Monday, June 3, 2024

Group Downtime Activities: Remembering the Dead

The system of downtime actions I created is individual by design, built as a counterbalance to OSR games where the action is focused relentlessly on cooperative exploration, so that characters might develop as individuals and chart their own path between adventures. (If you are unfamiliar, for an illustrative downtime activity, see here.) However, I have come to believe that it is desirable to incorporate some group downtime actions into this system in cases that involve the need for group buy-in or where the experience is inherently collective.

Group downtime activities differ from individual ones in that they require a quorum of at least 3 participating characters all of whom must spend their downtime action performing the group activity. If they are unable to form a quorum, then the action is not available. Having formed the quorum, in some cases each player rolls separately for the outcome of the action where the relationship to the group activity is more personal. In other cases, where the upshot is more collective, a single roll is made for the entire group. As usual, these rolls are 2d6, subject to a base modifier and a situational modifier with a result of 6- a failure, 7-9 a mixed result, and 10+ a success. What the follows is the first of several group downtime activities I have been working on. More to follow soon.

Remembering the Dead

Howard Pyle

To lose an adventuring companion is no easy thing, especially having shared many hazards and tight spots. Rites of remembrance give communal form to grief. They take many ritual forms from the bright dancing flames of a funeral pyre to the return of a corpse to the dark earth; from solemn visitations when sitting shiva to the boisterous celebrations of a wake. These rituals provide a way to commemorate and honor the dead so that the living may carry on without forsaking the memory of those who are gone.

All that is required for a humble rite of remembrance is the gathering of a few friends to share some memories over a libation, or a few words spoken before a hastily assembled cairn. But a proper rite of remembrance, befitting the individual’s achievements and stature in the community, respectfully planned and resourced, is more fitting for both the living and the dead. Thus, the base modifier is set by the collective expenditure on the funeral, which may come from any source.

Once the funds have be secured, the group should describe the rite of remembrance, where it occurs, according to what rituals, and which NPCs if any are invited. Before rolling each player character may opt to say some words commemorating their fallen comrade: sharing a memory of the character or saying something heartfelt about what they appreciated about them. This provides a further situational modiferOnce this is completed, each player rolls 2d6, adding the following modifiers:

Base Modifier

0         GP                     -1
250     GP x Level         + 0
500     GP x Level         +1
1000   GP x Level         +2

Situational Modifier: 

+1 for words commemorating the deceased character.


6-      No Closure: The rite of remembrance leaves you cold.
7-9    Mourning is Hard: Roll on the Memories table and take the Unresolved Mourning condition.
10+   The Dead Live On: Roll on the Memories table.

Memories (1d6)

  1. An Example to Us all: Gain XP equal to deceased character’s level x 200. 
  2. Unexpected Inheritance: The player of the deceased character may specify what remarkable item they have bequeathed to the living character. If no such item exists, the GM may invent one that no one knew the deceased character had.
  3. Carry on the Work: The player of the deceased character may specify which downtime project to bequeath to the living character, transferring the associated downtime tracker, but decreasing it by one step (to a minimum of 1). For example, the living character might pick up a relationship with one of the friends of the deceased, or acquire steps towards mastering a martial technique, skill, magical research, or spiritual exercise, or inherit an institution the deceased was building alone.
  4. Channel their Memory: Taking inspiration from the deceased, the living character can perform one extraordinary feat. The GM in collaboration with the player of the deceased character will devise a one-use power that is a tribute to the character’s achievements or endearing features. For example, if the character did some great fast talking, the one-use power might be used to persuade any NPC of one thing.
  5. Protection of the Dead: The character is watched over by the spirit of their fallen comrade who will intervene to a replace the results of any single roll with the best success possible (e.g. the highest roll on the die). The player may declare they are spending this one-use power after they see the results of this roll. There is no expiration on this power.
  6. Visitations: The character may declare that they have been visited by the dead, receiving vital information of a helpful nature in a dream. The GM will provide real, vital intelligence, of great help to the character on the topic they have selected, even if there is no way for living to know about it.

Unresolved Mourning

Mourning is messy. The rites of remembrance have stirred up unresolved feelings for your character. The GM and player should agree on the form this unresolved grief takes. Perhaps the character feels guilty about the death of their comrade, or angry at someone responsible, or are afraid of suffering a similar fate. The GM will determine what effect the condition of unresolved mourning has, drawing from the following list as examples.

  • Progress on one downtime tracker is stalled.
  • Use of one class power is impeded.
  • -4 on saving throws.

The GM will inform the player what adventuring goal they must achieve to remove the condition, such as getting revenge for the character’s death, or achieving some adventuring objective that would be meaningful for the character or somehow honor their memory.