Keep Down-time Interesting

Whether it’s due to players catching the flu, summer vacations, overdue essays, or just the period between your regularly scheduled games, downtime can be a real downer. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be. There are plenty of ways to make the time between sessions more productive, if you’re so inclined.

1. Run a one-shot

No need to worry about someone missing something important or falling behind. This idea is best suited to covering weeks where a given player is absent for whatever reason, since you still need to have enough players to run with, but if you can get enough people together for an impromptu session in between regular games this is a good choice. There are plenty of sources of pre-written one shots, such as Dungeon magazine or numerous third party resources, or you can always string together two or three short encounters into something to run for an evening’s play.

2. Swap spots with one of your players

Arranging for alternating DMs is a great way to avoid DM fatigue, allow everyone to get their shot at playing (or running a game) and gives everyone a bit more prep time between sessions. Of course, the problem then becomes talking one of your players into running a game—one shots are easier to convince people to do but alternate campaigns may be the ideal.

3. “Blue-booking”

Blue-booking is a good way to get in some game between sessions. Blue-booking is an old gaming practice that began with players passing a notebook back and forth with the GM between adventures detailing the individual actions of their characters during downtime. Supposedly the name comes from the color of the college exam books that were popular to use for this purpose. Of course, with modern technology there’s no need to feel limited to a physical notebook, as email can function just as well or better, or you could even set up a small forum to facilitate inter-character play as well.

It’s a good way to cover things like shopping for gear or dealing with personal storylines and character development without bogging down the flow of the regular sessions. Combat is probably best avoided unless you have time to sit down and resolve it face to face, though, as it can move at a glacial pace in this format.

4. Other activities

Arrange to get together for some out of game activities. Play a card game like Munchkin or Three Dragon Ante, or a board game like Settlers of Catan or Risk. Go to the movies, or rent a cheesy kung fu flick that you can talk through without missing anything important. Not only is this sort of thing entertaining on its own, but it provides outlets for you and your friends to just chat out of character, make plans for what to do next, and have fun as a group outside of the game.

It may even cut down on the time spent catching up with friends before the session begins the next time you come together to play, leaving you with more time for the game! An added benefit of this idea is that it can be a good way to have fun without worrying about burnout.

These are just a few ways to keep your down time from becoming a bore, and there are dozens of others that can involve everyone, enhance your game, and make life a little more fun.

Comments (3)

Jason (August 27th, 2009)

These are all good ideas. As far as board games go, Descent is seriously one of the better ways to go as a DnD substitute. It’s a dungeon crawl and if you end up with the Road to Legend expansion, it’s an ongoing campaign. Anyone can act as the Overlord and it’s fast-paced action with some awesome characters and fun writing. Also, it’s Fantasy Flight, which is basically the king of board gaming. They also offer Arkham Horror, which is a Lovecraftian board game that makes it easy to infuse a bit of roleplaying into it.

Quicksilver (August 29th, 2009)

It really helps our group to have a Halo night. Thats where we get together and BS while we play Halo (usually halo 3) a console game with the xbox series of consoles. Its fun to bash on each other, and if you don’t have sore losers or sore winners it can be fun for all.

Andrew (August 30th, 2009)

I have been running my first campaign for about three months now. Granted we only meet once a month, it seems to work well. We play hacky sack or video games for breaks. seems to work well, this is my first time being the DM and i have to say its much harderthan i thought, but it is also rewarding at the same time.

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