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Chapter 1: Gamemastery Basics / Running Downtime

Long-Term Goals

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 22
Downtime’s more satisfying when the PCs work toward long-term goals rather than perform disconnected tasks. You can ask players what their PCs’ goals are, and also look for storylines they’re interested in that you can use as seeds for long-term goals. Long-term goals might include running a business, creating a guild, establishing an arcane school, returning a despoiled land to its natural splendor, reforming local politics, or rebuilding a ruin. Goals involving organizations are a good opportunity to use the leadership subsystem. If players don’t have clear ideas for their goals, look at their backgrounds, NPCs they know, and things they’ve expressed interest in during adventures to develop some suggestions. Remember that you’re not trying to get them to accept your exact suggestions, but to pick a goal they really like.

Long-term goals should shape the game, and reinforcing their progress is key. Show changes, good and bad, that result from the PCs’ efforts, both in downtime and on their adventures if applicable. This doesn’t have to be subtle! You can directly say, “You’ve been trying to get the magistrate to allow you to buy this plot of land, but the fact that you entered the wizard’s tower illegally seems to have soured him toward you.”

Think ahead in stages. For instance, if a PC wants to run a business, you might have them...
  • Start with a simple stand to sell their wares.
  • Show they’re drawing big crowds and need to expand.
  • Build a storefront.
  • Open to modest success.
  • Get a small but loyal following.
  • Hire employees to keep up with demand.
  • Deal with supply issues or competition.
  • Get enough interest in a nearby settlement that they might want to expand their business.
And so on. You can deliver each of these details through a little vignette. For example, if you use the second bullet point, you might describe the throng of people crowded around the PCs’ stand, and say they sold out of goods before half the people were served. Downtime goals are a great way to weave the PCs’ agency into the story.

Success and Failure

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 23
Success at a reasonable long-term goal should be likely, but not guaranteed. Give the player an expectation of how likely their goal is to work out based on how ambitious it is. Be clear about how much downtime it will take compared to the amount of downtime you expect the party will get during your campaign. Then let the player decide how to commit their downtime, and to which tasks.

Repeated failures or outside problems could lead to the whole goal failing. It happens! But give the player a fair chance. Even if their goal is really hard to achieve—like driving the undead out of Ustalav—they might find a way. Don’t undermine their efforts or ideas, but do make clear the magnitude of the task they’ve chosen. Remember that even if a goal fails, the effort was worthwhile.

A failure or a success at a long-term goal can be a major emotional beat for the character. They’ve changed the world, after all! Don’t shortchange it just because it happened in downtime. In fact, because it might have taken place over multiple sessions, the player might have been looking forward to the results for a really long time!