Animal Crossing: New Horizons has released recently, and many people (myself included) are already falling in love with it. For those of you not aware, Animal Crossing is a video game where you live in a world alongside animal villagers. There’s no real story to the game; you just get to do whatever you want, whether that’s catching fish, planting flowers, or decorating your home. It’s literally downtime: the game. So what does everyone’s infatuation with Animal Crossing have to do with Dungeons and Dragons? What can this game teach us about down time between adventures?
Players will do anything for gold
The main driving force behind Animal Crossing is its currency. It’s how you improve buildings, get different items to decorate, and get clothing. Even though there is no objective to push towards, players still perform menial tasks to earn this currency. It’s not that different in D&D. In D&D the most common reward for adventuring is gold. However, I’ve rarely heard of players being rewarded with gold for accomplishing small tasks that don’t deal with the main adventure. Gold can be used to incentivize your players into activities that build on the story in more ways than the adventure. After all, a story is the sum of its parts, so when you take the time to strengthen your characters you’ll strengthen your story by an equal amount.
Customization is key
As I’ve stated before, one of the ends that Animal Crossing players strives for is customization. Whether it’s their town, their home, or even their outfit. Players will start their D&D adventure with a character designed by themselves. This design doesn’t have to stay static though. Much like magic items become part of the identity of a character, so can mundane items. A shirt, a hat, even a sword scabbard can always benefit from a makeover. Your players will love their characters even more if they get to find more clothing to accessorize themselves. It helps pull players into the story, lets them contribute to it how they want, and everyone has fun!
NPCs are more than quest givers
One of the constants I’ve seen on social media since the release of Animal Crossing is the multitude of posts highlighting the villagers. Everyone loves the cute interactions these critters provide. This translates real well into our D&D games. There are already stories of beloved NPCs: Gilmore, Lup, Gilear. We can create these beloved characters too, using what we see from Animal Crossing. The villagers are not exactly adored for their usefulness, so the answer doesn’t lie in giving them more quests to give. Rather, the villagers are known for the things they say and do. So how do we bring that to D&D? Give your NPCs more opportunities to show their personality! It’s best to do this during down time. Sure, an adventure can ramp up the tension for character interactions, but it doesn’t leave a lot of time to get to know each other. Down time provides the perfect backdrop to have conversations with NPCs and learn which ones your players love.
Some players time travel
One of the more contentious sections of players are the time travelers. These are players who want to skip to the points of progress in the game by changing their system’s date. This translates into a small but important lesson for us: some players just want action. They would rather skip down time altogether and get right to the adventure. It’s important to listen to the wants of all your players and adjust accordingly. So make sure you’re striking that nice balance of adding more facets to the story with the core of the story itself.
Animal Crossing teaches us that games don’t have to always be going at a breakneck pace. Sometimes you have to stop and smell the roses. By utilizing downtime, you can give your players a chance to grow their characters and showcase the gentler sides of your world. How do you use downtime?Is it a special occasion for your players? A shopping episode? Or does your group simply skip to the next relevant part of the adventure? Let me know down below!