Time In Dungeons

  1. ROOM TIMING – The time it takes to explore a dungeon is not especially clear in the 5e core materials. As such, interpretations of other sources are distilled below in order to increase realism, challenge, and immersion. 
    1. The rule of thumb for being in a room and not doing anything in particular is 5 minutes.  This assumes that the party is in a very general sense advancing at a semi-cautious pace (versus blasting headlong from room to room OR versus painstakingly investigating).   This also assumes a room of 4×4  (20ft x 20ft) or smaller.
    1. Larger rooms take longer at the DMs discretion  Smaller rooms with a lot of visual obstacles or objects of interest can take longer also.  The basic rule is for every full 400 feet of dungeon area, add 5 minutes.
      1. 5×5 = 5 minutes (625 square feet)
      1. 5×6 = 5 minutes (750 square feet)
      1. 8×4 = 10 minutes (800 square feet)
      1. 6×6 = 10  minutes (900 square feet)
      1. 7×8 = 15 minutes (1,500 square feet)
      1. 8×8 = 20 minutes (1,600 square feet)
    1. The above speed factors in and allows for:
      1. Passive perception
      1. Quick, specific perception checks that could be done at-a-glance
        1. To address the very common “listening at the door” – that’s an “activity with consequence” below.
        1. Taking a quick listen will only yield results if the noise on the other side of the door is described as “loud” or similar.
      1. Room description copy (aka noticing the obvious)
      1. Distillation of time spent in non-combat, non-skilled activities e.g. plotting strategy, counting coins, divvying treasure, talking freely, etc. 
  1. Undertaking activities with consequences adds 5 minutes per room per activity, but activities can overlap.  Given a party of 5 adventurers, the following scenarios exemplify the rule:
      1. 2 adventurers spend time checking a door for traps and listening for enemies on the other side while another inspects a nearby desk and two stand idle.  5 minutes – all three acting characters are acting simultaneously.
      1. 1 adventurer checks a door for traps while two others inspect a desk and two more stand idle.  When the first adventurer does not find traps, another adventurer comes over to try for themselves.  10 minutes.  A series of actions were executed in the first 5 minutes, and then another adventurer came over to double-check (separate action).
      1. 5 adventurers, one after another, try to force open a door.  25 minutes.  Each adventure spends a significant amount of time mentally preparing themselves for, and then undertaking, a very strenuous feat, one after another.
    1. The party can move faster (double speed – 2 minutes per room / 400 square feet) but with the following penalties:
      1. No stealth
      1. No passive perception
      1. Minimized “room copy” (barely noticing the obvious)
      1. Auto-fail any trap detection rolls or similar (but saves still as normal).
    1. Combat is for the most part “folded in” to these time l imits – the 90 seconds or so a fight tends ot last includes planning, deploying, attacking, healing, and is not especially significant to understanding overall time in the dungeon.
    1. NOTE:  Players are encouraged to think carefully about how they are spending time and deploying their abilities.  A spell or feature lasting 10 minutes may now carry a character through a few rooms before wearing off (as opposed to an entire dungeon).  Players may choose to hustle in order to keep an ability going, or skip entire rooms altogether if time is a factor (and yes, missing all that sweet, sweet treasure as a result).
  1. EXCEPTION:  Hallways – because hallways are more-or-less regular constructs with (usually) clearly intended purposes, the following special exceptions apply.
      1. Every character in a hallway, moving at normal or slow (stealth) speed, may make one of the following actions without necessitating an additional 5 minutes in the hallway – characters moving quickly may not:
        1. Check for traps (up to 30’ long section of hallway or one single door or conspicuous feature).
        1. Check for secret doors (as above).
        1. Listen at a door (full perception versus opposed stealth).
      1. A character wishing to make a second action (e.g. do something else, try again, pick a lock, disarm a trap) must spend the usual +5 minutes.
      1. Very long hallways, at the DMs discretion, may merit additional 5 minute action blocks, as described above (i.e. “free” actions during hallway exploration every 30 feet of hallway).
      1. Very complicated hallways, at the DMs discretion, may negate the above exceptions.