When playing/running a RPG it can be very easy to get caught up in the dramatic and swept away with the tides of high adventure. However, there is also a need for the normal to exist. The normal grounds things in the world you've created and gives a basis of comparison. More importantly, it lets you ground the characters and show who they are when the fate of the world doesn't hang in the balance. Today, I want to talk about htat.
Who Are You?
Like I said in the above blurb, the focus on normal time can show who a person is when the chips aren't on the table. Stories are chock full of people who become truly noble, heroic, great, or terrible people when things are on the line, but what about when things aren't on the line? Think back to some of your favorite characters. How many of them do you like because you think it'd be fun to have a beer with them? How many do you like because they're just "totally bad ass when the chips are down"? I'm sure there are a bunch for both, but the ones that stick with you beyond the "that's awesome!" factor tend to be the ones we see some normal stuff with.
What Is The World?
What applies to the characters also applies to the world. How well defined is your world? How strong is it when you don't have a meteor about to strike it, or some other reason for people to band together? You may think this is meaningless, but at the same time take a look at a movie like 'Crash'. In that movie you see two very different portrayals of the two cop characters. The first is when things are normal, the second is when there is tension in the air. You also see how the people around them react to things. Where there is prejudice and simple racism flying around, once the chips are down people tend to flock together. Still, who wants to save a world where - when life isn't on the line - you get treated like crap? Some do, sure, but not many PCs get tested on that.
Tension Breaks are Awesome
The other important thing about 'normal' time is to give a break from the tension. Even comic book characters, y'know the ones with 30-70 years of adventure under their belt, get quiet moments. Bruce has his quiet days where he gets to try to relax with the rest of the bat family, Clark has his time with Lois, Diana goes back to the amazonian isles to visit friends. These tension breaks are great because they let everyone catch their breath for the next story, but they also let us see what is important to the character.
Think about it, when there is nothing going on Bruce seems happier to hang around the house and watch movies with Dick/Tim/Damian/Cassandra/Stephanie than he does out on the town. Oliver Queen (Green Arrow) on the other hand, pre marriage, would be out on the town looking for women. Terry would be trying to spend time with Dana and holding his relationship there. Three different characters, and we get to see just how different they are by how they relax.
How To Do It?
This is the easiest part of all though. How do you give 'normal' time in your game? Quite simply you just stop throwing things at your PC. Give them some time between arcs - or even just acts - to grab a breather and relax. Have a fun session where you hop from PC to PC and go about their daily routine. Stress that this is a chance to relax, and see who keeps working and who actually has their character relax. Give your players the chance, let them surprise you with how much more developed they can make their characters.