Monday, March 27, 2017

Downtime In a Galaxy Far, Far Away


I haven’t mentioned it yet here on the blog, but I’m really enjoying the Tales from the Hydian Way podcast, a podcast dedicated to discussing the Fantasy Flight Star Wars RPGs. In their most recent episode, the subject of downtime came up, and that discussion spurred some ideas in my mind.



So How Long Are We Talking, Here?

My thoughts are that—as presented—these rules for handling downtime work best when looking at gaps that take from weeks to months in time. If you want years to pass between sessions, you might look at repeating this process up to three times, moving from each character in a series of rounds.
What Will You Do?

In general, to represent significant downtime, present the characters the amount of time that has passed between sessions. Ask them what they plan to do with that time, but make sure to mention any proscriptions that their chain of command might put on them. In other words, if they work for a specific crime lord, they might be told to avoid another crime lord’s territory. If they work for the Rebel Alliance, they might be assigned to a specific system or sector.



If the description incorporates their Duty, Obligation, or Motivation, they should gain 5 XP for the downtime. Essentially, this is a “good roleplaying” award. If the description includes Motivation + either Duty or Obligation, you may allow them to make a relevant skill check, taking into account the Duty or Obligation at play.

If the check is successful, you may want to add 1 to their Duty for each success, or subtract 1 from their Obligation. Alternatively, if the PC only narrates their downtime in light of Duty or Obligation, but not motivation, you may ask them if they want XP or a chance to change their Duty or Obligation score.


The difficulty of this check so be in proportion to the size of their Duty or Obligation. Larger debts are hard to pay off with minor side jobs, and it’s more difficult to impress your commanding officers with routine missions.

Duty or Obligation Score
Difficulty of Check
20 or lower
2
21-40
3
41-60
4
61-80
5
81-100
Impossible (must spend a Destiny point to attempt the check)



Force and Destiny characters will have a harder time, because Morality isn’t something that should be casually modified based on a narrative. Even the best player is going to have a hard time assigning themselves Conflict in a downtime narration, and Conflict really should come from active roleplaying.


Instead of using the above system, if a Force and Destiny character narrates downtime that incorporates their Motivation, the gain 5 XP. If they incorporate their Morality into the narrative of their downtime, the GM may grant them 10 XP instead.
Inspiration for Downtime Activities

Another topic that the Tales from the Hydian Way episode touched on was inspirations for the types of downtime activities a character might engage in. While Star Wars sources are good to look towards, I think it’s also helpful to look at wider narratives with similar themes.

  • Any show that deals with bounty hunters, professional criminals, or frontier living might give inspiration for downtime for an Edge of the Empire game. This means that westerns, crime dramas, and heist based media could provide inspiration. Watching a show like Leverage could provide context for the kinds of things professional criminals do when not working a job, for example.
  • Any show that deals with professional military or espionage will be a good inspiration for Age of Rebellion characters and downtime.
  • Force and Destiny characters and their downtime is probably best modeled by watching shows that deal with martial arts training. This is particularly true where the master and student dynamic is emphasized, or where the martial artists are traveling from place to place. The Tales from the Hydian Way mentioned Avatar the Last Airbender, but many animated series exist that examine martial artists in training, and even martial artists with supernatural powers.

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