How D&D Downtime Saved my Game Session

We have all been there come game day; one of your player’s posts to Facebook, or sends you a text, with the dreaded line.

Can’t make it today guys real life is getting in the way of the game.

Most of us still struggle on, trying to make the best of things when a player misses a game night. The desire to have a good time and play a game still exists, so it’s still game on! Then another domino falls, and you end up with more than one player unable to make the game. You begin to wonder, can we press on with two players out? Should we just make it a board game night and hope for better luck at the next game session?

I had to deal with this very scenario recently. Knowing my group in the game had just arrived in town, I decided to press on and focus on side plots and goings on in the city for the session. Bring the Unearthed Arcana (UA) Downtime rules to the table, as well as my setting’s Factions front and center for a game session. This allowed for my players to meet with each of the representative Faction leaders in their home city. With each meeting, I was able to sprinkle a few more story seeds as well as give the players a chance to roleplay and earn some coin with each of their factions. Additionally, one of my players purchased some property and the other player was able to check her property that she purchased the last time the players were in town. With only two players this still resulted in a shorter game, but none the less a productive one.

Now here is the thing; when it comes to downtime I use a whole lot more than just the D&D Downtime rules for my game’s downtime experience. It has taken some time to find the right elements to make downtime feel the way it does in my game. The result can be as simple as my players arrive in town, sell their things, and leave. Conversely, it can spill into a multi game session, if that is what the players want.

Knowing you are going to be curious about what I use at the table for my game’s downtime. Well let’s get into it, shall we.


UA Downtime Rules

I pretty much love all 14 pages of this product, and I am very excited to see the polished version of it once we get the upcoming Xanathars’s Guide to everything. The rules provided here, along with complications and Foils, ramps up everything you do in town a notch.

For me, it was the glue that bound my downtime experience together. Before this UA, I always had work that my players could do, but this helped flesh the options out and bring it to a new level. If you have not looked at UA Downtime rules yet, and you are a DM that likes to have a city with things to do, other than being a place for the players to rest their heads between hobo murdering, you will find this useful.

Expanded Factions

The DMG, pages 21-23, brushes on Factions and how you can use them in your game. The examples of Renown’s benefits are pretty vague, but gives you an idea on how to use them. In addition to the suggestions of Perks and Downtime activities, I adopted a 5 Rank system for all of my world factions. Players at each Faction level can gain benefits for being faction members. Additionally, players can get loans or other items through Faction contacts. Players in my setting can be a member of as many factions as they wish, risking their Renown to rise or fall depending on their actions. Or worse if they are playing both sides of two factions against one and other.


The last pillar of my D&D downtime is found on Walrock’s Homebrew page now available on the DM Guild
{WH} Fortresses, Temples, & Strongholds, rules for building and customizing player-owned structures!
I have always loved that I have been graced with players that love to spend their hard earned gold on more than just magic items. With FT&S, my players can now invest in building on a much deeper level than I have allowed in the past.

Walrock the portion from the DMG 127&129 that talks about purchasing and running buildings in your game and cranked this info up to 11. I highly recommend giving this product a look.


How do I run downtime during normal games? 

With these three things combined, there is always plenty to do when my players hit the city between adventures. That said, I do not always use downtime in my game. If the players are on task and the adventure is moving along at a good pace, I ignore downtime and continue to keep track of how many “weeks” the players have been out of town in the case of shops and other establishments that the players may own.

If my players are returning to sell/purchase goods or are returning from quests, I like to use down time rules. This not only feels natural but gives the feeling of time passing for my players, with events happening in the world, that time is moving in town as well.

Best of all, if my players are in a spot where they can return to town at the end of a session, I now prefer it. If a player can not make it to an upcoming session, I can either have them occupied with stuff going on in the city or I can run downtime activities for the remainder of the party till the next game!

Far too often, DM’s succeeds in making the world around the players feel like it is vibrant and alive, yet the players return to find their hometown in a state of Stasis. The city can feel like an afterthought. With Downtime, complications, and Foils, life is given to the city. Roll in FT&S content and now the players will become invested in these locations and cities.

Finally, one of the reasons why I love developing my Factions is because there is an added element where players can feel part of a Greater Plan. I much prefer this these days than in years past the adventuring guilds that I use to use.

Well, I hope you all enjoyed this read. Please feel free to share your thoughts or ask questions.  See you all next time!

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