This week the D&D team is back with downtime activities.
From my experience, the community has been waiting for something like this. People were not happy with the quantity of the downtime options provided in the Player’s Handbook and the Dungeon Master’s Guide. Also, I’d like to apologise for the delay. I’ve been quite busy this week, and this Unearthed Arcana is 14 pages long. Moreover, I had to rewrite part of it because technology likes to make fun of me. However, personally I didn’t find losing at least half of it funny. Anyway, let’s begin.
Foils are basically NPCs that oppose the characters. It’s important to note that they don’t have to be villains. This means that foils, and the obstacles they set, shouldn’t always be encountered with a violent way.
The guidelines to create a foil are pretty simple. The begin with the what and the why the foils want to do to the characters and then move to the how and the possible consequences. We’re also provided with a 1d20 table of example foils, as well two fully created ones.
Even though foils are not the main part of this Unearthed Arcana, I found them a really good idea.
Sample Downtime Activities
This section takes up most of this week’s installment. It contains 13 downtime activities, some of which are revisions of ones found in the Player’s Handbook or the Dungeon Master’s Guide.
Buying a Magic Item
In 5th Edition, acquiring magic items is said to be hard, since they are considered rare in general. I believe that’s what these rules want to portray. In order to just get access to a market of magic items you need to spend time and money. But even if you do that, it’s not even sure if you’ll be able to get what you want. However, the problems don’t stop there. There can be complications in the form of the item being fake, stolen, and more. There’s an interesting table that can give you a few ideas.
I understand that 5th Edition wants magic items to be hard to acquire. However, this should be converted into rules in a way that doesn’t break an important aspect of 5th Edition, its simplicity. I find these rules a bit complicated. I like the idea of complications during a transaction but, in order to get there, you have to spend money and a lot of time.
I found this one quite fun. Basically, it turns DMG’s carousing into a 5 day event, during which you make contacts. Of course, during such activity, not all contacts will be friendly.
There are three tiers of carousing, which are based on how much money you spend. These tiers determine what kind of people you’ll be able to meet, as well as the possible complications.
I really like this activity. It can easily be used to introduce new NPCs and also create some interesting situations. The only note I have about it is that the gravity of the various complications can vary a lot.
Crafting an Item
Crafting is a matter dear to me and I really want to see a good set of rules for it in 5th Edition. Between these rules and the ones in the DMG, the only change is that the crafting progress is now made in 5 day increments.
To be honest, crafting is one of the aspects that I’d like to be more complex. These rules are pretty much the same with the DMG ones and they don’t offer me the satisfaction I’d like.
Crafting a magic item is a bit different. To be precise, the crafting part is basically the same but there are some extra things to do before that. First, you must have a formula of the item you want to craft. How formulas can be acquired is not mentioned in this document.
After that, some sort of exotic material is required. I like the idea of using a special ingredient in order to make a magic item. However, no matter how good an idea it may seem, it could prove to be problematic. Getting hold of the material pretty much requires an adventure of its own, unless you handwave it somehow. I have two problems with this. The first one is that it shifts the attention to acquiring the materials, which makes the crafting part even more trivial. The second one is that it requires extra time. Some play groups, including mine, don’t have the time to play a lot. Spending a session or two hunting for materials for a magic item isn’t something we can easily afford.
But let’s take a look at some of the good parts. Creating magic items requires proficiency with the Arcana skill or the respective tools. That’s actually very good because it allows more characters to craft.
Brewing healing potions and scribing spell scrolls(these have their own section) have their own rules. Brewing healing potions is much simpler, requiring only proficiency with the herbalism kit. However, it can get very expensive.
This one can turn a small adventure into a simple skill challenge. Personally, I like skill challenges and I can see this activity being used, especially by Thieves or Criminals. In general, it can be good or bad, depending the group and the characters.
That’s another skill challenge that I like. There’s not much to say about it. You choose an amount, have a skill challenge, and see if you win or not. Pretty simple and fun. The complications are interesting as well.
This is non lethal fighting, which actually I don’t mind as an idea. The skills used in this activity are okay, I guess. Also, note that no initial amount is required. You just fight and if you win you get money. Lose and nothing happens. Finally, the complications could be a bit more harsh.
That’s the Recuperation activity from the PHB. Nothing special here.
This one looks like a revision on the Performing Sacred Rites activity from the DMG. Now, instead of gaining Inspiration, you gain favors. These favors can be exchanged in the form of Cleric spellcasting discounts, or political or social support, which I find more intriguing.
I’d like to not here that there doesn’t seem to be any mechanical limitations to who can use this activity. This means that a Fighter that feels rather religious could easily choose to do this.
My mind immediately went to the Dungeoneering checks from the Monster Manuals of 4th Edition. For those who don’t know, the Monster Manuals had DCs for Dungeoneering checks in order to recall information abou monsters. The higher the roll, the more you could recall.
This activity allows you to get a bonus on your Intelligence check, depending how much money you spend, up to a +6. Also, depending on the quality of the source, you may even get advantage on the roll. I especially like this last detail.
However, I’m not really pleased by this activity. The complications are rather boring. Also, there is no scaling to the quality of information you can get, but only to the quantity. This means everything is fair game unless the DM says otherwise.
Scribing a Spell Scroll
Nope. The cost table is crazy, both money and time wise. An 8th level spell scroll takes you almost a year to finish and a 9th level takes you double the time. And let’s don’t even address the cost. No, actually, let’s address it. One 9th level spell scroll is equal to building five keeps(DMG page 128). Two level 9 spell scrolls are enough to get you a palace. A palace! The complication table is nice, though.
Selling a Magic Item
Trying to find someone who sells a magic item costs 100gp. Trying to sell a magic item costs you 100gp. Right…
Looking at the tables you can easily see that it’s not always worth it to sell magic items. Selling a common magic item at 150% of its base price is actually a financial loss. Now I understand why dragons like hoarding their items. Oh, and the complications are really mean.
This is a clear improvement. The time has gone down significantly. The cost has gone up but it’s a price most are willing to pay. The complications are funny but most of them pretty much will end up with you in need of a new instructor.
That’s pretty much the Practise Profession activity. I find it difficult that anyone would pick this one when they are presented this list of activities. The complications are just okay.
Overall, this week’s Unearthed Arcana is okay, I guess. Foils are amazing and I like the fact that there are notes on which complications can use them. As for the activities, I like most of them. I’ve got a few issues regarding time, like the time it takes you to scribe spells. Another time issue is that some of the activities don’t really need 5 days to complete. I’d like to see some more activities, as well as more details about some of the existing ones. For example, I’d like more information on how to acquire formulas. Anyway, I give this Unearthed Arcana a pass and hope we get an improved version in the future.
You can read the full article here and download the PDF here. And don’t forget, the survey about last week’s starter spells Unearthed Arcana can be found here.
4 thoughts on “Unearthed Arcana: Downtime Analysis”
I like that they are giving us something to work with. Be sure to let your feelings be known in the survey.
On a personal note I think I prefer the old school rarity of magic items that they have brought back in 5e. I like that items are rare and difficult to trade. It makes it more worthwhile (to me) the effort went through to acquire them.
Also it makes them meaningful and I’ll find a use for them. No more throw away magic items because it’s not maximised for my PC. I’ll keep those magic earrings thank you very much!
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I like magic items being rare. I just don’t like the mechanics of selling and buying presented in this Unearthed Arcana installment.
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I’m going to sit down and reread it today. What are your sugestions? Likes/dislikes?
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If you’re asking about just the selling/buying of magic items, I understand that there will be some complexity in the process but I don’t think that’s the correct one. Also, we want to see magic items as something rare but selling a common one makes you less profit than what you spend on advertising you selling it, if you sell it at its base price.
If you are asking what I liked in general, I’d say I liked everything but the crafting, buying, and selling rules. These ones I liked less because I know the D&D team can do much better.