The Art of Downtime

Ever hit that point where you just need to take a break from it all? Here at the Forged Front, that happens from time to time. However, in a campaign though, it is a matter of taste and what you want to accomplish.

bed-pictogramVarious systems have tried to capture the essence of what could happen in downtime.  In D&D/Pathfinder, wizards tend to research spells and various characters can pursue either building magic items or buying more magical gear to make them more effective. They have also gone further than that – given the players a wide variety of options to pursue to further their own goals.  In a similar vein, the just recently released Dragon Age Set 3 also has guidelines for organizations that the players could either get involved with (or form their own) to further their interests.

Meanwhile, the Conan RPG had a mechanism that would keep players constantly on their toes for new adventures by having the characters burn through their existing riches at a fast pace.  In Fitz’s multi-part The One Ring: Adventurer’s Book (Part 6) review, he mentioned that they also have a system that details downtime.

However, at the end of the day it comes down to two simple questions for me:

  1. What does the GM want to accomplish when an adventure is over for the players?
  2. What do the players want to do once they have wrapped up an adventure?

With my GM-hat firmly in place, downtime is the gravy that makes the world go-around. I like to attach various threads to each of the characters to help grow the characters presence in the world. It allows them to pursue backstory goals, plus give them plenty of interactions with NPCs that they have developed bonds with. (And not necessarily positive bonds either, depending on the nature of the relationship.) I also like to show the players that the world has been in motion while their characters have been on their latest epic quest. It also provides me additional opportunities to foreshadow other things that might be coming plus plants seeds of future possible adventures that are to be had if the players are interested in them.

Most important to my plans for downtime though, is it simply gives a chance to throw the campaign a change-up and have a session or two that isn’t the typical fare of what an adventure might take place. But that is just what I like to do.

I’m curious though, what do you like to do between adventures in your campaigns as GMs (and as players)?

Leave your downtime suggestions and stories in the comments below!

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