Downtime, n. – A temporary break from active adventuring. Typically encountered between modules or arcs of an ongoing campaign.
Every GM has their own way of handling down time – but generally speaking it is used as a chance to heal up and cash in on earned experience points. Sometimes this is a purely administrative matter, sometimes there is as much roleplay between arcs as during them. Generally speaking, I encourage a mix. I like to have every player give me a list of things they’re doing during their downtime and also run a couple of scenes with each of them (more if they manage to get themselves into trouble).
How Much is Enough?
There is no “right” amount of activity for downtime. However, sometimes you need a bit of structure to make sure the period is neither ignored nor overindulged. I’ve been playing around with an idea, but I haven’t yet to tried it in a game:
- Each player may list one downtime activity per point of Precision.
Well, two reasons:
- The general idea is that you’re trying to do lots of different things in not enough time. The more precise a character is, the more they can pace themselves to do just enough to get the desired effects.
- There aren’t enough uses for Precision in the game, and this seems like a good way to keep it from becoming a dump stat.
What to Do
Okay, regardless of how your GM handles downtime, it’s worth it to have a plan. Ideally you should be looking at three things.
- Your Character Sheet
- Your Current Circumstances
- Your Goals as a Player
From Your Character Sheet
- Live Your Role: Thieves steal, archaeologists go on digs, journalists report – do whatever it is you’re “supposed” to do on earth to make sure that the Symphony accepts you.
- Indulge Your Discords: Spend some time acknowledging your discord. If you’re Angry, get into fights. If you’re Gluttonous, visit an all-you-can-eat. If you’re Discolored, cosplay at an anime convention.
- Confront Your Discords: If you don’t want to embrace your discord, make sure to spend time fighting it. Attend some anger management classes. Join a 12-step program. Buy bandages for your Stigmata (and/or take the time to clean the blood out of your old clothes).
- Avoid Dissonance: If you’re a Gabriellite, go beat up some bad guys. If you’re a Magpie, take a road trip. Whatever you need to do to keep from earning more dissonance, work it into your downtime descriptions.
- Keep in Touch: Make sure to take some time for your Servants and Allies: visit with friends, intimidate lackeys, pay employees, &c.
- Practice, Practice, Practice: If you’re a skilled marksman, consider setting aside some time to visit the firing range (or build your own). Musician? Perhaps its time to jam out. How you practice can say a lot about your character.
From Your Current Circumstances
- Report to your Superior: No matter how bad things are, they’ll be worse if your boss learns what went wrong from someone else. That said, you don’t necessarily need to invoke your superior directly – sometimes you can make the bureaucracy (and it’s miriad flaws) work in your favor.
- Heal Up: If sick or injured, take some time to convalesce. Or, if that would take too much time, visit an ally who knows the Song of Healing.
- Tend Your Wounded Soul: If there’s an allied Tether in the area, see if you can work off some of your dissonance.
- Recharge Your Batteries: If you take long enough and don’t do anything, your essence will come back on its own – but if you’re pushing yourself at all, why not perform some Rites? Your superior did give them to you for a reason.
From Your Player Goals
- XP Networking: Whether making new allies, recruiting new servants, or enhancing your Role, expanding your social influence requires networking.
- XP Training: Unless it was instilled directly by your superior, advancing songs and skills requires some degree of training. Rather than just “buying a point of Artistry,” consider “Attending community college classes to convert XP into a rank of Artistry” (the mechanical effect is the same but the flavor is better).
- Non-XP Networking: Try to set up a meeting with a mover and shaker who will be important to your goals.
- Non-XP Training: Some game masters like to see you putting in effort to learn new skills before they grant them. If there’s a skill you’ll eventually want to buy (but which is currently off limits) consider spending time practicing to get better.
- Set Plans in Motion: Down time is the perfect time to construct artifacts, research new songs, or begin spying on your enemies.
- I Did That: Look through some newspapers that are contemporary with the setting of your game. Suggest to your GM that your character was responsible or present (as appropriate). For example, a servitor of Eli may attend a local art exhibit, while one of Belial’s followers could have been inspiring an arson.
Goals of Downtime
Downtime isn’t just an opportunity to heal and replenish your resources. It’s your best opportunity to actually explore your characters. What motivates them? What is their routine? How do they fit into the mortal world? During down time you’re “on break” from the main plot of the game. It is the perfect time to drive your own story. And whatever else you do, have fun. Even downtime is part of the game.