Resting revisited

In the summer, I discussed resting and house rules. It’s time to revisit it after another few months playing.

Coming from the BECMI boxed sets, the 5th edition resting rules seemed unrealistically generous to me, particularly the fact that characters completely heal on a long rest.

Photo by JJ Jordan on Unsplash

I considered the “gritty realism” option in the DMG, where a short rest is 8 hours and a long rest is a week, but this misses the point and the problem – I don’t want to change the size of a rest, I want to reduce the effectiveness so that healing takes longer.

I have been working with the following 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.

We have just had a quest where the party were time-limited. This provided a good test of the impact of the resting rules…and showed that they are unbalanced for fifth edition.

A woman had been abducted, and the party had to investigate the catacombs under the city to try to find and rescue her. This was based on one of the early adventures in the Kobold Press Empire of the Ghouls, tweaked to increase the challenge because it was aimed at a level 2-3 party and we have a level 5 party.

However, it’s a level 5 party consisting of a rogue, a bard, a wizard, a sorcerer and a warlock – all more fragile characters. Our tank, a cleric, was an early casualty of lockdown and going online – his player spends all day on the computer and found that continuing in the evening was just giving him migraines. And we have also more recently lost a second rogue whose player has found online play unsatisfying.

So the play progressed. Initial battles were trivial and overcome with little effort so I started tweaking the encounters, adding more ghouls, upgrading a suit of animated armour to CR3 by increasing its hit dice, number of attacks and damage, and changing a ghoul to a darakhul. They ended up taking two short rests to heal and allow the warlock to regain his spell slots, and then they encountered the darakhul, who proved pretty tough for them without a tank. It wasn’t helped by the wizard, who had just acquired fireball, deciding to fire it into a 25′ square room. 1257 square feet (area of a circle of radius 20) doesn’t fit into 625, so it billowed back out of the doorway, and several of the PCs got caught in the back-blast.

With the minimal healing they had been able to gain from the short rests, several of them were already pretty badly hurt, and they still had a whole other section of the quest to complete. Intelligent use of hypnotic pattern and sleep plus other intelligent play allowed them to survive and win the encounter despite some characters on single-digit hit points, but it was a close-run thing.

The fights with the animated armour and darakhul were enjoyable and exciting, but they showed up how inconsequential this house-rule healing actually is now the PCs have reached higher levels. They might as well not have had short-rest healing. Time for a rethink.

Reviewing the rules as written, we have:

  • on a short rest, you can spend hit dice to heal
  • on a long rest, you heal fully and regain spent hit dice up to half your maximum

I still object to this “heal fully overnight”, but I do need to make the short rests more impactful. So we’re now going to try:

  • On a short rest, you can spend hit dice to heal as per normal rules. This requires one use of a healer’s kit per hit dice healed.
  • Long rest healing is slower than normal:
    • on a long rest you heal up to half your hit dice if you use a healer’s kit, or a quarter of your hit dice otherwise. Roll your full hit dice, add your constitution modifier per dice, and then divide by the appropriate factor, rounding down.
    • This does not use up the short rest healing hit dice.
    • You also regain spent short rest healing hit dice up to half your total as per normal rules.

I.e. short rest reverts to RAW, but consumes healer’s kits, and the long rest regains the normal number of spent hit dice while still not healing fully.

Check back in a few months to see how we get on with this…

Leave a Reply