Tabletop RPG Review: On Downtime and Demesnes

If you’re playing a long-term Fantasy game, particularly one with a more D&D/OSR vibe, this book will be a helpful tool.  It’s specific enough that I found some bits really don’t work with Dungeon Crawl Classics, but most of it does, if sometimes needing a bit of retooling.  I’ve already found use for several of the charts and tables.

Courtney C. Campbell’s book covers a range of between-sessions topic.  Most are GM/DM/Judge-focused.  Things like generating interesting NPCs, rumors, or factions.  However, some are more player-aimed, like building skills, influencing society, or picking up odd jobs.

Because of the organization and some of the nitty gritty, I can imagine it being a useful, but perhaps not an intuitive book to enhance your ongoing game.  It’s the sort of book that would be great if you’ve got an engaged group of players, who are able to take on some responsibilities, where you can just hand the book to them and let them figure out the bits they need.  As I read through the book, I kept finding sections where I suddenly had a million ideas for uses.  But the idea of trying to find that bit when I need it is a bit daunting.  I’m thinking about creating a sort of mega-index for the various GM toolkits that I’ve got, so I can look up “Urban” and find book names and page numbers for all the various random charts and enhancements for urban settings in all these various books, since they tend to be less navigable than I’d like.  I think this book would end up in such an index under several headings.  Without it, though, I don’t know that I’d ever think to take it off the shelf and dig through the pages to find page 113’s “Unusual Items Sub-table” for strange objects you might find in a bazaar, the exact type of chart I love to roll on in adventure prep.   

Ben Milton over at Questing Beast, talking about another book in this series from Campbell, said it was a compilation of articles and such from the now defunct Google + message boards.  I would not be surprised if the same were true of this one, as it reminds me a lot of the Gongfarmer’s Almanac series for DCC, which also had its origin on those boards.

Reading back over this, I feel like I may come off as a bit negative, and I don’t want to.  I think this will be a very handy tool.  The more your game hews toward the whole OSR thing, the more handy I think it will be.  For me, as someone who is likely not to get any closer than DCC, I can say I’ve already used it a bunch.  It’s probably about a 60/40 spread on what’s useful to me VS what’s not…lr less so, at least.  There’s really good stuff in here.  It simply wasn’t organized in a way that I found intuitive. 

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