Downtime Days - Homebrew
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For a while now, Chris has been bugging me to post about my Downtime Days system, and seeing how our latest episode of the No INT Here Podcast touched on it, I figured why not. As a side note, even if you aren’t into podcasts, I shared a bunch of my homebrew stuff on there. You should check it out if you have any interests in useful tools, rules, and magical enchantments.
So, Downtime Days. The days that you don’t do stuff. They still count in D&D and for your players, even if they dont always advance your plot. These downtime days are a way for your players to have a chance to tackle those small side missions that no one else at the table deems worthy of their precious table time.
I’ll admit: my first campaign had little to no downtime days. It was just them running from adventure to adventure, and even when they did have Downtime Days it was of my own creation. I set them up to track down an arcanaloth through a major city on one of their few days not saving the world. I set them up to be attacked on one day when they weren’t doing anything by duergar and drow assassins. That first campaign was all about saving the entire Planes and there was little time to relax and sink into the skins of their characters. But that was the flavor of that campaign.
This new campaign is about enjoying the massive city they are in, taking the time to go to the gym or to work on that one Signature Dish they been trying to craft in their downtime. It’s about sinking into your character and exploring what they do when they aren’t saving the world.
So what exactly are downtime days? According to the Player’s Handbook on page 187, they are days in between adventures.... wooooo, that explains a lot.
Though, I’m being a bit facetious there. It is important to specify that these days happen between the adventures as typically characters have things they want to focus on, and they can’t do that if there is doomsday clock set to explode soon.
Now on these days, the PHB will go on to explain their one-size-fits-all crafting system, practicing a profession, recuperating from near-death injuries and researching topics. All fascinating stuff that they really don’t go into enough.
Before we go any further, I’ll go ahead and drop a link to my Downtime Days file on GM Binder, I’ll be updating this link in the future. Heads up, sometimes GM Binder will render the document incorrectly dependent on your browser, for best experience use chrome or download the pdf from the button above.
Looking at this document, we immediately start talking about Costs and this strange place called Aurora, which is a massive city the players are in currently. This first bit covers the assumption that players will spend 2 gp per day in the city of Aurora. This keeps them motivated to find contracts, gold and information around the city. This helps them keep focus when it comes time to figuring our their Downtime Days, while not being a crazy prohibitive cost.
Going further down, we can find a few things that our players can do during their Downtime Days, though it is far from being an exhaustive list. These things include: working at a tavern (The Fox’s Tale), tourist attractions, busking, training a pet or even selling magic items! This list is always being added to when my players have ideas as to what they want to do, I want this list to not be constraining for the characters.
Contracts are a big one for my players, the ability to take on contracts and not have to share the gold at the end of the day with others. These contracts are put out by the Adventurer’s Guild and pay quite well, but because the players are going off on their own to complete them, some of them can be quite dangerous. Before the session starts for my group, I will go through a few small skill challenges based off of what contracts they took on.
Now, I will take a moment and talk about the section about Selling Magic Items; my campaigns are pretty high magic oriented, thus magic items are found throughout the world and can be purchased throughout the world. While they can be hidden in dragon hoards and tombs to old pharaohs, they can also be found in shops across the planes. With that being said, sometimes my players need to sell an item, and so I have set up a chart for them to have easy access to see how long it might take them to sell something. This chart is geared towards a massive city with a lot of wealth, I hope that everyone adjusts that table for their own cities. Maybe it’s easier to sell items in your world, or next to impossible, but regardless of either idea, your players should have a rough idea as to what they can expect when selling a magic item. It helps them plan our their Downtime Days and is less table time around shopping.
We are now through some of the introductory information, let’s start digging into what makes my Downtime Days special, bonuses. These bonuses give purpose when it comes to players doing stuff with their Downtime Days. Of course they could just not care, and do nothing for 2 weeks, but then they would see that everyone else has used their Downtime Days to get more gold, bonuses or even advantage on certain rolls. Sometimes players need a bit of encouragement to help them dive deeper into the world you create.
These tourism days are a perfect way for your players to also learn more about your city or world. By them going to different spots in the city, you can include them on things they may not see during normal gameplay, or things that may get lost. Some players are really interested in learning about memorials in a city, others players are more interested in where the best bar is in town. By taking what interests your players, and adding a small reward at the end of it, it helps push them to figure out more about their city and what they may find if they dig deeper… and who knows, it may become important in a game for someone in the group to remember where that cool memorial is.
Training a Pet
I don’t know about your table, but my table always seems to find a pet, be it a sentient shield guardian to an angsty familiar owl to a sneaky raccoon with a penchant for stealing. Well, I figured we could bring those pets out of their set dressing and into moments when even they can get the spotlight. When the player trains their pets, they get more options when it comes to solving problems, and can really create a WOW! moment at the table. It’s pretty fun to realize that your raccoon has learned how to distract the guards so that you can sneak past them and none be the wiser.
Moving onward, we come to more information about Downtime Days and the costs associated with them. It’s time to talk a bit more about money, and that’s Living Expenses. I make an assumption at the start of the Downtime Days file that each day costs an adventurer 2 gp per day. This is true only if they living in a Normal living situation, instead of in Squalor or Excess.
I’ve broken down Living Expenses into three groups, though the Players Handbook on page 157 breaks it down into 7 distinct groups:
Lifestyle - Price/Day
Wretched - n/a
Squalid - 1 sp
Poor - 2 sp
Modest - 1 gp
Comfortable - 2 gp
Wealthy - 4 gp
Aristocratic - 10 gp minimum
Personally, I find that that has too many options and I felt like having just three for the players to choose from is far easier. Most are just going to stick to the Normal lifestyle anyway, and some may even choose to live in Squalor to save up just a bit more money for that super nice plate armor they want.
Looking a bit further down, I created a chart to better explain what does and does not cover your Living Expense, and it is only things that make you gold like Contracts or working at a Tavern. Even busking isn’t considered to cover your Downtime Day costs cause you could totally come back losing more money than you gained, whereas contracts and working at the tavern are more guaranteed to net you gold. Though, even contracts will only cover half of your Living Expenses if you are living in Excess.
Working at a Tavern
Sometimes your players won’t have much time to decide what they want to do with their Downtime Days, and so I created a tavern that they can always find work in doing different things. Each of these jobs require different skills and can give your players insight into your city in the upcoming session. These small bonuses reward the players that invest their Downtime Days in those jobs, and it helps them to find information you really want to share to the party about your city, but you haven’t found a chance yet. Sometimes it’s hard letting your players know about the death cult now accepting members in the Pearl District.
So there you have it, my Downtime Day system I crafted as a way to get my players more involved in their city. I wanted something that was easy to snap on top of DnD without getting in the way, and something simple enough that my players won’t feel like they have to invest a huge amount of time into outside of our game sessions. A few of my players go straight to the same things they do every Downtime Day, others change up what they do every time we have these days. Every player will interact with this in different ways, and it’s all about building up your world to them.