D&D 5th Edition Warlock, Hex, and Short Rests: The Bag of Rats Problem
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  1. #1

    Warlock, Hex, and Short Rests: The Bag of Rats Problem

    First, I'm aware there was a recent thread about this that was closed by mods. I'm posting because I found that thread to be a somewhat frustrating experience while looking for a rules clarification / discussion on this issue. So what I want to do here is summarize the useful parts of that discussion and re-open it--hopefully without the bickering that lead to the original post being closed.

    First, the issue:

    By RAW, it seems like a player can long rest, cast Hex on any creature (say, a small mammal, leading to the character carrying around a "bag of rats") using a 3rd level spell slot or higher, and then immediately short rest while maintaining concentration to regain the spell slot. Now the character is concentrating on Hex with 7 hours (or 23 hours for 5th level slots and above) of spell duration left, but has full spell slots. (A separate but related issue is whether a fiend patron warlock would also gain temporary hit point from Dark One's blessing).

    This question in the earlier thread seems to have elicited three main types of reaction:

    1) You can't maintain concentration over a short rest.

    2) This is gaming the system and should not be tolerated.

    3) This is fine.


    I'll try to summarize each of these in view of launching a renewed discussion.

    1) You can't maintain concentration over a short rest.

    There was some discussion as to whether the correct question is "can you concentrate while short resting?" or "can you short rest while concentrating?". Both are separate questions.

    a) The rules seem clear that you can concentrate while casting other spells, or attacking, or running full speed until exhausted, or any number of things more challenging, mentally taxing, or exhausting than resting. And Mike Mearls has tweeted in support of this position, although it was pointed out that he does not issue rules clarifications, only opinions. Still, there's certainly no indication in the rules that short resting ends concentration.

    b) Whether you can gain the benefits of a short rest while concentrating on a spell is arguably less clear. However, the simple fact that Hex (and Hunter's Mark) has up to a 24 hour duration with concentration suggests that RAI you can. This comes down to a question of whether concentrating on a spell is "... more strenuous than eating, drinking, reading, and tending to wounds." The problem is that the description of concentration doesn't address this. To my mind, the fact that you can cast another spell or run a marathon or (maybe) fall into lava without breaking concentration suggests that it's not all that strenuous. But I wouldn't be overly unhappy with a DM who ruled that you can't short rest while concentrating--although I think any DM doing so should be aware that they're probably weakening Warlocks and Rangers somewhat more than was intended. Otherwise, why bother with the long duration on Hex and Hunter's Mark? It seems fairly clear they're intended to last longer through a short rest, although certainly the game could've been clearer on that point.

    2) This is gaming the system and should not be tolerated.

    Honestly, as a player playing a Warlock who realized (as far as I understood RAW) that this mechanic was possible, this was my first reaction. I thought, "wait, so I would benefit from carrying a bag of rats around and murdering one every morning? That's... that can't be right."

    But after thinking about it a while, I came to something closer to the view of one of the posts on the first page of that prior thread that got subsequently ignored: "I don't know, torturing rats seems pretty well in line with the attitude of many patrons...". Seriously. I have a fiend patron. I get temporary hit points for killing things, and if I kill something I hexed I can hex something else. And if I rest for an hour or so I can cast all my spells again. My character knows all these things, and can put it together as well as I, the player, can. Do we even know for certain that this is not intended?

    Certainly this wouldn't be acceptable behavior for most people. But most people aren't adventurers who have made a pact with some otherworldly creature, which has then granted them powers. Power which, unless your answer to item #1 is no, are helped slightly by murdering something--anything!--and then taking a break afterwards. What's wrong with a small sacrifice...? Certainly this wouldn't be acceptable for an LG character, or arguably maybe even any G character. If I were DMing a G character doing this I'd want to have a talk with them about the ethics of their behavior, and what it might mean for their alignment long term. But for most other characters this is probably entirely reasonable behavior, given that they live in a world where this clearly benefits them, and they're no stranger to killing things.

    With that said, if you object to the "bag of rats" (which, let's be honest, is basically understandable--it's somewhat obnoxious to manage and is pretty weird behavior, even if "my patron likes it" is a fully rationale in-game reason for doing it), you have two basic options for responding that I can see:

    First, you can rule "no, you can't do that." That's fine, but your player will probably want to know, mechanically, why (note that you're entitled to say "because I think it's cheesy and makes the game less fun," or something to that effect). Other than saying that the answer to #1 above is "no", which has much broader implications and really does specifically nerf warlocks, the main option here seems to be to say that short resting after a long rest does not result in any additional benefits. The counter-argument here is that the end of the long rest results in concrete benefits, which the character has received, and then the character goes and does something else, rests for an hour, and gains the benefit a short rest. You can rule how you want here as always, but it's hard to see how "taking away" the short rest from players here makes very much sense either RAW or RAI. If you do, there's a real sense in which you're incentivizing your players to punch each other in the face once or twice after long resting in order to justify short resting. Pact magic slots (and ki points, superiority die, etc.) come back after an hour or so of light activity. Period.

    But there's still another option below that doesn't result in the bag of rats:

    3) This is fine.

    There's too flavors of this answer.

    a) DM rules that hex does not require a target, allowing the player to cast and concentrate on it and later use a bonus action to select a target, rather than selecting a target on the initial casting and then reducing that target to 0 HP. Apparently Mike Merls has also suggested that hex does need a target, so if you're going with his interpretations of the rules then you might stay away from this one. This ruling has the nice feature of not nudging warlock players towards murdering small animals on the daily, while also not leaving them (from 5th level and above) with 1 fewer spell slot in their first encounter of the day than they will have in the rest of their encounters (that follow a short rest), just because of a pretty quirky combination of game mechanics.

    b) It just works as described. As far as I can tell this is RAW. It's definitely pretty messed up behavior, but players do all kinds of messed up things. There are literal necromancy spells for crying out loud. Those encourage players to straight up murder villagers if they can't find another source of corpses. I certainly hope no DM would say, "you can't do that" just because it's bad behavior in the service of game mechanics (for characters, real-world benefits!), but obviously if they weren't of an evil alignment I would hope the DM would say, "you do what now?" Honestly, although the rules on this issue could certainly have been written more clearly, I'm increasingly of the view that seeing this mechanic as against RAI requires believing that warlocks were not play tested past level 5. Because as soon as you get that 8 hour duration on hex as a player, you wonder "can I concentrate through a short rest?" And then when you figure out that answer (see #1 above), the first time you're in the first encounter of the day and you cast hex, you're thinking "wait so if I'd killed something before now I'd have another spell slot?" It makes you think about opportunities to kill things. It makes you think about killing small, harmless creatures ritualistically on a daily basis in service of your pact magic. And I just don't think that's at all thematically problematic for a warlock. I think warlocks, as they gain power, should probably be thinking about doing things exactly like that.
    XP Arial Black, Neurotic gave XP for this post

  2. #2
    IMO 3 b)

    You get the boost, knock yourself out. However from time to time the warlocks companions won't want to wait around for an hour to let her recover her magical potency - they will want to get things done.

    Same thing applies to 24 hour hunters Mark (less of an issue)
    XP Cap'n Kobold, Shiroiken gave XP for this post

  3. #3
    I'm strongly considering some sort of short Rest limitation per day mechanic to avoid things like this.

    In the Baldur's Gate computer game, I seem to remember there being a 9 hour spell I'd frequently cast and then rest before a big fight just so I could have full spell slots. Not something I want in my games. You don't wake up in the morning, eat breakfast, and then take a break; that's all one rest in my book.


    XP KahlessNestor gave XP for this post

  4. #4
    3b all the way.

    Exactly the behavior I want to see. And if other members find that out, I want appropriate behavior too.

  5. #5
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    There's also:

    4) You don't recover a spell slot if you're still maintaining it up with concentration.

    To cast a spell you have to expend magical energy, represented by spell slots. You can concentrate on it during short rests, but that magical energy doesn't refill because it is constantly being channelled ... into a rat or whatever.

    But in any case, the Hex bag-o-rats is gaming the system and shouldn't be tolerated.
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    The fiend patron tome'lock in my game tried the bad of rats idea to get his temporary hit points. At the time I was convinced there was a rule somewhere that essentially required the dead creature to be threat to gain any benefit and the player was quite willing to accept that.

    My argument would be that any patron capable of offering you gifts like that doesn't care for offerings of pest control, even if they are keen on animal torture.

    The Rest, Hex, Short rest thing hasn't come up but I would argue that you are just taking a longer than 8 hour long rest unless you have done something challenging, but that doesn't really answer the question of is it RAW.

    Either way, if as a GM you feel this is gamey, then just use it as a chance to roll more random encounters and mess with the player for faffing.
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  7. #7
    I'm not sure why people maintain that following the rules should not be tolerated. It's perfectly fine ruleswise. As others have said, there could be time restraints or I guess someone might have a problem with them killing a rat for some reason, but I don't think DMs should make up rules or reasons for it not to work.
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  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by TriBeCa99 View Post
    First, I'm aware there was a recent thread about this that was closed by mods. I'm posting because I found that thread to be a somewhat frustrating experience while looking for a rules clarification / discussion on this issue. So what I want to do here is summarize the useful parts of that discussion and re-open it--hopefully without the bickering that lead to the original post being closed.

    First, the issue:

    By RAW, it seems like a player can long rest, cast Hex on any creature (say, a small mammal, leading to the character carrying around a "bag of rats") using a 3rd level spell slot or higher, and then immediately short rest while maintaining concentration to regain the spell slot. Now the character is concentrating on Hex with 7 hours (or 23 hours for 5th level slots and above) of spell duration left, but has full spell slots. (A separate but related issue is whether a fiend patron warlock would also gain temporary hit point from Dark One's blessing).

    This question in the earlier thread seems to have elicited three main types of reaction:

    1) You can't maintain concentration over a short rest.

    2) This is gaming the system and should not be tolerated.

    3) This is fine.


    I'll try to summarize each of these in view of launching a renewed discussion.

    1) You can't maintain concentration over a short rest.

    There was some discussion as to whether the correct question is "can you concentrate while short resting?" or "can you short rest while concentrating?". Both are separate questions.

    a) The rules seem clear that you can concentrate while casting other spells, or attacking, or running full speed until exhausted, or any number of things more challenging, mentally taxing, or exhausting than resting. And Mike Mearls has tweeted in support of this position, although it was pointed out that he does not issue rules clarifications, only opinions. Still, there's certainly no indication in the rules that short resting ends concentration.

    b) Whether you can gain the benefits of a short rest while concentrating on a spell is arguably less clear. However, the simple fact that Hex (and Hunter's Mark) has up to a 24 hour duration with concentration suggests that RAI you can. This comes down to a question of whether concentrating on a spell is "... more strenuous than eating, drinking, reading, and tending to wounds." The problem is that the description of concentration doesn't address this. To my mind, the fact that you can cast another spell or run a marathon or (maybe) fall into lava without breaking concentration suggests that it's not all that strenuous. But I wouldn't be overly unhappy with a DM who ruled that you can't short rest while concentrating--although I think any DM doing so should be aware that they're probably weakening Warlocks and Rangers somewhat more than was intended. Otherwise, why bother with the long duration on Hex and Hunter's Mark? It seems fairly clear they're intended to last longer through a short rest, although certainly the game could've been clearer on that point.

    2) This is gaming the system and should not be tolerated.

    Honestly, as a player playing a Warlock who realized (as far as I understood RAW) that this mechanic was possible, this was my first reaction. I thought, "wait, so I would benefit from carrying a bag of rats around and murdering one every morning? That's... that can't be right."

    But after thinking about it a while, I came to something closer to the view of one of the posts on the first page of that prior thread that got subsequently ignored: "I don't know, torturing rats seems pretty well in line with the attitude of many patrons...". Seriously. I have a fiend patron. I get temporary hit points for killing things, and if I kill something I hexed I can hex something else. And if I rest for an hour or so I can cast all my spells again. My character knows all these things, and can put it together as well as I, the player, can. Do we even know for certain that this is not intended?

    Certainly this wouldn't be acceptable behavior for most people. But most people aren't adventurers who have made a pact with some otherworldly creature, which has then granted them powers. Power which, unless your answer to item #1 is no, are helped slightly by murdering something--anything!--and then taking a break afterwards. What's wrong with a small sacrifice...? Certainly this wouldn't be acceptable for an LG character, or arguably maybe even any G character. If I were DMing a G character doing this I'd want to have a talk with them about the ethics of their behavior, and what it might mean for their alignment long term. But for most other characters this is probably entirely reasonable behavior, given that they live in a world where this clearly benefits them, and they're no stranger to killing things.

    With that said, if you object to the "bag of rats" (which, let's be honest, is basically understandable--it's somewhat obnoxious to manage and is pretty weird behavior, even if "my patron likes it" is a fully rationale in-game reason for doing it), you have two basic options for responding that I can see:

    First, you can rule "no, you can't do that." That's fine, but your player will probably want to know, mechanically, why (note that you're entitled to say "because I think it's cheesy and makes the game less fun," or something to that effect). Other than saying that the answer to #1 above is "no", which has much broader implications and really does specifically nerf warlocks, the main option here seems to be to say that short resting after a long rest does not result in any additional benefits. The counter-argument here is that the end of the long rest results in concrete benefits, which the character has received, and then the character goes and does something else, rests for an hour, and gains the benefit a short rest. You can rule how you want here as always, but it's hard to see how "taking away" the short rest from players here makes very much sense either RAW or RAI. If you do, there's a real sense in which you're incentivizing your players to punch each other in the face once or twice after long resting in order to justify short resting. Pact magic slots (and ki points, superiority die, etc.) come back after an hour or so of light activity. Period.

    But there's still another option below that doesn't result in the bag of rats:

    3) This is fine.

    There's too flavors of this answer.

    a) DM rules that hex does not require a target, allowing the player to cast and concentrate on it and later use a bonus action to select a target, rather than selecting a target on the initial casting and then reducing that target to 0 HP. Apparently Mike Merls has also suggested that hex does need a target, so if you're going with his interpretations of the rules then you might stay away from this one. This ruling has the nice feature of not nudging warlock players towards murdering small animals on the daily, while also not leaving them (from 5th level and above) with 1 fewer spell slot in their first encounter of the day than they will have in the rest of their encounters (that follow a short rest), just because of a pretty quirky combination of game mechanics.

    b) It just works as described. As far as I can tell this is RAW. It's definitely pretty messed up behavior, but players do all kinds of messed up things. There are literal necromancy spells for crying out loud. Those encourage players to straight up murder villagers if they can't find another source of corpses. I certainly hope no DM would say, "you can't do that" just because it's bad behavior in the service of game mechanics (for characters, real-world benefits!), but obviously if they weren't of an evil alignment I would hope the DM would say, "you do what now?" Honestly, although the rules on this issue could certainly have been written more clearly, I'm increasingly of the view that seeing this mechanic as against RAI requires believing that warlocks were not play tested past level 5. Because as soon as you get that 8 hour duration on hex as a player, you wonder "can I concentrate through a short rest?" And then when you figure out that answer (see #1 above), the first time you're in the first encounter of the day and you cast hex, you're thinking "wait so if I'd killed something before now I'd have another spell slot?" It makes you think about opportunities to kill things. It makes you think about killing small, harmless creatures ritualistically on a daily basis in service of your pact magic. And I just don't think that's at all thematically problematic for a warlock. I think warlocks, as they gain power, should probably be thinking about doing things exactly like that.
    Why are you reopening this?

    I will note you don't have a specific issue you're asking about, so again, what is your agenda here?

    Sent from my C6603 using EN World mobile app

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by CapnZapp View Post
    Why are you reopening this?

    I will note you don't have a specific issue you're asking about, so again, what is your agenda here?

    Sent from my C6603 using EN World mobile app
    I guess I didn't phrase it as a question, but the specific issue is whether to allow bag of rats hexing, and how people do / would deal with it in their games. I'm asking all of the questions--is it RAW, is it RAI, is it fun, is it dumb?

    I wrote the post the way I did to summarize what had already been said in the prior thread as best I could, without all of the bickering. The why if it is that I googled this issue, found the original thread, and found it super frustrating trying to get actual nuggets of information out of that sea of acrimony. So I thought I'd try to extract the content without the acrimony and continue the discussion.

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by TriBeCa99 View Post
    I'm asking all of the questions--is it RAW, is it RAI, is it fun, is it dumb?
    I think so, I don't think so, I think it would be once in a while, I don't think so.

    Mostly, I find the resting immediately after a rest part of the scenario to be the irritating part. But as a DM, I'd be fine with it, I suppose, and leave it up to the table as a group to say "Aw man, that's just silly. Just go without 1 slot for a while. We'll be fine" if they don't like it.

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