Monday, December 28, 2015


I'm currently really interested in the idea of "downtime" actions in RPGs. What do characters get up to in-between adventures? Traditionally, things like learning spells, making magic items, building a stronghold/attracting followers, and training time for level ups (if needed) were the big downtime actions. In 5e D&D, we've got: building a stronghold, carousing, crafting magic items, gaining renown, performing sacred rites, running a business, selling magic items, and sowing rumors.

But man, I know what I do in my downtime: I read books.

Time to make a mechanic for that.

  • Each book that has something worth learning in its pages has a Difficulty Class associated with being able to make use of its useful information.
  • As a downtime action, a player can make an Intelligence check against that Difficulty Class to see if their character has successfully navigated the book and come away with useful knowledge.
  • On a successful check, the character gains whatever bonus is associated with the book (see below for some examples)
  • On an unsuccessful check, the character has to roll on the This Thing Reads Like Stereo Instructions Table.

d100 This Thing Reads Like Stereo Instructions
1-20 Something came up that distracted you from the book; roll on the Carousing Table instead.
21-30 The book's mysteries are impenetrable without assistance; you're going to need to invest in 1d4x10 gp worth of reference books to attempt reading this book again.
31-40 The book's mysteries are impenetrable without assistance; you're going to need to find an expert on the book's topic and convince them to help you understand what you're reading.
41-60 You read half the book, then misplaced it. You'll find it again by the next downtime cycle.
61-80 You simply failed to internalize the book's information
81-90 The book is incomplete! You're going to need to find another copy of this particular volume.
91-100 Reading the book was an arduous task. You got nothing useful out of it and start play with one level of exhaustion.

Sample Books:

Sanguine Psalms of the Martyrs
Difficulty Class: 15
Fluff: A hymnal filled with inspiring songs that sing the praises of the Saintly Blood in gruesomely-detailed chants dealing with wounds, blood, and holy agony.
Effect: You start play with Inspiration.

A True Account of Surviving the Silent Forest, by Almina Fromme
Difficulty Class: 10
Fluff: A first-hand account of a woman who survived the supernatural predations of a particularly nasty and haunted forest.
Effect: You gain advantage on any Wisdom (Survival) checks made in the Silent Forest for a week after reading the book.

The Ghastly Brood!, by Hesta Prym
Difficulty Class: 15
Fluff: A compilation of a particularly melodramatic penny dreadful that is infamous for its scenes of gore and bloodshed.
Effect: Something horrific you encounter makes you recall a passage from this book; since you're now inured to that image you gain advantage on this particular save vs. fear or horror.