My post about hyperspace travel times and narrative time, and the fuzzy way that time advances in Star Wars stories got me to thinking about how to handle downtime in a genre where pacing is more cinematic and less “real time.” Star Wars definitely counts, but I think there are other games where this would also be the case.
My initial thoughts were to create “downtime rounds.” Essentially, making sure everybody at the table has the chance to do something with their downtime, without having half the session bog down into deciding what you “could do” in two and a half hours downtime, or three days off, etc.
In movies, when its important, you see someone do something between scenes that advance the narrative. Usually these things happen so that the heroes have an excuse to have a plan in place, explain a new toy they might be using, or for them to get important information, or maybe to refocus themselves on the task at hand by being inspired or pushed by some event.
So thinking about how movies work, I think its logical to have three kinds of downtime:
Quick Downtime (The heroes have a few minutes to an hour or so before they move on)
Extended Downtime (The heroes have a day or two before they move on)
Between Episodes (The heroes have a week or more time to rest and plan before things progress)
While I think this set up works for anything with a more cinematic basis, I’m thinking Fantasy Flight Star Wars at the moment, so I’m going to be defining things in those terms.
Every PC at the table gets to take a “downtime action.” Unless the order of actions is important, resolve from the right hand side of the GM all the way to the left, and then get back to the next scene.
Every PC at the table gets to take 3 “downtime actions.” Each player takes one downtime action at a time. Actions are resolved from the right hand side of the GM, one at a time, until the cycle has repeated three times.
If possible in the day and age, between episode actions should be resolved via e-mail or social media, with a player determining everything they want to accomplish while the adventurers are waiting for the next adventure to start.
My personal preference would be for downtime actions that require skill checks between episodes to be resolved via “Making Passive Checks” optional rule on page 322 of the Edge of the Empire Core Rulebook. Essentially what this means is that actual skill ranks are more important between episodes, because checks more reliant on unskilled checks are much better for interesting events to be triggered in game.
This also limits what can be accomplished, since the PCs may be able to do hundreds of things, but they can only accomplish things that involve skill checks if they specifically have high skills in a given skill.
Not all examples are available at all times. PCs that are briefly hiding out on a deserted mining facility can’t purchase or sell items, for example, because it doesn’t make sense in the narrative. Ask the GM if an action is possible during the downtime involved.
Make a Purchase–A PC can make whatever checks they need to make in order to find and purchase a piece of equipment. For example, if the PC needs to make a check to find a given piece of equipment, and also wishes to haggle for the price, they may make both of those rolls as part of this action.
Sell an Item–A PC can make whatever checks they need to make in order to find a buyer for a piece of equipment, and whatever checks are needed to negotiate with that buyer.
Upgrade Equipment–A PC can attempt one upgrade on a piece of equipment. If available, the PC can spend the 100 credits for spare parts for the upgrade as part of this action.
Attempt a Vehicle Repair–If a vehicle has suffered a critical hit, a character can make a single attempt at repairing that critical on the vehicle for one downtime action. This includes any credits that might need to be spent as determined by the GM.
Talk to an NPC Contact–The PC can attempt to find and talk to a NPC contact of some sort. This includes a check to find the NPC and any social roll to convince the NPC to work with the PCs.
Other Skill Checks–In general, any skill check that wouldn’t be a reaction and wouldn’t logically take hours or more to complete, can be attempted as a downtime action.
Other Suggested Rules
In Session is Never Between Episodes–The GM can rule that there is never a “between episodes” downtime during the game session.
Quick Downtime and Strain–Whenever the GM determines that quick downtime occurs, this is the trigger for PCs to make checks to recover strain (rather than just declaring when a scene begins or ends).
Extended Downtime and Strain–Whenever the GM determines that extended downtime occurs, this is the trigger for the PCs to recover all of their strain.
Between Episodes and Critical Injuries–Whenever the GM determines that the PCs are between episodes, any PC that had a critical injury can remove one critical injury before the next episode begins.
Tracking Time–Whenever tracking time on the Event Track timer, each encounter counts marks off 1 on the timer, each quick downtime marks off 1 from the timer, and each extended downtime marks off 3 from the downtime tracker.