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In the 5e Adventurer’s League 7.0 Guide, there’s an option listed for players to “catch up”:

Downtime: Catching Up. Sometimes you might like to advance to the next tier to catch up with friends, play new adventures, etc. “Catching Up” is an available option at 4th, 10th, and 16th level, and advances your character to the next tier of play. In order to do so, you must pay a number of downtime days determined by your current level, as follows...

Is there context necessary for a character to invoke the Catching Up clause? For example, if a character is adventuring in a different game to catch up with friends in a separate game, can a player invoke this in their logsheet to catch up or are they limited by the current adventure? If it is limited by the current adventure, then what about campaigns like Tomb of Annihilation where Tier 1 characters can stumble into Tier 2 and 3 areas. Do players have autonomy to invoke this between sessions or is this completely at the whim of your DM that day?

In sum, is this a “private” player autonomous action on the character's log sheet - or is this an action that requires a DMs exclusive permission?

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This is an autonomous action that a player can invoke. They don't necessarily need to be playing an adventure to invoke Downtime. Downtime in general is sort of treated like a special currency in this way. Expect table variance on how Downtime is spent during a session. I've had DMs rule both ways on if Downtime takes up in-game adventure time.

Quote from the ALPG v7.0 (pg.3):

Downtime activities occur before, while, or after you play an adventure.

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The Rules

The table DM has absolutely no authority over what actions you take between sessions; the Adventurers League rules provide "Catching Up" as an option, and those rules trump any individual table DM's opinion. In fact, there are quite a few AL-determined metarules a DM must follow for the game to count as an AL game in the first place.

The Reality

For a persistent group with a persistent DM, you should ask the DM what they'd prefer and go along with it. The DM always has the authority to control who sits down at the table - they can't be forced to run for anybody they don't want to. You wouldn't want them to deny you playing at the table by doing something they specifically asked you not to do, even if the AL metarules allow it.

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