Sunday, 22 March 2020

5e haven turn: things to do during downtime

My players are putting down roots. No, not in the half-treant kind of way (although I wonder about our druid), but in the sense of building a place for themselves in the local community. Which means that downtime to do things around the village is just as interesting as a good adventure.

Here's a menu of options to give some more crunch to downtime. The framework is Papers & Pencils' Haven Turn, reworked for D&D 5e and my own campaign specifically. See this as a starting point, not a list that limits what is possible.


Papers and Pencils has his haven turn as one of the units of in-game time; combat round, exploration turn, wilderness travel watch, haven turn. His haven turns 'round out' the rest of the month until the next adventure.

In my view, haven turns or downtime are stretches of low-risk, time. Narratively, they work as a counterpoint to short, high-risk adventures. The players are in the driver's seat during a haven turn and can set long term plans in motion. Haven turns can morph into planning sessions and regular adventures or the other way around. They take place between more phrenetic and high-risk travel through dangerous terrain, dungeon delves, heists and so on.

As in P&P's original, players get one free haven turn for every two sessions spent adventuring (round up); they can take more haven turns, but run the risk of complications as they pay attention to their own affairs instead of to dastardly plots.


Haven turns are 'enough time to take care of some affairs'; they round out the rest of the month until the next adventure begins, disaster happens, players embark on a trip to clear out a wyvern's nest and so on.

To structure things, the DM goes around the table to ask how everyone wants to spend their haven turn; once there's a good overview, you then play out or summarize the results. Player actions can take negligble time, half a haven turn or an entire haven turn.

If the players want to take more haven actions than they have time for, they can choose to take another haven turn or break up part of their actions to be completed in a future haven turn.

Finally, if you have a background timer for war, plague or intrigue, roll an appropriate encounter.

Haven free actions
Cost negligable time during a haven turn. Basically a reminder to do your bookkeeping.

Haven actions
These take up half a haven turn each. A player can take an action marked * twice a haven turn to make faster progress in training/crafting.
  • buy basic gear, spells and potion recipes
  • training (see below) in a new skill/language/tool *
  • work on creating items such as potions and potions (see below) *
  • gather information by talking to NPCs
  • recruit NPCs for an adventure

Haven extended activities

These activities take up a full haven turn or more. Activities can be spread out over multiple haven turns if players want to also spend time on other activities.
Training a new ability generally takes time, a trainer and money to pay them. You can train two abilities simultaneously by splitting your time.
  • write a spell you have access to into your spellbook: (50 gp + 2 hours) * spell level
    (here for completeness' sake)
  • language or tool proficiency: 250 gp and 1.5 full haven turns
  • skill: 500 gp and 1.5 full haven turns
  • saving throw proficiency: 1500 gp and 2 full haven turns 
  • ability score: increase an ability score by 1, up to 20: (new score) x 100 gp and 1.5 haven turns
  • feat: 1500 gp and 3 full haven turns
 Crafting items 
You're creating a magic item or an alchemical potion, or crafting a regular item. The item's cost in raw materials is half its sale value.
  • Crafting a magic item takes a fullhalf haven turn per category of rareness. You need a minimum caster level to craft a magic item or potion, given in the table below.
  • Crafting weapons or regular items takes a full haven turn. (5e PHB p149-150)
  • Crafting light or medium armor takes a full haven turn, heavy armor takes 2 full haven turns.
Buying or commissioning a magic is a matter of finding the right person and paying them for their time - in coins, gems, art or most likely all that and favors. The price is the sale value plus or minus a few percent for haggling or insulting the master crafter. The crafter may not have the item in stock, lack ingredients, require a favor, etc. etc.

 Magic items
item sale value (gp)
very rare
5000 - 50000


potion value (gp)

very rare


Spend too much time away from your troubles, and they will multiply and seek you out. The first haven turn per two sessions (round up) is free of hassle, but take extra haven turns and you can expect complications.

  1. War or plague brewing, or worse? Roll an appropriate encounter. (war, plague)
  2. Check for haven complications on the table below.
Haven complications (d4)
  1. natural disaster strikes
  2. spree of crime and violence
  3. relieve an ongoing condition
  4. you hear a rumor
Where? (d8)
1-3) home town
4-6) barony   
7-8) duchy

Who? (d8)
1) religious
2-3) nobility
4-6) commoner
7) wizards
8) monster

1) Natural disaster strikes (d10)
Conditions with an * are ongoing until relieved by a roll on the haven complication table or resolved by the players. Dermine the where and who with the tables above.
  1. drought * - crops and livestock hit, rationing, tax on well use, drinking waste water, disease
  2. earthquake - buildings wrecked, landmarks altered, roads broken up
  3. famine * - crop failure or supply issues drive up prices. Looting, raiding, starvation, death
  4. fire - injury and death, landmark buildings and town quarters wrecked, forests or fields burned
  5. flood - river overflows or lake rises, sweeps away travelers, buildings, roads, food and drink
  6. monster rampage * - a plague of many or rampage of one; hides well or is plain unbeatable
  7. pestilence * - a minor pestilence, can grow into a real plague if unchecked for 4 haven turns
  8. storm - lightning, blizzard, gale force winds whip the sea, land, travelers, buildings
  9. dread omen - everyone saw the comet, eclipse, mass bird death or mirage, speculation is rife
  10. unsettling prophecy - a creepy prediction is making the rounds, but none know its meaning

2) Spree of crime and violence (d8)
  1. burglary streak * - a ruthlessly clever gang is taking on well-guarded marks
  2. high profile assassination - person of power and influence is murdered - why, and who's next?
  3. arson - someone with a deep love of fire is burning down property left and right
  4. robber band * - violent and with undeniable panache, always a step ahead of the lord's men
  5. serial murders * - with a signature move, hunting tax men, spiderlings, whores or sailors
  6. insurrection * - peasant uprising, guild protests, merchant embargo or mercenary troubles
  7. inquisition * - the Order of the Ivory Candle investigates rumors of heresy and apostasy
  8. warlockry * - a dangerous warlock or necromancer walks the land and none are safe

3) Relieve an ongoing condition
An ongoing natural disaster or crime spree ends.

4) You hear a rumor (d4)
  1. Travelers or a bard bring useful news. Ask the DM for a rumor about anything you like.
  2. The bard has information about a cool dungeon. Co-create it.
  3. There is talk of a magic item auction - perhaps the ghouls or fairies know more.
  4. You meet a group of people willing to follow you into danger in return for pay.

1 comment:

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