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What is a good way to keep track of time between encounters with an ability that regenerates at a rate of 1 per minute?

Force Ward

You constantly surround yourself with a ward of force. You gain a number of temporary hit points equal to your kineticist level. You always lose these temporary hit points first, even before other temporary hit points. If an attack deals less damage than you still have as temporary hit points from force ward, it still reduces those temporary hit points but otherwise counts as a miss for the purpose of abilities that trigger on a hit or a miss. These temporary hit points regenerate at a rate of 1 per minute. ...

This gives you a pool of temporary Hit Points that regenerate at the rate of 1 THP per minute. How do would you keep track of THP gained during the session?

Example with multiple encounters, how you keep track of time between random and predetermined encounters to know how much THP you regenerate in between?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Are you asking in the context of a GM or a player? \$\endgroup\$ – Ifusaso Nov 19 '19 at 18:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ Personaly...as player, but sinsnce you asked. Both. \$\endgroup\$ – Jhyarelle Silver Nov 19 '19 at 20:23
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Introduction

Each round of combat takes 6 seconds in Pathfinder, so the temporary Hit Points from Force Ward regenerate at a rate of 1 THP every 10 rounds. To figure out how quickly they regenerate between combats, we need to figure out how long common non-combat actions take. Since Force Ward caps the number of THP at the character's level, outside of a dungeon it's probably safe to assume that they fully regenerate between each fight.

Inside a dungeon, it's a little more complicated. We can break down the most common actions that PCs take inside a dungeon into two categories - moving and using skills.

Movement

The rules aren't super clear on how PCs move outside of combat. However, the Modes of Movement rules can provide some guidance:

Modes of Movement

While moving at the different movement scales, creatures generally walk, hustle, or run.

  • Walk: A walk represents unhurried but purposeful movement (3 miles per hour for an unencumbered adult human).
  • Hustle: A hustle is a jog (about 6 miles per hour for an unencumbered human). A character moving his speed twice in a single round, or moving that speed in the same round that he or she performs a standard action or another move action, is hustling when he or she moves. (emphasis added)
  • Run:
    • Run (x3) – Moving three times speed is a running pace for a character in heavy armor (about 7 miles per hour for a human in full plate).
    • Run (x4) – Moving four times speed is a running pace for a character in light, medium, or no armor (about 12 miles per hour for an unencumbered human, or 9 miles per hour for a human in chainmail).

The description of "Hustle" matches the way that PCs typically act in combat - a standard action and a move action. Based on this, I treat out of combat movement as "Walking" (a single move action per turn) unless the players specifically tell me that they're hurrying (e.g., because they want to get through multiple fights before their buffs wear off). This gives a good indication of how long it takes for the PCs to walk from one area to another on a drawn map (remember to adjust for difficult terrain, etc.).

Skills

Some skills, like Disable Device, give clear rules on how long using the skill takes (usually between 1 and 2d4 rounds, depending on the complexity of the device). Others, like Diplomacy, give guidance but leave the DM a fair bit of leeway ("Suggest Course of Action" takes at least a minute, but maybe considerably more).

Unfortunately, the official rules give little guidance on how long Perception takes, which is probably the most common skill PCs will use in a dungeon. Published scenarios suggest that the length of time varies dramatically based on what the PCs are trying to do.

The best guidance I've found comes from PFS scenario #05-11: Library of the Lion. Searching for research materials with a Perception check takes one PC 30 minutes for small room (up to about 25 squares on a 5 ft. map), 1 hr for a medium room, and 2 hrs for a large room (the only one on the map is 264 squares). If more PCs help, the time is divided between them, so it takes 10 minutes for 3 PCs to search a small room. A DM can use this as guidance to determine how long it would take PCs to search a room, based on how many PCs there are and what the room contains (searching a library probably takes a longer than searching a typical room).

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  • \$\begingroup\$ If you round up (ceiling), 3 mph is about 5 feet per second. Thus you'd travel about 300' per minute. That might help for adjudicating the time in a dungeon. \$\endgroup\$ – Wyrmwood Nov 19 '19 at 18:53
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There's two related options I'd suggest:

Agree with your GM on a default time scale for different actions

Right now, based on your question, play appears to be mostly free-flowing outside of combat, in that the time between actions is not explicitly tracked. If you don't want to give that up, then just let the GM make quick rulings on which time scale the game moves at the moment, and then have that interval pass between any two decision or event points.

For example, moving between rooms or exploring a room in a dungeon might always take 1 minute, moving around between two places in a city 15 minutes, and so on. Since those temporary HP are capped by the kineticist level, such a heuristic allows a simplification for all large time scales: Whenever more minutes pass between two events than your kineticist level, the THP are full, no bookeeping needed.

I'd suggest the following time scale for the GM to choose the length of an action from:

6 seconds — 1 minute — 15 minutes — 4 hours — 2 days

There is always a factor of about 14 between consecutive steps in the scale, meaning it should be easy to figure out where any particular action falls.

Move to more structured play

This is of course a larger adjustment to be made at the table. While roleplay has moved towards more free-form, fluid time tracking, there is the advantage of unambiguity in clear rules. OD&D for example had an explicit (even though ambiguous in the details) procedure for dungeon crawling, with 1-minute turns in which each player declared actions, similar to combat, and rules on what was possible to do as action in that one minute.

If you take the rules as given in Ben S. answer about movement and skill use, your group could try doing play with a more explicitly followed structure, which would then of course eliminate the ambiguity of how much time has passed between events and how much THP you currently have.

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