There will be few, if any, new articles in the month of June. As I prepare for a vacation, I pause to think where adventurers might go when they want to relax? True relaxation does require the comforts and sheltering arms of an established civilization, which not every dungeons and dragons campaign world can offer. In the Dark Sun setting, for example, I doubt “sunbathing” is a leisure activity on Athas.
Every now and again, characters deserve a break, but that doesn’t mean the players can’t still be playing. Here are a few ideas for leisure activities in the standard mortal realm of the DnD universe.
Visit a Resort
Every city, every government, every empire has wealthy citizens, nobles and merchants who like to spend money. That means a campaign world needs to have places for them to do so. In my home campaign, I have a custom region (Silvercrow) nestled in the Living Forgotten Realms world. In the Silvercrow region, Silvercrow is the main city, but there are several villages dotting the region that each have unique tourist attractions.
The most luxurious is Stonybrook– a village somewhat akin to “Wine Country”, “Martha’s Vinyard”, or here in Wisconsin, “Door County”. Attractions include the manufacture of fine food and drink, horse riding and breeding, lush countryside, the relaxing ambiance of a monastery, and various leisure sports such as archery, fly-fishing, and outdoor games. Although Stonybrook is a somewhat remote village, it is kept safer than most areas, as the regional training barracks for guards is also located here.
Somewhat similar to Stonybrook is the village of Berrydel. As the name might imply, this village is focused on agriculture. It sews larges quantities of various kinds of produce — fruits, nuts, vegetables, and teas. Visiting this area is somewhat similar to what one might experience visiting an Amish store, or a general store featuring products from a Native American reservation.
The final tourist destination on the list is rustic village of Lakeside. Although this village is rather poor and run-down, it offers a variety of fishing, hunting, and trapping opportunities for wealthy who like to moonlight as sportsmen. The area is also known for valuable freshwater pearls– which visitors come from around the region to dive for in the summer.
One miscellaneous note here– I’ve decided to catalog the events of my home campaign in a new category entitled the “Silvercrow Times”. In the future, you’ll hear more about the city of Silvercrow, and the villages that surround the region.
Regional or Holiday Festivals
There are a number of holidays and festivals that already exist in the world of dungeons and dragons that can be leveraged as a vacation destination or diversion. Large collections of people bring out merchants, and present great opportunities for specialized shopping, which can be an important event for characters, depending on how much you limit the availability of magic items in your campaign.
The fundamental draw to Silvercrow for the beginning of my home campaign is a tri-annual (once every three years) “Silvercrow Contest of Champions”. A number of events were structured as mini skills challenges and quests, where characters competed in individual events and a group (party) bounty hunt.
Individual events included the “melee mashup” (a melee slugfest), the “bull’s-eye barrage” (ranged contest), the “gauntlet” (just like it sounds), and “arcane tennis” (think Zelda batting energy orbs back and forth with Gannondorf). The group bounty hunt was a series of quests to remove various threats from the region. The tournament has an entry fee, and prizes are awarded for individual events, and for the group event depending on the how well the characters scored in their tasks.
Combat Free Nature Skills Challenges
Is the aging, local herbalist running low on supplies? Has the shepherd lost his sheep? Too often when adventurers are sent on a “quest” to accomplish something, it ends in bloodshed. This doesn’t always have to be the case.
Panning for gold, mining for precious gems, hunting for wild herbs, trapping or netting small game can all be effective diversions from the day-to-day bloodbath of the adventuring lifestyle.
Another more involved idea might include cleaning and leaving offerings at an abandon shrine in the wilderness. Great success might grant a permanent boon, while minor success might grant a temporary blessing. On the other hand, failure might have similar negative effects.
It’s rare to see a casino go out of business. People like to play games, gamble, and win. Even if players rarely “beat the house”, gambling can be an entertaining activity. A session of gambling is a great option because it allows the players to technically be playing DnD, and at the same time, take a break from D&D by supplementing it with “poker night”.
Whatever game(s) you choose to play, this diversion is ripe for segue ways into future encounters. If the players win big, perhaps the casino will give them high-roller treatment with a free suite. The next morning, the players then find they’ve been pick-pocketed and lost most of their winnings. If the players take their winnings and leave, then they might be followed by thugs who observed their good fortune, and would like a cut of the winnings.
Conversely, if the players lose their shirts, they could be forced into “working off” some of their debts to the casino by performing a variety of tasks.
I’ve always felt that any kind of special training available in the character builder should be earned in game, rather than added with a few clicks of the mouse. Training takes time and is never instantaneous. This idea is diversion that is less of “leisure” session as it is the characters trying to better themselves. The characters could seek out a master for training, or you could put a more modern spin on things with a class related “seminar”.
A few sessions worth of grandmaster training could contain many parts– finding the master, convincing them to teach you, and of course, learning. If the group is new, a series of “grandmaster encounters” could take the form of an adventuring college where you review all the movement, skills, and combat actions that can be used. You could also run “simulated” battles to teach basic tactical strategy in a chess-like way. Or if the master has magical resources, the battles could even be real… something comparable to a gladiator arena or Star Trek holodeck.
What Places Have Your Players/Characters Visited?
What do you consider to be “leisure” activities in the world of dungeons and dragons, pathfinder, or any other medieval fantasy game?