Rules Index | GM Screen | Player's Guide

Chapter 1: Running the Game / Running Downtime

Depth of Downtime

Source GM Core pg. 44
Determine how involved your group wants downtime to be at the start of the game. If your players vary greatly in preference, you might need to find a middle ground, or some way to give the players least interested in downtime something they would find compelling. You can adjust downtime depth as the game goes along, and you might find it becomes more important to the players as their connection to the setting grows stronger.

Pay attention to the amount of real-world time you spend in downtime and the level of detail. Downtime should rarely last a whole session. Usually, a half hour between significant adventures is about right, and 15 minutes for shorter lulls in the action, such as when PCs return to a town briefly in the middle of an adventure. You can extend this time as needed for more detailed roleplaying scenes.

For the level of detail, it's important to give more than just an overview, but often the basics will do. “A fleet of merchant ships arrives in the port, and an officer puts you to work unloading cargo” might do for using Sailing Lore to Earn Income, and “Your shipment of iron arrives late, but you're able to complete the armor” could be enough for Crafting. Go deeper if the player sets out to do something specific or asks questions you think have potential for an interesting story, but be careful with too much detail, as you run the risk of boring most of the table with minutiae.

Group Engagement

Source GM Core pg. 45
One major challenge of downtime is keeping the whole group involved. When you can, combine multiple people's tasks into one. For instance, if one PC wants to Earn Income with Performance and another wants to offer their services as a medic, you might say that a traveling caravan is stopping briefly, seeking entertainment and treatment for diseases and injuries their group suffered on the road. That means you can put both PCs in the same scene. You can also look for downtime activities that affect multiple characters' interests. For instance, if the rogue's contact at the thieves' guild wants a special magical cloak, a different PC might Craft that cloak. This lets those PCs help each other more directly. If the barbarian's player doesn't plan to do anything in downtime, you might let the barbarian Aid another character in crafting weapons—feeding the forge and working the bellows, for instance.

If a player really isn't interested in downtime, they might not want to engage at all. In that case, it's best to shorten the time you spend on downtime and give their actions a one-sentence description. If other players want a deeper downtime experience, consider extending game sessions or running side sessions for just those players.

Campaigns without Downtime

Source GM Core pg. 45
There are two ways you might end up with a game that has no downtime: no time and no interest. In the first, the story moves along so quickly that the PCs don't really have time to engage with downtime. Think of it like a breakneck action movie, where the characters barely have time to breathe before they're on to the next challenge, and even the end of an adventure is a cliffhanger.

In the second, you and the other players just don't care about downtime at all. It doesn't interest you. In this case, just summarize what happens between adventures and skip using any downtime rules.

If you skip downtime, you might not need to adjust your game. The money PCs can earn during downtime is minor compared to what they can gain through adventures. However, the PCs will have less choice in what items they get if they don't Craft or earn extra money to buy items.