Roleplaying Tools

GM Downtime Uses

Game Management

Downtime in RPGs

What is Downtime in RPGs? This is meant to be what happens when your characters are not travelling somewhere or on adventure. Usually this is when nothing particularly interesting is happening, just as study, investigation, research, crafting or simply resting. Its when any of those activities have unexpected or roleplaying opportunities that it becomes part of the game session.

The main difference with downtime vs play is that downtime is meant as the only activity your doing during that time, and that when mentioned in game is more like memory than interaction. So you should not expect to gain other mechanical benefits from these activities.

Downtime in Dungeons and Dragons

Dungeons and Dragons has a specific mechanic where dice rolls and specific actions can be done over long periods of time.

Downtime can be broken down into the following activities:

  • Crafting – The ability to build things like items, or buildings which all take time and resources.
  • Learning – Improving your character beyond the base levelling which can include new options for combat or more variety out of it.
  • Training – Passing on what you have learned.
  • Recovery – Resting, Recuperation and pushing ahead.
  • Social – Working with the politics of the setting.
  • Wealth – Making money outside of adventuring.

Downtime in Pathfinder 2

Pathfinder 2 has its own rules on downtime as well, with specific notes that it can’t be done while travelling as a difference from D&D which allows downtime during travel.

Unlike D&D, Pathfinder 2 is not as extensive for its downtime activities.

  • Crafting – This is a downtime only activity, the making of items takes at least 4 days to make Half the item.
  • Forgery – Which is necessary to hide who you are
  • Income – Make a living instead of adventuring.
  • Subsist – Live off the land.
  • Treat Disease – Perform medicine on a creature.
  • Learning Activities – I also have various learning activities to help a character gain more options in the game

Downtime in Shadowrun

Shadowrun is an interesting game, some of the downtime is built into the game, while others are implied depending on the group, ruleset (6th edition is the current version).

  • Finding a item – All items have availability, including lifestyles, which can affect how long it takes you to track down something that you want.
  • Recovery and Upgrades – The body takes a while to recover from damage or surgery so time needs to be taken to be at your best.
  • Training – All improvements take time to complete, so you need to regularly set aside time for self improvement.
  • Day Job – Not all runners have day jobs, but those who do need to be at work to keep it.
  • Researching a topic – Nothing is fast, but being prepared is better than being dead. So spent time looking up various aspects of what your doing, about to do, or have done so it does not become the cause of your early retirement.

Downtime in a Sandbox Game

Downtime in a sandbox game is a way for you as a player to help the timeline progress. Characters should have time off from adventuring, so they relax and refresh, as that is the core reward and motivation for most characters in adventuring is the lifestyle it provides them.

An example of this is in Shadowrun that each mission (or run) that you go on usually requires 1-6 weeks of laying low to avoid the authorities. They usually only take runs because they need the money to survive, not because they are wanting to.

Characters are expected to plan for downtime as part of their preparation and adventuring, such as travel to City A, while there spend a day, a week, a month looking into something, then acting on it.

If there is a time sensitive issue relating to what you are doing, as the Games Masters responsibility to the storyline to remind you of things you could miss out on (that you know of) because not all quests are static and wait for you to do them.

An example is if a noble asks you to accompany them on a hunting expedition, you say yes, then head off to do something else, they are not going to wait for you before heading off themselves. Not all storylines can be played out, and some cancel others, while a few are ongoing regular occurrences.

Downtime in my Games

As to my games, what I am expecting from the downtime options in the game depends on which game the players are part of.

The basics of downtime in my games are about having the characters take time to investigate the world, and not hope to get lucky in game. Not everything can be solved by rushing around the place. Sometimes you have to get people to come to you, or wait for them to arrive, as the world does not wait for the characters to act.

While the players are the focus of the game, the characters all start out as potential rising stars that have not been noticed at first level and gain more notoriety as they gain levels.

Note: No matter which game your in, build up a bunch of contacts, as without contacts your acting blind in many things. There are various ways you can build up contacts so feel free to ask me for advice. This is the best way to gather information in the game setting in a Sandbox setting.

Wrath of the Immortals
  • As part of investigations:
    • Research Spend a week in a location researching a single topic. This can be a library, city records, church or anywhere else where the information your after could be found.
    • Carousing to gain contacts in a location so you can get access to things such as private libraries, societies of just the chance to talk to someone you would not normally meet.
    • Gaining Renown for a nation to open more doors and resources.
    • Note: When researching a magical item (not artefact) players can work with the GM to create a history for the item they have discovered. The powers for an item grow based on the learned background, as well as how they have be used in game.
Thassilonian Resurgence Adventure Path
  • A part of being pathfinders keeping quiet, here are a bunch of activities you can do for downtime: (understanding that only one activity per day)
    • Learning languages
    • Researching information, using an appropriate source of information (includes gathering information outside of roleplaying)
    • Conduct a day job (this does not allow information gathering at the same time if you want to keep that job)
    • Gaining new options, spells, resources as characters can spend time to improve their character, this is also at the expense of advancing the storyline.
    • Forgery of identification documents to build up multiple identities allowing for easier travel in some regions.
    • It is possible to learn Archetypes as part of downtime instead of using your class feat progression.


Downtime is a good mechanic when you don’t get too bogged down in the details, it helps extend out the storyline so the adventure happens over days, weeks, month or years. As given the chance, most adventurers without taking downtime for levelling may just make it to maximum level for the game within a week or a month of starting to adventure for the first time. It does make an interesting tale when years are tied into the story.

Content Updates

  • 2020-12-01 – Added contact section.
Game Management

GM2021 in Review, Choosing a New Campaign, Downtime Uses, GM’s Luck Roll, House Rules, Running Games over Skype, Sandbox vs Linear, Story RPGs, Table Rules, Tracking Experience

Annotated Stat Blocks: Dungeons and Dragons, Pathfinder, Pathfinder 2, Star Wars FFG

Creating a Campaign: D&D Mystara Design (2022), Genesys, Pathfinder, Pathfinder 2 TRAP Design (2022), Shadowrun, Star Wars (Mandalorian, 2022)

Character Creation: Dungeons and Dragons, Pathfinder 2, Star Wars Beta, Star Wars FFG

Concluding a Campaign: Star Wars

NPCsTalking to NPCs, Working with NPCs.

Virtual Table Top (VTT) Software – d20Pro: Installation, Realm Works: Players and their Characters, Using for D&D, Realm Created

Library of Books

B5, d20 System, Pathfinder, SW

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By thedarkelf007

I am a long term gamer, I run 6 RPG's a fortnight, host board game, card game and LANs each about once a quarter and have an addiction to buying more games. Games I am currently running are Pathfinder (1st and 2nd Edition) and Dungeons and Dragons (5th Edition).

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