Eirik, with his brand new (to him) smithy, spends the winter repairing vardatches, daggers, and any other metal items that are brought to him and his business. As a highly skilled blacksmith, it's not long before word is spread of his capabilities which brings the customers from throughout the town. Though, it's not just his skill, but the fact that he's a memeber of Krogan's elite squad that brings other customers who seek to gain favor with him, offering gifts, bargains, and family members to get on his good side. Aside from his income and the distractions his customers provide, Eirik can't seem to get his mind off of the boats that he "reclaimed" from the brigands shortly before Winter and the thought of leading some men to take them out on the open sea to not only go trading, but raiding and reaving as well.
Deirik spends his Winter training with Lyra to become a Nephilim. She teaches him how to breach security, stalk a target, and study the target to take them out with a single strike. In his free time, he takes a job as a dock inspector. Having been on the other side of this task as a smuggler, he's confident that he can handle this job well enough to verify any goods that are incoming or outgoing are legally approved. Though, if he finds any illegal goods, he's certainly not above taking a bribe either. While the Winter has frozen these Northern rivers, the industrial Gnomish people do have ice skimming barges they sail about to keep trade flowing. By the end of the Winter, having spent so much time together, there's a spark of interest between Deirik and Lyra and they agree to continue their lessons the following Winter.
Boldulf spends most of his time just outside of town trying to find and connect with the local wolf packs, preferring them to humans. To bring in money, he'll do some hunting while he's out and about and bring in the meat for sale. Boldulf has been on his own, living outside of civilization long enough that the Winter only slows him down, but doesn't confine him. During this Winter, he's able to find and make contact with the three wolf packs that call the greater Alucardian area home, and, in the process, loses a piece of his humanity to the beast within.
Ygvard's winter is spent in the Temple of Izrador. As Krogan's new apprentice, he's being taught everything he needs to know to become a proper Legate which includes prayers, etiquette, vernacular, spells, and rituals. While this does not generate income per se, Krogan has been generous with the players in giving them the warehouse in which they live and providing them the goods and wealth they've needed to perform their missions and adventures thus far. Over the course of this Winter, Ygvard has become decently versed in the religion of the Shadow, and has assisted in performing the temple rituals that keep the Black Mirror of Izrador fed with blood sacrifices. Krogan also gifts Ygvard his plate armor, as he now dons the magical plate that was taken from Voldash.
By the end of the Winter, while each of them has brought in some income such that they at least made money over the Winter, it certainly wasn't enough for them to improve their lifestyle at all.
GM Note: I believe downtime is very important to a successful game, much like the owner of this blog (reference here). In this game, I use it for several reasons.
- It marks the passage of time. If I were to continue running adventure after adventure, it would feel like the characters are simply having the "craziest year of their lives" as they go from level 1 to 20. It shouldn't be that way, each level should be an achievement that the player feels like their character has earned over the course of a long period of time.
- It allows for skill/feat/class work. What I mean by that is the players, when they level, increase skills, take new feats, or may take a level of a different class (prestige or otherwise). Taking some downtime allows the player to say "over this downtime, my character is working on his appraisal skill" such that when they level up and raise that appraisal skill is isn't some magical revelation like "wow, now that I've leveled, I can tell you this diamond is definitely worth 570gp. Not sure what I was thinking 5 minutes ago when I said 200gp."
- It brings the setting more to life, at least in this case. The players, right now, are in the frigid North. So, when the Winter comes, it comes with a fury. It brings snow drifts, blizzards, and frozen rivers. If the players kept adventuring during this, it wouldn't be realistic and would short-change the environment they've chosen to play within.