ST 254: Downtimes

What are Downtimes?

Downtimes are actions taken by a character for the period of time between regularly scheduled games.  Downtimes do not typically refer to the mundane actions an average person does during the month, but directly to the expenditure and use of traits that are used to affect plot and influences within the World of Darkness.

Beginning on the first and ending on the last calendar day of that month, characters will be able to expend a certain number of actions to gain new traits on their sheets or pursue plot.  These actions refresh on the First of each month. It is suggested that Storytellers have a set date with their player base for when downtime actions are due.

 The one thing that should never be permitted in a downtime action is one character killing another.  This is an important rule that ensures continued enjoyment of the game, and there will be more on this topic in the ‘Responding to Downtimes’ section.

Downtime Reports

The entire downtime process consists of a Report being submitted regarding a character’s actions during the month and the responses given by the storyteller as to the effectiveness of those actions.  This gives players the opportunity to have their characters continue working towards resolving plot and developing new traits, and the Storyteller a chance to throw more plot hooks to the players in turn.

The following sections will explain how each side of the report works and what sort of information should be found in the report.

The Example Downtime Report

The following is an example of a general format guideline that may be given to players.  This is only a suggested format, storytellers should develop a format that works with their venue.

Players Name:

Cam#:

PC Name:

Pending Approvals:

Attribute:

Number of Actions: (review your addendum)

Action 1

Description:

Action 2

Description:

Action 3

Description:

Action 4

Description:

Action 5

Description:

Other Activity:

(This section should include all activity that are not actions. Hanging out at clubs, training at the dojo, patrolling downtown, etc. should all be included here.)

Previous XP Banked:

XP Spends for the Month: (itemized, include justifications for each)

Current XP banked:

Questions for the ST:

You can download a copy of this to send to your players here.

Types of Actions:

Typically, the players should be able to use their downtimes for anything they could normally do in game.  This includes spending dots of influence or merits to achieve certain goals, and can certainly cover investigations into plot, finding and eliminating enemies, and even causing hardship for other players.  A good rule of thumb is that anything which provides a mechanical benefit in game should cost a downtime action.

  • Normal monthly routine: Things that do not require action expenditures would be anything that could be considered a part of their normal monthly routine. For examples: grocery store, mowing the lawn, hanging out at a nightclub, traveling around within the domain, and even going on patrol around a Bawn or Elysium. While these don’t require an expenditure of actions, they are also integral to the report since they could result in the player being ‘in the right place at the right time’ to see something plot related occur, like a shooting outside of the club.
  • Experience expenditure: Spending experience and buying new traits should be included in a downtime report. If there is an unusual limit to the downtime period, the ST may require downtime actions to be spent.
  • Collaborative Actions:When two or more players in the same venue work together during downtimes to achieve a certain goal it is important that they expend an appropriate amount of actions together to achieve that goal, at least one each.  They make sure to list the other players involved, and to observe appropriate time frames and event sequences.  This is particularly important when players are teaching each other new skills or abilities, or attempting to obtain some sort of influence.
  • Proxies: In regards to Proxies to other Domains and Venues, the player should submit a report as to what actions he is taking during the time period, who he is meeting with, and provide contact info for the presiding ST.  While a collaborative downtime report is not necessary from the other players from the proxy venue, a copy of the presiding ST’s report should be made available to the player’s Storyteller. Proxies are not considered to be downtime actions unless they are being used to learn something new for a character sheet. They still need to be reported to the ST even if something new is not learned.

Responding to Downtimes

Most downtimes will require a response, and the easiest way of doing this is through email.  By having the players email in their downtime reports, the VST can respond to each report individually, giving it the okay, or replying with what happens instead.

For Example:

Bill sends in an action that says: My Vampire goes to the courthouse after hours and uses his outstanding social skills and Dominate to ghoul the night clerk, so that I can obtain Retainer and access to the court records.

Bob is the AVST – Downtimes, and he responds: This is reasonable, so it succeeds.

Many downtime expenditures to obtain items or learn new skills and abilities can generally just be accepted as having happened, unless the Storyteller has a particular reason why they shouldn’t.  However, players will often expend their actions to perform investigations or perform actions that will potentially give them advanced information or direct affect on plotlines or other players.  This is a perfect opportunity for a Storyteller to throw out plot hooks to help push storylines or generate more role play for the players.

A player should never just be told ‘No’ for any activity that they wish to accomplish in downtimes, unless it has been determined previously that the Venue won’t allow these types of actions. More information about “How to Say No” can be found here.

Handling Downtimes at Game

Storytellers will have to determine how they will handle the resolution of downtimes that require a little more than an email response.  A common practice is to take approximately half an hour before game officially starts to discuss and resolve any actions that require a pull.  This can be difficult in games where there are a lot of players, because downtimes might bleed over into game time and cause delay for others who aren’t participating in the downtimes. Storytellers are encouraged to make use of their assistants in these cases.  When reviewing all of your downtime reports, Storytellers might also consider which actions really require pulls to resolve, or if some of them can be answered by giving a simple response.  If there are ten people initiating combat with mortals, and they’re all werewolves, then it could be considered they probably won’t lose unless there is extenuating circumstances.

The most important things to remember are to schedule with the players ahead of time so they know they need to show up early, and to ensure that downtimes will not overlap into everyone else’s play time.

Tracking Actions, Influence, and Information

A lot of information comes in and out on a downtime report.  Multiply that by ten or fifteen or even thirty reports, and it can be hard to know who you’ve given information to, and where anyone is at a given time.   A simple method is to make a spreadsheet with the player’s listed, and jot down what information any one of them has at a given time, and keep notes on what their activities are.  This doesn’t need to be a comprehensive list by any means, but it should have enough information that the Storyteller has a good idea of what’s happening around the city and what everyone knows about the plot.

When handing out information, it’s particularly important to keep track of what people know.  If a Storyteller forgets what information he’s given out and where he’s steering the plot, then it becomes easy to send the players down the wrong track.  At the same time, knowing what information has been given to players allows a Storyteller to encourage them to work together.  If Bill asks his Mafia contacts about a recent robbery, and Bob asks his Police contacts, then they will probably receive different information.  A little piece of the puzzle for each will encourage them to work together and help direct them towards solving the plot.

An Example of Downtime Reports

You can find an example of a completed Downtime Report, and following it a full response from the ST on the matter here.

As you can see, there’s not a whole lot to the responses, just a few simple statements.  However, with just a few words, the Storyteller has provided more things for the player to look into, and given them an opportunity to perform a more thorough investigation with a few pulls that could reveal even more details.

For more details about Downtimes for the individual venues including extra bonuses and specifications, please refer to the current Addenda which can be found here.