“Down time” activities

One of the things about being a “gamer” that seems to bemuse some of my non-gamer friends and family is the whole concept of “player character downtime activities”, which is how we describe what our characters do when we aren’t playing them in an actual game.

dryad grove

The very concept of player characters having “lives” outside of crawling around in dungeons or otherwise engaging in epic combat or social encounters seems to confuse non-gamers. And, to be honest, it seems also to confuse some gamers too.

There is a tie-in here to the larger concept of “backstory” and “character development”, which are also somewhat befuddling to non-gamers (and, again, some gamers).

After all, these are things that are generally non-game impacting. From a pure sit-down-and-roll-dice perspective, whether a player’s rogue spent time “outside of the game” scouting out the local gambling casino or a player’s wizard spent time crafting a magic item really just boil down to some circumstance bonuses in certain skill or ability checks or adding an item and subtracting some gold from a character sheet.

But some gamers (and I admit to being one of them) actually enjoy exploring the personalities, histories, ambitions and personal growth of our characters.

For example, I have a wizard that has been in my “available character portfolio” for decades. He’s the first character I ever created and has not only an extensive backstory and personal development history, but I have laid out in detail, room, by room, his “wizard tower” and the island upon which he constructed it. That includes what is located in each room, where the local fauna lives and how he moves about the island and comes to and from it when he leaves to go “adventuring”.

So, I am now working out the details of the long-term home and possible retirement of my ninth level half elf/half dryad druid. That means I am designing her home, laying out the local forest and the major elements of that forest, including the local dryad grove, the lairs of any significant major carnivores and the paths to and from her little forest world.

There is probably some value to exploring the deep psychological needs this sort of thing reveals about me, and one of these days I may visit a mental health professional to discuss this bizarre behavior. But in the meantime, it’s actually a lot of fun doing this.

The only question I have right now is if I want to create an actual 3D world for these characters. My wizard’s island and tower is just drawings on paper right now. But with my recent foray into the realm of 3D terrain and building construction, there’s no reason not to actually build a scale replica of my character’s homes and local environs.

So, how weird is all that? (As if I really want to know…)

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Elwe 12th level lawful evil wizard

Elwe was my first ever RPG character. Rolled up back in the ancient days of Dungeons & Dragons first edition (maybe even earlier) Elwe is probably my most complex and troubled character. Originally a lawful good wizard who planned to save the world from evil, his story gets complicated when his best friend is killed by a giant scorpion and Elwe is unable to raise him from the dead through a series of unlikely spell failures until there was nothing left for Elwe to work with.

Elwe eventually went insane and still believes himself to be lawful good, but has become an almost total sociopath, caring for nothing but his own goals and desires.

Unfortunately Elwe has not been played for decades, although I still maintain him as an active PC and intend to get him back into a game at some point. With each new release I’ve converted Elwe to the latest version of wizard, although I have not yet completed the Pathfinder conversion.