5E Resting and the frikkin' Elephant in the Room
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  1. #1

    Resting and the frikkin' Elephant in the Room

    TL;DR: Everybody's telling me the solution to my problems is X, only X isn't in the game. So what kind of crappy solution is that?!

    Longer version:

    Go read Angry GM's take on resting. It's fairly typical and several posters give me the identical spiel, often complete with the dismissive tone:
    http://theangrygm.com/ask-angry-rest...-why-its-fine/

    The spiel, btw, is "just add time constraints through your story". But that's just dishonest - it's not part of either the rules or its supplements. The game should IMNSHO work right out of the box, and story-driven constraints on resting frequency simply isn't part of the game as shipped. Like at all.

    Or, as commented by Kernel Class in conjunction with that post:
    What I find difficult about the attrition assumption is: 1) the GM has to always build something into the scenario to limit players ability to retreat and rest.
    Now, here comes the elephant(s) in the room, that nobody seems to actually want to discuss:

    * The official published scenarios never* provide what's needed to enforce this attrition.

    * The rules never enforce any attrition.

    * In fact, the rules bend over backwards making attrition as unenforceable as possible. It's practically impossible to interrupt a short rest. There are spells that trivialize the danger of a particular location (everything from Goodberry to Magnicifient Mansion via Rope Trick).

    *) please read "seldom" in place of "never" instead of angrily posting an example proving me wrong. I don't care if there are examples of adventures that address attrition, the point is that most adventures don't.



    So, let us discuss.

    How do you make attrition work in a game where you don't fancy doing all the hard work, and instead rely on official published supplements?

    How many encounters and short rests do you have per long rest? What does the party need to do when they feel they need to stop and rest? What's stopping them from doing this?

    I should state out right that at low levels, the game works alright and there isn't much of a problem. Below level four or seven (or so), heroes are certainly so fragile no combat is truly "trivial" and they will feel the "attrition" even before they've used up any resources!

    Feel free to use existing modules as examples; anything from Rise of Tiamat through Storm King's Thunder and Tales of the Yawning Portal. Just keep in mind that I'm mainly thinking of the mid game and above. If you absolutely must have a specific level to discuss let's use level 10; that way every published campaign qualifies.

    The only constraint I'm asking of you is that you can't dismiss or "solve" the issue by the flippant "just add time constraints to the adventure" thing. Trust me, I've been given that piece of useless advice enough times already. I am specifically asking about ways on how to make D&D and its rules work, given the assumptions that 5th edition suddenly places upon the game.
    Last edited by CapnZapp; Tuesday, 23rd May, 2017 at 01:30 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by CapnZapp View Post
    TL;DR: Everybody's telling me the solution to my problems is X, only X isn't in the game. So what kind of crappy solution is that?!

    Longer version:

    Go read Angry GM's take on resting. It's fairly typical and several posters give me the identical spiel, often complete with the dismissive tone:
    http://theangrygm.com/ask-angry-rest...-why-its-fine/

    The spiel, btw, is "just add time constraints through your story".
    That's not the spiel. The real point is this-

    But, here’s where I think the problem lies. I listen to a LOT of GMs and a LOT of players. And GMs are always bitching about how D&D 5E isn’t deadly enough and how the players never feel threatened. But the players generally seem to be having a good time regardless. I think GMs need to drop the idea that challenge and deadliness are the same things. GMs should focus on building obstacles (not just combats) that are interesting, that are unusual, and that are intrinsically fun to play. I think GMs should focus on the consequences of both success and failure. I think GMs should worry less about how easily the players trash encounters. That stuff doesn’t matter to players as long as they are given interesting choices to make and interesting things to do.

    Since you've correctly noted that you've posted this topic numerous times, and you've received the same responses, I'm not sure what you think the difference is going to be this time. Definition of insanity and all that.

    But, yes, 5e is less deadly than, for example, 1e. Some people really enjoy it, others not as much. If you don't like the rules on resting, there is a simple solution available to you- change the rules. There are numerous semi-official (DMs Guide) and unofficial variants for resting and healing you can use. Use them!
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    Answer: I don't play a system that allows for 4e inspired refreshes of resources.

    Longer Answer: Enforcing attrition has always been somewhat hard in D&D. In many situations and scenarios, nothing prevents the party from going as slowly and carefully as possible, resting frequently to recover spells and hit points. The lack of a way to enforce attrition on a party is one of the reason I don't consider S1 Tomb of Horrors the hardest and most brutal module ever published.

    The innovations introduced in 4e and to a large extent carried over into 5e were designed with the purpose and intention of largely doing away with the attrition model that D&D had theoretically relied upon in the 1e, 2e, and 3e eras.

    It is therefore rather ridiculous to not acknowledge that and act like nothing has changed, and that challenging the players through attrition - always a difficult proposition - is now somehow supported by the system. It's not. It's deliberately deprecated by the system. Instead, in 4e and 5e, the idea is largely that you can reliably predict how many resources the party will have going into an encounter, and balance each encounter on that assumption.

    One of the problems we've consistently seen in D&D since the early games is that the games math works well at low levels, and then is increasingly 'off' at higher levels. In 1e the game was really only focused on getting up to about 10th level, and very little in the game really provided for anything much beyond that. It was assumed by that point, the DM was quite experienced and could figure it out on their own. The situation only became worse with the power creep introduced by Unearthed Arcana, and fighters with optimized kit could take down anything in the game quite quickly. 3e famously had a glorious sweet spot when first published of between about 2nd and 9th level, and became increasingly fiddly and problematic at higher levels, along with the problem of casters vastly out stripping non-casters at higher levels. Plus the early 3e era CR's vastly underestimated the real capabilities that high level characters would achieve. Despite deliberately trying to address some of these issues, the situation only became worse in 3.5. 4e supposedly 'fixed the math' but people that actually played it found the combats very grindy and generally unchallenging at high levels because PC's simply had too many resources and monsters too few.

    So I'm not at all surprised to hear that 5e has somewhat similar issues, or that modules, written by people with long experience with D&D but not with 5e, subtly have a bias toward encounters and scenarios that make more sense in terms of earlier editions.

    Your solution is to stop trying to run the game like you are playing 1e, 2e, or 3e. If you are wanting to use existing modules and material, well, then you are out of luck. Modules, however useful that they may be, have always had the problem that they required adaptation to suit the needs and play style of your particular table. They have never been, as they are often treated, get out of work cards that mean the DM can run successful games without the sweat of preparation.

    Additional Thoughts: You seem to be trying to rely on published material for 5e, despite the fact that by and large, the reviews of that material have been negative. Moreover, the best reviewed 5e modules have been exactly those that expect and require the largest efforts by the DM to make them playable and sustain their gameplay. The two I thought the best written, 'Underdark' and 'Strahd', were rather wide open sandboxes that provided mostly the skeleton of a campaign and a large number of mix and match encounters for the DM to leverage as needed. You have I think the wrong idea regarding what a DM's relationship to a published module actually is.

    For that matter, you seem to have the wrong idea regarding what a GM's relationship to a system is. In the first episode of 'Critical Role', Matt Mercer says (I'm paraphrasing from memory), "Those of you that are sticklers for the rules may notice some things that are weird. That because everything is house ruled for fun, and fun is more important than what is written down." And generally speaking I agree. A GM is not a servant of the rules as written. The rules as written are the servant of the GM, and it's the GMs job to alter the rules as written to suit his own particular way of creating fun - keeping in mind that with this power comes the obligation to actually deliver on the fun. If you deliver on the fun, and if your rulings are consistent, fair, and non-arbitrary, chances are no one is going to care that it's not the same as the official rules.
    Last edited by Celebrim; Tuesday, 23rd May, 2017 at 02:02 PM.
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    During the playtest phase it became pretty obvious that there was no resting mechanic that would satisfy everyone. So sure enough, not everyone is satisfied. IMO, if you don't like the PHB rules, and you don't like any of the DMG alternatives, then make up house rules that you do like.

    Fault the game if it makes you feel better, but at least be aware that if the game was designed to make you happy, there'd be a bunch of other people complaining.
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    I'm not sure what you mean by "attrition."
    Attrition, by definition, takes a long time to work. Taking a short rest is attrition. You only have so many HD, and you can only get back up to 1/2 of them per day. At level 10, if you are spending more than 5 HD per day, you are in a death spiral, even if you don't realize it just yet. All you need to achieve such a feat is hit a player for around 30 damage per combat . However, this doesn't feel very threatening at first, because it takes up to 6 days for such a tactic to become lethal (assuming a reasonable hp pool and two short rests a day).

    As for the Official published supplements, they are supposed to to be somewhat easy.
    They are meant for use with the Adventurers league, where a tight group dynamic isn't guaranteed, and you have to cater to the lowest common denominator in terms of character builds. And somehow, despite those two glaring problems, you need to make it so most of the characters have a good chance of survival. Because being dead isn't generally considered fun or conducive to playing the game.
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  6. #6
    So I haven't played all official adventures yet, but all of the ones I played so far had a sense of urgency for the players, because usually someone was kidnapped and the players are like "Yikes, we need to hurry up or else he is dead before we find him". Granted, the official modules don't have any handling on what happens when the players take too long, but I found the trick is to give my players the impression they need to hurry without actually having a dead line.

    Apart from this, the official adventures also provide other stuff that helps against players resting too much. For example random encounters. They usually are written to have a chance to happen every X hours. So resting is always a risk to be attacked. The villains actively attacking the PCs (or villages) is also handled in several official APs and usually leave a lot of freedom to the DM on when these events happen, so you can always use them to tell the players "well if you waste too much time, bad things will happen".

    Finally some dungeons are also written so that "when the adventurers return later", they have stronger enemies. I usually apply this for cases when PCs leave the whole dungeon to take a long rest in a safe area and then come back. Taking on the dungeon without any long rest, might actually be easier.

    So that's the freedom I feel the official APs give me.

    I don't have any problems with resting so far. The biggest issue was that our Warlock wanted to short rest after every single battle, but even that I managed to solve by telling him "If you rest after only one battle, there's a higher chance to be ambushed".

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    Are you honestly asking how we make rules that don't exist in a game work, without doing the hard work of making our own rules?

    Uh, you don't. It's like asking how we can make my cat run on diesel.
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    Quote Originally Posted by shidaku View Post
    It's like asking how we can make my cat run on diesel.
    I'm totally stealing this.

    Today's scoreboard:

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    I don't understand the question. The time constraints answer is not "dishonest" (what an odd word to use); it's the correct answer. The GM creates the adventure and the events that transpire within the game world; the game company creates the ruleset. I guess if you're asking why the published *adventures* don't acknowledge that aspect of the rules to your satisfaction, the answer *is* change the adventure, or use a different adventure. I know that's not the answer you want, but that is the answer -ts not a rules issue, it's a GMing technique issue.

    That aside, I've never noticed it to be a problem in the 5E games I've run.

    story-driven constraints on resting frequency simply isn't part of the game as shipped. Like at all.
    The rulebooks don't contain the story. The GM does. The rulebooks also don't tell you that goblins attack the party, or that the evil necromancer is trying to rule the Great Desert, or that there's a lava field between the party and the pyromancer's pyramid. Or that the party has a time constraint. Story-driven stuff is the GM's domain.
    Last edited by Morrus; Tuesday, 23rd May, 2017 at 03:00 PM.
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    Problem 1: You read the Angry GM. There is no reason to read the Angry GM as anything he says you can get from somewhere else with 1/5 the text and no fake swearing.

    Problem 2: Why are you trying to rest with an elephant in the room? Are we running some kind of circus?

    Possible solution 1: Eliminate short rests. At least, eliminate short rests being 1 hour. I did. I doubled the amount of short rest things PCs get and had them all reset on a long rest. HD expenditure on a short rest is reduced to about 10 minutes. I.e., while you're resting the remainder of the party that isn't resting is looting bodies, searching, etc.

    Possible solution 2: Wandering Monsters. As others have mentioned, have random encounters. Wandering monsters in older editions didn't carry much treasure and, therefore, weren't worth much XP. Reduce the XP given for wandering monsters to 1/2, 1/3, or 1/4.

    Possible solution 3: Time constraints. Time constraints work great, especially if you have story-focused PCs (which is somewhat out of your hands). I know you said, "Don't say 'time constraints'". But I'm saying "time constraints". Good movies and tv shows add tension via time constraints. If there are no time constraints, you might as well just montage the scene away and get to the good stuff.
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