View Full Version : [D&D] Changing the Nature of the Day and Night Cycle

2009-02-07, 03:36 AM
Hello All,

Doing some brainstorming on my campaign world, and one of the ideas that I really, really like and really, really wanted to implement was the idea that day and night lasted for longer periods of time than here on Earth.

I was thinking something like 200 hours of daylight, then 200 hours of darkness at a given time (instead of using the term "day", I'd intended to use the term "spell", as in "I'll pay you for the horses next light spell" or "I haven't seen Euromar since the dark spell before last").

I like this idea because it allows for drastic changes at almost a moment's (well, several hours') notice. Shops might still be open during the dark spell, but open air bazaars almost certainly wouldn't without the ability to light up their immediate area (which wouldn't be terribly difficult, since I'm looking at a high magic game). I like the importance it attaches to the dawn and dusk periods, and I've even done a lot of thinking about how to handle time.

Actually, I'm pretty proud of that, so I'm going to go into it here. My roommate actually provided the basis for this: hourglasses. I know, what? I'm thinking huge hourglasses would be sort of like clock towers for towns. Each major city (and some smaller cities that've raised the funds) would commission enormous hourglasses set to drain for 200 hours. The glasses would be marked on each side (haven't decided how many marks per side), so certain times of the "spell" would be referred to as "marks" (as in, meet me at the tavern at third mark).

If I end up using this idea, I will almost certainly be using the above system. However, a couple hitches have got me kind of concerned, and I'd like some feedback if anyone's willing to give any.

What would be the purpose for people to maintain a typical sleep cycle? Or would they even do so (typical being the "ideal" sleep cycle, 16 hours up, 8 down)? The problem I have with people just doing their own thing as far as sleep goes is the effect it would seemingly have on society. Using real world times, if the blacksmith wakes up at nine in the evening and goes to bed at noon, while the quartermaster of the King's Army isn't awake during those hours, how're they going to get business done? A 24 hour cycle is still pretty important because of the nature of D&D magic...you get spells per day, where "day" is defined as a 24 hour period. How do you handle that? Would it be completely broken to like...multiply your spells per day by 8, and say that's all the spells per...spell (weird syntax...gotta look into that), or maybe 16, and say "that's all you get for the next cycle"? Because if you do that, if you don't balance the encounters right, you end up with someone who has like 48 9th level spells for one encounter, since they're going to refresh in another 10 minutes. This is definitely my major concern.

Agriculture in general. How're plants going to grow if they're in the dark for 200 hours at a time? Artificial sunlight? Druidic magic? I am thinking high magic, so this isn't as big of an issue, but it's still something to consider. And yes, this one could easily be handwaved (D&D plants don't NEED sunlight, damn it!) but I'd rather have some sort of explanation.

These issues (especially the first one) keep cropping up in my head, and it's keeping me from being able to brainstorm on other parts of the campaign world. Any suggestions?

2009-02-07, 04:45 AM
Plants can have addapted to the situation. Humans may sleep erratically, like cats. Keep the 24 hour spell refresh cycle I think. Apprentices etc make mis-matched sleep cycles easier to handle... think shifts. Consider making Goggles of Low-light vision noticable common for travelers (since torches might tend to attract too much attention).

2009-02-08, 01:39 PM
People would almost definitely develop odd sleeping cycles without an obvious reason to keep an "up during the day, asleep at night" thing going. Heck I've got the obvious reason to keep a normal sleep schedule and I'm still asleep when most people are awake and awake when most people are asleep. I swear my body's internal clock is in another time zone.

However I don't think the thing where the local blacksmith and the local lord's quartermaster keeping different schedules would be an issue. People that interact often (especially for business reasons) would develop a sleep schedule where awake times overlap out of necessity to be able to keep track of business. I actually think that whole town would develop very similar schedules so they could interact with each other. Even near by towns would probably end up using close schedules with each other for the same reasons though scheduling drift would happen. I honestly think it would be adventurers and other travelers who would have the most problem with this, they'd be going from town to town and the further they traveled the more the schedule they started on (their local time) is different from what town they're in (the local's local time).

What would be interesting is if each city had it's own schedule enforced by the ruling body (weather that be the nobility, a group of mages, the church or whatever) and thus all the nearby towns sticking to that time more or less. But as you go farther out the time starts to drift by a few hours here, a few hours there until you finally get to another area with an enforced time schedule.

2009-02-08, 01:45 PM
Oh one more thing that could bear some thinking for a setting like this is how would the day/night cycle effect the things like the gods and goddesses of the day/sun or night/moon and stars? Also what about monsters that are effected by sunlight or moonlight. I imagine that this would have a great effect on the activities of vampires. Not to mention with the moon cycles so different from our own how would you keep track of when lycanthropes change? Just some food for thought.

2009-02-08, 01:50 PM
Another interesting thing would be, that temperature shifts will often be very high. After a full week of sunlight, it would become very hot, as it would be after a full week of night. People and animals would have a much higher tollerance for temperatures, but it would still be quite interesting at the times of the greatest extremes. Maybe you could have weekends before dusk and dawn, when it's really much too hot or cold to work outside.

Really exotic would be dry areas near the equator, which change from sand dessert to frozen tundra every cycle.

2009-02-08, 02:17 PM
It seems like it would be more practical to have the hourglasses drain every mark. Also, why hourglasses rather than, say, pendulum clocks?

If you feel the need to have people all awake at the same time, you could hand wave it as them synchronizing their sleep cycles to each other. If you don't do that, people could just hire temporary workers to keep their stores opened 24/7, or people could go to whatever store is opened at the time.

The idea that plants wouldn't be able to survive a world like that reminds me of part of the book nightfall, which takes place on a planet that has several suns and at least one is always up, except during an eclipse every two thousand years, where someone figured that a simple solar system with one planet and one star wouldn't be able to support life because sunlight is so important to life and the sunlight would go away every night.

Considering that a good portion of trees shed their leaves for months at a time, going without sunlight for a week shouldn't be a problem. Do you think the deciduous trees should lose their leaves during the night?

2009-02-08, 07:49 PM
A week isn't long enough for leaf shedding to be efficient I don't think. Many plants curl up their leaves at night, and that might be more common...

2009-02-08, 08:09 PM
Whoops, sorry guys, forgot I'd even posted here :-P

Anyway, I got some good feedback from the WOTC boards, so I'm going to sum up here what I've decided, and respond to y'all's feedback.

Every 400 hours is called a cycle, consisting of both a 200 hour light and 200 hour dark "spell". Each spell is divided into 8 marks, which are further divided into quartermarks.

Social convention is what keeps people's sleep cycles straight. The government works during the first and second quartermarks, so it makes sense for everyone else to attune themselves to that schedule. The third quartermark is typically the "recreation" period of the day, and the fourth quartermark, being 7 hours instead of 6 as the others are, is for sleeping. This is obviously the "standard" sleep cycle, and doesn't account for shift work or adventurers.

I think I'm going to have weather be completely unaffected by the day and night cycle, and instead have it be directly tied to the seasons:

Earth Season (Spring)
Fire Season (Summer)
Air/Wind Season (Autumn)
Water/Ice Season (Winter)

I think the implications of each are obvious :-P

I've also decided that the sun and the moon are going to actually be sentient creatures; deities, in fact. The major deities of the campaign setting. Their rotation is going to work like this:

Sun travels from East to West, and meets the moon on the far West edge of the world.
Moon travels West to East.
Sun travels West to East, and meets the moon on the far East edge of the world.
Moon travels East to West.

I really like this because a.) I like the idea that the celestial bodies are sentient, and b.) it allows me to create two cults, the Sun- and Moonwalkers, which actually walk on foot across the world, following the sun/moon.

And I like spell-length hourglasses because I'm thinking they're going to be huge. And I like the thought of gigantic hourglasses for some reason. As far as pendulums clocks go, I'm not that into the idea of clockwork for some reason for this campaign.

And for plants, I'm actually going to have them have larger leaves and more complex root systems for absorbing/storing more energy for the dark spells. The exception to this would be medicinal herbs and precious spices and the like, which would be grown in "greenhouses", which I'm visualizing as little wooden buildings with a permanent daylight spell cast inside them.

2009-02-08, 08:12 PM
You could add in some trees that do it as an exotic flair, but the majority of them wouldn't.

Trees shed leaves for other reasons than "not getting any sun." They're trying suck back the nutrients and water before winter comes and kills the leaves, while dumping as much waste product as they can into the mass. That's right, leaves are tree poop.

The cold / hot thing won't be that big a problem, actually. Just think of extremely stormy weather going on for a bit over a week. Sure, the temperature WILL drop, but it won't be suddenly -20 or anything. More like hovering somewhere between 0 and 5 (C). Meanwhile, the arctic circle or whatnot have summer for MONTHS ON END and they don't hit temperatures like +40. On the other hand, coastal areas will have very mild temperature switches thanks to the oceans. I'd represent that by having very in-land areas being nigh impossible to settle.

The man who suggested deserts that turn into ice-coated tundra had a great idea. The wildlife there will be... interesting, to say the least. It's unlikely they could turn icey though, thanks to the lack of precipitation. Unless there was something like a water elemental hanging around...

The hourglass bit seems inefficient. People don't go for inefficient practices, so you may want to rework that a bit.

2009-02-08, 11:23 PM
What would you suggest other than hourglasses?

2009-02-09, 01:43 AM
Some one mentioned pendulum clocks.

Regular clocks (ie circular, with hands) could work.

You could even get giant magical bells that ring themselves after a certain amount of time. This could go well with your 'high magic' world. Since you've got a high magic world, you could get really creative and decide whether or not you want to enforce a 'standard' or have every little place make their own time device. It'd help your PCs keep the places straight in their heads.

Maybe make different models for different wealth levels. The self-ringing bells are easy to make so the poorer places have them (unless you get them in super-huge form. Would they be animated objects, perhaps?). Maybe pendulum clocks are the 'economy time-teller' as you can get a decent idea of where it is. Full out clocktowers are the most efficient but not the most expensive - the hourglasses you mentioned can be a symbol of wealth or a certain order or the like. Tradition is steeped in inefficiency, after all.

2009-02-09, 01:30 PM
I think clocks themselves might be just a little bit too complex for the world I'm trying to build...I'm not doing this for everything, since it'd radically change the world, but I'm kind of taking the idea of "how would technology have evolved here if we'd had magic instead?" and applying it to certain situations (such as telling time).

I like the bell idea to an extent, but I don't like the fact that you don't have a visual cue as to what time of day it is. You can't look at a bell that's not currently ringing and say "Oh, it's 3rd quartermark." Maybe use the bells in conjunction with another form of time telling...I really do like the hourglasses though...you mentioned ineffeciency, and I'm curious as to what exactly you're getting at with it? Why are hourglasses specifically ineffecient? After all, they WERE actually used in our history?

After rereading that paragraph, it comes off as a bit snarky, and that's definitely NOT my intent. I'm simply trying to understand your concern with the hourglasses, as I'm particularly partial to the idea.

2009-02-09, 01:58 PM
I think you mean "NOT my intent"?

2009-02-09, 10:51 PM
I think you mean "NOT my intent"?

LOL, good catch ;-)

2009-02-10, 01:39 AM
Well the effects on the weather would be absolutely insane. Temperature would reach scorching to arctic extremes at noon and midnight. Dawn and dusk would come with hurricane force winds (or greater) flowing from the hot areas to the cold. Evaporation and thus precipitation would also be greatly increased. The planet would be uninhabitable. But you can handwave that all away for the sake of game story and pretend you never heard it from me. I'm just saying we really take for granted how precisely tuned every parameter is for us on earth, since we never have to put up with things going truly bad like they are on all the lifeless planets.

Ovaltine Patrol
2009-02-10, 03:37 AM
Agriculture in general. How're plants going to grow if they're in the dark for 200 hours at a time? Artificial sunlight? Druidic magic? I am thinking high magic, so this isn't as big of an issue, but it's still something to consider. And yes, this one could easily be handwaved (D&D plants don't NEED sunlight, damn it!) but I'd rather have some sort of explanation.

Fungi might play an important role in peoples diets. Perhaps Myconids could be a major agricultural power :smallsmile:

2009-02-10, 05:25 AM
Take a cue from the sea - ridiculously fast growing plants. Kelp can grow over a foot a DAY! Plants could adapt to having a two-week-or-whatever life cycle. You'd admittedly be unlikely to see deciduous plants like this, but coniferous would be abundant.

I also really, really, really wish people would get over the "OMG ARCTIC TO SCORCHING" thing. It won't be that big a deal. Time and time again, I just point to the poles. ~4 months of night and it gets to what, -60 as the general extreme? While surrounded by huge ice floes, no less. Then summer rolls around and there's ~4 months of straight sunlight.

And the winds are only going to show up if there's some sort of round-world-somewhere-is-always-day deal going on. If it's flat and the sun just rises and sets (say, thanks to a Sun God's journey across the sky) there won't be too much wind. But if there is, use it for your fluff! Strange and alien plants growing when the sun is out, preparing their night-time flowers, dying with their fruits and seeds hanging limply on the branch, wind comes along and blows all this stuff all over the place. The First Day and The First Night could be terribly dangerous times thanks to all the debris floating around.

Now, as for time telling, the bell having no 'quartermarks' is exactly why it would be the cheap version, right? Sometimes you just have to work on a budget.

Ok, why would hourglasses be inefficient? Because you have to have them turn themselves, which to me would require much more time and energy than, for example, a swinging pendulum. The whole total-start-stop thing in practice.

Not to mention how hourglasses would be really hard to tell time with at a distance.

Actually, come to think of it... High magic setting. Bam. Permanent Image. Some kind of graphic representation of time. Be it numbers, a rotary clock, a man dancing the robot, or a lava lamp - it's up to you at this point.

2009-02-10, 02:55 PM
Awesome world idea. Here are my thoughts:

-The hourglasses would be better off as "one day" hourglasses, not "one spell" hourglasses. People already know when a spell is over, because they see the sun rising/setting. But if the town square has, say a 20-hour hourglass it can measure one "day" which is divided into 20 "marks" so that people can actually set up meetings and things. This also solves your blacksmith problem: if he wants to keep his own hours that's fine, but if he wants the juicy gov't contract he will have to be up and at work by 8th mark every "day" or get fired.

-Spells: Here is what I would suggest. Have the stars in the sky move more quickly than our earth's stars. Each time a new constellation enters the very centre of the sky--roughly every 20 hours--mages regain spells/day (this makes more thematic sense for sorcerers and even clerics than for wizards, but you can adjust as needed). This would also mean that during the light spell it's hard to see where the constellations are, and thus hard to estimate when exactly your spells will refresh. It would make it worthwhile to invest in some kind of hand-made timepiece just to be able to accurately judge "new spell time" when away from cities with hourglasses, or when underground.

An alternate to the constellation thing is to have a moon that moves through the sky. Each time it passes a set zodiac sign, with is 10 times per 200-hour spell, mages regain their spells. This works basically the same as the constellation method except that moons are easier to see in daylight hours. You could also have two moons, one that crosses the sky in the light spell and one in the dark spell.

You could also adjust these times, so that (for instance) the moon sign or constellation changes every two "days" (40 hours) instead of every "day" (20 hours). And then give mages twice as many spells which they have to ration over two days. Or, to fix some of the power imbalance with mages, have it refresh every 2 days but only give them 1.5 times as many spells as normal D&D. (If you opt for this, I would give them unlimited 0th level spells like Pathfinder does, and eliminae Cure Minor Wounds of course.)

You could even have the moon sign or constellation change at intervals that are not divisible by 20 (say, every 30 hours). That would mean that mages would regain spells at a different time from one "day" to the next. One day they'd get them at breakfast, another day at dinner, and another day they wouldn't refresh at all. It would be extra work for the DM but if you made a good chart it would work OK.

Either way, the coolest thing about having spells refresh based on moon signs or constellations is that you could have each sign/constellation refresh magic in a slightly different way. For example, maybe Leo grants maximised fire spells but doesn't allow illusion spells at all. Virgo allows buffs and black magic but nothing else. Libra allows any spells the mage wants, with no abnormal effects. Scorpio raises the DC of all Charm spells by 2. You get the idea.

The only trick would be to come up with the right number and variety of signs or stars to give at least one boon to every school of magic, so that no kind of specialist gets the short end of the stick.

This sort of unique spell refresh mechanic also makes room for a nice fake etymology for why dark and light periods are called "spells". At the end of each light or dark "spell" all of the constellations have had their turn ruling the sky and so every type of magical spell has been rained down by the heavens. Thus, each cycle is a full turn of spell-refreshing or a "spell."

-Plants aren' too problematic. What you want are plants that can go dormant during the dark spells. Of course, deciduous plants drlop their leaves to go dormant, and growing new leaves every 400 hours (17 days or so right?) would be very resource-intensive. So most of the perennials in your world would be either evergreens with needles or succulents with thick, protective skin. That way they can just store all their water and go to sleep when the sun goes down, and go right back to photosynthesising when the sun rises again.

This also leaves room for a wide variety of fast-growing "annuals" who grow and drop seeds in a quick 200 hours, then die when the dark spell goes on. This is exactly what real-world annuals do, just sped up somewhat. Plenty of flowers bloom within a few days of first sprouting, so this isn't hard to believe, though it would be only small plants and grasses for the most part.

These annuals may not leave seeds that sprout next light spell; there may be only a certain time of year that they will sprout, so that (for instance) the "burning wartroot" needed to make Restoration potions only sprouts and blossoms during one light spell in early spring. If you miss it, too bad.

I imagine fungi would have a much bigger roll in the ecosystem, as they handle darkness much better than plants. Of course we're not talking mostly about mushrooms here; mould is the main thing for these kinds of conditions. There could be a fast-spreading invasive mould, poisonous enough to kill a human in a spore-heavy area within 24 hours or so, which sometimes consumes whole villages. It would completely die off during light spells, leaving only its powerdered remains and the decomposed ruins of whatever forests or houses it claimed. This would make geography a little uncertain, which is always good for an adventure game, since you could leave a town and return to find it annihilated after any given dark spell. You could also find your way blocked by a swath of the fungus when traveling, and have to decide whether you wait, try to get around, or run through and hope to get out the other side before the poison takes its toll on you.

Whenever an inhabited region succumbs to the fungus, there would always be a question by the survivors after the light comes. Should we rebuild, since all the foundations are still intact, or are the spores lying in wait to sprout again next dark spell? They miht have a policy of waiting at least 3 dark spells before trusting that the fungus is truly gone. If there are no survivors, of course, then a haunted ruin awaits your adventurers...

Anyway these are just ideas but you'e on to something really cool here. I'd love to hear more.


2009-02-11, 04:28 AM
I really like this because a.) I like the idea that the celestial bodies are sentient, and b.) it allows me to create two cults, the Sun- and Moonwalkers, which actually walk on foot across the world, following the sun/moon.

Just bringing this up for you. 'A' is a good reason to do something. You like it, so why not put it in your world? 'B,' however, is not. You could still have the cults even if the sun and moon weren't sentient. All that matters is that the cultists believe they are sentient. Often, the ambiguity can make a world a lot more interesting when you factor in sub-factions that may not agree with how the others are interpreting their god's will or even completely different religions that think the sun and the moon are really just two sides of the same deity or maybe that both are only servants to the world.

2009-02-11, 03:23 PM
I think I've figured out what I'm going to do as far as telling time goes...I think we're still going to use hourglasses, but I think I'm going to introduce a competing technology (haven't decided what...may just cave and use clocksthat have like 3 hands, for like...marks, QMs, and hours) that might be more convenient, but due to familiarity with the old system, telling time will still use terminology from the hourglass days.

And again, I'm going to bring this up: the day/night cycle are going to be separate from the weather patterns. I've decided that the elements are going to be what causes weather patterns, not the amount of day and night. So, essentially, it could in theory get hotter at night than during the day, depending on the influence of the Fire deity. Storm fronts and the like are going to be a result of the Wind and Water deities clashing (or hell, maybe working together).

A_P, I like the constellation idea...not going to use it so much for telling time, but I like the idea of it having an influence on spells and the like. May have to examine that further.

Daracaex, I'd be inclined to agree with your assessment of b.) being a bad reason for wanting to use something, but I think you may have slightly misunderstood...I don't want the moon and sunwalkers to exist because the celestial bodies are sentient, I want them to exist because of the nature of their paths over the earth. They could be insentient (unsentient? dissentient? I dunno, lol) and the walkers could still follow them, as you said, believing that they were sentient. I'm just taking that one step further and actually ruling that they ARE sentient.

2009-02-11, 06:03 PM
And I say go for it. It's just worth it to think about the significance of these things when creating a world. Even if you don't use an idea, maybe it will get you thinking about something else and that will lead you to an awesome idea about something else.

One example might be if we were to take my thoughts on what if the sun and moon were not sentient and flipped it on its head. You've already decided that they're going to be sentient. The people of the world all know that they're sentient. But does everyone think they're gods? Maybe a faction against the sun and moon who think them false gods. Maybe it fits, maybe it doesn't. I don't know what you want for your world. I do know that subtle touches to the world and diversity in culture and beliefs can really pull people into it.

2009-02-11, 06:40 PM
It might make for a great story line if everyone 'knows' the sun and moon are deitys, but the players are sent to visit the moon via magic to contact 'her' for assistance, but find out that the moon, and probably the sun too, aren't alive at all. Think of the ramifications.

2009-02-11, 06:51 PM
maybe it's actually just one deity, that flips back and forth...like a giant heavenly coin....going back and forth each time...

One mind, but two personalities...maybe throw some masculine/feminine aspects in too?

2009-02-13, 12:04 AM
Just a bit of news: I have set up a wiki for this campaign world, and will be updating it as I can. If anyone's interested in being invited to the wiki to critique and whatnot, send me an email at "roninfrosty (at) yahoo (dot) com" and I'll add your email address to the access list.

2009-02-13, 01:00 AM
Just a few random thoughts:
One is that fungus is parasitic - it feeds of living/rotting animals or, more often, plants. With plants possibly being different, fungus might be as well. Sudden explosions of fungus that feed off the dying plants as soon as the dark spells starts, and flowers that further feed on the decaying fungus during the dark. People may have fungus farms that, rather than fertilizer, they are fed the inedible parts of slaughtered animals.

As someone mentioned, winds will be important in this world. Strong winds would precede the changing of the spells and last at least until several quartermarks later. In addition to being hot or cold during these times, these winds would add more danger. At one change you could have wind laden with loose frost (incredibly painful if you're not protected) rapidly turning to steam, fog, and rain. On the other end, sweltering heat and wind so strong that it's literally impossible to breathe at the other end. To me, that lends itself to some interesting ideas with religious beliefs, whether common religion or more secretive, cult-like organizations, or even just some other possibilities (holding secretive meetings outside because no one else it out in the heat and wind).

To the person who brought up the arctic: the arctic isn't really a great example. Yes it gets cold, but the fluctuation isn't there like in other places, and that's what's really important. The arctic averages a 90 degree difference between summer and winter. Compare it to the Middle East and the North American southwest, and temperatures can fluctuate 90 degrees a day. You're right that it won't necessarily get so cold that you just drop dead, but the extremes are such that one's body won't ever entirely get used to them. After four months of winter, 30 degrees is tshirt weather for me, but after a mere week of such a temperature, your body will have just gotten used to it before the temperature changes drastically.

2009-02-13, 12:33 PM
I notice the time is based on powers of two. Four quartermarks in a mark. Eight marks in a spell. Two spells in a cycle. This means that it's only divisible by powers of two. The way time (and other things, like angles) work is to have as many factors as possible. There are 12 hours in a day or night and 60 minutes in an hour, both of which are highly composite numbers (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Highly_composite_number).

Why did they make the last quartermark slightly longer? Are they actually using the hour?

Are the day and night spells of equal length?

If you like giant hourglasses, you may be interested in the Timewheel (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timewheel). It lasts for a year and takes four people forty-five minutes to turn over. I can't find one for a week.

I like the bell idea to an extent, but I don't like the fact that you don't have a visual cue as to what time of day it is. You can't look at a bell that's not currently ringing and say "Oh, it's 3rd quartermark."You can't look at an hourglass from a significant distance and do that either. You could use bells to tell people the hour.

Why do people have an entire quartermark for leisure? I think people needed to spend more than two-thirds of their waking time working when this takes place. Also, if you have leisure at the same time as everyone else, that means you can't do anything that requires anyone else. You can't go to a restaurant, for example. Then again, France seems to manage (they have one month off every year).