D&D 5E Downtime Activities

damiller

Explorer
So I only recently really leaned into 5e. I've played it since it came out, but with mostly reservations because I am not much of a combat person. I wanted something else in my RPGing.

See I've been gaming since the early 80s and I cut my teeth GMing on TSR's Marvel Heroes. I loved the game. Simple accessible rules. But even at that time I knew something was missing. I loved the punch 'em up stuff ,but I also loved the mundane "i just gotta live" stuff, and I found no rules/mechanics/procedures for that kinda stuff. Beyond the not at all helpful "role play it" (you mean like I roleplay combat?) So I put it away.

Eventually I made my way to Mouse Guard and then Burning Wheel. I thought "AHA!" the holy grail has been found: Social Combat mechanics. Well, after an intense Game of Thrones campaign, I decided Burning Wheel was cool, but social mechanics were not quite what I wanted.

So continue to look I did.

I came back to superhero roots, with a different game: Champions Now. There I got some of what I longed for in a supers game specifically: mundane life stuff. That's because the players get points to spend on powers for create important characters. Plus there is the presence attack. But Champions Now was too esoteric for me long term.

Then I came back to 5e. A Spy Game came out, and a Supers game is coming soon.

As I prepped my campaign frame for Spy Game, I started thinking about action movies. I love action. But I also love the small moments in those movies too. In fact my favorite action movies have those small character moments in them.

That's when I happened to look up "Story v Plot" and learned that those two terms, for writers, have specific meanings. Ones which I was only vaguely aware of. In a very brief study of the subject I realized that these technical terms were exactly what I was looking to replicate in my GMing, and that 5e had rules for both. In this clip Seth Rogen does a great job of defining the two:


The 3 Pillars are plot, broadly speaking, and Downtime Activities are story, again broadly speaking. And both have rules, mechanics, or procedures that help me and my players improv incredible scenes.

I tried it in our last session. I approached downtime activities as story, I framed them as such to my players, and we had an entertaining and delightful 30 minutes generating and building on a story about a PC finding their lost love, a PC teaching martial arts at the YMCA, and a PC working in the underworld as a doctor. Frankly it was amazing. I'm glad I gave 5e another chance, not only is it something that I basically know how to run in my sleep, it has story generation rules to boot!

Here are my contribution to Downtime
 
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dave2008

Legend
I like how you framed the plot & story in your game and thank you for sharing your experience. That is not dissimilar to how we use downtime in our game. In-game time is much more on downtime as we require downtime activities to gain a level: training with your master, working for your guild, researching arcane principles, etc. are all primarily downtime activities and they drive the story.
 
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damiller

Explorer
I like how you framed the plot & story and your game and thank you for sharing your experience. That is not dissimilar to how we use downtime in our game. In game time is much more on downtime as we require downtime activities to gain a level: training with your master, working for your guild, researching arcane principles, etc. are all primarily downtime activities and they drive the story.
Oh that is a fantastic way to use Downtime, especially since the genre's I tend to play in 5e (spies and supers) don't really focus on gp. Tying lvling up to downtime could increase its value.
 

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