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Faith and Steel: A Warrior's Manifesto

Downtime

by Steve Bergeron
Feb 26,2003

 

Downtime

The life of the soldier has often been described as long periods boredom interspersed with moments of extreme terror. It's all too true. This month the column is devoted to all of those long periods of boredom that warriors have to suffer. That's right, this one's all about the "Downtime."

Downtime is term that should be familiar to most gamers. RPG books make various references to downtime being the period between adventures when the characters rest, recover, re-arm, repair, upgrade, and handle all of life's not so exciting administrative details while waiting for the next adventure to come knocking. That's all well and good, but I am going to give it a slightly different definition of downtime as it applies to warriors: Downtime is any time, any time at all, that you are not in combat. In other words, most of the time is downtime. Unless you're playing a complete dungeon crawl, you will only spend a small portion of the game actually employing your primary skills in a vicious and effective matter. The rest of the game will be spent doing all those other things that characters do: planning, arguing, traveling, researching, traveling some more, arguing a hell of a lot more, and even roleplaying from time to time. The long and short of it is that most of your skills are just not required most of time. Sure, when your skills are required it's usually a matter of life and death, but the rest of the time you're a little extraneous. You might as well find something to do with all of that spare time that you're afforded, or you could just stand there "looking menacing" all the time.

Sleep

One of the many signs of a good soldier is that he can go to sleep and wake up on command. If you tell an infantry unit that they have ten minutes to rest, they will promptly lean back and get ten minutes of sleep. Tell them it's time to move, and they jump up ready to go. The reasoning is simple: you never know when you're going to get another chance to sleep, so you might as well take what you can get. If your character is (or was) a professional soldier of some kind, he might know of this and put it to great effect. Not only does it ensure that your character is well rested and alert when it's time to kick the collective ass, but it also serves as an entertaining and potentially useful roleplaying tool. Nothing can take the wind out of the sails of an NPC trying to intimidate the party like when the fighter lets out a monster yawn, casually leans against a wall and starts snoring like a bear. Note that it's probably a good idea to take the light sleeper trait/perk/ability/shtick/whatever. Furthermore, if you're enemies know you to be a sleeper, you can fake sleeping in their presence and then ambush them; remember, rogues by no means have a monopoly on sneakiness.

Hobbies

Just because your character is the saviour of three star systems and single-handedly brought peace to the omega sector, doesn't mean he doesn't occasionally enjoy a little bit of cross-stitch and knitting. Well, maybe not ones that bad, but hobbies are a good way to add depth and interest to you character. More importantly, they fill that damned downtime. A good example is writing. You can make your character the quintessential warrior poet who writes haikus that delve into the meaning of life and death while waiting for the group's hacker to finish breaking into that computer system. Or maybe you're the pulp writer that records your group's exploits in great detail and then releases them to your adoring public. Or how about a historian, or maybe you're secretly writing a harlequin novel (good money in those things,) or even an RPG designer! There's nothing like a little fame, fortune, and extra money on the side. A hobby that produces a little extra cash might be just the thing to give your warrior his own little subplot. Generally speaking, any hobby that your character has should not be a detriment to the rest of the party, (random crucifixion, for example, is usually right out,) but beyond that, be creative and have fun.

Sex, booze, and other complications

You're a warrior. (at least, your character is a warrior...I hope. I mean why else would you be reading this column?) As a warrior you should be keenly aware of the frailty and randomness of life. You should know that death could find you at any time. Sometimes, you know there might not be a future for you beyond tomorrow. So you bloody well better live it up tonight just in case! Warriors invented carousing, and they happen to be masters of the art. I'm not saying it's right or wrong to get horribly drunk, sing bawdy songs, make an utter fool of yourself and wake up next to someone you've never met before in a place you don't remember going to, I'm just warning you that there is great historical precedent for doing so. "Work hard, play hard" is the motto of many a soldier, and, coincidentally, the main reason there are no rich soldiers. If you do decide that your character is the type to partake in the ancient carousing tradition, be warned: Your game master WILL use your actions against you. Drunkenness, hangovers, bar fights, angry husbands, venereal diseases, and illegitimate children will all come visit you. These may serve to make the game more interesting and humorous, but it will be at your expense. You could avoid this whole problem by doing the unthinkable and getting married. A wife (or husband) adds a whole new dimension to your character, eats up a huge amount of downtime, and someday, when you buy the farm (AKA: Die) you'll have little rug rats to avenge your death. Some warriors tread the dangerous path of carousing and marriage. To those of you who choose such a perilous option I can only say this: Good Luck!

Well, that about does it for this month. Oh yeah, I almost forgot, the column's resident barbarian, Thrag, couldn't be here this month. He's enjoying a little downtime with his wives. He'll be back with me next month with me as we discuss the Price of Power. Until then, remember the great words of Napoleon, "Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake."

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  • Downtime by Steve Bergeron, 26feb03
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