How do you guys like to use the downtime system?


Pathfinder First Edition General Discussion


Base building is not for everyone. For some players, a base-building session is tantamount to hearing, “We’re not gaming tonight. We decided to do taxes instead.” That's why I've taken to cannibalizing the Downtime rules, using it for inspiration rather than as-intended.

It's not an especially complex subsystem, but I find that it's just technical enough -- and just divorced enough from the business of adventuring -- to bog down play. For that reason, I find myself using use it as a shopping catalogue (e.g. A palace costs 19,640 gp? Good to know.) and a random encounter table (e.g. The party has a house? Cool. I rolled a 66 on the event table, so here's some RP with their fussy neighbor.)

Does anybody else have any tips for getting the most out of these rules? I like that they exist, but I'm never quite sure how to make them really fun.

(Comic for illustrative purposes.)


Downtime is the sort of thing that's best handled by email between sessions. If there's anything playable that comes out of it, then run it FTF, but otherwise do it offline. Certainly all the donkeywork maths can be done away from the table, just like going up a level and so on.


Unless you're Dave the Commonering it up, it seems like its best use is breaking WBL through Magic Capital and magic item crafting.


I think the issue is what are the players into? A person who likes FPS games might not like playing sim city. I think you should stop to check what are the players into before you shift to some downtime.

Mind you, some classes handle downtime better than others. A wizard could craft magic items and research new spells. A fighter, not so much. Maybe I lack ideas of what a fighter could be doing with their downtime. Maybe build a fighting school or invest in the master craftsman feat (a shame that non-spell casters have to invest more to craft magic items).


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I found downtime to be a very valuable part of the actual roleplay experience. It is general handled at my table one of three ways: 1) Between sessions via Discord, 2) Between adventures, and 3) as part of the adventure itself. I am spoiled that most of my players (different set of players in three separate groups) actually like a good deal of the downtime rules, and we make use of them.

Of course, I always make it quite clear (even with new players) that it is not my fault if they neglect the social aspects of the characters and have to resort to less 'fun' jobs around town while the rest of the party does their thing. I give out Background skills and bonus non-combat oriented feats to incentivize such things.

An example is one of the characters owns a Spa (which is a front for growing his own Cult) and makes great use of the rules to generate income, manage his followers from his Leadership feat, and generally not have any impact on the more mechanical side of the gameplay that added minions tend to have. Plus, his cohort keeps things running without much chance for corruption to set in.


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I poorly ran Kingmaker a while ago, which has extensive downtime opportunities for the party. And while, if I was to run Kingmaker again, I would never dedicate a whole session to kingdom building ever again. That is, quite literally, doing taxes... and is best handled through emails between sessions.

But the party had an Alchemy shop in the market fronting for an Assassin's Guild ran by the party's Rogue, and a brothel, and a magic academy, and a library/museum fronting for an elite secret society of moral rangers charged with keeping the king in check if kingdom strays too far from its founding ideals... I feel they were encouraged to branch out past just exploiting the system for personal wealth.

It was awesome seeing what they came up with to tell the truth. So I will continue to allow liberal use of downtime system/rules until the table bites the hand that feeds. Plus, any feat spent on crafting feats are feats not spent on murderhobo BS, so it balances out. They make their magical gear for cheaper, which means they have better gear. And that means I can give the enemies better gear without fear of it messing with balance.

Sure, give that dual-wielding NPC a pair of +2 weapons instead of +1 weapons... the party has better stuff already, so it's just money... and the party makes their own stuff, so imaginary money in a fantasy game just became even more abstract... it matters the least in the grand scheme of things.

If you make money flow freely enough, they start buying castles and temples and starting guilds and religions...


Another thought. You should warn players if you want to do a downtime session or two. Preferably as early as possible. That way they'll have some time to brain storm, maybe invest some skill points and feats into stuff they can use for downtime. Otherwise the party could wind up as optimized murder hobo party that is left very confused as to what to when downtime hits.


Coidzor wrote:
Unless you're Dave the Commonering it up, it seems like its best use is breaking WBL through Magic Capital and magic item crafting.

That right there is the big issue. Also, in my experience, DM's hate actually giving useful details and clues if a player tries to do things like research the situation beforehand... (research facts and lore activity).


I try to handle downtime through emails as well. I'll make notes about what industries the players interact with so I know whether or not to introduce NPCs as a downtime ally if they wriggle their way into the adventure, but I'm not interested in roleplaying shopping trips.

I tried the downtime and city building rules in my most recent game, and handled everything behind the scenes, letting the players say what their general plan was and slotting it into the system. It was quite a bit of work and very little pay off.


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VoodistMonk wrote:

I poorly ran Kingmaker a while ago, which has extensive downtime opportunities for the party. And while, if I was to run Kingmaker again, I would never dedicate a whole session to kingdom building ever again. That is, quite literally, doing taxes... and is best handled through emails between sessions.

It honestly makes me wonder if you could make it fly as "prompts for and improvised encounter."

Like, if you did a round of downtime, then created an actual scene / encounter out of the results, it might feel a bit more like the normal course of play than that ultra-crunch addon system.


DRD1812 wrote:
VoodistMonk wrote:

I poorly ran Kingmaker a while ago, which has extensive downtime opportunities for the party. And while, if I was to run Kingmaker again, I would never dedicate a whole session to kingdom building ever again. That is, quite literally, doing taxes... and is best handled through emails between sessions.

It honestly makes me wonder if you could make it fly as "prompts for and improvised encounter."

Like, if you did a round of downtime, then created an actual scene / encounter out of the results, it might feel a bit more like the normal course of play than that ultra-crunch addon system.

It's certainly worth consideration.

On the other hand, something like "Fussy Neighbor" 3 times in a row would give even a fairly creative table pause.


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Coidzor wrote:
DRD1812 wrote:
VoodistMonk wrote:

I poorly ran Kingmaker a while ago, which has extensive downtime opportunities for the party. And while, if I was to run Kingmaker again, I would never dedicate a whole session to kingdom building ever again. That is, quite literally, doing taxes... and is best handled through emails between sessions.

It honestly makes me wonder if you could make it fly as "prompts for and improvised encounter."

Like, if you did a round of downtime, then created an actual scene / encounter out of the results, it might feel a bit more like the normal course of play than that ultra-crunch addon system.

It's certainly worth consideration.

On the other hand, something like "Fussy Neighbor" 3 times in a row would give even a fairly creative table pause.

I'm totally down for a session built around taking on the local H.O.A.

As a hero type who strives to be good, taking on this type of lawful evil organization seems perfect :p


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Finally, after months of subterfuge, passive aggressive brushes with authority, and quiet recruitment of allies within the community, you can finally use a shade of red on your front door that doesn't clash with the shade of your Floratam. Unfortunately the divide in your team over weekend curbside parking has grown too broad to mend and your next quest is becoming clear.


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ErichAD wrote:
Finally, after months of subterfuge, passive aggressive brushes with authority, and quiet recruitment of allies within the community, you can finally use a shade of red on your front door that doesn't clash with the shade of your Floratam. Unfortunately the divide in your team over weekend curbside parking has grown too broad to mend and your next quest is becoming clear.

For the third time, Paladin, no... your god will not let you "Smite Karen".


When I'm playing as a PC, I will typically always have a craft/profession or Create XXXX feat of some kind. One of my characters could even make Psionic Tattoos, so in downtime, I would tattoo all my PC compatriots with various Psionic Tattoos (1 Tattoo per day), and then activate them later in battle.


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My new thing for any PC where it's appropriate is to take Profession (gambling). You can handwave using it to make income during Downtime, but the real draw is when the GM unexpectedly throws you into a tavern's backroom poker game or into an interplanar casino... then my time has come.

But to answer the original question: I like that Paizo addressed the need of a Downtime system, but I think they made the system too fiddly. The purpose is to give the players some control over their stuff while the GM advances the adventuring, but it's almost like they want to discourage players from bothering.

You have to manage four different currencies, and then you have to consult tables to see how much you're allowed to spend in a given period. I'd rather you had, maybe, only Goods and Labor costs, and then have a caveat where Influence-like situations that can lessen certain costs. And certain creations require or can benefit from certain spells or magic items. And then I recall that you have to do certain maintenance costs every month?

But if a player doesn't want to bother with their D&D spreadsheet, they won't have as much to show for their downtime efforts as someone who enjoys that sort of thing.

I do like the random events aspect of the system, though. But Coidzor's "fussy neighbor" comment above is legitimate.


Definitely best done on the side. In our Skull & Shackles game, my character is in charge of getting the stronghold built. The group agrees on what we want, I make sure we got the resources, then we go off and do stuff and I track the timeframe. Fun, but not for everyone,, even in a PbP.


Downtime is imho best done by Discord or in a play by post like thing.

If you do some face to face stuff in downtime, for example because you are a horny Nocticula worshipper in way of the wicked, and want to flirt with your Antipaladin of Eiseths Erinye-companion, do a quick session with the GM and maybe record it because it could be hilarious.

But well, downtime math stuff just does not require everyone to be at the table.


I found base building works depending the group. If you’re playing with full on murder hobos then down time is just gear Upgrades out of game spoken to the gm with.

However in custom built cities it can be a great side adventure tool. I’ll build a basic growing town. Send them to clear a mine. Now the town has supply of ore. This also encourages ranks in profession for people to make money.


Mechanically this system is fine. Its nothing spectacular, but it's fine. There are some elements however that can be exploited to be game breaking.

Consider DCs of rare, unique lore around, say, level 3. DC 30 is fair for some hard-to-know secret. It is entirely reasonable that a vanilla Int-based PC could take 10 and hit a 30 with 2 days of Downtime.

WBL is another obvious pain point. A level 1 PC that's got 2 days of Downtime, 50 GP and one of the skills that can generate Magic capital can generate and spend 1 Magic capital and now make 8 CL 1/Level 1 spell scrolls. At level 1, 8 scrolls can significantly tilt combat in favor of the party.

I've never had any of my campaigns go into Kingdom Building rules of Downtime, but I'm sure there's just as much there for players to mechanically exploit. I think in the future I'll use these rules to generate costs and that's it.

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