RPGaDay2020 Day 13: Rest

The RPGaDay2020 prompts in a map by dunroaminpress

And on the 13th day they rested.

Yesterday in RPGaDay2020 we looked at the Tsili Language of Flowers and the Message you really don’t want to receive.

Today the theme is Rest. But where will we rest? Is it safe? And how much good will it do us?

There is much talk on the internet about the “5 minute working day” for adventurers, where they decide to have a long rest after every battle to replenish resources, spell slots, heal. And I have to say I have seen a bit of a tendency towards this from my party at times.

It is understandable. There is no real-world delay to “we take a long rest” – it’s only an in-story delay, so all other things being equal, why wouldn’t you?

Why not rest?

One reason why not to is for the sake of a story. If you care about your campaign as a story rather than just an attempt to beat the GM, stopping and restarting at every touch and turn really doesn’t fit the story. Also, published adventures (at least from WOTC) are written with the stated expectation of 4-6 encounters per day. If you cut that back to one per day, you’ve just reduced the challenge. Maybe you like everything to be easy, but where’s the sense of achievement in that?

Another reason is for the GM. They’ve put all this effort into planning out a sequence of events, and you’re just bypassing it, not with some clever trick but effectively with time travel.

Now thinking as a GM..what can we do to discourage the 5-minute working day?

The main thing is to remember that the world doesn’t stop just because the party does. If the campaign is wider than just “this dungeon”, the other protagonists will be advancing their plans, and you can bet they won’t waste time on 5-minute working days, so their plans will advance much faster.

The other thing is not to have a safe space in the dungeon. Wandering monsters and unplanned encounters don’t respect adventurers saying “I’m sorry, we’re not available to fight at the moment.” Be careful with this, though. I have definitely had times when I’ve felt I’m verging on “no, you can’t rest now – have a couple of bugbears instead.” Set the background early on so it’s clear there are creatures wandering about, and force the adventurers to work for their rest by (for example) making sure they’re in a secure area and have rammed wedges under the door.

The Angry’s GM’s tension pool can help here by making the build-up of potential unplanned complications visible at the table (not so easy with virtual play in lock-down).

On the other hand, this can veer too far the other way. I have had cases where I realised the party had had quite a few encounters back to back and were justifiably exhausted, but there wasn’t really anywhere safe for them to rest and recuperate, and I have had to actively find somewhere which looks like a safe space for them to recover in.

What’s the benefit?

BECMI Basic Players Manual
BECMI Basic Players Manual

I started playing with the boxed-set D&D – the Basic, Expert, Companion and Master sets known as BECMI (or now OSR – Old-School Revival). Rest wasn’t a thing – there is no mention of healing via rest at all; the only mention in the red book was if you’ve done a forced march more than a certain length of time you have a penalty on attacks. The only relevance was a night’s rest where you got to learn your spells for the day.

Checking the AD&D rulebook, I see they had a small mention – you heal 1hp per day, or 5hp per day after you’ve had a full 30 days rest. Thinking back, I may have imported that into my BECMI games in the same way I imported the Good/Neutral/Evil alignment axis (BECMI had just Lawful, Neutral and Chaotic and it was assumed that Lawful implies Good and Chaotic implies Evil).

Fast forward to nowadays, and the most serious of wounds heals completely overnight! That still feels too much for me.

On the other hand, the “gritty realism” variant in the RAW swings too far the other way – a short rest = 8 hours and a long rest = 7 days. That means it takes a week to replenish your spell slots.

I’m still experimenting trying to find a balance which feels right to me.

From a point of view of non-hp resources, in particular spell slots, the current short rest/long rest of 1hr and 8hrs feels right. It’s the healing which feels too enthusiastic for my taste.

Here is my current house rule:

  • On a short rest, you can spend one hit dice to heal if you use a healer’s kit
  • On a long rest you heal more – up to half your hit dice if you use a healer’s kit, or half a single hit dice otherwise. Roll your hit dice, add your constitution modifier and divide by two to see how much you heal by. This does not affect your available healing hit dice for short rests. You also regain one spent healing hit dice.

However, I’m still not convinced I’ve got the balance right.

Now that the characters are getting higher level, a single hit dice of healing possibly feels stingy, and regaining only one spent hit dice per long rest feels definitely stingy.

On the other hand, healing half the hit dice on a long rest in practice seems to mean not much difference from full healing, since most of the time the characters are not on the verge of death, but are sufficiently healthy that they tend to roll well enough to heal most of their remaining damage.

Maybe I’ll try scaling hit dice healing by level:

  • On a short rest, you can spend up to one quarter of your hit dice (rounding up) to heal if you use a healer’s kit

I’ll also hard-code the expectation of 2 short rests per day as a limit:

In general, over the course of a full adventuring day, the party will likely need to take two short rests, about one-third and two-thirds of the way through the day.

Basic Rules, DM, p. 57/DMG p. 84

Now, how many hit dice to recover in a long rest? 1 feels too few. RAW says half your hit dice (presumably rounding down since it doesn’t say explicitly).

So for example,

  • at level 5 you could spend 2 hit dice per short rest, 4 in a day, and regain 2 hit dice in a long rest
  • at level 6 you could spend 2 hit dice per short rest, 4 in a day, and regain 3 hit dice in a long rest
  • at level 10 you could spend 3 hit dice per short rest, 6 in a day, and regain 5 hit dice in a long rest

How much healing per long rest then? In this case I’m feeling the current amount of HD/2 is too generous. I suppose the question is how long should it take someone to heal back to full health without using magic. My feeling is I want to aim for about a week (but maybe I’m just aiming for too much realism rather than letting the story flow).

  • HD/2 would expect to roughly heal from death’s door to full capacity in a couple of days.
  • HD/6 would expect to take nearer a week, but would then have the weird situation that short rest healing (>= HD/2) is far more than long rest healing.

Maybe the trick is to combine the two. You naturally heal HD/6 overnight, but you can spend up to half your hit dice with the use of 1 healer’s kit charge per HD to increase this.

So this brings us to:

  • On a short rest, you can spend up to one quarter of your hit dice (rounding up) to heal
  • On a long rest, you heal up to one sixth of your hit point total, and can spend additional hit dice up to a total of one half of your hit dice total for additional healing
  • All hit dice healing requires one healers kit charge per hit dice
  • On a long rest you regain half of your hit dice total

Now to run this by the group and try it out…

Come back tomorrow for Day 14, and we’ll look at Banner…and at present I have no idea where that will take me…

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