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D&D 3E
Taking a break from peril. 
24th-Mar-2005 12:04 pm
bitch
What do you do when your characters ask for downtime? My players want a break in their adventuring for a few purposes:
  • To make magic items.
  • To roleplay their characters trying to have separate lives outside of adventuring.
  • To get trained for prestige classes.
  • To learn crazy things that take a lot of practice like dragon riding.
That's just the beginning of some of their plans.

Do they get experience points during their downtime? How long should it feasibly last? Should I have a villain come and spoil their moments of peace? Do you advise to go with it, or discourage it? Just curious what the thoughts of the community were about this sort of thing.
Comments 
24th-Mar-2005 08:10 pm (UTC)
For me it depends on what sort of down time it is.

Sometimes we use "down time" as simply a non-adventuring game session. Politics, social roleplaying, story development, etc. In those cases, I usually give XP based on their accomplishments.
24th-Mar-2005 08:19 pm (UTC)
The only problem with that is that 2/3 of the group is not really interested in the role-playing aspect, only in hack-in-slash. I want to try to keep the game interesting for everybody, and I normally offer a mixture of it, but to incorporate battles into downtime seems like it would be difficult--unless, of course, I had villainy interruption. When players are doing something that is a personal roleplaying endeavor (usually a PC devising something or having a one-on-one with an NPC), I do it between sessions in emails, to keep my roleplayers feeling like they're getting a lot out of the story.
24th-Mar-2005 08:26 pm (UTC)
If it were me, I would talk about it with my players ahead of time, but I would want to give the participating characters additional XP.

XP is a reward for overcoming challenges, right? If you sit around until combat, you overcome nothing until you're fighting. If you get out there and work it between dungeon delves, you're still overcoming the obstacles. Seems straightforward to me.
24th-Mar-2005 08:13 pm (UTC)
I'd let them have their time, but I'd also remember that the bad guys are getting time as well. They'll be advancing their plans as fast as they can. And I've rarely seen a problem get better by delaying dealing with it.
24th-Mar-2005 08:17 pm (UTC)
That's a very good point. :-)
24th-Mar-2005 08:26 pm (UTC)
Excellent responses so far on this one.

I'd definitely encourage it, but I tend to come from the old "storytelling" school of gaming, rather than the "hack and slash" type of game. A villain messing with things would be an interesting twist, but as with most twists, I'd avoid using it too often.

As for giving them downtime, in a way its up to them. If they don't want to adventure for a period, they can just have their characters do whatever they do. Most of the guys who'd rather hack-and-slash will likely agree to having their characters take a "break," particularly if you can segue into a quick transition (for example..."two months later...") and handle most of the downtime via email.

Now, I can't recommend handling it through email...as a GM, I'm much, much more interested in what the players do between the fights than in the fights themselves, so this is often the "meat" of my games, but if you feel its a good idea to accomodate the guys that are more into action, I say go for it and make the downtime as painless on them as possible.

Lucifer >:}
24th-Mar-2005 08:28 pm (UTC)
Give them down time. Don't bother with XP, unless people do something extraordinay, and even then it should be minimal.

As Seidl says, time is passing, and the bad guys have their own timetable that the PC's probably aren't aware of. If the players want to take a month's downtime, and something happens a week into it, they'd have to decide which is the most important.

If there aren't any time-based events coming up, let them take all the downtime they want.
24th-Mar-2005 09:38 pm (UTC)
Players that want to take some time just to DEVELOP THEIR CHARACTERS? By all means, let them! Encourage it!

I think e-mailing back and forth with your players between sessions is an excellent way to run this, too. Your hack-and-slashers will be happy to show up for the session and know that they can get right back to it, your RPers will enjoy taking the time to think about how their characters respond to x, y, z event that you email to them.

Think about what the villains are doing, logically, and figure out if the PCs would be interrupted based on that. For that matter, if any of the PCs, during his "downtime" accidentally starts something that's going to call for an initiative roll ... well, then you know how to start next session.

Before the next session, write up a brief (1-2 paragraph) summary of what happened during the downtime. Hand it out. Let everyone read it and then you're all on the same page when the session starts.

Oh, yes - also, give XP for good roleplaying and accomplishing personal goals during downtime just as you would during uptime. This is behavior you want to reward!
24th-Mar-2005 09:45 pm (UTC)
I'd say give them the time. Just because it isn't in a dungeon doesn't mean it has to be boring. In my husband's campaign, two of our most fun sessions had very little to do with adventuring at all. Our characters are based up around Silverymoon (Silver Marches, Forgotten Realms) and we've basically had one of the minor nobles become our patron. Didn't really plan it that way, it just sort of happened. Well, we were supposed to spend the session chasing this guy who had been killing women in the city...but...one alley confrontation later, which included the combination: Hold Person + failed Will save + keen bastard sword + critical hit = one very dead villain, and that part was pretty much over for the day.

So, we decided that since it was almost winter, and our characters had no intention of adventuring during the winter, we'd help whip his lordship's new guards into shape. Yes, there was combat, but it was all non-lethal. My husband had fun coming up with impromptu NPC guards, and we had fun figuring out various nasty surprises to pull on them.

The other session centered around a party thrown for us by the noble, because we'd just done something fairly spectacular. There was this group of spoiled young aristocrats who decided to ruin the party, mostly because they don't like my character. We had to figure out how to ruin their plans...without getting in trouble with the law ourselves. It does depend on your group, but something along these lines can work well and be fun for your players, and for you.
24th-Mar-2005 09:49 pm (UTC)
If you have PCs that have taken crafting feats, you NEED to give them downtime. Not doing so is cheating them of one of the major aspects of their character.

(I am a little more zealous about this than many people. However, in once campaign I'm in, my PC has had brew Potion and Craft Arms and Armor since almost the beginning of the game. we started at Level 3. We're now level 11. I've been able to make 6 potions, and 1 shield in the entire 8 level span. I feel a little gipped.)

Everyone needs a few days off, every now and then. Certainly, after every major chapter, the PCs should have a week or two to take advantage of their outside abilities. Even if it is offscreen.

PCs should not get XP for things offscreen. So, no matter how many barfights, or miniquests, the PC performs in the 'some time passes' section, they don't advance further down their path. However, if the downtime takes actual game sessions, certainly they should get some Xp for it.

Just be fair. If the Rogue gets to run around town, and do stuff, while the Wizard and Cleric are often making things, don't let the Rogue get too much further ahead than the PCs who are being useful.
24th-Mar-2005 10:38 pm (UTC)
Seconded, Crafting feats require time that you just can't get when you're on the run. And if I'd just plundered XmillionGP from a dungeon, I'd like to be able to get that Shield Guardian up and running before anything crazy happens.
25th-Mar-2005 03:29 am (UTC)
Downtime, by definition, is the time spent between adventures.

Your adventures and dungeon crawls aren't necessarily supposed to be back to back things. Adventures can, of course, span days, weeks, or months at a time, but once one adventure is over, there's no real reason to tackle the next one right away.

Like it real life, things don't necessarily happen all at once. Towns may get raided by various creatures here and there, but as long as it's nothing major, there's no reason to base a campaign around it. If it's not something that the PC's would concern themselves with during the course of an adventure, then it's something that can occur safely during downtime.

Example:
The Lich Lord and his undead army is defeated by the PC's in January (for arguements sake).
3 months of downtime
The PC's embark on a new quest to take on a new threat: a vampire warlord that formerly worked alongside the Lich Lord and has taken his time to amass his own power, and is now making a move.


The 3 months of downtime is where the PC's should be doing whatever it is that they would be doing while not adventuring. That's where Proffession skills come into play, along with Craft skills and Craft feats. If, for whatever reason, one or more of the PC's would continue adventuring on their own during those 3 months, set up a short solo-encounter for them to run through, and award XP accordingly. Nothing major, as they'll generally have no help, but there's no reason that somebody with, say Proffession (bounty hunter) shouldn't be allowed to practice their trade as well.

Generally speaking, downtime isn't a period where the PC's earn XP, it's a period when they're taking a break from all the harrowing shit that the DM throws at them when they're adventuring. You can arbitrarily award an amount of XP based on how much time was spent in downtime, however. Let's say you wanted to give out 100 XP per month spent in downtime. In my previous example, 300 xp for 3 months is actually not very much at all, but it's enough to feasibly think that people during the normal course of their lives can eventually gain some sort of levels in whatever class they have. Maybe you'd give out more, maybe less, it's entirely up to you.

In the game I'm playing in now...we have no downtime. x.x It gets kind of annoying, the constant adventuring and the constant danger that we're put through, but it works out in the end.

Of course...we level up faster than I've ever seen, but it makes for an awesome game.
27th-Mar-2005 09:57 am (UTC)
My player's only ask for downtime to create magic items. Normally I take the total time they need to make the items and then allow those not making the items to do whatever they want in the city; talk to contacts, find plot hooks, etc. Otherwise I accelerate the time line to get on with the game.

With the suggestions you've made, I would basically run it like this;

Player A wants to make two items that will take him a week to make. Player B wants to learn how to ride a dragon/griffon or whatever and that will take two weeks. Player C wants to get in touch with some family members and old neighborhood contacts while Player D wants to train in a prestige class they've been looking at for some time which should take about two - three weeks. I'll turn to player C and let her roleplay her family gathering, maybe drop in a few plot hooks. Pausing every now and then to maybe check on the other players and see if there's anything they want to do during the off time they aren't training (because none of these things is 24/7) and maybe throw in a couple things like haggling for magic item components or instances for comedy value like Player B walks into the inn with his face singed from dragon fire. I'll move the pace of the downtime as fast or slow as the players want it but it never takes more than a session and I always manage to get other things that I've wanted to do done as well.
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