Downtime Montage

It’s a new chapter of the book, a new episode of the show, the time has moved on but the player’s characters have still been living their lives and finding a new normal. This is an idea for structuring a downtime montage by taking the format of a combat encounter. Used for periods of time moving forward where you want to have a larger amount of stable time to pass and the players get to use that time for longer-term projects without having to play out every conversation or interaction.

This can be summed up and narrated by the DM as a series of silent shot montages after completion.

Roll initiative on downtime 

Step 1 – Set the length of time: The DM sets the length of downtime in days, weeks, months, or years. The higher level a party is, the longer they can go before something happens that would cause them trouble or the party has a chance to cause trouble that could be too much for them. This could just be an amount of time to an event coming up that may be known or unknown to the party. For instance, the DM could advise players they have downtime until the summer festival. This date may get interrupted by a different event the players are unaware of, like a war breaking out or an enemy catching up with them suddenly. The players as a group could also elect to try and increase the amount of downtime. 

Example of the amount of time that you could elect by level as a guide but can be whatever suits your campaign feel.

Level 1-5 Days 1d4 days per PC ( 8 days for the average party of 4)
Level 6-10 Days 4d4 per PC ( 24 days for the average party of 4)
Level 11-15 Weeks 2d4 per PC ( 56 days for the average party of 4)
Level 16-20 Weeks 4d4 per PC ( 112 days for the average party of 4)

Step 2 – Roll for Initiative: Each Player rolls for downtime initiative using their intelligence or charisma modifier to the roll. This is to indicate who is best at planning their time and interacting with people to get things done.

Step 3: Choose your actions In turn each player describes what actions they want to perform with the rounds in the time block. Each action can be used to perform a variety of things over that time period. The player chooses what they want to do for the entire period in this step.

These possible downtime activities are listed in ‘Xanthanar’s Guide to Everything’ which can be used as a method of success and resolution where appropriate. 

Downtime actions:

  • Buy a magical item: Search for an item of the power you are after.
  • Carosing: Drinking, eating and socializing. Possibility of making new contacts.
  • Crafting an Item – make an item or a magical item
  • Crime: Can perform criminals activities for gold but at some risk
  • Gambling: Risk resources on games of chance.
  • Pit fighting: Any combat intended to be non lethal for coin.
  • Relaxation: Resting – can increase times to recover from effects that reduce stats and gain advantage on saving throws against diseases.
  • Religious Service: Time spent in temple service. Could gain favour of local clergy or even the god.
  • Research: Research information. Could gain specific information or gain a few facts that can be recalled when required.
  • Scribe a spell scroll: Make a magic scroll if you know the spell. Requires the Arcana skill or Religion for Divine casters.
  • Shop: Buy any readily available items or order something to be crafted. Could also order things that are possible to get but not. readily available like gemstones and specific spell focuses.
  • Selling a magic Item: Try and find a buyer for a magical item. 
  • Training – Bank time towards a skill such as a Tool Proficiency, language or even a new skill or feat.
  • Work: Work a profession for a wage.
  • Connect – make a new contact or build a relationship with a known one. Build a familiarity or causal relationship with an organisation or a place. For instance you could build a relationship by talking to the local guard so they are on friendly terms. Spend time and offer help at the local tavern that to increase your familiarity with the staff and patrons. You spend your time offering assistance and generally being friendly and establishing a relationship. You gain advantage on any social check with the group.

Generate: generate any extra funds from land ownership or some other source not covered. This may be able to be performed while other actions are taken depending on the source.

Any expenses or income generated from these actions should be calculated as they are performed.

Movement: If required, you can travel to another safe and consistent area as part of that time.

Reaction: You can react to one request by another player for that period without affecting your downtime actions as long as you are both in the same area or another player could also volunteer. For instance, a character spending their time training for a skill for 10 days of downtime can also help another party member craft a suit of armour for 5 days of work time. 

End of turn:  Take expenses damage. Minus the cost of living for the period of time and then add the amount of income you may have that has not been calculated already

Move onto the next player in the initiative until all have had a turn.

End of Round: We have now finished the downtime montage. The DM can walk through narrating quick shots with players of the characters crafting items, researching lore, carousing till the break of dawn, and so on.

-Gavin The Thomson.

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