Progress clocks in Dungeons and Dragons

Dungeon Masters in D&D 5E don’t necessarily have a lot of tools to manage factions, NPCs, and long-term dangers. The Dungeon Master’s Guide provides lots of excellent advice on creating villainous NPCs, but I personally need more. I’ve used Fronts from “Dungeon World” pretty extensively as a way to organize various Dangers with their Grim Portents and Impending Dooms, even in my 5E games.

Lately, though, I’ve evolved to merging those with progress clocks from Blades in the Dark for this. That game uses these extensively for everything from complicated locks up to and including major governments. For my purposes, the best uses are danger clocks and faction clocks.

In Gothic Brunch, I currently have three, each tied to some external danger facing a player. For example, one of the players is a Werewolf, and when she does things that draw attention to that (e.g. changing in public!) then I tick up that clock, representing a monster hunter tracking her down. Certain kinds of rolls (e.g. failing a Dexterity (Stealth) check) can also result in ticking up a clock when it fits the fiction. Fail it by a large margin and you might get more than one tick on the clock.

The four characters in Gothic Brunch, and three of them have danger clocks
Only three of the party have danger clocks… so far…

I show the players their clocks, of course, so they can make informed decisions, and they know what these things refer to. I’ve chosen not to make all my clocks public (although the community has numerous approaches), but what I’ve done instead is attach Grim Portents to specific “ticks” in the clock, so that the progress clock becomes effectively a visualization for me of how close we’ve moved to the Impending Doom. This also means that the clock has some fictional weight, not just an abstract mechanic.

Progress Clocks from The Alexandrian

By the way, if you’re looking for a good source of graphics for these clocks, check out The Alexandrian. They even have font versions for use in your prep docs.

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