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4E Changing the Combat Parameters of 4th Edition

Myrhdraak

Explorer
Having read read DM David’s blog and playing 4th Edition and doing some 4th Edition conversions from 3.5 edition I have to agree with some of his statements.

“In D&D next, a party can role-play, explore, and finish a few fights in a 2-hour session. In 4E, not a chance. At most, players can drop a sentry, and finish one battle.”
“My fourth-edition time budget means that I have to cut locations, enemies, and material like a sailor jettisons weight as my ship takes water. I must condense each location to a couple of key encounters, and two fights.”
“In D&D next, every combat encounter taxes the party’s resources, while in fourth edition, only big encounters challenge a party.”


However, 5th Edition will never give me the tactial combat that I also enjoy, which leaves me the choice of two lesser evils, or does it? Having just read Max Tegemark’s book “Our Mathematical Universe”, it got me thinking. If our universe can be decribed by value of 32 parameters, what is it that describes my 4th Edition combat universe, and most importantly - could I change some of those to get to a combat universe that plays differently and achieves another player experience (preferably the one I am after)?

Basically the 4th Edition (and 5th Edition as well to some sense) can be described with these combat parameters:
1. Monster’s and PC’s starting HP
2. Monster’s and PC’s HP/level progression
3. Monster’s and PC’s damage output per round (linear or variable)
4. Monster’s and PC’s attack and defense progression per level
5. Number of Healing Surges
6. Healing Surge Value
7. Healing and Power recovery per Short Rest
8. Length of Short Rest
9. Healing and Power recovery per Long Rest
10. Length of Long Rest
11. Death Save mechanism (or similar)

5th Edition uses other terminology but the basics are still the same, and both system universes can be compared as well as play exterience be compared.
What my new 4.5 Edition combat universe should achieve is:
“Deliver long immersive tactical combats for important encounters, but at the same time allow smaller and faster short combat encounters, but with the risk of taxing the party resourses in some way that matters.”

FINAL RESULT
The final result of this exercise is the 4.5 Edition Conversion Guide which managed to deliver the kind of experience I was after, a 4.5 Edition which allow me as a DM to mix and match longer tactical fights (4th Edition like), with short fast skirmish fights (like 5th Edition), and I can more easily port 5th Edition adventures to this new format as it is built on the same 3, 6, or 9 encounters per adventuring day format.


4.5 Edition Conversion Guide

/Myrhdraak

Also read my:
H1-E3: Demon Prince of Undeath Conversion
Pathfinder - Reign of Winter 4th Edition Conversion Path
The Sunless Citadell 4.5 Edition Conversion
 
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Myrhdraak

Explorer
Monster and PC’s HP

One of the first things I started to look at in my 4.5 conversion, trying to bring together the best of both 4th Edition and 5th Edition was to try to shorten the length of the 4th Edition combat encounter. I liked how the system played at low level, i.e. a 1st level character in 4th Edition almost had the feeling of a 4-5th level character in 3.5 edition. 5th Edition brings it down to that 3.5 edition feeling, which I do not want to mimic. So I kept the HP for first level characters and monster the same, but reduced the HP/level progress to 75% of what was proposed in 4th Edition. This allowed me to bring down the encounter length to 3-4 rounds for almost all levels of a striker (Rogue in the example calculation below).

Combat Rounds.jpg

For higher level play this almost reduce the combat length with 1-2 rounds, which is quite some time in higher level play. However, it had not achieved anything to make smaller encounters play fast while still matter.
 

Myrhdraak

Explorer
Rest and Recovery

Rest and Recovery is different in 4th Edition vs. 5th Edition. Just comparing the values it is obviously a different game:

Short Rest: 4th) 5 minutes; 5th) 1 hour
- HP Recovery: 4th) Up to 100% of max HP (4 HS); 5th) Up to 100% of max HP (with some randomness involved)
- Power Recovery: 4th) All encounter powers; 5th) Certain “encounter” class powers

Extended/Long Rest: 4th) 6 hours; 5th) 8 hours
- HP Recovery: 4th) All HP and all HS used (for a Fighter with 1 HP left and 12 HS used this would mean 12+4 = 16 HS ~ 400% of max HP); 5th) All HP and up to half HD used (for a Fighter with 1 HP left and having used all his HD, this would mean 150% of max HP
- Power Recovery: 4th) All encounter and daily powers; 5th) Spells and certain “encounter” and “daily” class powers

One important aspect is that 5th Edition healing magic such as Cure Wounds or Healing Words adds healing on top of these rest and recovery figures, while 4th Edition uses the Healing Surges in many cases when magic healing is applied.

Looking at these parameters you realize that this is two very different games. The 5th Edition DMG states on page 267 that the 4th Edition variant (even though a not exact replica of the 4th Edition rules) is a combination of Healing Surges and Epic Heroism.

I find the 5th Edition system interesting as it makes HP a limited resource again, i.e. even a small combat encounter might tax the player HP. The short rest is 1 hour instead of 5 minutes, which means players will have to resource manage more. They will have to look for a safe spot to recover from injuries, will in 4th Edition you just carry on after catching your breath. With some twist of the 5th Edition take on rest and recovery, I think 4th Edition could be a quite different game and allow me as a DM to run small short encounters that still might impact the game.

Has somebody tried this in their 4th Edition game and can share some experience or thoughts?
 

Nagol

Unimportant
One of the emergent effects you're likely to face is the value of having multiple at-will/encounter powers will drop. Since you'll likely reduce the number of rounds required for a combat, there will be fewer opportunities to use them.

It'll be interesting to see how the compression of the typical "alpha-strike the PCs to the edge of survival and then let them fight back and eventually overcome the opposition" paradigm works.
 

Myrhdraak

Explorer
One of the emergent effects you're likely to face is the value of having multiple at-will/encounter powers will drop. Since you'll likely reduce the number of rounds required for a combat, there will be fewer opportunities to use them.
Yes, but it might also lead to players picking a wider variety of Encounter/Daily Powers to allow them to use the one most appropriate for the situation (as you do not have to use all encounter Powers in every encounter). Today I see a more "maximizing" certain aspect choices of Powers, or?
 
Yes, but it might also lead to players picking a wider variety of Encounter/Daily Powers to allow them to use the one most appropriate for the situation (as you do not have to use all encounter Powers in every encounter). Today I see a more "maximizing" certain aspect choices of Powers, or?
I think it puts a MUCH greater premium on the most vanilla high damage-output powers, and then even more so on anything that 'front loads' damage output, such as minor action attacks, reactions, and interrupts. Certain classes, like rangers obviously, will REALLY benefit from this. Other classes, like most controllers, will find their shtick has been significantly devalued, 2 rounds simply isn't enough time for most control to really be leveraged effectively (though at least a few of the more ephemeral UEONT effects may be a little bit more worthwhile).

Frankly though, I don't entirely agree with the initial analysis of 4e. It isn't anywhere near as slow, IME, as it is being made out to be. I do think, however, that 4e is made for 'cutting to the chase' and isn't a game where you toss around lots of trivial encounters, generally. It gives you tools to make every encounter dramatic and dynamic instead. That doesn't mean some of them can't be relatively lighter weight than others, just that they probably will want to emphasize something else besides straight up combat difficulty (IE an at-level encounter probably should feature some plot element, some setting element, and some character element that make it more three-dimensional and interesting). Luckily 4e combat INHERENTLY caters to this because it can be quite interesting!

So, yes, it may take an hour to do a really cool interesting 4e encounter (maybe longer even for a real end-arc type of thing) but that should actually be a GOOD feature!

There are however 2 aspects that I think can be adjusted in the 4e formula profitably. One is the notion that you should have 5 monsters vs 5 characters. Its not that its at all graven in stone, but it is sort of a baseline and its hard to diverge much from that. 5e gets around it with 'bounded accuracy', so that you can deploy 20 orcs and that kind of works. You could definitely adopt some ways of doing similar things in 4e. Many people introduced another grade of monster between minion and standard, which is a viable approach.

Another aspect is the discounting of preparation and lack of really usable buffs that can be prepared ahead of time. This also extends to the combat system not giving a lot of weight to terrain and tactical advantages, and lacking a real system for handling morale. These are things that could be added back in, which would allow for some more interesting encounters with weaker opponents, AND some enhanced 'AD&D-like' strategic thinking. It needn't rise to the levels of what you could do in 1e or 2e even, and surely should go nowhere near 3.5's craziness in that area, but 4e COULD profit from it in some degree. It can also be an alternative way of telegraphing player intent and creation of stakes. If the players decide to go bust on fire resistance potions, that definitely says something about their intent!
 

Blue

Orcus on a bad day
Basically the 4th Edition (and 5th Edition as well to some sense) can be described with these combat parameters:
1. Monster’s and PC’s starting HP
2. Monster’s and PC’s HP/level progression
3. Monster’s and PC’s damage output per round (linear or variable)
4. Monster’s and PC’s attack and defense progression per level
5. Number of Healing Surges
6. Healing Surge Value
7. Healing and Power recovery per Short Rest
8. Length of Short Rest
9. Healing and Power recovery per Long Rest
10. Length of Long Rest
11. Death Save mechanism (or similar)

5th Edition uses other terminology but the basics are still the same, and both system universes can be compared as well as play exterience be compared.
What my new 4.5 Edition combat universe should achieve is:
“Deliver long immersive tactical combats for important encounters, but at the same time allow smaller and faster short combat encounters, but with the risk of taxing the party resourses in some way that matters.”
I no longer play 4e because of combat length, it literally killed our last campaign when we tried to switch to 5e because any non-trivial combat was taking a session and a half. However, I propose that it is mainly based on the amount of information that needs to be processed. On the number of options and conditions for PCs and foes.

Take a first level 4e party. Do a few sample combats so the players are up to speed on their characters. Then run some fights. While yes, there are less rounds then a paragon or epic combat it's not linear. But still, each round goes so much faster because the amount of options you have are limited.

Run the same group with the same prep at 5th. Not too much slower, but it is slower. Each character has a few more options, each of which needs to be evaluated seperately becasue they don't build directly on each otehr but each is a unique construction. Plus a few more modifiers are out there each combat - who grants advantage, who's prone, etc. The player and DM need to deal with more information and make more choices to complete the same action.

Now go up to paragon. See how much slower it is. Added to the greatly expanded information of more powers and more options, there also more focus on synergy, something 4e was very good at. If you're playing at a high level for many of the classes you need to think about how to best set up and support your fellows. For strikers it might be just who to target, but defenders, controllers and leaders have more choices how to maximize their teammates.

It leads to so much information that each turn takes significant amount of time.

Which also leads to another slowdown though more time based then rules based. Once players have too long between their actions (regardless of rulesystem) it's really easy for them to get distracted and therefore need recaps to push this information to them. "This one got hit and bloodied, this one was proned and poisoned".

We used colored and labelled base magnets to show conditions, both to speed the tracking of them as well as convey it quickly to players. In paragon medium sized foes would often find their stack of modifier magnets was more than the height of the mini itself.

Compare this to 5e - much fewer conditions are applied, and usually there isn't stacking of them. Most abilities outside casting are straightforward, you don't need to individually examine a number of similar but not-similar enough options to see what fits best. "Oh, this is burst 2 but it's not ally firendly, that's no good." Casting options are kept down via spells known/prepared, and unlike dailies where it's "if I use it I won't have it again today", you often have multiple slots of the same level so you don't need that caster's remorse slowing things down. Many classes are a lot closer to the Essentials classes in that you have a reasonably powered at-will and then just a few extra options.
 
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Myrhdraak

Explorer
I do not want this thread to turn into another edition war, either defening all aspects of 4th Edition and keeping everything as it is, or why you should change to 5th Edition because playing TotM is a gift from god, etc. I am intrested to see how changing some parameters of 4th Edition could lead to it being changed into something new. If you do not like the thought of that, find another thread.

So what do I mean by changing some parameters? Here is an example:
Example: How would changing Healing Surges in 4th Edition into “Stamina Surges” and changing the following rules affect the game play:

1. Short Rest is 1 hour long. It allow you to recover all you Encounter power by using a Stamina Surge. You can recover one Daily power by using a Stamina Surge, or you can recover 1/4th of your hit points with a Stamina Surge.

2. Extended Rest is 8 hours long. It allow you to recover all your lost HP and you regain all your Stamina Surges which you can use to regain Encounter Powers and Daily Powers in a similar way as a Short Rest.

In such a game the capability to heal will be reduced and having available powers comes with a cost. Even a small encounter that plays through fast in real time, can have an impact. It might force the use of an encounter power, or do some damage that has a cost to recover.
 
What my new 4.5 Edition combat universe should achieve is:
“Deliver long immersive tactical combats for important encounters, but at the same time allow smaller and faster short combat encounters, but with the risk of taxing the party resourses in some way that matters.”
I personally think it's rather hard to do resource attrition - especially hp attrition - as "the main game" in 4e. I agree with [MENTION=82106]AbdulAlhazred[/MENTION] that something else - some story thing - needs to be at stake.

That said, there are RPGs out there that handle the short/long thing fairly easily: they have simple resolution (a la 4e skill chekcs), and then complex resolution (a la 4e's combat rules or a skill challenge), and the GM toggles between them as is appropriate to the dramatic weight of the situation.

In 4e you could easily do something like this - use opposed checks, or just minions, to resolve combats, rather than engaging the hp and damage mechanics. You could even do something like allow the players to pay 1 HS (or 2 HS - whatever you think the right exchange rate is) to convert a standard creature of their level to a minion.

I find the 5th Edition system interesting as it makes HP a limited resource again, i.e. even a small combat encounter might tax the player HP. The short rest is 1 hour instead of 5 minutes, which means players will have to resource manage more. They will have to look for a safe spot to recover from injuries, will in 4th Edition you just carry on after catching your breath.
I think we need to be careful, in our analysis, to avoid conflating the ingame situation with the at-the-table situation.

In the fiction, the PCs look for a safe spot. At the table, in most 5e games I read about, it is the GM who decides whether or not the rest is interrupted. The GM is making pacing decisions. (Or, perhaps, outsourcing them to a random encounter table.) And what is forcing the players to make resource management decisions is not the in-fiction duration of the rest, but rather the decisions made by the GM about the pacing of challenges relative to recovery periods.

A 4e GM can do this too. I'd suggest thinking about how you want to manage pacing first - including how you want to intersperse exploration and combat - and then worry about the question of how long, in the fiction, a rest takes.

One thing to think about is that using "waves" of foes (which is what, in effect 5e is doing with its multiple encounters between rests) strengthens single-target attacks relative to AoEs. Which feeds into [MENTION=55664]ABDULa[/MENTION]lahazred's comment about controllers vs rangers: the latter (and other single-target strikers) will love the waves, the former not so much (in 5e, the use of "waves" in this fashion is one of the devices used to balance fighters against wizards - though often you'll see it expressed in "in fiction" terms of the fighter being able to fight "all day long" while the wizard has to choose how to ration the fireballs).

Another aspect is the discounting of preparation and lack of really usable buffs that can be prepared ahead of time.

<snip>

These are things that could be added back in, which would allow for some more interesting encounters with weaker opponents
My inclination for adjudicating this sort of stuff is as a skill challenge which has the upshot that enemies are "minionised".

But if the goal is to speed things up, I'd be wary of bringing in too much buffing/prepping. That has always been a big part of my RM experience, and I remember sessions where basically the whole time was spent prepping and buffing for a plan that wasn't actually carried out until the next session!
 

Myrhdraak

Explorer
In the fiction, the PCs look for a safe spot. At the table, in most 5e games I read about, it is the GM who decides whether or not the rest is interrupted. The GM is making pacing decisions. (Or, perhaps, outsourcing them to a random encounter table.) And what is forcing the players to make resource management decisions is not the in-fiction duration of the rest, but rather the decisions made by the GM about the pacing of challenges relative to recovery periods.

A 4e GM can do this too. I'd suggest thinking about how you want to manage pacing first - including how you want to intersperse exploration and combat - and then worry about the question of how long, in the fiction, a rest takes.
I would disagree based on my own DMing habits (might be that I am playing it wrong, and being to logical). If the party manages to kill all the sentries outside the orc kings hall. There is just a door between them and the 30 orcs inside. If this had been 4th Edition I would have asked myself, what is the likelihood that there is a an orc coming out of the door during the 5 minutes rest? Maybe I would even have turned it to a dice roll, maybe estimating the likelihood to 10%. However, if I were playing 5th Edition in the same situation I would have deemed it 90% chance that somebody steps out of the door during the 1 hour short rest the players take to be ready for the orc king. Same situation, but totally different end result due to the parameter settings of the two combat universes.

In the 4th Edition universe the party is well rested and goes back to the village to show the chopped off head of the orc king. While in the 5th Edition universe the party ends up as dinner snack for the orc horde.
 
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Myrhdraak

Explorer
I think it puts a MUCH greater premium on the most vanilla high damage-output powers, and then even more so on anything that 'front loads' damage output, such as minor action attacks, reactions, and interrupts. Certain classes, like rangers obviously, will REALLY benefit from this. Other classes, like most controllers, will find their shtick has been significantly devalued, 2 rounds simply isn't enough time for most control to really be leveraged effectively (though at least a few of the more ephemeral UEONT effects may be a little bit more worthwhile).
Yes it would - if you recover all you HP and encounter powers without a cost after a short rest. However, if we make this associated with a cost for these recoveries, you would like to save you high damage output powers. This means that for a low threat encounter that last for two rounds (like in 5th edition), you might only want to use your at-wills and maybe one encounter power. As the damage output decreases, this lower threat actually becomes harder to handle, allowing me as a DM to place small logical skirmishes in my adventure design (without creating a 1+ hour fight). Some sentries, a street thug, etc. which might fit into the overall story, but is maybe not the "grand battle", the party is saving their resources for.
 

Myrhdraak

Explorer
Frankly though, I don't entirely agree with the initial analysis of 4e. It isn't anywhere near as slow, IME, as it is being made out to be. I do think, however, that 4e is made for 'cutting to the chase' and isn't a game where you toss around lots of trivial encounters, generally. It gives you tools to make every encounter dramatic and dynamic instead. That doesn't mean some of them can't be relatively lighter weight than others, just that they probably will want to emphasize something else besides straight up combat difficulty (IE an at-level encounter probably should feature some plot element, some setting element, and some character element that make it more three-dimensional and interesting). Luckily 4e combat INHERENTLY caters to this because it can be quite interesting!
Totally agree with you that I love the 4th Edition interesting battles. That's why I am not switching over to 5th Edition. The question I am asking myself is - why can't I as a DM be allowed to have both? Why can't I have one system that allows me to run the climatic battles 4th Edition gave me, but also allow be as a DM to place smaller skirmishes, that not only feel like a waste of time as it will in no way impact the players in any way. Is that possible? What would have to be changed to do it. 5th Edition took away the climatic battles and replaced it with non-strategic fast moving encounters. Why can't the two worlds not be combined?
 

Scrivener of Doom

Adventurer
I do both in 4E. The trick is all in the encounter design. Lower level brutes that pack a wallop but are easy to hit are perfect for quick skimishes a la 5E. Support them with a few minions - especially minion artillery - and you can have a quick, meaningless, but fun encounter in the same time it takes to something in 5E or the earlier editions.
 

Myrhdraak

Explorer
So, yes, it may take an hour to do a really cool interesting 4e encounter (maybe longer even for a real end-arc type of thing) but that should actually be a GOOD feature!
It sounds great but I think DM David summarize it quite well when you convert 3.5 or 5th edition games to 4th edition, there is a time drawback that cannot be neglected. "My fourth-edition time budget means that I have to cut locations, enemies, and material like a sailor jettisons weight as my ship takes water. I must condense each location to a couple of key encounters, and two fights.”

I see it in at my gametable. The combat-strategists love it, while the role-players and story-tellers feel things are not moving fast enough. I want to be able to combine both, not only serve 60% of the crowd (now refering to my own players). And yes, you can probably by putting a lot of effort into predicting and planning your players every move when writing the adventure serve them both - but what if there is some simple game mechanisms that we have overlooked that make this much simpler - just due to the fact that the 4th edition game had other design parameters in mind when doing the system, and 5th edition their own?
 

Myrhdraak

Explorer
I do both in 4E. The trick is all in the encounter design. Lower level brutes that pack a wallop but are easy to hit are perfect for quick skimishes a la 5E. Support them with a few minions - especially minion artillery - and you can have a quick, meaningless, but fun encounter in the same time it takes to something in 5E or the earlier editions.
I do them as well. That is not the problem. They are free XP, that you could almost replace with the following sentence, as it has the same game impact: "There are two ogres stepping out in the road. You quickly kill them and recieve 400 XP. You are now finally on your way to the Dungeon of Doom". Is there a way that this skirmish somehow could reduce the partys resource in some meaningful way for the real encounters at the Dungeon of Doom?
 
If the party manages to kill all the sentries outside the orc kings hall. There is just a door between them and the 30 orcs inside. If this had been 4th Edition I would have asked myself, what is the likelihood that there is a an orc coming out of the door during the 5 minutes rest? Maybe I would even have turned it to a dice roll, maybe estimating the likelihood to 10%. However, if I were playing 5th Edition in the same situation I would have deemed it 90% chance that somebody steps out of the door during the 1 hour short rest the players take to be ready for the orc king. Same situation, but totally different end result due to the parameter settings of the two combat universes.
But that is exactly what I mean by GM decisions about pacing!

If the GM wants the PCs to have a 1 hour rest, all s/he has to do is decide that the orc king is giving an hour-long address to his swordthanes. Or they are all participating in a ritual to honour Gruumsh. Or . . . That's not even that unrealistic - I give lectures where no one leaves or enters the room for an hour at a time, and that's in a much less hierarchical environment where people have far more busy schedules than an orc fortress!

And to flip it around - if the PCs want have ganked the sentries and you (as GM) want to run it as "waves" style encounter, all you have to do is tell the players that they can hear some voice approaching on the other side of the door. Now they have a minute or so to take their positions and get the benefit of surprise, but they don't have five minutes to rest. It's not as if there's anything unusual about a pair of orcs leaving the throne room, and at worst it's a bit of bad luck that it happens to occur right at the moment the PCs would like to be hanging around outside, unnoticed.

This is why I would suggest that you first work out what sort of pacing structure you want (eg what sorts of encounter levels, how you want the creatures that make up the encounter to be parcelled into "waves", etc), and then decide what sort of ingame treatment of short rests will work best to achieve this.

Yes it would - if you recover all you HP and encounter powers without a cost after a short rest. However, if we make this associated with a cost for these recoveries, you would like to save you high damage output powers. This means that for a low threat encounter that last for two rounds (like in 5th edition), you might only want to use your at-wills and maybe one encounter power. As the damage output decreases, this lower threat actually becomes harder to handle
I do them as well. That is not the problem. They are free XP, that you could almost replace with the following sentence, as it has the same game impact: "There are two ogres stepping out in the road. You quickly kill them and recieve 400 XP. You are now finally on your way to the Dungeon of Doom". Is there a way that this skirmish somehow could reduce the partys resource in some meaningful way for the real encounters at the Dungeon of Doom?
Again, as far as I can tell you are talking about splitting an "encounter" (in the technical sense of a certain bundle of challenges which are collectively bookended by short rests) into multiple "waves" that do not permit short rests between them.

So the two ogres are significant because they will inflict some hp loss, or suck an encounter power, or whatever, and the PCs won't recover that before coming to the next "wave" of the "encounter".

The answer to how to do this? Just do it! of how a situation a bit like this unfolded in my 4e campaign (although each constituent "wave" was a bigger deal than two ogres).

As far as how you rationalise it in the fiction - I think that's a secondary concern. That is, I wouldn't encourage you to simply tell your players that you're houseruling short rests into 1 hour, and then hope that your new "combat universe" will emerge organically. After all, there's no necessary guarantee that it will.

Rather, I'd be upfront and tell your players that you're wanting to change the pacing a bit, and that short rests will be on a stricter ration. And then, if you want to block the players getting a short rest you just come right out and block it!, adding some appropriate narration - whether that be "You hear some voices approaching the door", or "Dragging the ogre bodies off the road takes a bit longer than you hoped - you're going to have to get going without stopping to rest if you want to avoide getting caught outside in the storm," or whatever else seems to work.

13th Age is very upfront about this in relation to long rests - if the players take one before 4 level appropriate encounters have been handled, the GM is allowed to inflict a "campaign loss" on them. You could do the same thing for short rests.

TL;DR - your concern is ultimately about how to pace the unfolding of "encounters" (in the technical sense). Focus on taking control of the pacing; be upfront with your players; and then let the fiction fall into place around that.
 

Myrhdraak

Explorer
If the GM wants the PCs to have a 1 hour rest, all s/he has to do is decide that the orc king is giving an hour-long address to his swordthanes. Or they are all participating in a ritual to honour Gruumsh. Or . . . That's not even that unrealistic - I give lectures where no one leaves or enters the room for an hour at a time, and that's in a much less hierarchical environment where people have far more busy schedules than an orc fortress!

And to flip it around - if the PCs want have ganked the sentries and you (as GM) want to run it as "waves" style encounter, all you have to do is tell the players that they can hear some voice approaching on the other side of the door. Now they have a minute or so to take their positions and get the benefit of surprise, but they don't have five minutes to rest. It's not as if there's anything unusual about a pair of orcs leaving the throne room, and at worst it's a bit of bad luck that it happens to occur right at the moment the PCs would like to be hanging around outside, unnoticed.
I think we run a little different games. Yours seems more story focused where you adjust circumstances and rules based on characters actions. In my games I try to stick with the rules and based on the players knowledge of those rules (or the game world), their actions have consecuenses. If they would be stupid enough to take a 1 hour rest in front of the orc kings hall when they are low on resources, then they are in for a tough ride. I would not “pace” that to be nice - bad choices are rewarded with dire consequences. But the only way that can work is if we have a set of agreed rules that everybody understands and knows about.
 
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Myrhdraak

Explorer
The answer to how to do this? Just do it!
I intend to, but before implementing something I was hoping to take advantage of all the other sharp DMs out there. Maybe somebody have already tried something similar and have some important learnings they can share? Maybe somebody have thought about these same ideas and done some house rules themselves they were willing to share? Maybe somebody is running much more frequent games and have seen a lot of different game play from both 4th and 5th edition to share how the rest and recovery changes between 4th and 5th has really changed the player behaviour at their table? Who knows? Hopefully somebody can contribute with some learnings or analysis, other than sticking to the rules that have been given us. In 5th Edition we were at least given options for various play styles in the DMG - that never happened in 4th Edition - it was one way or the high-way (even though I seem to remember som Dragon article towards the end of the 4th Edition era when they started to loosen up things a bit).
 
I would not “pace” that to be nice - bad choices are rewarded with dire consequences.
Fair enough, but then you're still going to have your ogre problem. Because unless the PCs really have to get to the Dungeon of Doom in a hurry, adding a 1 hour rest to their day or more of travel is going to make the resource expenditure against the ogres of little or no significance. (Maybe the fighter burns a surge during the short rest.)

Maybe somebody have already tried something similar and have some important learnings they can share?
Lots of 4e GMs have varied rest durations - eg short rest = 1 day, extended rest = 1 week, or = a few days in a haven (ie not just anywhere with room to lay down a bedroll).

And, as you've seen in this thread, some 4e GMs use encounters with fewer opponents and/or minions to introduce short or "filler" combats between the bigger deals.

And as I mentioned, 13th Age uses a "swap an early rest for a campaign loss" system that could easily be adapted to short as well as long rests.

But what I'm trying to convey in my posts is that the issue you're asking about - how to vary the ratio of combats to recovery - has a clear mechanical meaning in 4e: it's about spacing out the elements of an encounter (in the technical sense of a resource-consuming event that occurs between short rests). What you are asking for is advice on how to have encounters that come in waves rather than all at once (ie there are discrete moments of combat, although in mechanical terms they're all part of one encounter). For instance, wo ogres on the way to the Dungeon of Doom, who suck an encounter power and some hit points that don't get recovered before the PCs enter said Dungeon, are - in mechanical terms - just one wave of the encounter that is (in mechanical terms) ongoing until the PCs take their short rest.

If you want to do this simply in terms of dungeon design, you build your whole dungeon using an appropriate encounter budget (say, Level +4 for heroic tier PCs) and then deny the PCs a short rest while they're in the dungeon. Whether you achieve this denial by way of fiat, or a 13th Age approach, or via random encounter tables, or via your extrapolation from the "living, breathing" dungeon environment, is secondary: choose whichever one works for you. The key thing, in order to get what you want, is the denial.

Now if you want to extend it to the two ogres, though, you're going to have to look more closely at how you achieve the denial. 13th Age-style will work. So will fiat. "Living, breathing" adjudication might - but equally your players might find it a bit odd that they can never get a peaceful hours rest by the side of the road after knocking over a couple of ogres. And random encounters raise the same issue.

This issue - of the problems that arise from using an in-fiction concept ("rests take 1 hour") to manage what is essentially a pacing question ("I need this many enemies to be fought before the first short rest, or else the resource attrition won't work like I wanted it to") - has been discussed at great length in relation to 5e. (And before then, going back to discussions around 5 minute workdays and nova-ing.) The only solution that is generally offered is that the GM should pour on time pressure such that the players won't want to rest because if they rest they'll lose. In effect that's the 13th Age approach, only cloaked in a veneer of in-game logic. (And how thin that veneer is, and how likely to be seen through if the same pattern keeps recurring, is a major topic of discussion on those threads.)

I don't really recommend those threads, as they rarely cut through to the analytical nub: which is that the fundamental question is "How much do I want to ration short rests relative to the events of the game"? And if the answer is "no short rest between every moment of fisticuffs" then you need to focus on that, and then think about what technique you are going to use to enforce the rationing. Getting caught up thinking that the means (the technique for rationing short rests) is an end in itself - which is a frequent feature of those threads - is just a distraction from the real discussion, which is the feasibility of different techniques for diffrent playstyles and different campaign set ups. (Eg as I've said, a time-extension to short rests might work for a dungeon campaign, but probably won't help with the two ogres on the road.)
 

Myrhdraak

Explorer
Fair enough, but then you're still going to have your ogre problem. Because unless the PCs really have to get to the Dungeon of Doom in a hurry, adding a 1 hour rest to their day or more of travel is going to make the resource expenditure against the ogres of little or no significance. (Maybe the fighter burns a surge during the short rest.)
The 1 hour rest might have an impact in a dangerous zone, such as a dungeon, where there is limited available areas to find a safe haven for 1 hour. In 4th Edition this is not the case. A dungeon of 4 major encounter areas would guarantee 3 short rests between each area, with full recovery of encounter powers and HP between each encounter. That would not be the case if the short rest were 1 hour and there is no chance in hell to find a spot without leaving the dungeon. As a DM this could allow me to create 3 simple encounters and one really hard. The first three is basic skirmish and the final one uses the full advantage of 4th edition tactial combat. The first would involve at least 2+2+2+2 hours of tactical combat the later maybe ½+½+½+2 hours, while still having a nice 4th Edition experience in the last battle, leaving me with 3½ hours of exploration, puzzles and roleplaying opportunities I could never had fit in to the 4th edition version of the dungeon during the same time period.

However, as you say, it would not solve the Ogre ambush while travelling to the Dungeon of Doom. That would require another mechanism. What would that be? You could go back to 1st edition with no healing surges whatsoever. You only recover encounter powers after a short rest. You regain 2 hit points after an extended rest. Yes, now those two Ogres would have a serious impact on the party. Maybe the party will have to try to find solace somewhere in the dark forest for two weeks to recover enought hit points to dare enter the Dungeon of Doom. I might not want to take my game back to those lovely days again (without risking by players' wrath), but I hope you see my point. There are mechanisms - parameters - that changes how taxing the Ogre encounter becomes.
 
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