More On the 15 Minute Workday

One of the issues that I don’t recall ever seeing Gygax discuss is the so-called fifteen minute work day in D&D. That is, the tendency of players to do only as much exploration, combat, etc. as they can without depleting their resources much, if at all, and then retreating in order to recharge, get new spells, regain any lost hit points, and then return. Taking on dungeons salami style*.

I think I’ve figured out why this particular tactic might never have come up in the original Lake Geneva campaign. There was too much competition.

Bear in mind that the original LG campaign was a cloud, not a party. There were dozens of adventurers, all competing for gold and glory in the dungeons beneath castle Greyhawk. Now, consider this advice from the DMG:

Generally, time passes day-for-day, or turn for X number of real minutes of active play. Players who choose to remove their characters from the center of dungeon activity will find that :a lot has happened while they were away”, as adventures in the wilderness certainly use up game days with rapidity, while the shorter time scale of dungeon adventuring allows many game sessions during a month or two of game time. Of course, this might mean that the players involved in the outdoors someplace will either have to come home to “sit around” or continue adventuring in wildernesses and perhaps in some distant dungeon as well (if you are kind); otherwise, they will perforce be excluded from game sessions which are taking place during a period of game time in which they were wandering about in the countryside doing other things. This latter sanction most certainly applies to characters learning a new language, studying and training for promotion in level, or off someplace manufacturing magic items.

Given that sort of philosophy in the application of game-time, I can really see that someone venturing into the dungeons, taking 3 h.p. of damage and casting a spell, and then returning to hit the next room at full strength, would rapidly be overtaken by other adventurers who were more willing to take risks and push the limits of their resources. Otherwise, after returning to the dungeons after a couple of days’ rest and relaxation, one might well find the section of dungeon originally intended for exploration had been sacked by others.

Having that happen once or twice might well make even the most cautious of adventurer become just a tad more… adventuresome.
* One slice at a time. 😉

Written by 

Wargamer and RPG'er since the 1970's, author of Adventures Dark and Deep, Castle of the Mad Archmage, and other things, and proprietor of the Greyhawk Grognard blog.

7 thoughts on “More On the 15 Minute Workday

  1. I am not sure but I have a feeling that if you went into the dungeon for a fight or two then left to rest a few days then Gary might have said "Ok, I will call you when I am ready again." So your session might only last half an hour or an hour then you wouldn't play again for another few days to a week, during which time others would have come in like you said.

  2. I didn't explain myself very well. What I meant was that you wouldn't be able to adventure for an entire night (say a three hour session), just having one fight then, "we rest for three days", one fight, "we rest for a week", one fight, "we rest for two days", and so on for the entire three hours. I think the first time you say "we rest for three days" Gary would have said "See you in three days" and you would be out the door.

  3. I kind of manage the 15-minute adventuring day by having dungeons be out in the middle of the wilderness. Until you're safely back in town, you're at risk. If you spend three hazardous days wandering through the desert to get to the dungeon, you will probably want to stay there longer than 15 minutes before having to again trek across perilous terrain.

  4. Interesting thoughts. I like the ida of competition driving people to take bigger and bigger risks…that would be a lot more fun from the DM perspective, and probably the players', too.

    @John, when I read the main post I kept thinking how my players always push things – then I read your comment and realized that's how my dungeon is set up. Interesting.

  5. Good thoughts, Joe!

    Even if you're not DMing multiple, concurrent groups of players in your megadungeon, this competition can be easily simulated through NPC adventuring parties.


  6. In my Castle Nicodemus game on G+ there have been many times when a group has fought hard through several encounters, explored through dangerous rooms, then decided they were just too spent to risk going further.. only to have the next group go in and easily get a pile of treasure (and xp).

  7. Did the party hide the dead bodies before they went to bed?

    If not, they can be discovered by others in the dungeon. They might either flee their location (taking their treasure with them) or reinforce their position in the same way that a unit in the army might 'dig in'. Think trapping doors and setting up ambushes.

    Even if the bodies are gone, there will be signs of a struggle that can be noticed and the dungeon residents should react accordingly.

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