“As you take down the daemon lord with a might swing of tour axe, the hellgate at the lowest level of this ancient…

“As you take down the daemon lord with a might swing of tour axe, the hellgate at the lowest level of this ancient…

“As you take down the daemon lord with a might swing of tour axe, the hellgate at the lowest level of this ancient castle is closed by the wizard’s mighty ritual. The helish invasion is finally stopped, and now the common folk of the nearby village can live safely.

On the moment you think you can take a little rest, you feel a great tremor, noticing that the walls and the ceiling are starting to crack, and small chunks of stone are falling all over the place. This castle is crumbling down, and it might be your grave, if you’re not fast enough. What are you going to do?”

Hey folks, how do you handle situations when the player characters have a limited time to work around?

P.S.: Please rate my flavor text above : )

13 thoughts on ““As you take down the daemon lord with a might swing of tour axe, the hellgate at the lowest level of this ancient…”

  1. There’s a few ways to handle it.

    One way is to make it a Stakes Question. “Will [character names] make it out before the castle crumbles.” That means it’s something you want to find out, but aren’t going to answer solely by yourself.

    Another way to do it is to tie it to Grim Portents. Check them off as GM moves or when the fiction dictates as usual.

    Lastly, you could make a custom move. Have points of a resource accumulate or be lost, and when a certain number is reached, the thing happens. Like start with 10 Time. Whenever a player rolls a 6 or less, lose 1 Time in addition to anything else. When Time reaches 0, the castle collapses.

  2. Use a new threat

    Doom: it is the end.

    Grim portents:

    – the walls are cracked.

    – the floor below you crumbles.

    – the ceiling collapses partially.

    – you are under dirt and rocks.

    You may also use a custom move like: when you spend x time doing stuff, defy danger to do it fast enough. A failure means that another grim portent happens. On a partial success, spend enough time and advance a grim portent, or miss a crucial detail.

  3. I agree with the series of portents. Basically make a check list. Make it public (in the center of the table), and check off items when they roll a 6-. Give them obstacles and opportunities to roll as they make their escape. You’ll want more rolls than portents, but not a lot more.

  4. Agree with the others. Nothing really to add, mostly commenting because this is a topic I’m interested in and wanted to be aware of any further discussion (if any 🙂 )

  5. Absolutely seconding what Aaron Griffin is saying. Don’t hide it.

    The more you take out from your hands the time-race, by delegating it to custom rules VISIBLE TO THE PLAYERS, the less you’ll be able to “save” the players or “damn” them by accelerating or slowing down the portents.

    Of course, some times they will be able to make it out lon before the castle crumbles. That is fine.

    On the other hand, YOU WILL NOT BE THERE TO SAVE THEM. This means they will be really worried about the time.

    Another move format:

    You start with 0 Doom. For better effect, put tokens on the table.

    When you do something time consuming before the castle crumbles, roll + Doom.

    On a 13+ the castle collapses. If you’re inside, good luck.

    On a 10-12, there is a major crumble. The GM describes its effect, and take + 1 Doom.

    On a 7-9, creeeeeeeek…. take +1 Doom.

    On a 6-, you don’t gain any experience.

  6. These are fantastic!

    Another option, to give those gamblers some fun:

    Using some of the above suggestions. Use Grim portents. And a move that uses a custom resource called Time.

    The building collapses when either the grim portents are all checked off, or Time runs out. You can have them start with any amount of time and grim portents depending on how long of a timer you want.

    Check off a grim portent when a player rolls a 6-.

    Now this is where the gambling aspect takes place. Let the players “take extra time to carefully navigate the situation” when they roll by spending time to add to the roll (spend the time before they roll). They can do the opposite aswell by moving fast and “save time”. They can add time to their pool and subtract that number from their roll (again, add the amount of time before they roll).

    Now the players can move faster or take their time and that will have a direct impact mechanically to the time counter

  7. May have to put in a limit of how much time can be spent or saved. Or have that amount directly impact how many grim portents are marked off at a time.

    Example when you fail a roll:

    Roll of 6-3 is one grim portent

    Roll a 2 is two grim portents

    Roll a 1 is three grim portents

    This way players can’t cheat the system by acting REALLY fast and saving alot of time on their first roll to purposefully fail it and stock up time to use later. If they do, allot more than one grim portent will be marked off.

  8. Set out a die with the number you think expresses the urgency of the situation. When you present dangers to them, reduce the die by one for any failures. If they do anything that could feasibly stave off the disaster, increase it by one if they succeed, or if they get a 10+ you could not turn down the die on the next failure. Just giving a general quick and easy method. I like all of the suggestions so far.

  9. Aaron Griffin Thanks! Going along with yours, you could also offer them an opportunity as well, like “Thief, you see a valuable jewel encrusted statuette sitting on a table. You can stop to retrieve it, but it will move the die down by one. That piece will feed you like a king for a while. Do you go for it?” Like, there’s no danger other than losing precious moments to get this treasure. That could lead to some triggered flags or alignments for sure.

  10. Echoing what others have suggested, I think a countdown (grim portents) is the best way to go.

    I would NOT put the full list out there for everyone to see, but I think I would use the die counter (or something similar) as a public countdown. Showing the steps on the grim portents feels too much like saying the name of your move, to me.

    A few extra things I’d do, if I was really going to prep this:

    1) For each “step” on the countdown, I’d jot down a couple specific GM moves to go along with each one, maaybee with some player-facing resolution. E.g.

    [] Building starts to shake, walls crack, dust falls

    * Challenge their balance or footing

    * Choke the air and their lungs with dust

    * Drown out their voices

    * Have a door stick

    [] Things fall apart

    * Rocks fall from above (d10 forceful)

    * The floor gives out beneath thenm

    * The passage ahead/behind collapses

    * Prisoners escape

    * People flee and panic

    [] Bedlam

    * Tilt an entire room or level

    * Crush them beneath tons of stone

    * Send them plummeting to their doom

    * Bury them alive

    [] DOOM >> Collapse

    * Any PCs left inside roll Last Breath

    * Maybe do likewise for any important NPCs

    2) Have a map. Not necessarily detailed or to scale, but know what lies between them and freedom, and what the possible paths are. It could be as simple as: Portal Room >> Temple >> Great Stairs >> Catacombs >> Dungeon >> Great Hall >> Vestibule >> OUT!

    Ideally, you kept notes as they came in the dungeon, and can just reverse those.

    Bonus points if you have alternate escape routes, things that can be discovered with Discern Realities or following the skeevy chancellor or or or.

    3) Write out some additional, specific Dungeon Moves. Like, look at each of the Dungeon Moves and come up with 1-3 specific examples of each. Some of those will overlap with your Grim Portent moves, but some won’t.


    Change the Environment:

    * The Great Stairs buckle and a chunk before you falls way. You’ll have to jump for it!

    * Oh, crap… where’d all this water come from?

    Offer Riches At a Price:

    * You see the glint of gold, it’s the royal scepter, just laying there across the room, but the ceiling above it is starting to crack and buckle, what do you do?

    * You glimpse an open door, and inside is what looks like some mad scientist’s lab and library… ancient tomes, shelves of arcane reagents, all shaking back and forth, a couple of them fall off and shatter as you watch

    Introduce a New Faction or Creature Type

    * A whole slew of escaped orc slaves is ahead of you, trying to squirm through the choked-off passage



  11. Just an argument for showing them the list: some of the characters will know the danger they’re in. It makes them look cool to be able to say “the ceilings will start collapsing soon, you need to get out of there”.

    Also, knowing what you’re in for increases tension in my experience.

  12. If you’re improvising a timed situation the die is a great resource because it provides the same structure as a bunch of grim portents with the doom being when the die gets to a 1.

    If you have time you can still use the die and layout the grim portents for yourself to add into the fiction when appropriate.

    You can then have the die tick down when you make a hard or soft move.

    The real thing is how you want to structure the obstacles they need to deal with to get out because if it’s just a run to the exit without any kind of opposition then why not make it any more than a single defy danger roll.

    So grab a die, figure out your opposition keeping the characters from escaping, and go to town.

    From that base you can build as much or as little detail into it using custom moves or whatever to make it work for you but that’s the base idea, plus the die on the table creates another level of tension.

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