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I'm currently the DM for a group playing a 4th Edition Dungeons and Dragons campaign in the Neverwinter Campaign Setting.

In a recent adventure, my players asked me some unexpected questions, I said "yes, and..." a few times, and they've ended up in a tower randomly teleporting between planes. This was not at all planned.

In fact, they have places to be. They were in the middle of some time sensitive events, and should really be getting back. I don't want them to fail this objective, as it's kind of central to the whole campaign so far. That being said, I'd also like to do this little side adventure justice, as it could be a pretty fun way to confront the party with some stuff they wouldn't see in the place where the normal campaign takes place.

To this end, I was wondering if there was any precedent, in the Forgotten Realms or Dungeons and Dragons in general, for time distortion when traveling between planes. By this, I mean that when the party gets back to where they started, more time will have passed for them than has passed at the origin. This would be similar to science fiction stories where someone travels near light-speed for a long period of time, or the Chronicles of Narnia when they come back out of the wardrobe.

This travel was near the end of the session, and I was careful not to paint myself into a corner. The two places they've visited were only for about 30 seconds each, they haven't left the tower, and they didn't have time to identify the places with certainty. I can decide where they're going next, as the tower is teleporting randomly, and can retcon where they've been, since they don't really know.

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Yes, definitely. I don't have any 4th edition books, but check out this section of the 3.5 SRD:

The rate of time’s passage can vary on different planes, though it remains constant within any particular plane. Time is always subjective for the viewer. The same subjectivity applies to various planes. Travelers may discover that they’ll pick up or lose time while moving among the planes, but from their point of view, time always passes naturally.

Normal Time

This trait describes the way time passes on the Material Plane. [...]

Timeless

On planes with this trait, time still passes, but the effects of time are diminished. [...]

Flowing Time

On some planes, time can flow faster or slower. One may travel to another plane, spend a year there, then return to the Material Plane to find that only six seconds have elapsed. Everything on the plane returned to is only a few seconds older. But for that traveler and the items, spells, and effects working on him, that year away was entirely real. [...]

Erratic Time

Some planes have time that slows down and speeds up, so an individual may lose or gain time as he moves between the two planes. [...] To the denizens of such a plane, time flows naturally and the shift is unnoticed.

That page lists the Astral Plane as timeless and the elemental planes as normal time, but you can easily change that for your purposes.

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    \$\begingroup\$ +1, Flowing time is very clearly a reference to the kind of situation I'm imagining. \$\endgroup\$ – DCShannon Aug 14 '15 at 3:39
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    \$\begingroup\$ @DCShannon You should note that access to fast-time planes can be a source of immense power: one can plane shift there, sleep, regain spells or whatever other daily resources one needs, and then plane shift back, with only an hour, or a minute, or a round, having passed. Just something to watch out for/have an excuse why people can’t do it. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Aug 14 '15 at 4:10
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    \$\begingroup\$ Even in 4e, where powers are more often based off of narrative intervals like an 'encounter', planar travel time shenanigans, if GM supported, can lead to long rests that can be taken whenever (i.e. this is still a problem in 4e, just much less of one and easily managed). \$\endgroup\$ – Please stop being evil Aug 14 '15 at 5:23
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First of all, you don't need any rules precedent to integrate time travel into your campaign, as D.M. its your prerogative to add any feature into your world that you please.

That being said, there is some precedent that is applicable in this situation!

In the source book The Plane Above - The Secrets of the Astral Sea we get a direct, although short, reference to time flowing differently in different planes, specifically the Feywild:

The fey deities spent little time in the astral dominions before the Dawn War. Insulated in the Feywild, they experienced time differently from how the other gods did, do when the war began they were slow to react...The Feywild still functioned as the timeless echo of a world that had not yet spiraled into chaos (pg. 37).

Then, there are several references in the Forgotten Realms Campaign Guide to time distortion by portals:

Another way to move your characters ahead is a slowtime portal. Portals are all over Toril, and many of them behave unpredictably. Any portal can displace a character in space, but as the sages know, time and space are two sides of the same coin. A malfunction in a portal's normal operation could cause the PCs to emerge a century into the future [or a little bit into the past!] (pg. 40).

also

Malfunctions

...A malfunctioning portal can also ogive off strange supernatural effects, even changing the flow of time... (pg. 55).

Finally, there is a small but interesting reference to planar time distortion in the Manual of the Planes, a "Time Wrinkle" which is given as a Planar Hazard, but has definite narrative potential:

Time Wrinkle

A time wrinkle is an area of reality where time and space have been irreparably damaged. The wrinkle is invisible, but if perceived it looks like an impossibly long hair suspended in the air and writhing as if alive (pg. 25).

These are all the references to cannon time travel/distortion in the rulebooks, but as I said above you are free to either implement these directly, take inspiration from them, or create your own rules for planar time distortion!

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    \$\begingroup\$ (+1) I like the idea of "cannon time travel." :) \$\endgroup\$ – user3829 Aug 14 '15 at 3:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ That sounds pretty good. I was looking more for a reference to a specific adventure or novel or something, but this works too. The malfunctioning portal bit seems pretty relevant. \$\endgroup\$ – DCShannon Aug 14 '15 at 3:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ I've read about the Feywild that even going from A to B and then from B back to A doesn't neccesarily take even long. The Feywild's timeframe seems to be completely crazy. Which seems to be just what you need. \$\endgroup\$ – Erik Aug 14 '15 at 4:33
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Sadly, my D&D books are in storage so I'm going off of memory here:

In the Dungeon Masters Guide 3.5, there is a chapter dealing with other planes of being; one of those planes is the central plane around which all the other planes are arranged as though they are the spokes of a wheel. If I remember correctly, on this plane time flows differently from the outskirts to the center, where it is shaped like a spinning top. This may provide you with a direct precedent for allowing time distortion in relation to extraplanar travel.

There are also items which stop time while you are 'inside' them.

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