What do PCs do after they reach the climatic ending of their latest adventure? Simple, they go on vacation. At least that’s what I assume a lot of PCs do. After all, even an adventurer needs a vacation every now and then.
We rarely play out the parts of the adventurers’ lives when they’re not adventuring. And why would we, it’s probably boring and dull, but that doesn’t have to be the case; especially if the adventurers stay together during their down time. Depending on what the party has accomplished, and the positive or negative reputation they’ve acquired because of it, they may find it beneficial to remain in each other’s company between adventures. After all, if they’ve made powerful enemies then letting everyone go their separate ways with the intent of dropping their guard and relaxing for a few days could be the last thing they ever do. By sticking together the party can afford to let their guard down and relax because they know that if things get ugly for any reason the rest of their crew is nearby to help them out.
Now assuming that your party is made up of adventures of different races, classes, and form different geographic regions, how do they all agree on a place to go when they’re not working? Easy, they take turns deciding. Leaving this kind of choice in the hands of the players could present an excellent opportunity to turn a vacation into an interesting adventure.
I’d suggest that the DM advise the players that they are responsible for planning the next “family” vacation. The players must decide which PC or PCs get to choose what the party does between adventures. The player lucky enough to make this decision then works out the details with the DM.
The most likely scenario is that the party will travel to an appealing destination for some well earned R&R. This might be something as simple as a quiet, sandy beach, but I suspect that the most common destination will be wherever the PC calls home. Chances are that none of the PCs have been home since they began their adventuring career. Each PC may decide that when it’s his turn to plan the vacation he wants to travel to his homeland and visit relatives, especially if he’s left a wife and kids behind. This could be a fun mini adventure as the PCs are thrust into a culture they’ve never experienced before.
There’s a good chance that your PCs, like everyone else’s, are a bunch of adrenalin junkies. If that’s the case then a week on a beach will amount to torture. Perhaps they seek thrills even when they’re relaxing. Competing in or watching organized sporting event could satisfy that thrill itch. Other thrill seekers might want to dive for sunken treasure, climb a mountain, or participate in a high stakes gambling tournament. See the article What Do PCs Do For Fun? for more suggestions.
By actually playing out some vacations, the DM gets a break from creating the adventure on his own. When the player tells the DM where he’d like the party to go and what he’d like the party to do between adventures the two of them can work out the details together. Let the player create some of the NPCs and create some of the maps. This makes perfect sense if the party is going to visit that PC’s home town. The DM can add some adventure to the visit, otherwise it would be a really boring evening of gaming. Just remember that the kind of conflict the PCs face while on vacation are not likely to be the same as those they encounter when actively looking for trouble.
Playing out the stuff that happens between the adventures reminds the players that their PCs have lives outside of adventuring. It’s a chance for them to work on character development and draw on their back-story. If the PCs have an idea of what they see themselves doing after retirement then this is the perfect opportunity to begin laying the groundwork. Most heroes didn’t start their lives as adventurers and this down time may be a good opportunity for them to get back to their roots. In the article Get a Real Job we explored this very notion of what the PCs might have done before they became adventurers.
Remember that PCs may earn enough XP to level multiple times during a longer adventure, but in the game world time needs to pass in order for them to practice the skills and powers that improved by leveling (something that many players an DMs forget to account for in their campaigns). Making the vacations part of the gaming experience reminds players of the passage of Time in D&D. DMs may even want to implement a new house rule that PCs can’t actually “spend” XP they’ve earned to level up until they’ve taken some time off. Watch how fast the players get behind in-game vacations in this eventuality.
Playing out the stuff that happens in between adventures is certainly not something that will appeal to every gaming group, especially the hack and slash players. But for players looking for more chances to role-play their character and develop actual characteristics that don’t involve swinging a sword, this kind of side trek may the perfect avenue for doing so. I don’t see any vacation lasting more than one gaming session, but it could represent months or years in-game. I’d suggest groups try a vacation adventure and see how it works. If you hate it then keep playing the game as you’ve done all along. But if your group enjoys the change of pace then perhaps, as in real life, the PCs should take a vacation a few times a year.