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How much downtime do your PCs get?

Matt Sheridan

Minus 10 horse points.
Validated User
The Codex of the Black Sun has me thinking about downtime projects like spell research and such. And timeframe is a big consideration in that area, of course.

So I'm wondering: how much time do PCs typically get for that kind of thing in your experience? How much in-game time passes between an adventure's end and the next adventure hook's arrival? How long do sandbox players hang out in home base before their next expedition?

I think my own games have typically gone at kind of a breakneck speed. Even when there's no external time pressure, we've usually thought of the PCs as getting right back out there as soon as they're rested. A lot of that's probably the result of a lack of explicit downtime activity opportunities, I suppose. But even without a side-game of domain management or whatever, maybe it'd make more sense for exhausted adventurers who just barely escaped a dozen different kinds of death to—if nothing else—recover and live it up for a while.

Random Goblin

Validated User
Blades in the Dark handles downtime in a very specific and mechanical way--although the passage of time may be abstracted, PCs only get two "downtime actions" to do stuff between adventures (including healing, training for XP, working on long-term projects, acquiring new assets, and blowing off steam to get rid of Stress, which is the game's primary metacurrency). Anything else costs money or a mechanical loss of reputation. It's a very cool system.

I don't think you need to adopt something as detailed as Blades, but I do think there's a lot of value for creating at least some sort of ad hoc mechanical framework with a list of default options. That kind of thing "gives permission" to players to become more proactive and adds new dimensions to the game. For sure a lot more than "um, so do you want to do anything?" does.


Validated User
It really, really depends.

I ran a Call of Cthulhu game some years back that had only a bit of downtime. The first story happened. Then the PCs basically had time to recover, get a little therapy (or shoot up morphine and cradle a rifle while muttering curses), and then start the next semester. Which represented maybe two weeks of downtime, most of which was spent doing things necessary for their jobs.

The last D&D game I ran tended toward enough downtime to heal up, go shopping, and get to the next adventure. With some significant trips to the local pub. Mostly meaning less than a week between adventures, and mostly a day or two.

On the other hand, all of my Exalted games have usually had months of downtime. People are like, "I'm'a head to the top of that mountain to meditate on the glory of the Sun. See you in a few months when my Essence is 4." Or, "Time to do some internal reorganization with my cultist ninja army masquerading as a merchant house. See you next season."

Craig Oxbrow

Ah, y'know. This guy.
Validated User
It definitely depends on what can be done - and needs to be done - during downtime. If a game has fuel stats that get used up, or problems that build up and go away with time, that affects how useful or troublesome downtime can be. A lot of Vampire games (both Masquerade and Requiem) focus on night-to-night activity with occasional big gaps, in part because vampires use some of their stolen blood to get up in the evening, and this keeps a focus on how much blood (or Hunger in VtM 5) the PCs have. Paradox dropping with time in the Mage family of games has a similar effect, among others.


Registered User
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All the downtime. I hold to the philosophy that action happens sporadically. I don't have set amounts, but the last time I ran a game in earnest, there were long stretches of spell research, of just chilling out in a city until something happened, gathering supplies for expeditions, and so on. This has run into some trouble when dealing with a player in a shorter-lived game of mine who seems to think that if there's not a new quest to run after right away, then it's time to find a new quest to run after right away. Rather than just chilling for a bit to get to know people and not go on mission after mission.


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A fair amount in our Star Wars game, which uses the 'old' hyperspace idea where journeys, especially not on major routes, can days or weeks, to cross the galaxy.


RPGnet Member
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King Arthur Pendragon: About a year, usually
Numenéra: A few months between major arcs (maybe 3-6 sessions to an arc), not much rest inside an arc
Deadlands Classic: A few days between major arcs (maybe 3-6 sessions to an arc), not much rest inside an arc
AD&D Maze of the Blue Medusa: Overnight or up to a few days
Night's Black Agents: There is no downtime. The vampires will find you and kill you if you stop moving


Registered User
Validated User
King Arthur Pendragon has a nice pace of generally assuming one significant adventure per year. The rest of the year is spent on downtime activities and the "winter phase" where you roll for things like how prosperous a character's estate was, births and deaths, etc.

Unless one or more characters are doing a downtime activity that requires time to be tracked, spell research for example, I usually don't track downtime very closely. You have an adventure, during which time is usually tracked, then some time passes, you heal, recharge, re-equip, do what ever, and then another adventure arrives. But, I don't really track whether it has been days, weeks, or months, since the last adventure ended.

Cloud Divider

Registered User
Validated User
Probably much less downtime than they probably should have...

I've been running a game roughly like Traveller - so interstellar SF, and the PC's fly around from place to place, doing jobs, getting into trouble, etc. The most formal downtime they get is when they're in transit between stops (at a planet or space station or otherwise), because of the relatively arbitrary speed of FTL. It's not quite as slow as Traveller (I believe it's a week or two per jump), but easily several days (between relatively close systems), or weeks (more distant systems).

My main problem is that usually once they get there, the real action starts, and they'll be at that same "breakneck" pace as one job spins off a complication, which turns into a new sub-mission... And sometimes we end up with six months of real-time near-weekly games (so ~15-20 sessions) that cover only a couple of weeks of in-game time.

When I was running fantasy (Eberron), it unfortunately tended to be roughly similar. There was "downtime" as they were traveling (by lightning rail or caravan), but it was generally one event after another... Time between major arcs was longer.
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