Behind the Screen: Vacation Day! Well…not really…

2008 February 12
by Dante

I’m writing to you on the eve of my first vacation day of this calendar year, and my musings about enjoying some free time to get some household projects caught up led to musing about character downtime and how often it is glossed over.

In fact, the only characters that I know of who actively sought out roleplaying their off time all exist within our current campaign, and they run the gamut from scoring with local barmaids to providing extra prayers and service to their chosen deity.

Tomfoolery For Dummies

Unfortunately, too many DMs hand wave downtime or worse yet handle it like a cutscene from a film or a training montage from a Rocky movie. It doesn’t have to be this way! I can remember many satisfying days spent in campaigns just doing something in character to pass the time, usually while the DM was looking up a rule or arbitrating something with another few characters.

In one of our college campaigns, several of us took to inventing a dice game (complete with bets) while the DM was busy doing something one-on-one with another character. After he was done, he asked what we were doing as we had attracted most of the other five players into our game at that point, and he had an NPC gambler show up to play the game with us for awhile. This didn’t lead to any specific plot point, but we ended up making some platnium pieces off of the gambler before the night was over. We also got a chunk of roleplaying experience for doing something interesting with our downtime. It was fun for all involved.

In my own campaigns, I have taken to letting characters run with their downtime pursuits. Sometimes these activities, if given some time to grow, can be used as plot points or opportunities for impromptu fun. Other times, its simply a means for character development.

Everybody can get in on the fun!

Players can capitalize on this by really thinking out what their character does to unwind. Don’t take it as assumed that your character does this certain routine each night, especially if you are one of those players that claim to be bored for much of the night. Wander around town, find someplace interesting to go. You might even be able to ask your DM something like: “I’m looking for some adventure tonight! I wander around town to see if anything looks interesting.”

If you’ve got a good DM, they’ll bite every once in awhile and give you that something interesting. Who knows, it might even lead to places you didn’t expect!

One Response leave one →
  1. mrboffo permalink
    February 13, 2008

    Down Time is one of the best tools I’ve found for getting players into their characters, to really make a connection.

    About once every third session, I’ll do some down time correspondence with my players. I give them a lot of leeway, and I find all sorts of cool plot ideas along the way. It’s a lot like character background design in that regard.

    Now, not all of my players enjoy this, so I don’t force it on anyone, but for those that get into it I think it really enhances the game.

    Insightful post!

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