In the fifth edition of the world’s most preferred roleplaying game, the notion of “downtime activities” has been pretty nicely codified. Of course, there are “interludes” in Green Ronin’s AGE and in Savage Worlds. GURPS has had downtime activities for decades. So on and so on….
Fundamentally, there are occasions when the PCs are not standing toe-to-toe with an orc horde or sneaking into an abandoned tomb or negotiating for much better terms with a nearby organization. When an encounter is not becoming taken care of, what are the PCs undertaking? They’re taking a break, of course, but some of the additional driven PCs will nonetheless want to much better themselves. This is exactly where the downtime activities come in.
But what about you, the GM? What are you undertaking in the course of the game downtime? I have some concepts for you. I’m going to break down the notion of “GM downtime” into two discreet segments: in the course of play and among play. Through play is whilst absolutely everyone is at the table and actively gaming. In between play is when the RPG group has departed the host’s home and are safely ensconced inside their personal abodes.
Gaining Downtime Through Play
I can currently hear lots of of my fellow GMs complaining that they have no “spare time” whilst the game is going on to do any downtime activity. This might pretty nicely be accurate, but there are a couple of tricks to achieve your self some time. Let’s delve into these initial.
If a choice does not have an instant influence outdoors the celebration of PCs, then you do not have to spend consideration to it. That is ideal. I’m telling you to ignore the players whilst they’re at the table with you. If they are splitting treasure or loot, that is seriously none of your concern. As the GM, you shouldn’t care if the treasure is split evenly or pretty. That is totally up to the players to deal with.
Likewise, if the players are deep in debate on what to do subsequent, do not spend as well considerably consideration to it. These player conversations deserve element of your consideration, but you are not an active participant unless a player straight addresses you with a query. These are the players’ plans, not yours. You have no location in the conversation in any capacity unless a player wants clarifying facts and they ask for it. If the players are generating a choice primarily based on faulty memory, poor notes, or a misinterpretation of one thing you clearly stated, let them. Just sit behind your screen with a smile on your face whilst you do your personal downtime activities.
If the players are generating choices that interact with your element of the game or globe, then you need to have to spend consideration. After a final marching order, guard duty, or sleeping order is established by the players, get them to clearly and swiftly provide it to you, so you can make a note of it. Till they have the final list, ignore them. Do your personal factor.
Through Play Downtime Activities
Gaining technique mastery on an RPG must not be completed at the table. Even so, if an upcoming opponent, hazard, obstacle, or trap has some particular impact on it beyond “roll dice do damage” then now may be a very good time to find that particular impact in the rulebook and give it a speedy skim to refresh your memory on how that particular flavor of the game operates. This is specifically accurate if the game you are playing has sub-mechanics (like a chase mechanic or a crash mechanic) that does not seriously adhere to the core mechanics of the game itself.
If the monster behind the locked, barred, trapped, and magically held door has some particular powers, study up on them. Get the common concepts in your brain whilst the PCs debate on which factor on the door to tackle initial. After they have a strategy of action, snap your consideration back to the group and you will have clear self-confidence in what they’re going to face after they get by means of the door.
If the splitting of loot requires a whilst (dragon hoard!), then you can study ahead in the adventure (or your notes) and see what the subsequent three-four issues “around the corner” are going to be. Possibly the adventure is completed and more than with, but the session is only halfway completed. This signifies you need to have to obtain or build a new hook to get the celebration into the subsequent story arc. When the players debate or roll dice to establish treasure allocation, you can swiftly sketch out a hook with an introductory encounter to get that ball rolling. This can be completed at the table, and the players might not even know that you are undertaking a bit of improv GMing whilst they figure out who gets the Giantslayer of Doom Extended Sword.
In between Play Downtime Activities
At this point, I’m going to assume you have your life structured to make time for your prep for the game as GM. If you do not have time structured in this manner, please leave me a note in the comments. I can do a “Time Management for GMs” post if there’s adequate vocal help for it.
What can you do with the time you have carved out when not at the table? That is a quite extended list, but let’s hit the highlights.
You can study, re-study, or skim the core rulebook to level up your technique mastery. Even for games that I know “inside and out” I’ll obtain new nuggets of know-how or nuance to the guidelines to bring to the table with a re-study of the guidelines. This also goes for expansion or splat books.
Even if you abhor operating pre-published adventures, choose up a couple of from the publisher of the core game. Study by means of them and figure out the themes, designs of play, suggestions, and tricks they use for adventure style. This will permit you to build a really feel for the game technique that is closer to property when you build your personal adventures.
If you are a GM that loves the pre-published stuff, then go to town! Choose up all the adventures you can afford and study them, study them, make notes on them, and build some crib sheets of your personal. If you see a reference from the adventure that states one thing along the lines of, “This monster can cast sleep after per turn.” Effectively, now you know you need to have the sleep spell from the core rulebook. This is a very good time to make a notecard with the spell’s effects and drop it into the adventure on the exact same web page as the monster facts. This way you have the particular effects ideal there at your fingertips.
After you have technique mastery down and know the contents of your adventure like the back of your hand, you can come up with compact globe facts. This can be generic NPCs that you can drop into the game at any time, a list of names, some random traits for NPCs that you might not be prepped for, a couple of rough maps of companies or buildings the characters may get into some problems at, or even painting some minis.
Lastly, with your among-game spare time, fill the nicely. Cast your concentrate away from RPG-centric books and supplies. Study a very good novel in a genre you may want to run someday (audiobooks function nicely, as well). Play a video game. Take a stroll (Gasp! The Terrific Outdoors). Take a rambling drive about the countryside with your windows down and your music blaring. Just idle your thoughts and you will be amazed at the concepts that will at some point come flooding in.
Do not neglect to take notes on these floods of concepts ideal away for the reason that they are nebulous and like to return to the plane of existence from whence they came unless you capture them swiftly. If you take place to be on that countryside drive, nicely, be protected about taking notes, eh? Your players will want you back at the table at the subsequent session.
This post is brought to you by our excellent patron Jeffrey Lees, supporting us due to the fact April 2017! Thanks for assisting us retain the stew fires going!