our party from 3rd-level to 12th. In “game time” however, only about two weeks had passed. It drives me crazy to think about this kind of thing happening.

Despite “time wasting” that occurs at the table, what with Monty Python quotes flying and funny YouTube videos being shared around — the PCs seem capable of remarkable, if not superhuman means of time management.

There are a truly mind-boggling number of rules that have been created specifically to thwart this phenomenon, from stamina and fatigue systems, to “daily” powers — inadvertently establishing the concept of the “fifteen-minute workday” — to placing a “rest” or “training” requirement on level-ups.

Most of these rules not only fail to produce the desired effect — they give rise to some other problem, like the aforementioned fifteen minute workday. Forcing PCs to rest to level up succeeds only in them cramming even more into one “level.”

Why? Why do players avoid spending time?

I have a feeling the answer lies somewhere between the problem of “poor returns” on spending time — more can be accomplished by adventuring for one day than anything else in a week — and that spending time not adventuring just isn’t fun.

So there are some questions to be asked — questions like, “how can spending time be made fun?” You have to be careful when you make some other, non-adventuring activity fun or profitable, because if it turns out to be more rewarding than adventuring, you’ve effectively changed the focus of your game.

There are plenty of things for PCs to do when they aren’t adventuring, and I think the answer lies somewhere in making those things “game-able,” in the same way that adventuring is — while making it also different.

The dividing line I see is in the amount of danger involved.

Adventuring is a high-risk, high-reward activity. Adventurers put their lives on the line for what might amount to a bust — they could all die, or the treasure could turn out to be a dud — or perhaps something even worse, the treasure they find might only be enough to pay for the recovery from the adventure itself.

But that part of the game is very well-explored and well-understood.

It’s the other parts that aren’t life-or-death situations that I think need repairs — “normal” people, generally NPCs, trade time for danger. The rewards are lesser, but you’re less likely to wind up impaled on a goblin spear that way.

Ironically, I think the missing element in many “non-combat” systems is how they fail to include the key to any successful social interaction — other people.

I’ll talk about getting NPCs involved in my next post.