Posted in Tools & Techniques

Savage Worlds Moonlighting Downtime Mechanics

Some games get pretty ridiculous, with characters going from farmers to gods in a matter of in-game months. Sometimes, for various reasons, you want to have a few weeks of in-game downtime between or during sessions. Apocalypse World has a great mechanic for this and I’ve altered it to make a Savage Worlds version that we’re now using in my 1-on-1 city-based home game. I’ll present the mechanics, then a little explanation on the design.


Whenever there’s a stretch of downtime in play, or between sessions, choose a number of gigs to work. Choose no more than the number of dice you have in Smarts. Describe a gig then roll your wild die and the relevant skill, like Fighting for protection gigs, Stealth for picking pockets, or Investigation for academic research.

  • On a raise, you get profit from the gig you chose; if you get multiple raises that means exceptional success, perhaps extra pay, recognition or connections.
  • On a success, you get profit but with some complication (or failure but you got out of it clean: no profit, no fallout, no hard feelings).
  • On a failure, you failed the gig and suffer some fallout, like lingering wounds from a protection gig gone wrong, fines or jail time for criminal activities, and maybe someone is mad at you.
  • On snake eyes, double ones, you can’t roll for any more gigs this session and your failure was a fiasco: someone is definitely mad at you, you’ve probably lost something you care about, and the trouble is immediate.

The GM should discuss any profit, complications or fallout with you. If you didn’t roll snake eyes, you can now roll again for any remaining gigs.

It’s heavily based on the Apocalypse World version which, if you don’t own the game, you can check out in the free playbook downloads; moonlighting is one of the Operator’s moves. In AW you roll once for all your gigs combined, using the main stat of the ‘class’. I decided I wanted this to be a mechanic any SW character could use, so I’ve generalised it. I also then adjusted it to take multiple raises and critical failure into account, just for fun and granularity.

Gigs can be anything the character has the skill and opportunity to do. If you have a high boating skill and you could reasonably get sailor’s work or own a boat you can ferry people on, that’s a gig. Gambling can be a gig. Most skills should work fairly well.

It’s the profit and failure that require the most thought on the part of the GM. I haven’t listed what the profit would be because it’ll be different depending on how long the downtime was, what sort of gigs the character did, and so on. AW does list some gigs and their profit (1-barter, 2-barter, etc.) but SW isn’t that abstract. Profit can also be information, if you’re doing some research on strange magical runes, or could be connections and friends if you’re using persuasion or streetwise to schmooze with the nobles or bar flies. It’s intentionally left open for the GM and player to discuss.

One last thing worth noting is that regular success comes with complications. I took inspiration for this from AW and the way I like to run my games. It turns the mechanic into not just a profit machine for PCs, but also a story machine for GMs. So, PC, you took a protection gigs and failed? Well, maybe you’re on 2 wounds and the person you were protecting has gone into lockdown: no chance of pay now. Snake eyes? Well, you really screwed up:  2 wounds, the person you were supposed to protect has been kidnapped (or killed) and now the ones who did it are after you too, hot on your trail. No time for any other gigs. What do you do?

Savage Worlds Deluxe has the Interlude mechanic too, but moonlighting is a different flavour. I’m pretty excited about it. I hope you enjoy using it too. And if you do – or have some other downtime mechanics you like – I’d love to hear about it.

Happy moonlighting!




I live in Canberra, Australia. I love games and stories.

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