D&D 5E (+) Balancing Gritty Rest

I am strongly considering that my next campaign use the Gritty Rest variant, or at least a close variation on it. And I'd like your thoughts on how this will impact play. I've got a couple of thoughts I'd like to address already, but I am even more looking forward to your thoughts, especially if you have run Gritty Rest before. My goal is to fit encounter-per-long-rest to my DMing style, with 5-8+ encounters between long rests. So this isn't "lots of encounters per long rest", this is "the correct number of encounters per long rest".

To give a fuller context, I was also planning on starting at 5th level (players who have been together for several campaigns) and I was intending to expand skill usage to cover more heroic fantasy level tropes as they go up tiers. For example while a T1 PC with proficiency in handle animals might be able to keep a suspricious beast from going hostile, a T3 PC (or T2 with expertise) might be able to calm a charging mother bear and befriend the cubs. Since the party will be starting in T2, they will already be able to do things past the "real world" with their standard proficiency. I think that will help keep things fantastical, and also help replace some things currently done with utility spells that are instead spread among the entire party, caster or not. I use Milestone leveling, so the party avoiding meaningless encounters will not hurt them in advancement. One last thing - I will be using the various optional abilities in Tasha's with one exception: Harness Divinity, the regaining of spell slots by using a channel divinity.

Anyway, here's a list of concerns I've already thought of, and I'm looking for you to add more that I missed:

Short rests per long rest
First the ratio of short rests (overnight) to long rests (7 days) will be rather off, with a lot more short rests. This will empower short-rest-recovery classes like the warlock, the monk, and fighter (battlemaster). Actually, that's not true. I think those classes will stay in balance with the at-will classes, but both will have an advantage over the long rest recovery classes like the casters, as well as the hybrids like the paladin or the barbarian.

Are there any (sub)class or racial features that I should reduce uses of and move to per short rest? For example, halve number of barbarian rages, but restore one used one on a short rest? I'd mildly prefer not to do this, but will if needed.

I had back-of-the-napkin gritty rest rules for a campaign I ended up not running:
  1. Short rest. Costs an hour or less (whatever is appropriate). Allows the PCs to spend Hit Dice.
  2. Medium rest. Costs time as RAW long rest and is limited to one per 24 hours like a 5e RAW long rest. Allows PCs to spend Hit Dice. Recovers and/or triggers abilities that look for "on a short rest". Also recovers Hit Dice up to the character's proficiency bonus.
  3. Long rest. Costs 3-7 days, possibly depending on comfort level or cost of living. I hadn't decided yet. Otherwise works as RAW long rest, but always recovers 100% of Hit Dice.
The issue was that I didn't want the PCs to end up death-spiraled because 5e's recovery system needlessly links ability uses and HP recovery. I didn't really want the game to be more of a death trap. I just wanted ability recovery to be more difficult.

I also planned to take from AiME one of the journey rewards that a given night of rest might count as a long rest. If you have a particularly hospitable or magical rest, that upgrades it. I've no idea how often I'd pass those out, though.

Long duration spells (& rituals)
Some spells are meant to last for multiple encounters, or for "all day". With fewer slots, do I still support these intentions? And where's the cut-off for some things are still back to back. For instance, 10 minutes I wouldn't touch, but 1 hour I could make 4 hours. Do I do this for all casters, or all Spellcasters and leave Pact Magic alone?

For the all day ones, do I make them them into rituals? If so that gets rid of any slots used on them, and expands usage like using Mage Armor on every light armor wearer. Plus it doesn't handle spells like Hex having a longer duration when upcast. Perhaps I should just increase those as well. 8 hours becomes 3 days, 1 day become until next long rest.

I'd mainly do it on a case-by-case basis, possibly with the discussion of the table, but for the most part I'd try to avoid changes. I would eliminate Tiny Hut's Ritual tag. I would allow Mage Armor to be cast as a Ritual if the target is the caster.

If you're going to change a spell, though, change it for Pact Magic, too. Eldritch Blast with Agonizing Blast already starts to look a little too good, but I'd have to see it in play to really know if it was a problem.

Magic item recharge
If you consider a week of adventuring and then a week of downtime, that's 14 days. I was thinking on making magic items that recharge do so on the new and full moons.

I would probably have them recharge at dawn or whatever made sense for the item. That is, no change at all. Yeah, that makes wands and staves really potent. Good!

Encounter strength
While a Medium encounter doesn't feel like all that much, it it attrition of resources. This is just to remember that Gritty Rest will likely ensure the game will be heavily attrition based and that even lesser encounters will have repecussions, and that limited resources spent avoiding an encounter might be best.

You still can only expect the PCs to tackle 6-8 Hard to Medium encounters per long rest. Maybe a little more than that with the slightly upped healing, but probably not that much more. That means dungeons might have to look a bit different.
 

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aco175

Legend
I wonder how gritty rest affects the player's style of play and might make them more safe. The wizard might just cast cantrips unless absolutely needed to cast something powerful. Might not cast levitate or fly to help out and save the slot and things like this. Not sure if this makes encounters harder than they should be. I can see the rogue in my group staying back and just shooting, almost like 1e days where everything was more fragile. How about hirelings and how to manage them.
 

Retros_x

Explorer
In my opinion gritty rest rules fit only campaings that are focused on wilderness exploration like a hexcrawl. For all other purposes it is too slow. Keep in mind too when balancing with the adventuring day, that not every day needs to be a full adventuring day. Yes, only than will the resource management be important to gameplay, but not everyday is hardcore resource management and battle after battle. I think adventuring days should only be applies when parties are actually adventuring, meaning traveling and exploring dangerous areas like wilderness and/or dungeons. Default rests are good for dungeons, gritty rest for wilderness.
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
I don't remember what we did about this and I am not sure what the RAW is. Also a lot of magic items recharge at dawn, not at the next long rest.
Just to address this - that's why I want to change it. If normally character abilities come back "overnight" as do magic items, if I delay a long rest by a lot but don't change magic items, then magic items will be a lot more powerful respectively. And I want the characters to be special, not their items.

So I was slowing magic item recovery to match character recovery, erring on the side of "even slower".
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
I also planned to take from AiME one of the journey rewards that a given night of rest might count as a long rest. If you have a particularly hospitable or magical rest, that upgrades it. I've no idea how often I'd pass those out, though.
You uncovered my secret, when I mentioned "Gritty Rest or some variant" - I was planning that there are sanctuaries where a rest could be had much quicker. And also things like "you are guests of the Grand Duke, you sleep in perfect safety and slumber - each night counts as 4 towards a long rest".

You still can only expect the PCs to tackle 6-8 Hard to Medium encounters per long rest. Maybe a little more than that with the slightly upped healing, but probably not that much more. That means dungeons might have to look a bit different.
In the last 3 year campaign I ran, I had two dungeons total. My players with one exception aren't into that as a regular mode of play. And I can always cheat and go all 1st ed feel with a magic fountain that when you drink from it grants a long rest. I remember magic fountains that would give you permanent ability score boosts and other crazy stuff.
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
I wonder how gritty rest affects the player's style of play and might make them more safe. The wizard might just cast cantrips unless absolutely needed to cast something powerful. Might not cast levitate or fly to help out and save the slot and things like this. Not sure if this makes encounters harder than they should be. I can see the rogue in my group staying back and just shooting, almost like 1e days where everything was more fragile. How about hirelings and how to manage them.
You've got a good thought there about second order effects - will other characters play more cautious with less common healing?

As for staying with cantrips - that's actually a feature. A high level slot can be so much more efficient per action than an at-will action. Look at a simple fireball with 4-5 targets, half of which save. How many actions does it take for a martial to do the same damage. Cantrips do a bit less than martials, so averaging one high level slot and several cantrips works out closer to the same number of actions spent on pure at-will actions. Of course, a caster doesn't just have their highest level slots, and the lower level ones are closer to the at-wills so need less cantrip actions to balance them. Until you get to spells that don't do appreciably more than scaled cantrip, useful for utility and defense.

So yes, I expect that casters will be using a good number of cantrips in any encounter. But I can also see them using a resource like Pass without Trace to avoid multiple encounters because that's more efficient. I don't want the default "it's here so we can fight it" mentality, and now even on-level encounters there's a reason to avoid if it's not too resource heavy to do so.

(Oh, and my table generally aren't big fans of dungeons, so the "go clear this place out" isn't a big motivator. Other tables might have a lot more issues with this viewpoint.)
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
In my opinion gritty rest rules fit only campaings that are focused on wilderness exploration like a hexcrawl. For all other purposes it is too slow. Keep in mind too when balancing with the adventuring day, that not every day needs to be a full adventuring day. Yes, only than will the resource management be important to gameplay, but not everyday is hardcore resource management and battle after battle. I think adventuring days should only be applies when parties are actually adventuring, meaning traveling and exploring dangerous areas like wilderness and/or dungeons. Default rests are good for dungeons, gritty rest for wilderness.
I understand your opinion, however that's not the situation at my specific table where I am planning to run this. I made this a (+) thread so that it didn't devolve into a debate if Gritty Rest was a bad idea and ask that you respect that.
 

Oofta

Legend
I wonder how gritty rest affects the player's style of play and might make them more safe. The wizard might just cast cantrips unless absolutely needed to cast something powerful. Might not cast levitate or fly to help out and save the slot and things like this. Not sure if this makes encounters harder than they should be. I can see the rogue in my group staying back and just shooting, almost like 1e days where everything was more fragile. How about hirelings and how to manage them.

Before I started using gritty rest rules I did just as many encounters, it was just run like that TV show 24 where there was always a ticking clock or no safe place to rest. So gritty rest rules or not, it's the players knowing they're going to have 4-8 encounters with 1 or 2 short rests before a long rest. So yes, a lot of cantrips at lower levels.
 

Oofta

Legend
In my opinion gritty rest rules fit only campaings that are focused on wilderness exploration like a hexcrawl. For all other purposes it is too slow. Keep in mind too when balancing with the adventuring day, that not every day needs to be a full adventuring day. Yes, only than will the resource management be important to gameplay, but not everyday is hardcore resource management and battle after battle. I think adventuring days should only be applies when parties are actually adventuring, meaning traveling and exploring dangerous areas like wilderness and/or dungeons. Default rests are good for dungeons, gritty rest for wilderness.
Real world play time doesn't change, only in-world time. Narrative pacing is the only thing that changes.
 

Retros_x

Explorer
I understand your opinion, however that's not the situation at my specific table where I am planning to run this. I made this a (+) thread so that it didn't devolve into a debate if Gritty Rest was a bad idea and ask that you respect that.
I didn't know how your situation was but you asked to add about thoughts about gritty variant and how it might impact the game and you asked to add to your concerns. My intent was to answer exactly that. I didn't want to debate gritty rest in itself (I personally quite enjoy them), I just wanted to add that it does work best in certain campaigns. In my experience the campaign kinda evolves often naturally into a wilderness campaign. Because resting a week in wilderness is often not viable, the characters will do the full rest in some sort of safe settlement. When the campaign plays in a city, they basically can long rest all the time, since Oofte correctly stated (although I don't know why they directed it at me):
Real world play time doesn't change, only in-world time. Narrative pacing is the only thing that changes.
Meaning that only narrative pacing will be affected, but from a gameplay perspective it will feel like a normal rest, since they can rest whenever they want in a big city, because normally its not a problem to rest for a full week. So often the adventure will move kinda automatically out in the wilderness, because only there the gritty rules come to full effect because the characters can not just camp for a whole week undisturbed in most cases. You seem do assume gritty rulse mean 1 week of adventuring, but that is not the case it only means 1 week of long rest. Technically speaking they can do a long rest every 24 hours, the gritty variant doesn't change that. Thats what I meant above, it kinda leads to wilderness campaigns.

To respect your plus thread more (even if I don't wanted to disrespect it) I'll try to add something to your other concerns:

- short rests per long rest

I didn't put too much thought in here when we played gritty realism and it worked out fine in that regard. I think it quite helped with the spellcasters vs martials balance (we didn't had a warlock in the party, only a cleric and a wizard), because the spellcasters would really need to be resourceful with their spell slots. But that might be not the fun solution for this problem, because especially the wizard got sometimes quite bored throwing cantrips mostly.


- long duration spells (rituals
I wouldn't make non ritual-spells to rituals, that quite off-balance a lot of spells. I also really don't see the need for that. If I remember correctly I only adjusted the 8hour spells like mage armor to 24 hours and 24h spells like water breathing to (until long rest).

-magic items
I actually didn't change magic items at all. Yes that buffs them, but my group always forgot about them anyway, so I thought maybe know they use them more. They did and it provided them some sort of ability even if all their class abilities were gone already, they liked that.

-encounter strength
Wasn't touched a bit, its just easier to actually fill the adventuring day outside of dungeons now, because you don't have to cram unnatural many medium encounters in one day or use super swingy deadly encounters all the time. Although as I said, not every day must be a full adventuring day. I hope you forgive me a sports analogy but that is like expecting the national soccer team to play everyday in a worlds cup finals. A full adventuring day is meant to bring your adventurers to their knees, expend all their resources so that they will be joyful to finally have a long rest. The campaign will feel exhaustive if you do this all the time. But with gritty variant rules, it is definitely easier as a DM to actually get a full adventuring day if you want to have it.
 

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