How Downtimes Work
What are Downtimes?
So your vampire has dazzled the Court, your mage's cabal has just taken down that dangerous Banisher, your changeling has lost their pursuers in the Hedge, and it's the end of session. Everyone packs up, heads out for dinner, and agrees to see each other again next session.
But what does your character do until then?
Downtimes are a chance for you to tell your Storyteller what you want your character to do in the time between games. You usually have the opportunity to submit one downtime per fortnight, and most Storytellers will offer a little bit of XP for getting them in on time. They're a great way to do background investigation, learn new skills, and deal with your character's personal life.
How do I submit downtimes?
Beyond the Sunset has a [downtime template] that you can use. Just fill out the appropriate sections and email it to your Storyteller's position email address (found on the Adelaide page). After your ST has had a chance to read everyone's Downtimes, they will email you back to tell you what happened.
Storytellers will impose deadlines for Downtime submission to give them time to respond. Currently in Adelaide, Requiem downtimes are due 1 week after the game. Awakening has 2 Downtimes between games; the first should be submitted 1 week after the game, and the second 2 weeks after that (1 week before the next game).
I have the template, now how do I fill it out?
Here is the template, section by section:
Player Name: Your name
Member Number: Your member number. This is the number you sign into games with.
Character Name: Your character's name.
Venue: The genre you play (Awakening or Requiem).
Domain: What city/town you play it in. (In this case, probably Adelaide.)
Date of Game: The date of your last session.
Date of Report: The date that you are emailing this to you storyteller.
Dear Diary: This section is for a first-person perspective of your character's life, immediate goals and perspectives on events, and emotional state. Most STs consider it optional, but it is very useful for keeping them up to date on your character's development. Filling this out can help your ST understand your character and know what sort of plots to swing their way or what sort of things you might be interested in doing with them. It also helps you keep track of your own character's development.
Game Recount: A brief summary of the game. This helps both you and your storyteller keep track of the “timeline”, especially if you're going to go back and look at these again later (which you sometimes have to do), and reminds both of you of relevant plot points. Downtime Report
Resolve based actions(1 per Resolve)
You get a number of “base” downtime actions depending on your character's Resolve Attribute. Currently in Adelaide, you get 1 Downtime action per Resolve dot. So if your character has Resolve 2 (which is human average), you get 2 Downtime actions in this section.
You get one Downtime action per “thing” you want to do. Installing new locks in your Haven is a Downtime action. Trying to make friends with the neighbours is a Downtime action. Checking out that new Hallow that appeared in town is a Downtime action. Most Storytellers will also allow you to spend extra time hunting for Vitae/performing oblations for Mana/etc. as a Downtime and will give you extra rolls for it.
If you want to do something that takes too long, your Storyteller may rule that it would take several Downtime actions. Repurposing your shed as a workshop might take only 1 Downtime action if it is already fairly clean and you don't have to bring in too many exotic items, but building a shed for a workshop is likely to take several.
You do not have to spend Downtime actions on things that are background elements of your character's life and that aren't expected to affect the story. If your character works at Target, you do not have to spend Downtime actions to go to your job. You have already “paid for” those actions in Resource dots, representing your paycheck. But if you want to use your job at Target to spy on somebody as part of a game plot, you would need to spend Downtime actions for that. If you have spoken to your Storyteller about your character's life and filled out a Character Development Document, your Storyteller should have a pretty good idea of your character's “normal life”.
Training based actions (1 per downtime)
Every Downtime, you get a special Downtime action to spend XP. You can use this to learn a new skill, increase an Attribute, or make contacts or allies. Note that your Storyteller might want you to sink other downtime actions into learning something before you can do this if you're trying to learn something complicated. If you're unsure, ask your Storyteller.
Allies based actions (1 per Allies Merit)
Every group of Allies you have get an action in your Downtime. This is one action per merit, not per dot in a merit. For example, if you have Allies (Rattler gang) 3, you can ask the Rattler gang to do one pretty cool thing. But if you have Allies (Rattler gang) 2 and Allies (Country Women's Association) 1, you can ask the Rattler gang to do one less cool thing and the CWA for a fairly small favour.
Retainer based actions (1 per Retainer Merit)
Each Retainer gets to do one thing per downtime. As with Allies, this is per Retainer merit, not dots: a 4-dot Retainer can do one thing within their broad skill set whereas two 2-dot Retainers give you 2 things, each by a less competent Retainer.
Status based actions (1 per Status Merit; must be mundane status)
If you have Status within mundane organisations, you can use your pull to get them to do one thing each downtime per Status merit.
Regaining Vitae, Essence, Mana and Glamour
How do you regain vital resources? If you're playing a vampire, this is the single most important aspect of your character's existence. If you're playing a willworker, you need to source mana from somewhere to work your will. Whether a Storyteller requires you to fill this out depends a lot on the story being told; some are happy to assume you're handling it, while others will want to know where and how you're getting your resources. Are you hunting in your territory, or poaching from your neighbours? Are you gambling at that new casino sitting atop a Hallow that might be run by Seers of the Throne? Are you making dangerous forays into the Hedge looking for Goblin Fruits? This is all potentially important story fodder.
Travel to and from IC location (i.e. Court)
This is especially important if you're going any distance. If your character owns a car and lives pretty close to where characters are gathering, it's probably not a big deal, but if your character is a homeless guy who needs to head interstate, that's another matter.
If your character gains and uses a lot of resources, it might be necessary to keep track of them.
You can note an XP you've spent (such as on training actions) here.
Downtime or RTR?
Another way to get stuff done between sessions is via RTR (real-time rolepay), which is simply fitting in another, smaller rp session in between official games. These can be done in person or online. Storytellers differ in the amount of supervision they require RTRs to have, whether they are worth XP gain, and how often they are willing to hold them. Some Storytellers will be happy for players to hold RTRs without supervision if there are no important rolls involved (such as characters meeting each other for the first time without any investigation or combat) and if the participants send a summary report afterward, others will want to be present for every RTR or appoint a supervisor. Obviously, supervision is always required if plot information is being investigated, or if potentially important rolls are happening. If you're unsure on how your Storyteller likes to handle RTRs, it is best to ask before planning them.
RTRs have an advantage for complicated actions. If you're breaking into a building to look for murder evidence, it's much easier to do as an RTR than a Downtime action simply so that you can make decisions based on what happened. Such a Downtime action would have to be filled with if-then clauses: “if there are no security cameras, use Obfuscate, then use Heightened Senses to search for blood marks...” whereas in an RTR you always know what is going on and can make appropriate decisions.
The problem with RTRs is one of time and organisation. Storyteller time is limited, and presumably, so is yours. It's not always easy to arrange an RTR and there are many things for which one is just not needed. You don't need to roleplay cleaning out your attic or making friends with that new NPC unless you expect something complicated to happen. These things are better done in Downtime actions.