In today's Digital and Dice podcast, the topic of discussion was downtime. Among the activities mentioned were players spending time getting day jobs, crafting items, and even managing a base of operations. My experience with player downtime is quite similar, and in the past some of my players have pursued the idea of starting their own business as a way to spend their time.
The reasons for this are many. As you'll note based on today's show (and most people's experiences with D&D otherwise,) regular steady work in a medieval fantasy setting has very little return. Honest work earned people a handful of silver a week if they're lucky, whereas adventuring has the potential to earn chests of treasure in a single night. To this end, some people want to invest their money in starting a business so that they don't make worker wages, and instead start making merchant wages. While this usually means sinking some of their adventuring rewards into the initial cost, players might actually start to see supplemental income off of this. A fisherman might make a good wage as a deck hand, but a person who owns the boat gets the profits of their entire catch. And using some of that money, you can page wages for other people, including a manager to help operate the business, especially while your character is away and doing the real adventuring stuff.
There's also the tangible benefit to the party that this provides. Apart from the income, the actual location where the business is run can serve as a base of operations in itself. If this is a boat, it might be used for travel and transport. Perhaps the most popular choice for my players though is to buy out an inn that they like. That way they always have a place to stay, and drinks are always on the house (though it might cut into their profits a bit.) They also usually do this to keep their favorite NPCs around, often hiring them on as the person to run the business while the party is away. In practice, they do little besides put the business under new management and skim the profits off every now and again.
Of course, GMs can also use this a source of plot hooks. Maybe the party's business comes under attack by a physical threat or a market rival. Maybe a shipment of goods doesn't show up, and the party needs to track it down. Or even before the party has the business, they might have plans to start or buy one, but need to adventure to raise the funds. As Mark said, sometimes you have to "go on an adventure to put couches in the room." And that's not necessarily a bad thing. Whatever motivates the party to action is beneficial to the story, and thus the progression of the game a s a whole.
I hope you enjoyed this and the rest of the content by Digital & Dice. For those who are interested in reading further about downtime activities, I suggest checking out the article "Downtime for Players" on my personal blog. Until next time…Game on Internets!
- Draconick, Digital and Dice Contributor
I, Nick “Draconick” Johnson, am a writer and roleplaying enthusiast with over ten years of experience in various tabletop roleplaying games both as a player and as a GM. I am also somewhat involved in other forms of tabletop gaming such as wargaming, board games, and card games. It is my hope that by creating and maintaining this website that I can share my unique take on all things within our hobby and to foster a community of like-minded individuals.