BITS – Downtime Activity

What is there to do when roleplaying game adventurers aren’t slaying dragons and delving dungeons? That in-between time, going from beat to beat?

That downtime activity can lead to great boons for a player’s character, their group, or the fictional world at large. Or, it can let a wounded treasure-seeker lick their wounds to fight another day.

Downtime activity is important. Here is how the TTRPG BITS system implements it:

Core Mechanic

As with everything in BITS, it all comes back to the core mechanic

Roll 2 6-sided dice (2d6) to meet or beat a target number, the challenge representing the effort and sheer luck put into the task 🎲🎲

Downtime does the same with any activity taken, the challenge increase or decreasing inversely with how much time is taken, aid used, and what tools are available.

Time as a Resource

How much time is given to an activity? The answer will drastically affect the probable outcomes.

Given an hour, a downtime activity is likely to fail, needing 11+ to succeed. Only with serious aid and concentration can a positive outcome be better guaranteed.

A day? 9+. There might have been enough time, but the chances of something being missed are not slight.

7+ for a week. >50% of success here. There has been dedicated time to a worthy project. That, and this should be the default downtime in the normal course of a game – a week to prepare for the next adventure.

5+ for a month. Even building a siege engine could be done by one with this time. Should be easy.

A year or more? Patience is rewarded by automatically passing this test, though that assumes some peace and quiet as well.

The higher a target number, the higher too are the chances for breaking or having a dire consequence for the task. When the same value is on both dice but the sum of the dice are less than the target, that critically fails the activity (how is sensitive to the context).

Same for rolling a double pair above the target. A critical success in BITS allows a character to take any of their otherwise allowed actions immediately, giving them a chance at success or failure in the same amount of time.

But what can a character do with their downtime?


Some ideas for downtime, only one selected for the span of downtime, say, a week:

    • Crafting – Buy resources, improve gear, repair equipment, or make some material possession. A wizard makes their potions, a knight buffs their armor, a Jedi improves their lightsaber, and Sam buys bread for the Fellowship πŸ§™β€β™‚οΈ
      • Critical failure ideas: what was bought was faulty, the attempt breaks or degrades the quality of the original item, a personal injury happened.
    • Networking – Socialize, carouse, or spy, a character learns more about others. Relationships can be made or destroyed here 😎
      • Failure ideas: a friend is insulted, a stranger seeks a debt on you, the enemy changes plans because of the spying.
    • Resting – Simply put, regain health. Physical, mental, constitutional; no matter the source, dedicated rest may set bones, treat illness, and settle humors 😴
      • Failure ideas: the condition gets worse, a new illness is contracted.
    • Training – Study, meditation, or physical exertion to gain some experience or improve ability. As the designer, I suggest this be the activity for characters to level-up abilities or gain skills (since abilities cap-out at a value of 4, I suggest capping the benefits of training at 2 for an ability; the road to being the best is by being out and about and doing things!) πŸ’ͺ
      • Failure ideas: a personal injury happens from training so hard, the skill decreases from improper technique, social standing falls as some flub is public and ridiculed.

Now, I do not include traveling here. Traveling I consider to be a separate action all together. Downtime is meant to be what you do staying in one place, though should that place be on a starship or boat piloted by others in the crew vs. on feet or needing one’s direct influence, I see where downtime can be spent on other things πŸ™‚

Above should cover most everything, but if a player wants their character to do more, that is for the player and the GM to negotiate πŸ€·β€β™‚οΈ

But let us not forget followers and those under a character’s command! Those NPCs could undertake downtime activities too with the same respects given to consequences.

Final Notes

Even though probability says that doing the same activity day-after-day (i.e. the shortest time possible over and over), these short instances increase the likelihood of critical failures. Those failures could be worse than not trying at all, so taking time to get it right (with the bonus of possibly being able to take on additional activities!) is well advised.

Buying / Going to market may not need to be a ‘roll for it’ activity, but it should include at least a 50/50 (or 7+) roll to see if 1) the items were bought at a fair price (failure), and 2) the items are not fake/rotten/stolen (critical failure).

Time is weird. BITS likes the number 4, so perhaps difficulties could be based on using 1-of-4 parts in a day, 4 days in a week, 4 weeks in a season, 4 seasons in a year… IDK. Time is a construct. Don’t @ me πŸ˜‚

And on that speculative note, here exists now downtime activities for all games that adopt BITS as the core system. Fantasy or sci-fi, grimdark or heroic, BITS works with it all 😁

What do you do in your downtime? Render, revel, rest, revamp?

Whatever you and your characters choose to do, cheers to it!

Published by

Jimmy Chattin

Processor of data, applier of patterns, maker of games and stories.

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