User:Tarkisflux/sandbox/Downtime Skills

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Author: Tarkisflux (talk)
Date Created: 02 June 2013
Status: Separated from ToP for general use
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Downtime Skills[edit]

There are personas that we want in the world in which we adventure, and possibly even things that we wish for our characters to be or aspire to become in addition to heroes:

Master weapon smith
Prestigious planar sage
Renowned concert lutist
Iron chef

In default rules these are handled by various skills, but they just serve to round out a character’s history or personality. They can rarely be used outside of downtime between adventures, and even when they do open new paths or provide direction during an adventure it's almost always a bonus from roleplaying. Characters are expected to make disable device checks during an adventure in ways that they shouldn't expect to have to make craft (blacksmithing) or profession (chef) checks. So the skills that enable these options already start as less important than more traditional adventuring skills, and in many games they are passed over as a result. Players who focus on making the most effective characters tend to get these skills less often, and the genre is poorer for it.

In games where they are not passed over, they instead run across the rank cap problem. To become a master weapon smith or a renowned lutist you must first have the level required to support the ranks needed to hold those titles. But gaining these levels means that a master has also gained combat ability. This leads to sages with incredibly specialized knowledge that never need protection or bodyguards, master crafters who cannot be kidnapped and held against their will, and every exquisitely trained butler also knowing kung fu or some other combat art because they all must possess sufficient levels to support their ranks. Story characters are forced to gain power through levels that they might not otherwise need (or cheat with magic items), and the genre is poorer for it.

Tying downtime skills causes them to be ignored in games where adventuring is valued more strongly, and causes characters in more story drive games to acquire unnecessary levels in support of their downtime goals. Whether genre appropriate or not, these limitations are a straightforward reduction in the amount of stories that can be told and don’t offer us any new stories in exchange. By breaking these downtime skills away from character level or CR, we can have both 'helpless sage' and 'powerful sage' stories, both 'kidnapped master weapon smith' and 'barnstorming master weapon smith' stories as we need them for our games.

These downtime skills could just be hand-waved away or left for the players and DM to discuss at the table when they come up, and are in many games, but this is a pretty unsatisfying solution for a lot of players. These rules are intended to provide a framework for these skills outside of level based limitations. The rules below will help you determine what sort of downtime skills you can practice, how good you are at them, and how you can become proficient in new ones.


All craft, profession, and perform skills are replaced with artisanal and occupational downtime skills. Characters may still put skill points into Knowledge (arcana), (dungeoneering), (local), (nature), (psionics), (religion), or (the planes) in order to identify creatures, but all other knowledge skills are replaced with studies downtime skills. Rules for how these changes interract with class features that depend on remove skills appear in the relevant sections.

Each downtime skill represents a particular type of time investment in a mundane task. For example, each of the studies represents an understanding of an academic subject, while each artisan downtime skill represents training in tools and the ability to create. Every downtime skill possessed by a character has a grade associated with it that indicates how well the character can perform it. This grade determines whether or not you need to make a check to complete a particular task, what your bonus on the check is, and how much more or less you can expect to earn should you work in the field during your downtime. The grade is generally advanced through the investment of downtime and an attribute check, though exceptions for higher leveled characters exist.

Grade Descriptions[edit]


Any field in which you have no experience or training is one in which you are considered uninitiated. Because of the vast number of downtime skills, most creatures in the world are uninitiated in any given one and do not possess a grade. They have no training and very little experience with a profession, and often fail at any serious attempt. They may make checks for the downtime skill on a case by case basis as approved by the DM. These checks often come with a -5 penalty and take twice as long.

Grade I[edit]

Grade I often goes by other names, including "apprentice" and "hobbyist", and represents an extremely minor level of training and ability in the field. This level of skill is not particularly impressive and can be acquired by most people with enough time on their hands, but it is actual familiarity in the downtime skill and shouldn't be discounted entirely. Creatures with this level of ability have some formal training or a fair amount of experience, but aren't consistent or skilled enough to be considered a full practitioner in their field.

They may make checks against for the downtime skill with a +0 bonus, and occasionally succeed at common tasks.

Grade II[edit]

Grade II is also referred to as "journeyman" or “professional” grade, and represents a completed training and generally competent level of ability in the field. Most of the creatures in the world who work at a downtime skill day in and day out have this level of skill. Their work is consistently acceptable, as would be expected of someone who possesses both experience and a full course of training.

They may make checks for the downtime skill with a +10 bonus, almost never fail at common tasks, and occasionally succeed at challenging tasks.

Grade III[edit]

Grade III is the master grade. These are those individuals with exceptional skill, and are often those who have dedicated themselves single-mindedly to their field. Their work is consistently exceptional or masterwork quality.

They may make checks for the downtime skill with a +20 bonus, almost never fail at difficult tasks, and occasionally succeed at exacting tasks.

Grade IV[edit]

A character with Grade IV in a downtime skill is a grand master and at the pinnacle of the ability. Individuals who achieve this grade are extremely rare. Their work is near flawless, often being a work of art in addition to masterwork.

They receive a +30 bonus to checks made for the downtime skill, and almost never fail at any task within their field.


Downtime skill checks are made when attempting to complete a task associated with your downtime skill. The basic mechanic of the check is to roll 1d20 + your grade bonus + your key attribute bonus, and compare that value to the task DC. All necessary materials and tools are assumed to be present before the check, and attempting a downtime skill without appropriate materials often comes with a circumstance penalty to the check.

Task DCs are determined by your DM, and are expected to follow the guidelines below. The DCs and bonuses are structured to allow the completion of grade appropriate tasks by taking 10, so most characters will only need to make checks when attempting a task of higher complexity.

Task Difficulty Examples DC
Standard General knowledge in the field, standard item creation, task a practitioner in training might be able to complete 10-15
Challenging Specialized knowledge in the field, masterwork item creation, task a competent practitioner in training might be able to complete 20-25
Exacting Rare or obscure knowledge in the field, flawless item creation, task a master practitioner in training might be able to complete 30

The DCs given here are largely compatible with the DCs of published knowledge, craft, profession, and perform checks. If you don't want to change the DC in a published adventure or an SRD task, you don't have to. Grand masters will succeed almost always without rolling in these cases, but this is intentional as they can do that in most cases relevant to their field.

When two practitioners of a downtime skill have a competition, the checks are simply opposed. While generally the higher check wins, other biases and bribes may need to be taken into account if a 3rd party is judging the affair.

Advancing Grades[edit]

Advancing With Time[edit]

I can't be a Grade II Chef?

These rules are designed to provide a hit and miss nature to downtime skill. There are some things that some people just don't get, and as a result they don't get to be great at them. You being a poor cook even though you gave it your all doesn't get in the way of you being an adventurer, so the parts where this isn't as fair don't make a large impact in a game. While it is random and somewhat unfair to simply deny people some downtime skills in this way, it's not a particularly large problem because most games are not about these things, and the ones that are about these things build drama around these sorts of roadblocks.

Still, if it's really important for your character to be a professional chef or a master planar sage you can simply elect to invest a skill point into the downtime skill temporarily, assuming you have sufficient level or a reserved skill point. It's not the best adventuring value, but it is worth it for many people.

Advancing a downtime skill to the next grade generally requires two things: training and practicing time followed by a successful attribute check. Creatures with racial bonuses to replaced skills gain this bonus on their advancement checks. The time required is a multiple of the base training time of the downtime skill, with higher grades taking a substantially longer time to reach than lower grades. The attribute check also becomes more difficult as the grade increases and the field becomes more demanding. The attribute required varies by downtime skill, but in general artisanal crafts have an associated physical attribute, while studies have an associated mental attribute. Occupations are generally split between physical and mental dependencies. Additionally, some downtime skills may have a bonus or penalty to the advancement check based on the difficulty of the

If an advancement check is failed, additional training time is required before another check can be made. If a total of 3 advancement checks are failed you have reached the peak of your ability with the downtime skill. You may not advance the downtime skill to the next grade; the simple investment of even more time will not cause you to noticeably improve. The following table indicates the base training multipliers for grade training and retry investments as well as the attribute check DCs.

Attempted Grade Training Time Multiplier Retry Time Multiplier Attribute Check DC
I 1x 1x 10
II 2x 1x 16
III 5x 2x 19
IV 10x 5x 22

Advancing With Skill Points[edit]

Skill points from class levels after first level may be used to acquire grades in a downtime skill without spending the requisite training time or passing an advancement check, though it is subject to some limitations. No more than 1 skill point per level may be invested in this way, and no more than 4 skill points at any given time. Any skill points invested in a downtime skill are refunded to the creature after a period of time equal to the normal investment time for the grade that was acquired or when they gain four levels, whichever comes first. The refunded skill points must be invested in a skill normally, and may not be invested in an additional downtime skill.

A level 2 - 5 character may temporarily invest 1 skill point to advance a downtime skill by 1 grade, to a maximum of grade II. A level 6 - 9 character may temporarily invest 1 skill point to advance a downtime skill by 1 grade, to a maximum of grade III. And a level 10+ character may temporarily invest 1 skill point to increase a downtime skill by 1 grade, to a maximum of grade IV. For example, a fifth level character who started with no downtime skills can invest 1 skill point each level from levels 2 through 5 to acquire two different downtime skills at grade II, or a 10th level character who started with no downtime skills can invest 1 skill point each level from levels 7 through 10 to acquire a single downtime skill at grade IV

Downtime Skill Types[edit]

There are two types of downtime skills: occupations and studies. Occupations tend towards creation of goods or rendering of services, while studies tend towards theoretical mastery of a subject. These are not always perfectly clear distinctions, however, as anyone with an occupation will know quite a bit about their field. Someone with a grade II masonry occupation will be able to build buildings similar to those they were trained to build, even if they are unable to develop new styles of building like someone with a study in architecture.


Occupations are downtime skills that represent the knowledge and ability required to perform a day to day job. Some of these are focused on creation, some on services, some on bureaucracy, some on entertainment, and so on. There is a great variety of them that largely depends on the local culture. The following list provides a number of example crafts as well as their time to improve, but it is by no means complete. Actual options available in game will thus depend on the campaign setting.

Note that 'sage' is not included here as an occupation, because that comes about by having a number of studies.

Occupation Base Training Time Maximum Grade
Actor*† 6 months IV
Alchemist 4 years IV
Armorsmith 2 years IV
Baker 6 months IV
Bartender/Innkeeper 3 months III
Blacksmith 1 year IV
Bookbinder 2 years IV
Bonewright 1 year IV
Bowyer 1 year IV
Butler 6 months IV
Carpenter 1 year IV
Chef*† 6 months IV
Clothier / Tailor 1 year IV
Clerk* 6 months III
Courtesan 3 months IV
Farmer 1 year III
Fisherman 6 months IV
Glassblower 2 years IV
Groom 1 month III
Jeweler 2 years IV
Laborer 2 weeks II
Lawyer/Solicitor*† 1 year IV
Lumberman 6 months III
Maid 1 month III
Miner 1 year III
Musician*† 6 months IV
Navigator 3 months IV
Painter*† 1 year IV
Porter 1 month II
Potter 6 months IV
Stonewright 1 year IV
Rancher 1 year III
Sailor 1 month IV
Scribe 6 months IV
Sculptor*† 1 year IV
Servant 1 month III
Shepherd 1 year III
Tanner 6 months IV
Torturer 1 year IV
Valet 6 months IV
Wagon Master 3 months III
Weaponsmith 2 years IV
Weaver 6 months IV
Woodwright 1 year IV
* Requires a specialization, like a particular location, instrument, culture, or style in order to reach Grade III. Multiple specializations may be mastered and grand mastered separately.
† May be pursued part-time, often after a day's work at a standard occupation, though this quadruples the base training time.

Occupation Checks[edit]

Most occupation checks are made on a weekly basis, and characters may take 10 on these checks. When a character makes an occupation check they simply succeed at whatever difficulty their check result would grant them. If this would be insufficient to complete the hardest task they set themselves to during the week, that task is either incomplete or unsatisfactorily complete.

Retries are generally allowed, but don't necessarily cover up a failed attempt. A weaponsmith may try and try again to craft a masterwork blade, even getting to reuse most of the materials, spending only a client's patience. A lawyer who failed to keep his client from prison may try and try again to get him released on a technicality or appeal, but that doesn't undo the time the client spent inside. An actor who performs badly on one night may still make it up on many others.

Occupations vs. Perform[edit]

Perform has been removed, but several class features depend upon it. With downtime skills, bardic music and similar abilities may be used with any musician specialty in which a character has grade II or better. Any class feature that references ranks in perform should instead use a bonus of character level + charisma modifier + 3. Bards gain a grade II musician occupation in any specialty they choose at level 1.


Studies are downtime skills that represent a collection of facts, procedures, or other knowledge gained in a particular topic from scrolls, books, or tutoring. This pool of knowledge may be used to draw up plans for physical objects like homes or catapults (which someone with an appropriate occupation would have to utilize to complete), to provide insight into a bureaucracy or legal system, to amuse or delight guests at a dinner party, or perform similar exploits within the field of study.

Each study that a character takes may be specialized within the field in order to advance more quickly, by reducing the amount of material to master. Planar studies, for example, may be specialized in the elemental plane of earth or the abyss. Other examples of these specializations are listed with the various fields of study. Characters are treated as if they possess a downtime skill grade 2 less than their specialty in closely related specialties. If a character had a Grade III study in the elemental plane of earth, for example, they would be considered to have a Grade I study in all of the other elemental planes.

The following list provides a number of example studies including specializations, but it is by no means complete. The actual options available in game will depend on the campaign setting and culture.

Study Example Specializations
Arcane By wizardly tradition
Architecture Aqueducts and Canals, Buildings, Bridges, Fortifications
Customs and Traditions By culture and/or country
Engineering Land Vehicles, Sea Vehicles, Siege Equipment
Folklore By culture and/or country
Geology Caverns, Flatlands, Mineralogy, Mountains
Geography By continent, region, or plane
History By continent, region, or plane
Law By culture and/or country
Nature By climate and region
Nobility and royalty By culture and/or country
Religion By pantheon or deity
Size of Specialization Base Training Time
Non-specialized 5 years
Very Broad 2 years
Broad 1 year
Standard 6 months
Focused 3 months
Very Focused 2 month
Study Checks[edit]

Study checks represent whether the character previously learned about the topic and can recall it at the time, or whether they can not. Each piece of knowledge potentially learned through a study is assigned a DC according to the above guidelines. When a character wants to determine whether they learned about the topic or not, they make the check. Characters may only take 10 on this check if it relates to one of their specific specializations. A character who fails a check either never studied the particular topic or fails to recall information about it. If the check was failed be 10 or less, however, the character knows where they can go to find the information, whether it is in a library or a visit to a particular person.

Characters will generally recall information about a topic within their specialization, unless the information is more advanced their current Grade in the field. A character with Grade II studies in architecture, for example, does not need to make a check to draw up the plans for a cottage or a castle made with traditional local materials, but they would need to make a check if the plans called for solid gold walls or were of a design from outside their specialization. Similarly, a character with Grade III studies in the astral plane does not need to make a check to remember the existence and function of color pools, though they would need to make checks to recall anything about the social habits of an astral dreadnaught.

Making Things Up
In some games, it will be acceptable for a player with a study to embellish answers to questions within their field if the DM doesn’t have anything more concrete prepared. For example, the player may invent new NPCs who have more information on the subject or make up the mating habits of a tendriculous. If the player wants to make up something that would affect the plot, the DM should try to work with them to guide the answer along acceptable lines. These answers are treated as the actual truth, so far as the character knows anyway, unless the player states a different intent in these situations. The DM can simply declare the character wrong at a later time, of course, as sometimes the things in books can be wrong, but this should be rare in games that allow players to fill in their knowledge gaps. Engaging players in helping to flesh out the game is a great thing, but letting them do it only to later make them wrong on a regular basis just encourages them to stop trying and instead ask the DM for what they know.
Studies vs. Knowledges[edit]

While a study of an appropriate topic will grant you information about creatures, it is not as complete as the related knowledge skill. The less common a creature is, the harder it is to identify with a study. And even when it is identified, the combat capabilities of the creature are rarely revealed unless they are well known. Knowledge skills, by contrast, help a character determine weaknesses and strengths about a creature by inference, without relying on potentially erroneous 'facts' written down in a book. Knowledge skills thus allow a character to identify and analyze obscure and even new creatures, ones that have appeared in zero or few works. When you're staring down a flaying wind, knowledge skills are the ones that will tell you which weapons to use and which to avoid.

Studies may reveal useless details about famous creatures, but they are simply less useful at determining weaknesses than knowledge skills.

Downtime Skills and Prestige Classes[edit]

Any prestige class that requires 8 or less ranks in a removed craft, knowledge, perform, or profession skill instead requires an equivalent grade II downtime skill. If they require 9-13 ranks, they instead requires an equivalent grade III downtime skill. A requirement of 14 or more ranks can be met with an equivalent grade IV downtime skill.

Starting Characters[edit]

Initial Downtime Skills[edit]

A character may begin play with one Grade II artisanal, study, or professional downtime skill of their choice, so long as they succeed on the necessary acquisition check. If they fail, they instead have a Grade I downtime skill, and may retry the acquisition check after investing sufficient retraining time. They may advance this downtime skill additional grades based on the time available between their starting age and the start of the campaign, at the DM’s discretion. The character must still pass all appropriate checks to advance the downtime skill as normal.

Optional Rules[edit]

Languages as Downtime Skills[edit]

Languages represent acquired skill and vocabulary in a language. As there are a wide variety of creatures and cultures in the world, so too are there many languages to study and learn. Knowledge of the spoken words does not grant any ability to read or write the language, however, and neither does literacy grant any ability to speak the language conversationally and understandably.

A creature that possesses the minimum grade in the spoken or written form of a language is minimally proficient in it. They fail to understand almost all idioms and have a limited, if very functional, vocabulary. A creature that possesses a grade above the minimum is fluent in the language. While they may still miss the meaning of some idioms, they otherwise converse or read and write in the language freely and have a large vocabulary. A creature that has attained the maximum grade in a spoken language is almost a native speaker of that language. Their accent is basically undetectable, they understand all but the most obscure or out of date idioms, and their vocabulary covers most of the topics in the language (though it may exclude technical jargon or obscure words that native speakers would need assistance with anyway). Common and undercommon are an exception to this rule, being well-used pidgin languages rather than culturally created ones. Everyone speaks them with an accent of some sort and misses idioms from other parts of the world.

There are some planar languages that do not have a maximum spoken grade, however. Only planar races with the appropriate subtype speak these languages natively, though others can become fluent in them. The conceptual framework and speaking apparatuses are simply too different for non-native speakers to attain that level of mastery over the language.

List of Languages[edit]

The following lists provides a number of example languages as well as the base training time to learn a language based on immersion. The list of languages is by no means complete, though, as the actual options available in game will depend on the campaign setting.

Unlike the acquisition of other downtime skills, spoken and written language acquisition may occur at the same time as another downtime skill is being acquired, so long as the language is primarily used in the culture where you are acquiring the other downtime skill. You may learn spoken and written dwarven while learning weaponsmithing without penalty or additional time investment, for example, so long as you were working in a place where dwarven was the primary language.

Language Spoken Written
Min Grade Max Grade Type Min Grade Max Grade
Abyssal III Infernal Logograph III IV
Aquan III Elemental Syllabary II IV
Auran III Elemental Syllabary II IV
Celestial III Celestial Alphabet I III
Common I II* Common Alphabet I II
Draconic, High (Secret) III Draconic Logograph III IV
Draconic, Low I III Draconic Syllabary I III
Druidic (Secret) II IV Druidic Logograph III IV
Dwarven I III Dwarven Alphabet I III
Elven II IV Elven Syllabary II IV
Giant I III Dwarven Alphabet I III
Gnome I III Dwarven Alphabet I III
Goblin I III Dwarven Alphabet I III
Gnoll I III Common Alphabet I III
Halfling I III Common Alphabet I III
Ignan III Elemental Syllabary II IV
Infernal III Infernal Logograph III IV
Orc I III Dwarven Alphabet I III
Sylvan I III Elven Syllabary II IV
Terran III Elemental Syllabary II IV
Undercommon I II* Common Alphabet I II
* There are no 'native' speakers of these languages and the maximum grade only indicates fluency.
Immersion Level Base Training Time
Language not primary spoken / written language, learned through written / spoken course (i.e. night school) 2 years
Language is primary spoken language, not used in public or private when possible 1 year
Language is primary spoken language, attempted in public but not in private 6 months
Language is primary spoken language, attempted in public and private 3 months
Language is primary written language, not used in public or private when possible 2 years*
Language is primary written language, attempted in public but not in private 1 year*
Language is primary written language, attempted in public and private 6 months*
* Reduce this time by half if you possess a higher grade in a written language that uses the same writing system.

Proficiencies as Downtime Skills[edit]

Proficiencies are downtime skills that consist of knowledge and training in the proper way to wield a weapon or wear a suit of armor. While weapon and armor proficiencies are technically combat-related and are handled by the class system, they are also extremely non-magical abilities that anyone of any level can potentially pick up with enough practice, which is a good fit with the other downtime skills. The ability to wield them well is still strongly tied to level, of course.

To acquire a new proficiency, you simply spend the time required for each grade and make the appropriate checks. If you meet the previous grade requirement of a proficiency, you may skip the earlier grades and simply put in the time needed based on the final grade. For example, if you possessed a +3 base attack bonus and proficiency in all martial weapons, you could skip Grades I and II when attempting to learn an exotic weapon. You would only need to put in the time and rolling that advancing from Grade II to Grade III requires.

Unlike other downtime skills, the time required to learn a new weapon or armor proficiency is directly related to your base attack bonus. Characters with more physical combat training and experience simply learn these things more quickly.

Attack Bonus
Training Time
+0 2 days
+2 1 day
+4 4 hours
+6 2 hours
+8 1 hour
+10 30 minutes
+12 15 minutes
+14 8 minutes
+16 4 minutes
+18 2 minutes
+20 (and above) 1 minute
Previous Grade Requirement
Simple Weapon I
Martial Weapon II Base attack bonus +1, proficiency with 10 or more simple weapons
Exotic Weapon III Base attack bonus +3, proficiency with 10 or more martial weapons
Siege Weapon II Base attack bonus +2, proficiency with 4 or more siege weapons
Light Armor I
Medium Armor II Base attack bonus +1, proficiency with 3 or more light armors
Heavy Armor II Base attack bonus +2, proficiency with 3 or more medium armors
Exotic Armor III Base attack bonus +3, proficiency with 3 or more heavy armors
Buckler or Light Shield I
Heavy Shield II Base attack bonus +1, proficiency with light shield
Tower or Exotic Shield III Base attack bonus +3, proficiency with heavy shield

Bonus Languages[edit]

For each bonus language that a character is entitled to, they may select a language from the list and gain Grade II competency in that language. They must select spoken and written languages separately, however. If they desire, they may sacrifice a Grade II language to gain 2 langauges at Grade I, or to promote an existing Grade II language to Grade III.

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