Today I am going to write about downtime, the system of between-adventure rules created for 5th edition Dungeons & Dragons. It's a simple set of guidelines designed to help you run your campaign when the heroes are between adventures.
I love downtime. My sessions are probably half spent in downtime. To me, the idea of the heroes going out to get drunk or starting a business is just as much fun as going on a dungeon crawl. The point of this article is to be a simple reference. The downtime rules are spread between two books, which is a little unwieldy. I want it all on one sheet so I don't have to do a lot of page flipping.
I also want to throw out some ideas for expansion, and discuss the potential perils or usability of some of these concepts. I also think some of the downtime ideas are great but are easily overlooked. I'd like to shine a light on them, as they will most definitely enrich your campaign.
Read About Downtime
- Player's Handbook page 188
- DMG page 127
General Downtime Rules: Each activity requires a certain number of days to complete before you gain any benefit. At least 8 hours per day muse be spent on the activity.
Armor would take a long time to craft. In the book, it gives the example of crafting plate mail. It takes 300 days to make by yourself!
Making leather armor (10 gp) or a shield (10 gp) might work out OK. Or maybe you could make chain shirts (50 gp). The thing about making armor, though, is that you're likely to kill dozens of people on your adventures. You can just take their armor, clean it up and sell it!
Being a bookbinder might be really cool. You could make spell books out of the weird stuff you find on adventures. You could have a book with a cover made of dragon scales, for example.
Practicing a Profession
- Working at a temple (good for clerics or paladins)
- Operating as part of a thieves guild (rogues)
Fighter: Joining the town guard/militia.
Wizard: Working as a counsel to a local mayor.
Ranger: Working in a stable.
Rogue: A locksmith. How dastardly is that?
Gary Gygax's Book of Names has a nice list of professions on page 163. I am going to pick out the ones that seem the most fun to me:
Shepherd, fisher, "goat boy" (?), "goose girl" (?!?), bailiff, executioner, judge, bowyer, doctor, sage, dancer, jester (the book lists THREE subtypes - buffoon, fool and harlequin), baker, gypsy and crone.
I have no idea what job a crone does, but that seems like a fun character. A gypsy or an executioner sound full of possibilities, too.
I have never seen this come up in 5e.
This is a pretty cool idea that I think is being overlooked a bit in 5e. Most stuff that could require research is sort of handled with a simple skill check. Research is a nice way to have a bit of time pass and make the acquisition of knowledge something that takes a bit of an investment.
One thing that happened in my 4e games is that what skills could do became so abstract and broad that it covered too much ground. There was never a concrete feeling of what one could and couldn't do with certain skills, especially arcana.
I'd say you should go out of your way to put research in your campaign every once in a while. Travel to a certain library in a certain city, track down a dusty tome that needs to be translated, interview an entity through a magic censer. That just feels like a lot more fun than making a simple skill check. It also opens up opportunities for your players to do fun stuff in a town that could lead to some hilarious unforeseen circumstances.
Also, I'd like to see someone work out a sub-section of researching, where a wizard creates a magic circle and summons a demon to be questioned. There's actually a pretty detailed system for this in (I think) The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth.
To gain renown, you take on minor tasks and socialize with members. After doing this for a combined number of days equal to your current renown multiplied by 10, your renown increases by one. I think I should be putting this to use in my Planescape campaign.
I just can't see this coming into play much. How many campaigns cover 250 days in game? And how many of them will have so much off-time that you'll be able to learn a single language?
If you have a campaign that stretches 9 months, chances are that the heroes will be fairly high level and will have magic that will give them access to whatever language they need.
Now we're getting into the Dungeon Master's Guide stuff.
Building A Stronghold
A castle takes over four years to build!
Your character chooses how many days are spent carousing (drinking, gambling and getting up to all sorts of shenanigans). You roll a d100 on the carousing chart. The worst result puts you in jail. The best means you win a fortune in gambling.
Crafting a Magic Item
The higher level you are, the more powerful item you can craft (see the chart). Each item has a value in gold. One day makes progress in 25 gold increments. So, making an item that costs 100 gold would take four days of work.
This one is a little tricky. I would say that the best way for a hero to obtain a magic item formula would be in a slain enemy's spell book. Or it could be a book found in an ancient library or dungeon. Handing out a magic item formula isn't exactly the top priority when a DM is figuring out treasure, but it's pretty fun and it seems like something wizards should do.
I'm half-tempted to say there should be a skill check involved. Roll low and the item comes out cursed or defective. Roll high and it is super-charged somehow. I suppose players would hate the idea of spending all that time and money to end up with a faulty item, though.
Performing Sacred Rites
In my experience, inspiration is a rule that just doesn't stick. Players always forget about it, even when the DM tries to promote it. It's weird, because you'd think the players would be all over something that gives them advantage. But the ways to obtain it are a bit vague and it just feels a little wrong somehow. I think we need more concrete rules for it, like it can only be used once per session or something.
Running a Business
The lowest result means you must pay 1.5 times the business's maintenance cost for each day. The best result is gaining a profit of 3d10x5 gp. Seems a little low, doesn't it?
Selling Magic Items
To sell an item, you make a DC 20 Intelligence (Investigation) check to find a buyer. Fail means no buyer is found for 10 days. Success means you roll on the chart on page 130.
The higher the roll, the more money the buyer offers.
There's a little chart that shows how much time is required. A village requires 2d6 days to get a rumor going. A city needs 6d6 days.
I can see players with too much downtime on their hands spreading rumors about each other just for kicks.
Training to Gain Levels
The training rules seem cool, but I've never tried it. Players generally hate the idea, as it seems like a way for the DM to really stick it to them. They put all of that work into hitting the next level, and now they still don't get the benefits until they jump through more hoops.
I think if you are cool about it, you could get some fun stuff out of this. I sure wouldn't have the town be under attack while the heroes are training. But you could cook up some cool mentors and teacher-types, and run some fun training montages. You could make fellow trainees, either rivals or love interests.
- Wizards actually posted the Carousing and Building Strongholds rules right here for free.
- Blog of Holding has a nice downtime rundown here, and includes a lot of information on lifestyles.
- Dungeon Dozen has some monster downtime ideas. Opium dens!
- RPG.net has a fascinating idea: Working out during downtime.
- Harbinger of Doom has extensive rules and notes on buying, selling and disenchanting magic items.