Review of Unearthed Arcana: Downtime
The Unearthed Arcana is a source both strange and untested. While many great ideas pour from its pages, it should always be considered carefully.
Accessed here: http://media.wizards.com/2017/dnd/downloads/UA_Downtime.pdf
While Unearthed Arcana usually focuses on adding or revising classes, races, skills, and feats for Dungeons and Dragons, this article serves as more of a guide for the DM during periods of downtime when the players are not actively adventuring.
Downtime is an essential part of any campaign and gives players a respite from the tense, violent combat that defines their lifestyle. Most players look forward to a break from dungeon crawling so they can spend their hard earned coins to obtain some new weapons or perhaps spend some time in a gambling hall or pub soaking up the local culture.
I think most experienced DMs and players have a good idea of what their characters want to do during these time periods and DMs can create events and villains to harass them as they see fit. So I see this article, and the one in the DMG that it expands upon, as mostly geared toward beginning players and DMs.
This UA article contains quite a few random tables to stir up interest during downtime, such as a “carousing” check to see if the player has made any new contacts within a designated social class as well as their disposition toward the players. It also includes a table for a random complication that arises during the days spent engaging in that activity. Downtime activities in this article include but are not limited to: religious service, pit fighting, scribing scrolls, and even plain old blue collar work.
Probably the most useful section is the one about the creation of magic items. Tables concerning the rarity of ingredients, the cost, and time to create items are helpful for players and DMs who want a unique treasure to craft for their adventure. In the DMG this section is fairly brief, leaving much to the imagination of the DM. Here however, are some ways to actually roll and determine if creation was successful as well as a complication table to add some spicy RP to your player’s attempt at crafting. I feel that this is an activity that is not often performed in DnD, perhaps due to the danger and the cost involved in creating your own magic item, so this is a nice addition with fleshed out tables.
All in all I feel this UA is a nice effort for expanding the downtime section of the DMG but mostly geared toward new players. Seasoned DMs can probably improvise downtime activities along with suitable foils to counter the player’s efforts without consulting tables to determine their effectiveness. A simple ability or tool proficiency check would most likely be sufficient to determine how successful some carousing or gambling downtime is. It all depends on how complicated the DM wants this downtime activity to be.