Tracking Time, Time Trackers

Gary Gygax famously declared strict time records to be vital for a meaningful campaign, but with the 5e DMG lacking any real helpful tips on how to manage time I tended to let it fall by the wayside.

But with a greater appreciation of the importance of structure in making characters’ decisions have an impact, a conscious effort was needed to note the passing of time and turns in our Barrowmaze campaign.

Most of the time it was simply a matter of cordoning off a section of my squared notebook page and filling in segments to mark the passing of ten-minute turns. Aesthetic value didn’t factor – I just needed to know when to roll for encounters, and whether the party had been dungeon delving long enough for me to bring out a different wandering monster table as day turned to night.

However, the Barrowmaze games operated under the assumption that every session would end with the party back in the safe hometown, so I didn’t put much effort into time records beyond hours underground and days overgound. For our Evils of Illmire campaign, though, I wanted something better suited to recording where a session left off, so I put together this sheet:

The ten-minute turns fill in as before, but now they are more easily distinguished as part of specific 6-hour overland turns, and the quartered circles help track the days by reminding me whether the characters are exploring in the morning, afternoon, evening or night. It prints as an A4 document, giving a decent bit of white space for jotting down notes.

While I had Affinity Publisher up, I also put together a calendar for a slightly more diagetic tracker of days passed (as opposed to Barrowmaze where we started at Day 1 and have been counting up ever since). I can’t remember where I saw the suggestion of naming months by their seasonal quarter, but I owe the simple naming convention to them:

Each month is 28 days long since it’s just simpler to track four whole weeks than weeks spread across different months and seasons. A fantasy world can afford the loss of the odd 30 days a year for the sake of a GM’s convenience.

I compiled them into a document and printed it out as a booklet – it tucks nicely into the Illmire notes and frees up the notebook for more of my illegible scrawls.

Please feel free to use it and / or tinker with it if it might be of help in tracking time in your campaigns. Click here for the PDF, or click here for the Affinity Publisher file.

4 thoughts on “Tracking Time, Time Trackers

  1. Love it! Stolen, printed and stuffed into my GM Folder! The calendar seems very French Republican Calendar, correct me if I’m wrong…

    I myself have been fiddling around with a similar calendar tracker for Mausritter; instead I used the concept of 12 months, 4 weeks/month, 6 days/week. Mashing it with Mausritters Zodiac system works, and it maps well onto seasons (if needed) and it’s easy enough to find a random day (d4,d6, d12).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Nice idea with dice-able days! Truly taking the d66 roll to the next level.

      The French Republican 10-day week did come into consideration for the ease of calculation, but in the end I stuck with 7-day weeks because I feel having ‘X is happening next week’ to mean in the next ten days rather than seven is a greater disparity than ‘X is happening next month’ meaning in the next 28 days rather than 30.

      It’s a bit like trying to refer to HP as something other than Hit Points – some things are just too ingrained. Not that it stops us trying.


  2. I’m borrowing this, too!

    To make a more approximately “real-Earth” year, simply do what the ancients did with their lunar calendars: add an extra month at the year’s end.

    I suggest calling it “Thawtide” (assuming a temperate climate and nothing much warmer or colder) and making it the last month of the year, leading into Springswax. That gives you a 364-day year, and the remaining 1.25 days won’t be missed (though Referees running lo-o-ong campaigns may want an intercalary holiday annually and a maybe leap year like ours, if the people in the setting have tracked these things for some centuries, enough to notice the effect).

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Interesting idea – it would certainly be an homage to our own occasionally idiosyncratic diary. For a long-term campaign where I’m looking for a bit more convincingly odd flavour I might well go with that, but the fact that it’s a prime number I will keep it out of the more streamlined calendar – we’ll be more likely to count ahead in weeks and months rather than days, so a slightly shorter than normal year might be easier to overlook than remember there’s an extra month in it.

      That, and the calendar boxes are already a little cramped!

      I’ll post the Affinity Publisher file should you or anyone else want to tinker with it.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s