RPGBOT.Podcast Episode 18 – Downtime

Show Notes

In this episode of the RPGBOT.Podcast, we discuss downtime rules in tabletop RPGs. We explore what characters can do between adventures, including things like owning a home, having a day job, crafting items, and other day-to-day activities which you can use to expand your characters and your games.

Special thanks to Pawjwp for this week’s questions of the week.

Materials Referenced in this Episode

Transcript

Randall 

Welcome to the RPGBOT.Podcast. I’m Randall James and I’ve stopped being a murder hobo and transitioned into being a regular hobo. With me is Tyler Kamstra!

Tyler 

Hi, everybody didn’t see that one coming. All right.

Randall 

And Random Powell.

Random 

Hi.

Randall 

Tyler, what are we doing tonight?

Tyler 

Well, we’re gonna talk about the things you do between bouts of murder-hoboing, we’re going to talk about downtime rules in tabletop RPGs. So downtime rules are the things that your character does between adventures in a lot of cases. So having a day job, maybe they craft items, maybe they do some normal people things. What do normal people do between adventures? I’m struggling for an answer.

Random 

Run gaming websites.

Tyler 

Run gaming websites? Yes.

Randall 

Yeah, I feel like my life is a lot more adventurous in my tabletop game. It’d be very stressful to be doing all of this. Yeah. So I think a little bit of something we wanted to open with because we thought it’d be a little bit of fun. We did a Halloween one shot where we have these characters, Georg & Amiable Jack. And so we wanted to even open up with a typical thing you would do when you come back to the table. Alright, so let’s say you played last week you had your session, you come back and the DM says, What’d you do during your downtime? And I look at Georg and I say Georg, what’d you do during your downtime?

Tyler 

Well Georg is proficient in potter’s tools so Georg used his potter’s tools to earn an income. He attempted to own a po- to open a pottery shop on his own, rolled terribly because that seems to be a theme with Georg, so it didn’t go great so he’s right back to murder-hoboing.

Randall 

Did a- did a tiny little elf boy come in and start throwing the pots everywhere.

Tyler 

You know, there’s there’s like, the elf Shoemaker story like in reverse, something like that. Left out pots overnight, tiny elves came in, shouted hyah!

Confused Deckard Cain/Navi Hybrid 

Stay aw- listen.

Random 

Wonderful. Well, Jack, in the meantime, made this personality of being very amiable, rather intentionally because he’s trying to cover up the deep trauma of being abandoned by his parents. And so he’s actually been working on a piece of music that’s so enchanting, so- such an ear worm that it manages to catch the ear of his feywild mother and make her cross the planar boundary to come find him. So he’s been working on that in his downtime.

Randall 

Do we get to hear that song?

Random 

Okay, technically speaking, I have written a piece of music. It was playable in Sibelius three, which was a piece of software from 2005. So if I ever managed to find that file and a way to play it for you, I’ll see what I can do.

Randall 

It turns out it was like house music was the thing that was gonna enchant her to come back. Cool

Tyler 

The Feywild with dubstep.

Randall 

Yeah. So that’s, that’s probably the answer. So these are two great examples of things that characters might do in their downtime to occupy their time, which helps us to get to know the character a little bit more, I realized, you’re both orphans. I didn’t realize that you missed or longed for your mother. And I think it’s great to hear that you opened up to us about that. I wanted to share with you folks so I actually wrote, I don’t know if you realize this, but Order (you know, the devil Lord)… you caught him in the middle of his downtime. So he wrote a letter to his adventuring partner to talk about what happened during his downtime.

Tyler 

The thought of a devil having an adventuring partner that’s… mildly terrifying.

Randall 

Yeah, well, just wait.

Order 

My dearest Morticia. I can’t wait for us to resume our adventure seeking the fabled instruments of fate so that our ska band can tour the nine hells. During this time away from the trail, I returned to the warlock farm to check on this generation’s crop. Things…. were not going well. There were these grave robbers cracking cold ones in the catacombs. I sicced the cacklers on them, turned the lights off… just wanted to scare them a bit. I thought one of the kids and let them in, so I brought him topside to have a talk. All of a sudden the two foot toddler becomes this gigantic jerk, silences the whole area and starts wailing on me. I tried to call for help but yeah, silence. I reached out to the kids to get some help figurin’ they owed me a bit of gratitude for feeding them, protecting them from the demons outside… They disappeared with the grave robbers! So now I’m beating the crap out of this demon surrounded by enfeebled adults admiring my attempted forcing a submission, when I see the whole dome was coming down. So yeah, I uh… I lost the farm. We’ll want to start looking for new village in need of a bit of assistance willing to make a deal. I managed to crush the demon. I got most of the adults out through the portal after all, I’m evil, but I’m not an ****ole.

Tyler 

Wonderful.

Randall 

Yeah, and that’s downtime. Sometimes it’s making pottery, and sometimes it’s having your own personal Warlock farm.

Tyler 

Yeah, that’s about right, downtime can come in a lot of different shapes and sizes. So I know most of the people listening are here for D&D 5E and Pathfinder second edition so we’re going to focus on that a bit today. Um, there’s a lot of fun to be had in the mechanics here. And there’s surprisingly a lot of rules for this in both- in both rule sets. So there’s a lot of crunch that you can really enjoy here. If you want to explore downtime in fifth edition, you’re going to need a couple of different books; you need the player’s handbook, you need the dungeon master’s guide, and you definitely want Xanathar’s guide to everything because it dramatically expands the downtime rules. If you’re playing Pathfinder, Second Edition, it’s all just in the core rulebook. So you don’t need anything else. I don’t think any of the newer supplements have introduced new downtime activities, but there’s enough in the core rulebook, you don’t need to worry about it. Just as an example of something that you can do across both of these rule sets is crafting items. So the rules here differ between rule sets, obviously, because obviously- sorry, because items works so differently in the two games and fifth edition, mundane items… like most expensive mundane item, you’re ever going to see is full plate unless it’s a building. Pathfinder second edition, you’ve got just items you can buy off the shelf, ranging from levels one to 20, that cost like five silver pieces, or 500,000 gold pieces. And you can craft anything in Pathfinder. In fifth edition, crafting is typically just “I make something mundane, I’m going to go get a hammer, I’m going to beat out some metal and I’m going to make myself a shield.” Pathfinder, there’s a system of formulas, you have to have a book of formulas, which is basically just “how do I make this thing or do this thing.” So, if you want to make a wooden shield, you need a formula for wooden shield, which is admittedly kind of a pain. But if someone just said, “Hey, make me a wooden shield,” and you had never seen a done before, would probably be pretty difficult. So it kind of makes sense.

Randall 

So in Pathfinder 2 like you have to find the equivalent of the Prairie Home Companion to build anything.

Tyler 

Yeah, that’s about right. Getting common formulas, which is like your standard items that most people know about, that’s generally pretty easy. And you can just buy the formula off the shelf. Or you can take a downtime activity to recreate the formula if you have one of the items. So like, you have a wooden shield, your wooden shield is broken, you’re like, “Ah, maybe I should carry two of these into the next dungeon. So I’m gonna learn to craft this by disassembling the one I have,” or something.

Randall 

Okay.

Tyler 

There’s a lot more to be explored just on crafting. So I won’t dig into that too much.

Randall 

Actually I do I want to poke at this a little bit more. So in both systems, (and if it differs, maybe we cover each system independently) what about the ingredients for crafting? It’s like, “Well, I couldn’t get a hold of a shield, but I can get a hold of enough iron ingots to hammer it out.” Is that- Is that right?

Tyler 

They don’t go into that much detail. It’s basically you just pay half the items cost for materials. And in- in fifth edition I don’t think you can lose materials if you… if you mess it up too badly. But in Pathfinder 2, if you get a critical failure on a check, you lose some portion of the materials, have to rebuy them, but it’s just “you pay some amount of gold. You have the materials.”

Random 

Yeah, in fifth edition it’s interesting. It’s very different. I mean, perhaps unsurprisingly, Pathfinder 2 being an extension of Pathfinder 1 which was an extension of D&D 3.x. In fifth edition. Item crafting is not really something that is super well supported, especially when compared to 3.5. In D&D 3.0, 3.5, item crafting was huge, like you- and honestly, economy breaking if you did it right. Because in 3.x when you were crafting, you could impose restrictions on who could use the items. And the problem with that is that it made it cheaper to create. If you imposed both… And actually, this might be Pathfinder 1, that I’m thinking of, now that I’m thinking of the character that did it. But if you imposed both an alignment restriction, and a class restriction, it made the item 70% less valuable, which meant that it was 70% cheaper to craft. And so like, well, I know that I’m going to hand this to my chaotic neutral Rogue friend do-do-doot. And in that way you could basically just I mean, like it literally immediately broke the economy as soon as you figured out that “I can craft things specifically for my friends at an absurd fraction the cost.” To go from that to fifth edition, where you can’t really make magic items. I mean, not in at all the same way is really interesting. And I haven’t looked around to see if anyone has come up with a robust system to add that sort of crafting back in. If not, I hope that somebody does, because, you know, that sort of fantasy is a huge part of the like, adventuring Wizard Artificer life. And it’s- it’s, you know, apart from like artificers having infusions, it’s a little bit crazy that there is not an easy way to, “I want to make a thing and give it to you.” I guess part of the problem there would be though we don’t necessarily have a great price guide anyway. So how would you say it’s going to be 70% of the cost of x? For the mundane items, obviously, there is that and while I’m talking about artificers fabricate. Damn fabricate’s good.

Tyler 

It’s real good.

Random 

It’s real good. For the mundane crafting stuff. It’s honestly a little bit weird to me that they put so much effort into figuring out how to make the mundane crafting work well, because there’s what 15 different tool professions you can have that are related to mundane item crafting, and they give the characters a ton of flavor to be sure. And honestly, the fact that so many backgrounds and stuff force you to pick up some kind of tool proficiency like that does create a lot of opportunity for character development and character exploration. But why is there so much mundane crafting? D&D has always been a very high fantasy setting, right. And so to go from, “let’s have a lot of good flavor for like, making shields” to no framework at all for making a wand is just bizarre.

Tyler 

The rules for crafting magic items- heck, the rules just for buying magic items in fifth edition are intentionally vague in a lot of ways. Technically, magic items are an optional rule in fifth edition but I’ve never met anyone who plays without them. I assume that it’s not really optional. It’s like feats. Everyone uses them. Yeah. Fifth editions magic item crafting rules… They do exist. They’re incredibly vague and unhelpful. In general, if you’re going to craft a magic item, it’s going to take a ton of downtime, and you’re probably gonna have to work out something weird with your DM, like, there’s parts of the books that recommend like, “oh, yeah, you have to go on a quest to get a formula to make the magic items”. Like great, “I’m going to spend two months of in-game time figuring out how to make a +1 sword. Wonderful.” And then Pathfinder 2, of course, it’s just “hey, I’d like this +2 rune of striking and blowing stuff up, please. I’m going to spend 10,000 gold and a week and a crafting check. And I’m done. That’s great.”

Randall 

But and again, like to take the Pathfinder 2 benefit a little bit further, you spend all that time finding the formula, figuring out how to- or reconstructing the formula. But at the end of it, you know- you now have a reproducible method of creating this thing. And you can earn an income. You sure can. Yeah, that’s, that’s another great example of something you can do during downtime. So I- I called this out a little bit earlier, but your character might have a day job between adventuring. If you’re looking forward to Strixhaven: Curriculum of Chaos coming out very soon… (or actually, I guess by the time this episode drops, it’ll be out) So one of the things in there is it has a system for your character having a day job in addition to being a college student. We have kind of a more vague system for that already, which is just “you use a skill to earn an income during downtime.” It exists in both Pathfinder Second Edition and 5e. So, essentially, you make a skill check for the period of downtime, and you figure out how much money you make. It’s not super exciting, but getting a little bit of extra gold for some downtime can be very helpful if you need, you know, if you’re an expensive character who likes expensive items, like potions or alchemist’s fire, or whatever. I mean, for the role playing aspect, right, we spent all of last week talking about lifestyles, and the one thing we didn’t hit is unless you’re a noble, or an aristocrat, which we did cover, that’s where your money comes from. It comes from doing nothing you had ancestors who did ransacking, and here we are. But like, looking forward, you could actually be an artisan, or you might have a small shop that’s developing this awesome stuff, and you have enough income from that, that you can then live this very fancy lifestyle. You get the whole chicken when you go out. We think that’s great.

Tyler 

All right, I want to- I want to stop you for a second, there’s been a couple things you talked about. In crafting, we have to do checks, you now talked about maybe in trying to learn these skills, we have to do checks of some manner to figure out whether we successfully craft or we successfully learn something. I’m a DM, I have my players, and they want to take advantage of this. Is this meant to like, “Let’s all come to the table and let’s spend the first 15 minutes doing our checks on our downtime activities?” Or is this meant to be something like “You just text me and promise you rolled an 18 and we’re good to go?” Yes, exactly. So a lot of characters don’t need to do the “earn an income” thing. Let’s see if you’re if you’re perfect. and survival, I think- I think we talked about this one during the lifestyle episode. If you’re proficient in survival, you can maintain some level of lifestyle without any effort. So if you just want to hang around and live off- off of survival, you’re fine. Bards are proficient in performance by default and if you are proficient in performance, you automatically maintain a wealthy lifestyle, I believe. So that makes a lot of this way less problematic. And then if you want to use performance to, you know, make money during downtime, that’s an option, too. There’s also some cool options in here in fifth edition that I think a lot of people look over, one of the options is just called crime. It’s wonderful. There’s carousing, which is you drink and gamble, there’s training where you- you can learn languages and tool proficiencies, which raises the question of “Why don’t Elves know every language?” So there’s some interesting options in here. Most of them are like “You do a thing. If you do well, you make some amount of gold and get some other benefit.” There’s a system of complications that’s introduced in Xanathar’s guide to everything, which can make things go a little crazy. If you don’t do well, or even if you do, I think that depends on how much you trust your players. If… Yeah, I think I mentioned this during the hiatus episode, but using downtime rules is a great way to keep players engaged between sessions, especially if you’re on a long hiatus. Maybe you know, you’re going to be off a week and you say, “hey, the characters have two weeks of downtime before something else interesting happens. Let me know what you want to do. I trust you to roll the checks and I’ll tell you what happens based on the results.” So like one of your players says, “Yeah, I’m going to go work on learning Elvish,” and one of your character says, “I’m going to go do crime.” And the other character is like, “I don’t know what to do with downtime. So I’m going to carouse.” Basically, yeah, you can roll offline. The impact on the game isn’t super huge. Xanathar’s does also introduce a system of rivals, which can play into downtime activities. So like you might go, you might go do crime, and maybe your rival is like a local city guard or something, and you might get in trouble with them as a consequence. Or you might- like the rules in here for buying magic item are also kind of interesting. And I’ve written about these in an article on just how to make buying magic items work and we’ll link that in the show notes. But you can have a case where your rival shows up and kills the buyer- er kills the seller, whoever, when you’re trying to find a magic item to buy or sell.

Random 

One of the other things, and I will continue to be my plugging-for-story-elements self. So as a DM, you’re faced with two choices, do you say “Ah, yes, great. I appreciate you spending a few minutes to figure out what you would do in these two weeks and roll a d20 and tell me about it.” And that’s certainly a way you can take this. But if you want to build engagement with their characters, if you want to make this- what you’ve just asked them to do more interesting to them. Figure out how to call back to what they did, right? If somebody is going to spend, you know, their two weeks like, “Ah, yes, I’m using my alchemy-” That’s not a skill in this edition. “I’m using my arcana to make potions.” Next time somebody comes back wanting a potion from them. And maybe that’s a way to, you know, drag them into some interesting little story. If somebody does carouse, then maybe they get blackout drunk, and now they’re wanted in the town, and no one knows why. While it’s great that there’s the mechanics for it, the mechanics are there to be a stepping off point. They’re not there to be the end all be all of like, “Ah, yes, I have checked the box of nailed it. I made a thing.” Like, that’s great. But how does it serve the story? How do any of these things serve the story? And how do anything,-any of these things serve to get the people engaged with the characters they’re playing? Yeah, I’m imagining this fantastic scenario where everybody expected to come back. They were going to take their night out, and then they were going to come back and they were going to break into the BBEG’s palace. But instead, John, the dragonborn decided to do crime. And so now your mission is to break them out of prison. Right, exactly. And if you’re going to do something like that, handle it carefully. If you’re singling one player out, particularly because they’re gonna be not able to join everyone else as they’re making these decisions about “how do we rescue this person” that- you know, that sort of thing. So that can be a fun thing. I have played that I haven’t played the captured party I’ve played part of the rescuing group. And that can be a good time. Just be checking with your player, you know, don’t- don’t leave somebody metaphorically out in the cold. Even if it’s a cool story beat, make sure that you maybe take an aside with them, and, let’s say “Let’s have 20 minutes where you talk to your jailer. And like, there’s a guard who has been ordered to sit there, no matter what you do for the next 20 minutes.” Something like that. Make sure that you’re still engaging everyone, even if somebody is physically separated.

Randall 

Yeah, I feel like, you know, to use this specific scenario, I think we’ve all seen the movies where like, there’s the high window with like, the four bars, and it’s a tiny square, but they can get up they can talk to you. And so it’s like, “Okay, we’re gonna pull the one” and it’s like, “no, no, don’t pull the one” [unintelligible]. Like, you could, you could 100% let all the characters participate. Almost, I I’ll say like, structured it as like a skill challenge, which I think is that’s actually I guess, a fourth edition idea. I’m gonna look at the adults in the room.

Adults in the room 

Yes.

Randall 

But it’s, I do think that’s fantastic. And I think it’s something that’s pretty easy to port over. And maybe towards the bigger point, whatever you do, you know, let’s talk about Georg and his, his pottery, right? Let’s say it turned out he used some haunted clay. And now there’s a ghost in his- in his pottery barn. So, you know, the whole party has to get in there. Let’s say we spend 10 to 15 minutes dealing with whatever that issue, give them a nice like round ending to it, and then kind of get back to what you’re trying to get to. But then it- it matters. And it’s almost- if you did that, I think if you structured your sessions, where everybody says what they did, you do the roles, you do the checks, you let them learn whatever they’re going to do. But then there’s an understanding that one of those things is going to turn into an event.

Random 

Fantasy Flight Star Wars games actually have a really cool mechanic that you’re basically reinventing, which is the the bond is that what it was called?

Tyler 

Obligation.

Random 

Thank you. Yeah. So like at character creation, you have this obligation that you come up with. Guaranteed, (and the gamemaster roles, this at the start of the session, hidden from the players) one player’s obligation will come up in that session. It’s like, you know, it can be like, alright, well, so the character that I played in Tyler’s campaign, I was a turncoat Imperial Special Ops pilot, basically. You know, when it would come in, for me maybe it was, “I’m getting hunted down by Imperial Intelligence, because they’re coming after me, because I made off with secrets.” You could very easily port that into fifth edition. And that would be brilliant. And if you do manage to tie-in what characters doing in their downtime with that? Even better.

Tyler 

Yeah, I really, really like the obligation mechanic. So for people who haven’t read it, it’s in (hang on, I’m looking at my shelf) Edge of the Empire. So Edge of the Empire was the first core book in the- in Fantasy Flight’s Star Wars line. It’s basically the “I’m going to be Han Solo” rulebook. So characters have an obligation and like Random said, at the beginning of every session, you roll to see whose obligation comes up. And then whatever you guys do during that- during that mission to make money during that episode, whatever you want to call it. It’s- it basically sinks into your obligations, like “my sister needs expensive medicine. So I’ve got to send all the money we made back home so she doesn’t die” or, like Random suggested, like, “yeah, you’re you’re being chased down by spies, you have to pay them off to look the other way,” or something like that. Something like that could come up every time you do downtime, like the characters have a month of downtime, we roll obligations, something related to this characters obligation comes up, and that interrupts everybody’s downtime in some interesting way.

Randall 

Yeah, I think that’s interesting, like even bringing it back to fifth edition. So Tyler and I are playing in a campaign for Icewind Dale, Rime of the Frostmaiden, and each of us have some character, backstory? I don’t know what to call it quite, that was randomly given to us. We, you know, “here’s two options, choose one of them,” that occasionally are coming up in the story, but none of them have really come to a head quite yet. But I feel like it kind of achieves the same where, you know, when you see that moment, you have to latch on to it because you know that it’s something that’s actually driving your character forward. Yeah, I really like that a lot.

Tyler 

Having cool background pieces like that to tie into the ongoing game is always cool. And yeah, just like any other part of the game downtime should tie into those interesting bits of your character. Random- yeah, Randall, our Icewind Dale game all of our characters have secrets and that’s part of the character building process specifically for Icewind Dale. Just “Why are your characters here? This place is awful. Why?” And then the rise of the runelords campaign that Random ran a while ago that we’ve brought up repeatedly, my character was there to be a tax collector and gradually accumulated downtime obligations as the campaign went on. So every time we were back in town, it’s like, I’ve got to go take care of stuff. You guys have fun.

Randall 

Nice. Yeah, there’s one other thing that’s come up that I want to come back to the idea of, like, we’ve talked about crafting. Another thing that we could do is we could learn magic learn spells. I, I will say this is actually something that I really wish came up more often in the games that I played. So going to like more video games historically, one of the most exciting things- so like Final Fantasy six had this system where you had to go out and you just had to fight, right? You had to churn. And through that churn, you would earn points towards learning spells permanently, and then boom, I permanently know this magic. So what do I want to do? I want to make sure every single character knows every spell that’s available. Yeah, there’s lots of games where it’s like, “Okay, I can’t learn this spell until I hit this milestone. But once I hit the milestone, I pick up the spell, and then boom, all these things that have been blocked from me, are suddenly unlocked.” Tabletop isn’t exactly like that, right? Like we’re not on rails, most of the time, because it’s not a video game. If somebody didn’t have to program it, we can do whatever we want. But still, it’s a little dissatisfying to be told, congratulations, you leveled up. And then the next week, you come back, and it’s like, yeah, “I just- I learned how to make fireballs. Like we fell asleep in this ice cave we made, I woke up the next morning, I’m like, I could totally make a fireball, it’s gonna be great.”

Random 

To that end, and this is perhaps a way to enforce some downtime. Technically speaking, the only thing you need to do to level up is finish a long rest. That’s not necessarily the best way to create that sort of feeling of actually earning your accomplishment.A thing that I always did, which I think I stole this house rule from a previous GM of mine is, in order to level you need to spend a week with (and particularly, this matters more at low levels), but you need to spend a week where there is somewhere- er, someone higher level than you in your class. Part of that can be a challenge if someone is doing something truly exotic, like, “Ah, great. Here we are wandering around Absalom and what do I need? A Wujen. You’re not even in the right edition my dude, what are you doing here?” On the one hand, don’t take that as gospel. But on the other hand, that is a- an interesting way to force downtime. And it’s an interesting way to also generate those sorts of, you know, interactions where people have to roleplay like, if I’m, you know, if I’m a Cleric, and— It is preposterous that in the life of a murder hobo Cleric, they probably have been inside a temple to their deity once that the char- that the player has role played, like maybe once? I like- I know that Tyler’s Paladin wandered into the wrong God’s temple to get a thing to perform a ritual he had to once. In the entire character’s life, he never went inside the temple to Abadar ever.

Tyler 

I went to banks all the time.

Random 

Which is similar, but not exactly the same.

Randall 

It felt right to him.

Random 

You can use that as a way to force people to take the time to think because this is the biggest thing, right? It’s- So many of these mechanics, they they go unused, because people just run it as I want to go from narrative beat to narrative beat to narrative to narrative beat in their pre-written module or in the story that they’re trying to tell from their own homebrew. And that’s awesome. But even if you were doing a brilliant job of letting people go from space to space to space, that still kind of railroad-y if you don’t let the characters also have lives, and if that’s the game that everyone’s there for, absolutely, you know, have that game. A lot of people don’t know that they want this sort of character investment, because they’ve never had a place to practice it. And so if you open up that opportunity, if you provide them the reasons to engage, they’re going to be really appreciative.

Tyler 

To step back just a tiny bit, I want to touch on Random’s cool thing about training between levels. So that’s actually suggested as a variant in the fifth edition dungeon master’s guide. And that rule actually dates back really far in Dungeons and Dragons. In early editions you had to… as you gain the levels, you had to do a couple of fairly absurd things like I think in second edition, druids had a rule that there was 1 13th level Druid and Druids stopped at 13th level. If you got to level 12 and wanted to become level 13, you had to go find the level 13 Druid and kill him and take his spot. Monks had to do something similar, like you had to beat the world’s greatest Monk in a fight to become the world’s greatest Monk. Very like Afro Samurai, I’m gonna steal your headband and gain godlike powers. Mechanics like that have been around for a while. And they can add a lot of really interesting stuff that ties your character into the world. Like if you want to become a 17th level Wizard and learn to cast wish who, who’s gonna be the one who teaches you how to cast wish? Or you’re going to go teleport into some other wizards house, steal their spell book and learn it that way? Like, cool character moments like that, even just between levels can tell you a lot about a character. So yeah, downtime, things like that even just quick aside between leveling up can be really, really interesting.

Random 

And maybe part of it is that you just dedicate an hour of a session when you’re going to level to that. But so you touched on spells, both of you did characters, creating spells, can be really intimidating for the player. Th-there’s already hundreds, thousands of options of spells to cast. And so figuring out like, “What is a thing that I need that doesn’t already exist?” And figuring out how to write it that can be really daunting. The short answer, I mean, both as a player and as a DM, I say just start somewhere, work it out. I have helped a player create a spell, it actually happened fairly accidentally, because on the spot, character needs a thing to fix a problem. And I look at his spell slot or spell list and I go, “You know, you have both Slow and Make Whole, we’re going to combine those into a spell that basically turns a breadbox into an extra dimensional space devoid of causality.” I’ll make sure that we put this somewhere so that we can link the spell in the show notes. But the short answer is a scroll case was full of scrolls that were disintegrating. You know, he hadn’t noticed that if he touched them, that it would go badly. And so he on the spot figures out a spell to make this scroll case capable of keeping these things in basically temporal stasis forever. He basically like said, “I- oh god, how do I fix this?” And you can work and then like, you know, we figure it out on the spot, like, sure you can do this thing. And I’ll figure out rules later. And that’s what I’m saying. Don’t worry about that. Figure out what you want to give them and then worry about the minutiae later. It’s not something you have to fix at the time. If someone says “I want to go full Morrowind spell crafting and make a fireball that does 30 elements all at once. Haha!” Like, we’ll figure it out. Don’t- Also don’t be afraid to say “We’re going to figure this out provisionally, and if I need to tweak how this works later on because it is crazy inbalanced, then you should accept that I am not handing this to you stamp sealed and permanent. It’s it’s something that we’re going to work out as we go”

Randall 

As an aside, can anyone else hear the Morrowind destruction magic? Like… just that sound?

Tyler 

I never actually put a bunch of time into Morrowind & I’m kind of sad that I didn’t. I know I-

Randall 

You’re wrong. And you should feel bad.

Tyler 

I know. I should. I didn’t find out about Elder Scrolls until Oblivion came out but boy that had spell crafting and I broke that immediately.

Randall 

Oh, yeah. Oblivion was also a fantastic I feel like actually, um, okay, controversial. I liked Oblivion better than Skyrim

Tyler 

I did too

Randall 

I think Oblivion was the pinnacle. I’ve tried to get my kids to play Morrowind it’s just kind of it’s like, “Which pixel Do I look at? No……”

Tyler 

Well, there, someone’s modding Morrowind into Skyrim. That might work.

Randall 

Yeah, very excited

Tyler 

We’ll put that in the show notes.

Randall 

Perfect. Oh, so one more serious thing that I want to do. So like you’re talking about kind of crafting custom spells. And I want to hammer back to even for like basic spells. I think it would be a lot of fun if you had a DM… it’s like “Well, what spell did you want to find? What spell were you looking for?” And even if you failed on a check finding it in the village because it’s too small. And like you weren’t gonna find that as you weren’t gonna find this work in a book so Wizard. Maybe then while everyone else is looting and finding these things in a library and a dungeon you happen to find an old Tome and in that tome, you find the spell. Specifically right like the there’s very clear rules written in the player’s handbook for how to copy a spell over right? into a spell book if you’re a Wizard. I have literally never been in a campaign where that’s actually been leveraged. Have you?

Tyler 

Many. None in fifth edition because I haven’t played a lot of wizards in fifth edition. Random specifically banned me from playing wizards. More things I’m not allowed to do. Yes, yeah, writing spells into a spell book is super rewarding for a Wizard because it diversifies your options, which is one of the reasons that wizards are so powerful. Fifth Edition wizards are basically the only class that has any reason to go and research new spells because they’re the ones that have to write them down. Any class that prepares spells, except the Wizard just you have the whole spell list. Everybody else permanently learns their spells, so you’re not like writing it down and if you want to learn a new spell, you have to trade one out when you can level generally. Pathfinder second edition and Pathfinder before it there were more classes that could write their spells down in some form. More characters had an incentive to go and research spells. Pathfinder 2 there’s just a there’s just an activity called Learn a spell and you use whichever skill corresponds to your your magical tradition, arcana for arcane magic religion for divine magic, etc. You make a skill check you research spells. And you can use that both for learning new spells and putting- putting them into a spell book. And I believe you can also use it to search for rare spells. So Pathfinder has this rarity system for basically all things. There’s common, uncommon, rare, which is how frequently something can be found in the world. Common is all of your stuff that you’re going to find in the core rulebook all, your acco-  your iconic D&D items. Uncommon is stuff that’s a little weirder and rarer is stuff that only comes from specific places like jetpacks. Uncommon might be a spell that not a lot of people know, so it’s kind of hard to find a source for it. Rare is going to be something like one guy knows the spell, cuz he’s the guy who wrote the spell. So having having a little more depth to that learning a spell system and PF2 is super cool. And you could definitely introduce that in fifth edition, like you could tell players, “Everything in the core rulebook is common. If you want to learn these spells, when you level up, great if you want to learn them, anytime you find a major library, awesome, just spend the time and gold to do it. If you want to learn anything outside of the core rulebook, maybe you say, oh, that’s uncommon, you’re gonna have to do a little bit of extra work.” So maybe during downtime, you have to go track somebody down who knows the spell and is willing to let you copy it.

Randall 

Yeah, I guess in 5E, right, the story for why Warlocks have their power is that they’ve been gifted it by something or someone, right? You know, can- can you imagine doing something where like your downtime activity is “you need to reach out to your patron, and you need to get the gift of this new spell you have to learn, which maybe means they want you to do something for them.” And maybe even as you’re like, “hey, you know, we’re gonna level up in the next couple sessions, your deity feels like you’re going more powerful. So they really want you to take care of their (deity… sorry, patron, your personal deity) they want you to take care of this activity for them.”

Tyler 

Yeah, that would definitely be cool. Like having that stuff between levels to essentially earn your class features. Yeah, that would be great. Or maybe you’ve got a level five Paladin who’s like, “Great, I’m ready to be a hexadin. And now I’m going to go take my Warlock level and you say, hold up, you’re going to spend downtime, finding someone to make a pact with.”

Random 

Let me tell you about the time that basically happened to the- to my Paladin. Not- not the not the Hexadin, but the the one that I based the Oath of conquest handbook on. I had to miss a session that everyone else kept playing. And during that session, I wandered off and got a patron and actually role-played that with my DM separately, which then I got to come back and describe in character to the rest of the party. And that so that’s another thing, you know, if downtime is also a good thing to do, if somebody has to miss a session, if somebody has to, you know, stay in town, while everyone else goes on a mission, what are they doing? Because they’re not just gonna be sitting there for, you know, a day and maybe they are just carousing. But realistically, that’s that’s another really easy thing to- another really easy way to introduce more of this because people will inevitably miss sessions. So what were they doing that ties into their overall story?

Randall 

Yeah, if you’re a group where you’re, you’re willing to kind of play on while somebody is missing, you could definitely leverage this to keep things going. That makes perfect sense to me. I guess I’ll pose the question. So we’re playing Rime of the Frostmaiden and now occasionally, we go to towns in Ten Towns. There feels like there’s enough pressure to keep moving that we’re not taking a week off to I don’t know, let’s say become the mayor of Good Mead or something like this. That actually happened. Another like- Out of the Abyss, right? Like, what can we do to give- when you’re in these high pressure situations, to give the party of feeling like they can have some downtime.

Tyler 

That is a challenging question. Finding space in the pacing of your game can often be very difficult. In a lot of campaigns, the threats that your characters are facing aren’t going to wait around for you to spend a week researching spells or taking a nap or whatever. There’s often not a lot of story reason for the characters to say “Hey, I’m going to take a week and work in a tea shop” or something. There are some good examples in published adventures in fifth edition. Acquisitions Incorporated, Ghosts of Sal- Saltmarsh, and Out of the Abyss all present downtime activities and suggest points in the adventures where you can take them. So Acquisitions Incorporated the adventure included in book you-, you’re essentially running a Dungeoneering franchise and adventurers guild franchise. And between each chapter in that adventure, they say you have such and such amount of downtime. In addition to the regular downtime activities, here are some franchise downtime activities that you can take to better your adventuring franchise. Ghosts of Saltmarsh has some things like you can work on a fishing ship, or you can work as a caravan guard and things like that. And basically just buddy up to local NPCs and earn money in addition to the normal downtime stuff. But there’s still kind of that constant time pressure in most campaigns. So Rise of the RuneLords there… I mean, the Runelords off doing their thing while you’re having downtime. And if you give them time to do stuff, bad stuff happens. Red Hand of Doom, like there’s literally a time clock every day that you wait around the Goblinoid army marches closer to the innocent and undefended people. Most campaigns, in order to push the players to action, there isn’t a lot of time for downtime. The pacing is very difficult. I swear I’ve said this on the past three or four episodes. But fifth edition’s gritty realism variant really helps a lot here. When you have to take a week to have- to have a long rest. You can say “Yeah, you’re taking a long rest in town. You can also use that one week as downtime.” Like, typically when you take a long rest, it’s assumed that the characters are only engaging in, like, light activity, because it’s also typically assumed that most of that is sleeping. But when you’re taking a week, your characters aren’t going to go into one week coma every time they go back to town. So maybe, maybe they come back, they’re like, “Okay, we’re really short on hitpoints the wizard’s out of spells, everyone’s tired, we’re gonna take a week off. The barbarians gonna go- gonna go hang out with his buddies and drink the wizard’s gonna go hang out in the library and read something, the Cleric has to perform like six weddings this week and oh my gosh, that’s a lot of work.” So fitting downtime in during those rests can really work. But you also need to pace your adventure in such a way that long rests can fit in without punishing players too much.

Randall 

Yeah, I think I think you make a really good point that the with the gritty realism, the fact that your long rest is going to take a week gives you the perfect excuse to actually plan all these activities that you should be doing anyway to advance your character’s life. And then maybe we can flip it on its head when we’re not having gritty realism. Maybe whatever point in time you find it appropriate to take your long rest… hopefully, if it’s in a town, if it’s in an outpost, if it’s a a place where there are other people other things, you can just say “Yeah, sure. And that eight hours, you spent the first hour having a great conversation with a court wizard who happen to be coming through town and you picked up these things.” And so maybe the answer is like we can leverage our long rest and the long rest is when you find time to do most things. Maybe not open opening up a pottery sharp- shop though. All right. We have a question of the week this week. This came from Pawjwp?

Tyler 

That’s that’s how it was signed?

Randall 

Pawjwp. Hi. Yeah, yeah, one of these things. Okay. I’ll go ahead and read it. All right. “I want to ask a potential Question of the week.” Good opening. Way to start. “In our game PCs can use any mental stat for spellcasting ability if there is a character reason for it. What good multiclassing options open up if you don’t have to worry about spellcasting ability? Thanks for producing great content.”

All 

No.

Tyler 

Yeah. Okay. So this is definitely a variant where the DM wants to emphasize more story than mechanics. So be very, very cautious about looking for ways to abuse things like this, house rules like this, because your DM will just take them away immediately as soon as they become a problem. If you can just find any spellcasting stat for any class, everyone is going to pick… well, no one’s going to pick intelligence, everyone’s going to pick either wisdom or charisma. Everyone is magically going to become a hexblade. Basically the the one level dip into hexblade Warlock goes from like the best class dip in the game to a mandatory class dip because it’s the only way to build a decent character. If you want to be good at perception like yeah, you’re gonna dip into something with high wisdom: Cleric/Druid/whatever. This is a scary rule. I would not as a DM I wouldn’t recommend allowing multiclassing with this.

Randall 

I want to stop though I want to dive a little bit deeper. I want to understand better why it’s a bad idea for folks who maybe have not given thought this all the way through. Actually here. I’m going to stop I the way I phrase that was was was unkind. It’s, it’s a cool idea. But I think if your DM is going to give you this gift, it seems like the answer is you should just pick one class and you should put all your levels into that class and not attempt to abuse it because the abuse case is painfully obvious. But I think Random is going to tell us why it’s obvious.

Random 

So A) there’s already immediate abuse cases B) even without immediate abuse cases, it is providing power to an unnecessary place. So spellcasters are already the strongest thing in Dungeons and Dragons. Period. A straight Wizard is the strongest character that you can make in a lot of cases. And a straight Druid is a pretty close second. And a straight Cleric is pretty close after that, right? It- when we- The times that I’ve talked about homebrew balancing, right. Rogue balance: do a boatload of damage pelt your DM with D6s until they leave. Great. Wizard balance: the top end of the scale. Solve every problem by casting a single spell and help they roll poorly. Increasing power to people that are already on the top end of the power scale is rarely a good idea. And this particular way of doing it is… You practically have to use it exactly as intended for it to not be abused. If I can just say “Ah yes, I… I am a… Artificer hexblade except cast all of my stuff off of charisma. That’s an immediate problem. If if you are you know, if you do want to go with intelligence, like maybe you want to be a- maybe you want to take the like… the… oh my god, the magic Rogue.

Adults in the room 

Arcane Trickster.

Random 

Maybe you want to take arcane trickster and bump that up a notch and say okay, well I’m I’m not going to be, you know, super smart, Arcane trickster, I’m going to be charismatic arcane trickster, and cast my spells based charisma and take my proficiency and expertise in persuasion, deception, and just drive that through the roof because “hey, it powers my spells now too lol.” I don’t even consider that an abuse case and it’s already a problem. That’s why I’m i i echo Tyler sentiment that there’s so many ways that this can go wrong that unless you’re using it like for the kind of interesting story things that you were intended to, it’s a problem.

Randall 

Well and so let’s be just very explicit with this, right that instead of multi classing, and potentially having to have two different casting stats, the issue is that I just dump all of my, you know, I take- my highest stat is, let’s say it’s charisma, I- every time I get an ability score increase, I dump it more into charisma. And now I get to put everything- I get to cast everything with that, as opposed to if I were multiclassing, I might have to use some intelligence, some charisma. That’s the breaking thing, right?

Random 

This removes opportunity cost for spellcasters. Which you should not do.

Tyler 

Yeah.

Random 

Exactly. Like you were saying, and this becomes so the I couldn’t see one… one interesting exception for this. If you are playing in a game that forces dice, roll for statistics, and not just forces, the way that you generate the numbers, but forces like roll them in order. Maybe your character did end up with like, an 18 wisdom and you desperately want to play an arcane trickster. Sure, fine. Okay. But at that point, I have more questions about why you’re running that strict a character creation process in the first place, then trying to slap this on as a fix for it.

Randall 

Yeah, that sounds bad.

Tyler 

There ideas we can draw from previous editions that show us like ways that this can work and ways that it can become problems. So going back to third edition 3x there was a prestige class called Mystic Theurge and it made its way into Pathfinder first edition as well. And the premise of the class was you take an arcane spellcaster class, you take a divine spellcaster class and once you take a few levels in each, then you switch into Mystic Theurge and it advances your spell casting for both classes. So imagine- For people only familiar with fifth edition imagine you take three levels of Cleric, three levels of Wizard and then say “Okay, I’m going to combine them all I get a spellcasting. But I get to advance my spellcasting in both at the same time”. Very cool class lots of fun to play. And when that class was published in the core rules in third edition, and then 3.5, the only way the only full spell- full arcane classes were Wizard and Sorcerer, the only full divine classes were Cleric and Druid. So you had to go either intelligence and wisdom or charisma and wisdom. So there was a really high opportunity cost to do that. You could have both things, but you were going to weren’t going to be amazing at either. As we got more sourcebooks we got things like the archivist out of heroes of horror, which was an intelligence based divine spellcaster. Effectively a Wizard that casted Cleric spells and got some other cool stuff. So you could do an all intelligence mystic theurge which all of a sudden made that class way better Charisma too once you got favored soul in one of the completes. I forgot that favoured soul exists. Favored soul basically became the Oracle in Pathfinder first edition. So yeah, Pathfinder first edition still has the mystic theurge. And then there are way more classes in Pathfinder first edition, so it’s really easy to build that mystic theurge off of a single casting- casting ability. But Pathfinder first edition was built better to handle that abuse case than 3x was or 5e is now. So it’s, it’s less of a problem. It can still be a very powerful build, but it’s probably not going to break your game. Pathfinder second edition went even further with that and handling that really well. They are continuing to publish more classes like we’re still… we’re still in the game’s active publication phase. So like we’re getting new classes every year or two. And there are multiple classes that can cast- cast spells using any given ability. Like there’s I think there’s three now that are intelligence based, Witch, Wizard, Magus. There’s Bard and Sorcerer and Oracle for charisma. There’s Cleric/Druid for wisdom. There’s overlap there, and you can… Let’s see, so the multiclassing system in Pathfinder second edition isn’t like I’m going to go take levels in Cleric, and then take levels in Druid it’s basically feat-based. So the opportunity cost is very, very specific and precisely measured. Let’s say I’m playing a Sorcerer and my DM says, “Okay, your Sorcerer is intelligence based,” and you say, “Okay, I want to multiclass into another spellcasting class,” it’s like, normally, you might multiclass into Bard, because it’s charisma based. Now you’re going to multiclassing Wizard because its intelligence based. That’s not… In PF2, that’s not significantly any more powerful. It’s, it’s essentially, it’s equally powerful, you just get different options. So the opportunity cost doesn’t change, the benefits don’t change that much in power. So it works really well in PF2. But in fifth edition, yeah, you’re definitely going to have problems if you let players multiclass with this.

Randall 

Okay. Alright, so generally, we think this rule is great, and everybody should adopt it.

Random 

I really like where- what- what they were trying to do with it. And I think that it makes perfect sense if you view it as just a storytelling tool. And as soon as you expose it to players who want to do what we do to mechanics, you’re going to have a bad time.

Tyler 

Yeah. If a DM came to me and said, We’re going to play with this rule, don’t break it, please. I would be nice and say okay, I’m going to play an intelligence based Cleric, just because I think that’s an interesting character and not because I’m going to break your game. I’ll find other ways to break the game.

Randall 

Alright, perfect. Okay, well, please join us next week. We’re going to be talking about travel. I’m Randall James you can find me at amateurjack.com and on Instagram and Twitter @Jackamateur.

Tyler 

I’m Tyler Kamstra. You’ll find me at RPGbot.net. Twitter and Facebook RPGBOTDOTNET and patreon.com/rpgbot

Random 

And I’m Random Powell if you have found me please tell my webcam FBI agent to leave. But in general, you’re gonna see me here on RPGBOT.net writing articles and contributing here to the podcast. But if you look in places where people play games, you may find me as Harlequin or Hartequint

Randall 

All Hail The Leisure Illuminati! Thanks, Producer Dan. You’ll find affiliate links for source books and other materials linked in the show notes following these links helps us to make this show happen every week. You can find our podcast wherever find podcasts are distributed. If you enjoyed this podcast, please rate review and subscribe and absolutely share it with your friends. We appreciate it. If your question should be Question the week next week, please email podcast@rpgbot.net or message us on Twitter at RPGBOTDOTNET. The road to hell is paved with wizards that can use charisma.

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