Time, Randomness and Complications

As the DM is it’s part of your job to keep track of time. Time limits resources, causes random attacks, and even events to pass. You can absolutely give this job to track with one of the players (I recommend the time tracking sheet here).

How does time work within your adventure? Basically doing activities takes time, but while that time passes the world does NOT stand still. Read up on time in-game here. Once you’r familiar with how time works, it’s up to you to assign values of time as the party progresses, as well as to describe what happens when resources are used up, and to add complexity to your games using time.

For example: The party is exploring a deep dark underground complex. They’re about half way into the maze of tunnels, but they’re almost out of torches. What’s the plan to find their way out without light?


To make this process easy, we’ll use the proposed Tension Pool from The Angry DM .

The Tension Pool represents inefficiency. It represents the fact that time – and actions – are always a limited resource and if you don’t respect their value and think carefully and act efficiently, your life is going to suck.  – The Angry DM

For each turn passes, add one d6 to the dice pool. At the end of the 6th turn roll all of the dice in the pool. Consult the complications table for the result. After you roll, remove all dice from the dice poll and start over. The Tension Pool should be visible to the players, including the tension roll. The Complication table should be kept privately by the DM.

For example: In my Sample Dungeon Complications (below) If the result is greater than 24 – a complication happens. Monster encounters only happen 13% of the time.

Complications List

The complications listed here are only a sample. You should make up your own list that matches your adventure. If you’re in a dungeon, then the complications should be dungeon related, if you’re in a city, then they should be city related. There’s also a list of fun ways to kill player here.

NOTE: You don’t need to roll on the list, you can always just pick or slot in something else of your choosing. Also you don’t have to clear the pool at the end of the 6th turn. Just keep adding dice. Finally you can add as many complications as you want. You can have 36 different options, or if you have more dice even more!

Sample Dungeon Complications

6d6 Result
24 or less Nothing Happens
25-30 Random Monster Encounter
31 Equipment failure (backpack, torch gets blown out, sack of gold springs a leak, etc)
32 A strange smell fills the air
33 NPC Party: Adventurers (encounter)
34 NPC Party: Bandits (encounter)
35 Unstable Dungeon – random area collapses. Maybe it’s just a bang echoing in or a cloud of dust filling the area.
36 Gelatinous Cube Cleaning

Sample City Complications

6d6 Result
24 or less Nothing Happens
25-30 Random Monster Encounter
31 Guards/Militia to arrest a player
32-33 Pick Pocketed! Random item lost
34 Missionaries Aggressively Recruiting
35-36 Unfriendly Townsfolk w/ Pitch Forks

Random Encounters: Level 1 Monsters

d10 Monster
1 Bee, Giant
2 Goblin
3 Green Slime*
4 Kobold
5 Skeleton
6 Snake, Cobra
7 Spider, Giant Crab
8 Stirge
9 Wolf
10 Orcs

Random Forest Encounters

d20 Monster
1 Bandits
2 Blights
3 Dragon, Green
4 Druid
5 Dryad
6 Faeries
7 Gnomes
8 Goblins
9 Lion, Panther or Tiger
10 Mole
11 Moose
12 Owlbear
13 Shambling mound
14 Spider, Giant
15 Treants
16 Troglodytes
17 Trolls
18 Wasps/flies
19 Will-o’-wisp
20 Wolves

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