Cases And Downtime

Campaign Rhythm: Cases and Long Downtime

Broadly, campaigns are divided into two phases: Cases and Long Downtime.

A 'Case' is what we call the meat of the game, the active periods where the group explores, investigates situations, and has dangerous and exciting skirmishes and brawls with those who would do them harm. Cases usually cover an arc of activity about a specific incident or set of incidents, with the focus being on a specific person, area or cause. Cases usually take place over the course of a week or two.

Long Downtime, then, is the time between Cases. Downtime allows characters to return to their personal lives, develop their abilities, wash off the dirt and grime of a Case, build relationships and pursue their own goals. Downtime can be fortnight, a month or longer, even in some cases half a year or a whole year.

At its most basic, then, the flow of the campaign is Case ->Long Downtime ->Long Case ->Long Downtime. It's a little more complicated than that, but not by much.
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The Rhythm of a Case

Cases are, as noted, where the meat of the game happens. Essentially, it's where characters perform, and the thing that characters prepare themselves for.

However, cases are rarely completed in a single session or in a single incident. They might take two, three or four incidents. For example, let's say it's investigating a thief who broke into a protected jewelry store. It might play out like this:

  • The team investigates the joint, finds some clues- including one that, after asking around, points to a known crook in a different city block.
  • Later on, the team goes to investigate the crook, only to find his apartment abandoned and his goods ransacked. They ask around and find that Two-Faced Nicky, one of the group's rivals, has been seen visiting recently. On the way out, they're ambushed by some of Nicky's thugs, and after a few minor hits, take them down.
  • The team heads out to find Nicky and get to the bottom of this. This takes some investigating, but they find that he's trying to leave by the docks on Tuesday morning. They assemble there and ambush him- a frantic fight ensues but they take Nicky down. He explains that he hired the thief, but the thief went rogue, so he tried to take him down. Nicky is apprehended, but there's a suggestion that Nicky was working for another crook…

So that breaks a case up into three chunks- responding to the initial situation, pursuing a lead, then the final showdown.

However, there's several gaps in between those. What happens if, in step two, the ambush seriously hurts a player? Is that player expected to go into the ambush without any rest? No. Because cases should be divided into several chunks, there's time for brief pauses in the action. This is known as Short Downtime. In Short Downtime, players have time to rest up, see to injuries, and do some short side investigations of their own, to either gather extra info or resources. What if David wants to slyly approach some shady contacts to get info on the thief? What if Evie wants to persusade a Don to give her extra muscle for the ambush on Nicky? They can do that in Short Downtime. Fate Points also refresh during Downtime.

To summarise, the rhythm of the campaign now looks more like this:

Case 1 -> Short Downtime -> Case 1 pt 2 -> Short Downtime -> Case 1 pt 3 -> Long Downtime -> Case 2 pt 1…

Short Downtime should be flexible in time- whether it takes place over an in-game hour or in-game day. Whatever the time, it plays out the same way mechanically, and shouldn't be too long.

At the end of a Case, players all master their current Job (even if the Case goes badly), and the GM rewards the players. This can be in equipment, clout or development with their confidants, but a special reward is giving them extra Downtime Actions, which is covered in the following section.
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Long Downtimes and Short Downtimes

Long Downtimes is a chance for the characters to look over their own needs, to relax without feeling the pressure of a Case on them, and to advance their own interests. Most importantly, it gives them a chance to develop their abilities.
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Developing with Aptitude Actions and Wild Card Actions

During each Long Downtime, a character is given at one least two Aptitude Actions and one Wild Card Action. These are not available during Short Downtimes. They can spend these actions on performing one of the following activities:

  • Develop a Score: The character selects one of their Scores and increases it by 2. A score can't increase by more than 20 through this method.
  • Develop a Skill: The character selects a Skill and ranks it up, gaining a Focus for that skill at the same time.
  • Develop a Talent: The character selects a Talent they meet all the prerequisites for, and gains it.

This is the main engine by which characters grow their abilities in this game. There are no experience points- rather, they grow by investing time.

So, what's the difference between Aptitude Actions and Wild Card Actions? They can both be spent on any of the three actions, but Aptitude Actions can only improve a Score, Skill or Talent whose Aptitudes match one you possess, whilst Wild Card Actions can be spent on any score, skill or talent with no restriction.
This means that Scores, Skills and Talents that match your Aptitudes will grow much quicker than ones that you don't. As a player, you can choose to use your Wild Card Action to diversify your abilities, or you can use it to put even more energy into your strengths, gaining power in those areas much faster.

As a reward for performing well in a Case, the group might be granted extra Aptitude Actions for the following Long Downtime, and that Long Downtime alone. In exceptional cases a character might even be granted an extra Wild Card action!

A player can only change their Job during a Long Downtime, although they can change their Job Perks during a Long Downtime or during a Short Downtime.
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During a Long Downtime, characters are given leeway to fit in as many investigations of their own design as the GM sees fit to let them take. These investigations can involve finding new resources, fostering new contacts, deepening relationships with existing contacts, using skills to heal or assist allies, and more. These can be free form, and not all of them will necessarily use the Investigation mechanics- they might just be simple roleplays.

Characters may do Investigations during Short Downtimes, but as a guideline any more than two is not recommended, and their investigations should deal with the Case. Finding resources or tapping existing contacts are good examples- finding new contacts, not so much.
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Personal Actions

During Downtimes, four 'Personal Actions' are available to the players that aren't about development but are more about personal care, handling assets, dealing with their obligations and more. During a Long Downtime, a player may engage in each action once, but during a Short Downtime may engage in only one.
The four actions are as follows:

  • Rest. You take time to recouperate. This restores all Wounds and reduces Stress by 10. It also reduces your Injury points by 1, with you downgrading the injury of your choice. You can choose to seek medical attention to remove more Injuries, but it costs 10 Debt for every extra point of Injury past the first.
  • Gain Assets.. You spend Favour to purchase Assets. During a Long Downtime you can purchase as many things as you want, until your Favour matches (or exceeds) your Clout. During a Short Downtime you can purchase up to 10 Debt worth of items without issue, but anymore you need to spend an Investigation to find.
  • Tap Confidants.. For Confidants whose abilities must be Downtime Tapped to use, you can do this during Downtime. During a Long Downtime you can tap as many as you like, but during a Short Downtime you can tap only one without issue, and anymore needs you to spend an Investigation to squeeze into your limited time.
  • Pay back Debts. You reduce Debts by 10.

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In Summary:

  • The game's rhythm is divided into Cases, Short Downtime and Long Downtime.
    • Cases are the meat of the game, where players advance agendas and solve problems. Short Downtime breaks a case up into several parts, whilst Long Downtimes separate one case from the next.
  • At the end of a Case, the GM gives the players their rewards. All players master their current Job if they haven't already, and may be rewarded with assets, confidants, clout or extra Aptitude Actions (or even Wild Card Actions) during the next Long Downtime.
  • Long Downtimes give you two Aptitude Actions and a Wild Card Action, with Aptitude Actions letting you improve any score, skill or talent that shares an aptitude with you, and Wild Card Actions letting you improve any score, skill or talent.
  • During Downtimes, you can engage in Investigations, which lets you gather certain assets, develop Confidants or pursue information- they're freeform and a negotiation between you and your GM.
    • Long Downtimes have more freedom in time and scope when it comes to Investigations, but Short Downtime Investigations should relate to your Case.
  • Downtimes also allow you to engage in four Personal Actions: Rest, which restores stress and wounds and removes injuries; Gain Assets, which lets you purchase assets; Tap Confidants, which lets you use Confidants whose abilities are Downtime Tapped; and Pay Back Debts, which reduces your Debt level.
    • Long Downtimes let you do all of those actions once each, but Short Downtimes require you to do one of them only.

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