Dungeons and Dragons – Mystara
Design – Part 13 – Downtime Overview
Introduction to Downtime
This is a part of my 5th Edition Dungeons and Dragons Mystara conversion series of articles looking at what I have done to bring the original setting of Mystara to my tabletop group.
D&D 5th edition has introduced a new mechanic to the game called Downtime which is dealing with events over a week of game time. What this does is allow for extending out the game world so all events for a character does not happen in a single week.
In the previous versions of the game, you adventure, level mid adventure, and keep going. This means that from 1st level to 20th level in the game could all be done inside a month of in world time. And with some adventures this is almost a requirement to complete them in time.
Downtime can be found in the players handbook around crafting, practising a profession, recuperation and training.
The dungeon masters guide introduces more for building a stronghold, carousing, crafting a magical item, gaining renown, performing sacred rites, running a business, selling magical items, sowing rumours, training to gain levels.
Xanathar’s guide revisits some of the downtime, and introduces some more, so it details Buying a magic item, carousing, crafting an item, crime, gambling, pit fighting, relaxation, religious services, research, scribing a spell scroll, selling a magical item, training, work.
Grouping of Downtime Activities
In my game world I have grouped my downtime activities to help sort out the actions.
- Item Activities – The buying, creating and selling items.
- Festival Activities – See Forest Kingdom Campaign Compendium from Legendary Games for more details.
- Learning Activities – Weekly tasks to improve your characters skills from knowledge, language, tools, levels, weapon and secret crafts.
- Lifestyle Activities – For everything about improving your characters well being from fun to recovery.
- Wealth Activities – Ability to earn money outside of items.
Why I introduced House Rules?
I thought the costs and times involved in some of the training were too much for the characters as the ability to learn a language in the players handbook takes 250 days, costs 1 gp per day.
Xanathar’s Guide rewrote it to be ten weeks reduced by your int modifier and costing 25 gp per week so costing up to 250 gp. The time taken has been reduced to 70 days maximum, but could be as little as 35 days. Each week a complication was possible to happen ten percent of the time.
My version of the learn a language changes it to 4 weeks (28 days) with a attribute check once per week and 25 gp per week. If you fail the attribute check, the following check is at one less making it easier over time. You still have to pay for each attempted week, even if your not successful. The attribute you use is determined by the teacher as agreed between the player and myself. I have changed the complication rules to have a 5% accumulative chance per week, with a character having the ability to accept a complication instead of a failure.
What this gives to the game, is a way to pass time for the characters, get them though periods of inactivity and extend out the time between levels so the storyline feels more organic.
As an addition to learning the language, the character can spend the week teaching the language instead earning half the cost. This is true for each of the learning options.
My house rules focuses on the learning aspects of downtime.
Training for Language or Tools
Besides learning a language, I have moved this into this learning category tools and dialects. Tools are basic proficiencies that you can learn. Dialects are variations on the language that are unique to a group of people (usually a nation) where you need to make an insight roll to understand the nuances of the conversation, with the intelligence score of the speaking being the base DC. I have also make it only take a week to learn a dialect so it is not too punishing for players.
There are a lot of language in the setting I run so this provides a way for characters to learn those languages.
Training to Gain Levels
The main difference for gaining levels is that tiers of play take 2 weeks per tier instead of 10 days. While an extra four days a tier might not seem like much, but it does make the characters spent time in roughly month blocks making timekeeping a lot easier in the long run.
I have also added mentor requirements, which can relate to specific locations around the game setting so travel time will also be added to it. This does mean that time sensitive storylines should not expect the characters to level if they want to meet tight deadlines.
Training to Learn a Secret Craft
This is a new type of society that I have taken from the BECMI Gazetteer sourcebook Principalities of Glantri and expend to make it more useful to the setting. These will be described further in another post.
Training to Learn Weapon Mastery
Very similar to the Secret Crafts, learning increased proficiency with a weapon takes longer the better you want to get with the weapon. I have linked weapon mastery with secret crafts.
Also some weapons have optional abilities you can learn as well.
Training to Learn a Spell
Instead of knowing every spell in your spellbook, and learning a spell by scribing into your spellbook. I have an ability to learn a spell without instruction and halving the time if they have an instructor. This is for spells outside those learnt by gaining a level.
As all the prepared classes in my world have to learn spells like wizards, this is an important rule. And all spellcasters gain access to ritual spellcasting being able to cast a spell via an ability check also need to learn the ritual to be able to utilise it.
This leads back to a flavour of learning that I wished to encourage in my games.
Additional Rules and why they are needed
While using this in play, we had a few issues of players who used Int as a dump stat crying unfair as it was harder for them to learn than those who had a higher Int. Well that was by design, but it was causing issues. So here are two variants I will be trying next time I run the downtime activities.
- One roll for the whole of the downtime, representing the whole time.
- A roll of a 1 means that a complication occurs and that may affect if it was completed or not.
Otherwise the amount you failed by equals the additional weeks required to complete the downtime, and its cost by the weekly value.
Every few months I check back over the rules and update them based on gameplay so they should be fairly up to date with how I am running them.
I have enjoyed employing the downtime mechanic of the rules, as it provides the best framework I have used to date for extending out the game setting timeline.
While using downtime in some sessions can be fun, it can also become tedious as a large group could be doing two to three months downtime and making 12 checks each. The new system will improve the game now that it is written down.
- 2021-07-31 – More structure cleanup to make it easier to navigate and read.
- 2021-07-29 – Added overview back into title.
- 2021-07-01 – Layout Cleanup
- 2020-03-23 – Structure update.
- 2019-12-13 – New options being presented for completing downtime.
Appease (Immortal, Secret Craft), Arduous Rally, Building Stronghold, Buying and Selling (Finding, New Spell, Selling Magical Item, Selling Other Item, Sharing Spells), Carousing, Crafting (Item Formula, Magical Item, Other Item, Spell Scroll), Crime, Druidic Wild Shape, Gambling, Performing Sacred Rites or Religious Services, Pit Fighting, Practicing Profession, Recuperating & Relaxing, Renown, Research, Research Assistance, Rivals, Running Business, Sowing Rumours, Spellcasters, Wizards School
D&D Menu – Adventures, Artefacts, Backgrounds, Classes, Dominions, Downtime, Feats, Gazetteers, Gods, Magical Items, Monsters, Organisations, Pantheons, Races, Ranks & Titles, Rune Magic, Secret Crafts, Settlements, Spells, Timeline, Weapons Mastery
Class Builds – Artificer – Bombardier (Tinkerkin), Barbarian – Totem Warrior (Ethegnarian), Totem Warrior (Heldannic), Bard – College of Valour (Sunfey), Druid – Circle of Dreams (Woodfey), Circle of the Tree of Life (Seasonfey), Fighter – Battlemaster (Seashire), Eldritch Knight (Kerendan), Weapons Master (Makai), Weapons Master (Stonebound), Monk – Way of the Elements (Waterchild), Paladin – Oath of Radiance (Sunfey), Oath of Vengeance (Firechild), Sorcerer – Wild Magic (Shadowfey), Warlock – Celestial (Sunfey), Wizard – Bladesinger (Seasonfey), Dragon – White. Multiclass – Cleric/Wizard (Ethengarian), Rogue/Cleric (Atruaghin), Rogue/Sorcerer (Seashire), Wizard/Rogue (Traladaran)
Floorplans – Thyatian
Session Recordings – Campaign Journals
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