Reality Makes the Best Fantasy: 24/7

Die Hangematte by Gustave Courbet. Okay. She’s totally going to fall out of that thing.

What business is open the latest where you live? When I used to live in New York City, this would be a tough question to answer. In my neighborhood it was probably one of the bodegas or corner stores but plenty of restaurants stay open around the clock. The existence of street lights and around the clock public transportation means sidewalks and streets always have someone on them and factories, schools and markets keep late hours. Something is always happening in NYC.

Where I currently live in Central California, I would venture a guess that the Wal-Mart is probably one of the very few things open all the time. Many businesses are open later on the weekends but close in the later afternoon during the week. Bars are generally open late with each state and country usually having laws dictating hours for selling alcohol with drinking establishments closing accordingly (apparently a lot of states have laws restricting the sale of alcohol on Election Day, which…HAHAHAHAHAHA).

Business, entertainment and other things center around the work week, with shows and specials starting when people are most likely to be available to partake and take advantage of them. The amount of light available affects the amount of time people have to get their work and their errands done, the advent of artificial light meaning people can stay awake indoors and out till later hours. Parties could go on all through the night as long as the fire is kept burning and the bodies are willing. And of course, staying up all night means you’ll be paying for it the next day.

In some cases, the middle of the day is a time to close down shops and rest for a short period of time. The siesta is well known but many other countries and cultures have their own version, taking this generally hottest part of the day as a chance to relax and connect with their family members and friends after a few hours of hard work. Ranging from 15-30 minutes of laying down or resting to a few hours, many people acknowledge that while life goes on, taking a small break in the middle of the day helps the body deal with it better. These kinds of breaks are easier to take when people work close to home, work from home or have jobs that provide spaces for workers to rest. With a rest in the middle of the day, citizens are able to stay awake a little later, visiting with family and friends and building community after a day of labour.

While gates and ports might be open to some degree around the clock (or…I guess, around the sundial), it doesn’t mean accommodations are waiting on the other side. Arriving after a certain hour or watch might mean all travelling in and out must be done through a certain gate, except in the case of emergencies (or perhaps a bribe?). Inns and bars might be closed or might charge for the inconvenience of having to be up in the middle of the night, getting beds for everyone and vehicles or animals parked. What might be open and willing to receive late night travellers might be less than desirable. And in times of war, illness or stress, curfews might be put into place.

Cultures and technology will make the day last as long as it can. The drive to get more done can be very alluring for people in all areas of their lives. Some want to work more to make more money, some want the fun times with their friends to never end. But days end and people have their limits
Conventions surrounding times of day and rest are integral to any culture and can offer obstacles and opportunities for PCs. Synchronize watches!

For GMs

  • What does a typical day look like for the average citizen of the region?
  • What kinds of hours do business usually keep? What hours find farmers in the fields?
  • What kind of businesses open the earliest? Close the latest? What neighborhoods and districts have the longest hours? Close as soon as it gets dark?
  • What time do things start winding down? When do people generally start heading home?
  • Do people take a break during the middle of the day? How long of a break do they get? Do they go home or stay close to work? Is it because of the heat? The size of the meal people eat midday?
  • Are all in-roads/gates open all the time? Who is watching the gates and what dictates their opening and closing?
  • What kind of technology/lighting is used to extend the day? Is the tech available everywhere?

Plot Hooks

  • When the PCs are on a mission in another region they must deal with a culture that stays up WAY past their normal bedtime. Social expectations trump their desire to finally just SLEEP as their newest acquaintances run them ragged through the streets. How long does it take the PCs to adjust? What kind of things happen late at night in this region? What will they be missing out on if they do sleep? What are the consequences of waking up very tired the next day?
  • A business has just installed special lights that don’t burn hot or make smoke so they can stay open around the clock producing goods. The PCs are workers from a competing business, sent to spy on the rival outfit. How do the lights operate? What kind of workers are willing to work late at night? What are they producing? What is the reason for expanding the operation? How do the PCs get their new ‘employer’ to trust them?
  • When a hitch in their plans has the PCs arriving at the gate way later than they thought, they miss their appointment and their chance at staying at a decent inn. The exhausted and hungry PCs must maneuver the shadier part of town with their belongings. What kinds of establishments are open late at night? How are they received at the gate? Are all the PCs tired or are some wound up from the journey and need to blow off some steam?
  • With the knowledge the security is light when people go home for their afternoon meals and rests the PCs plan a heist to best take advantage of the lack of eyes and abundance of light so they can make good on their escape. If they plan it right they can get it to their employer right before the city gates close. How carefully do the PCs plan? What are they stealing? Is anyone on ‘the inside’ helping them steal the goods?
  • When invaded by an outside force, the city is placed under a strict curfew, resulting in the end to a once bustling nightlife. However, tunnels underground mean the nights don’t have to be slow. The PCs coordinate and guide eager partiers to cultural events and underground bars and if a few dissidents happen to pass their way…how did the PCs get involved in this? How do they feel about the occupiers? How did the tunnels come to be and how do the occupiers not know about them? How do they let people know what is happening and how to arrive at safepoints? What kind of events are happening underground?

For PCs

  • Are you a morning person or an night owl?
  • Do you like to take a rest after any meals?
  • What time of day do you think is best for visiting with friends and family?
  • After work do you like to go straight home or go out?
  • What time do you go to bed? What is the perfect amount of sleep for you?

What say you? We can game till the wee hours of the night; can the PCs throw down till the sun comes up? Check out this list of Top 10 Cities that Never Sleep for a little city building and a previous RMtBF about Light Sources.

One thought on “Reality Makes the Best Fantasy: 24/7

Add yours

  1. A useful guide, except that it mostly focuses on humanity. Human culture is limited by the fact that they have such weak eyes compared to most of the older races. Their activities are severely curtailed by their need for light.

    The underground culture of the dwarves is not dependent on light and is strongly influenced by their need to have continuous watches against invaders. Because of this, each watch has a significant part of the population awake.

    Elves can see very well by starlight, candelight, or a few fireflies. Thus it is much less of a hardship to work or study through the night. In addition, they only need a few hours of trance to be refreshed. Many shopkeepers will go into a trance at their shop, rousing if a customer enters.


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