Downtime actions are what your character is doing with their time in-between games. There are four different categories for the actions, which describe the kind of action and how it will interact with the world. Each action is also Regular or Large, depending on the time it takes a character to do these things and the character’s innate capabilities or other assets. A character is assumed to be doing their regular activities over a downtime. Your character will still go about their regular routine, doing their job, caring for their children, or going to school without you needing to state that.
The Storyteller team will resolve downtimes so that they happen simultaneously, ensuring that the results are rewarding for players and further the dramatic arc of the game.
Between Game vs. Between Season
The amount of Downtime Actions a character has access to is different depending on whether a Downtime occurs between games within a season, or between seasons.
At most, only a few days will pass between games within the same season. Each character is able to do one Regular Downtime Action at no inherent personal cost to them. If the character wishes to do a Large Action or do two Regular Actions, they have the option to select “Burn Down Your Life.” This represents your character forgoing their usual routine, job, or other responsibilities to refocus their efforts on something else. It also represents how effective they are at managing their time and getting things done out in society. Whether a character has chosen “Burn Down Your Life” is shown on the form used to submit Downtimes, and does not need to be included in Action descriptions. None of this is to say that characters cannot effect large changes on the world; rather, the “big” Actions should be reserved for game.
Between seasons, multiple months or even a year could pass in-universe, with a different amount of time for each season break. At the start of the season break, the STs will inform the players how many and what scale (large or small) of Downtime Actions they can submit for their characters. The due date for these Downtimes will also be announced at that time, but will be multiple weeks before the start of the next season. Please note that although more Downtime Actions are allowed between seasons, their Significance is limited.
Below are the four Downtime Action types and a brief description of what they cover. Each of them has a list of example actions.
This Action changes the world around you to suit your needs. This might mean attacking the foundation of in-world institutions or founding one of your own. This also covers actions that might affect other characters.
Example: Start a book club, Hold a secret meeting, Break ground for a new church, Put dog poop in your neighbor’s yard every night
This Action preserves the status quo of the world. Many things are already set up to the benefit of specific people and they often want to keep it that way, keeping skeletons in the closet.
Example: Hire reliable security guards, Hide a body, Prevent your employee from being fired by your boss, Guard your yard every night to stop your neighbor from covering it in dog poop
This Action is about researching and investigating things in the world around your character. This also covers developing contacts and gaining social information.
Example: Plumb the depths of the library for occult secrets, Dig up local gossip, Watch a specific location for a night, Read blogs to determine what might cause someone to cover your lawn in dog poop
This Action covers what you do for yourself that might not fall under any of the other categories. These things won’t affect other players or in-world institutions heavily at all.
Example: Perform minor home repair, Buy a gun, Cast a ritual, Collect a bunch of dog poop
Setting Action Size
Downtime Actions are either Regular or Large sized. Regular Actions represent an amount of effort that still allows a character to maintain their everyday life, while Large actions show a level of effort consistent to a major disruption in their usual activities. Characters with certain Advantages tasked as an Asset on their downtime action can stretch the definition of “Regular” for them, with Mentors, Allies, Helpers, Employees, other PCs, and Status as some very common examples. Someone with Status (Police) can much more quickly gain access to evidence or a prisoner when compared with someone who has no Status.
Players must state their projected size for their Downtime Actions, but the ultimate determination of size for Downtime Actions rests with the STs. Should a player unknowingly overdraw on their Downtime Action budget, the STs will inform them, along with the new costs for their Actions. Players can then decide how to re-allocate their Downtime Actions. This will cause them to resubmit their Actions, but as long as they submit them by a new deadline set by the STs they will not be considered late.
Submitting Downtime Actions
Between games, Downtime Action submissions are due to the STs between games on the Sunday prior to the upcoming game. This will give the STs enough time to sufficiently process your Action. Between seasons, the deadline will be announced to the playerbase at large as it makes sense for a season. For instance, between season periods that represent a larger period of time in game will likely be due earlier. Deadlines can be subject to change; if that happens, an announcement will be sent to all players. The STs will not address late downtime actions unless an extension has been granted. Extensions on deadlines will be handled on a case by case basis, and are much more likely to be approved the earlier that they are requested.
All Downtime Actions must be submitted through the Downtime system and therefore must follow the format below. If your Action requires revisions, the STs will tell you as soon as possible so that you may resubmit your actions as necessary.
TITLE: The Action’s short and descriptive title, of no more than a few words. Please prioritize succinctness and clarity over references to other media or non-descriptive jokes.
TYPE: The Action’s category and whether it is Regular or Large. Remember, Large Actions require you to “Burn Down Your Life” when done between games of a season.
ASSETS: What individual Skills, Special Trainings, Advantages, or other personal abilities you feel allow your character to attempt the Action or might assist in making your Action complete in a favorable way. This also helps the Storytellers to understand how your character is approaching their Action. For example, listing Intimidation instead of Persuasion as an asset can lead to a very different result to your Action.These should be presented as a list, with each separated by commas. Feel free to include as many assets as you wish, but limit your list to only those that are relevant.
GOAL: A sentence or less describing what your character hopes to achieve with this Action.
DESCRIPTION: A short description of the process involved to complete this Action. It can be no more than 4 sentences, and we recommend only 2 sentences. Please be as concise as possible. If you feel that an Action is too complicated to describe in only 4 sentences, it is most likely better represented as a series of Actions. As a note, you do not need to plan for every eventuality. Your character is assumed to be competent at the things that they are good at, and bad at the things they are bad at, as per their character concept and mechanics.
Some examples will be posted up here before Season 1 begins.
Players can coordinate on Downtime Actions, combining each others’ uses of specific Advantages, personal assistance, or other Assets. If you are working with other players on a combined Action, that must be clearly laid out and stated in the all collaborating players’ Assets. All players should use the same Title for any combined Actions, to make it completely clear that they are working together. If you wish for another character to benefit from your character’s Assets, your character must work with them; Assets may never simply be “handed off.”
Action Type and Size vs. Action Difficulty
Choosing to do a specific type or size of Action does not make your character more competent at performing the Action. Performing a “Preserve” Action does not make your character any more competent in maintaining a public park or defending a financial institution than you would be otherwise; these are only a descriptor of the type of Action. Specific Actions will have a very different difficulty for each individual character, and something which might be a Large Action could be easier for your character to accomplish than a related Regular Action might be for someone else.
Missing a Season
Players are entitled to submit Downtime Actions for the entire season in which they act as a PC, but they must have attended at least one game in that season to submit any Downtime Actions aside from Gather Knowledge. If a character does not appear in a season, then the player cannot submit Downtime Actions for them – missing a season means that their characters are no longer “in the loop” and cannot reasonably affect gameplay. The STs will not process Downtime Actions from players who have extended absences from game, and will inform them if that is the case.
Contested Actions During Downtime
Combat and character death both fall into the category of “Directly Contested Actions.” Directly Contested Actions between PCs are not allowed without the specific without the specific agreement of both parties. Indirect contested Actions (i.e. you attempt to harm another player’s social standing) are allowed and are completed through the Change and Preserve Actions. Any sort of draw (whether directly or indirectly contested) requires ST oversight.
The Cost of “Burning Down Your Life”
“Burning Down Your Life” can have a significant roleplaying and mechanical cost. It represents ignoring your character’s commitments and responsibilities in order to accomplish a significant Action. This means your character is not going to work or school, or ignoring the care requirements for their dependents. When you are “Burning Down Your Life,” please state what she is giving up in the dialogue box that then appears.
Naturally, your commitments will respond in kind. Normal people “Burn Down Their Life” every once in awhile, but the difficulties stack up when you do it multiple times. Your character may lose their job, and the resources that job represents. The community may judge them for abandoning their duties. Further Downtime Actions can be taken to mitigate and possibly even regain the things that your character has lost by changing their priorities. However, bBe aware that though, if you “Burn Down Your Life,” then there may be unusual consequences that are implemented by the Storytellers as story hooks. If you don’t want surprise consequences, don’t “Burn Down Your Life.”
The effects of Burning Down Your Life aren’t punishments for overexerting your character. Rather they are “fun” and “exciting” things that happen to them as a result of their Poor Life Choices™.
Between Season Actions and Significance
In between seasons, a lot of time can pass for characters and that can lead to the idea that many things should change for them. In Ask Again Later, we try and do everything that we can to make sure that the interesting aspects of a character’s story happen at game as opposed to during downtime, but we understand that some things just can’t wait the time of the break between seasons in universe. Because of this, the downtime actions submitted for a Between Season period are limited to having only one major or significant change to a character. Some examples include losing a prominent job or position, gaining a creature challenge, or getting married. As a guideline, most actions should be about wrapping up the events of the previous Season or making sure that your character is in the state you want them to be at the outset of the next Season.