D&D General Changing your Rest paradigm is the single biggest, yet smallest, change you can make

This is paradoxically common knowledge and something most people do not know or just simply forget — that how you handle resting dictates the feel of your game. While it'll always be combat-slanted (in reality, conflict-slanted), when your players can recover influences the pacing of your encounters which, in turn, has narrative impacts that reshape the genre of your world.

I'll go over a few different examples, some from the DMG, some not in the DMG.

First example is gritty realism. That's a 24-hour short rest and a seven-day long rest. This kind of resting slows down the game's pacing a lot OR creates a high-tension game where every combat could potentially kill you. If you like more OSR-style gaming, you can put players in a high-density area, forcing them to use non-combative means to deal with the encounters around them. Narratively, this can make dungeons very intense and changes how magic feels in your world. Instead of having people wake up with all their powers, they now have to manage things over around a week or so, forcing the play to rely more on magic items, equipment, NPC connections, or their own ingenuity.

Another example is Safe Haven Resting. In this version, you can only gain the benefits of a long rest by resting in a haven. This can be anything from an oasis to a safe house. Short rests can be taken anywhere, but are usually longer as a result, sometimes 8 hours, sometimes 24. Likewise, sometimes a long rest in Safe Having Resting may require 24 hours. This creates a game more focused on exploration. Players have to find the haven, as it is their lifeline, have to potentially defend it or clear it out, and have to remember where it is for future use. Haven's also make amazing narrative tools, because you can have things like baiting in an enemy to destroy them with the haven, or have someone who forces a contract on the players in order to use the haven, and so on.

There is also the idea of Reward Resting. In this version, the benefits of a short and long rest are rewards from DMs. This can be for things such as defeating a particularly important or powerful enemy, discovering something they've been looking for, or even seeing something amazing after a long time of tension or darkness. Reward Resting can be narratively explained with ideas such as "inspiration" or "relief" — the characters are so relieved and impressed upon by the event that their body relaxes. In this kind of resting system, wounds and HP are probably divorced in the narrative. You're at full HP, but that's because your willpower is letting you push past the fact you have lacerations. This kind of resting is the best for cinematic games, action-heavy games, or even official modules, because it lets you keep the momentum of the story going without having to break for resting. You can still have default rests as well with Reward Resting, relying more on the rewards then finding 8 hours to sleep.

These different kinds of resting paradigms can be combined to create a game with rich texture. Gritty Realism and Safe Haven resting, when combined, can make for a highly tense wilderness, plane, or Underdark-focused campaign. You can throw Reward Resting into the mix as a pleasant surprise when the players overcome a challenge or discover something despite the odds against them. You can also manipulate these ideas more, tweaking how many days a long rest is for Gritty Realism, or by letting Inspiration be how players get their Reward Rests. Safe Havens could open up new avenues in your game where the players have to either construct a safe haven or work on an existing one to protect or save it.

In terms of genre, these resting paradigms lend themselves well to new themes. Gritty Realism is great for Fantasy Noir or similar investigation stories. Safe Haven resting is also great for that, letting you bring up safe houses, NPC connections, and so on. For high-flying games or ultra-heroic games, Reward Resting feels right, letting your characters surge with power in response to accompolishing some heruclean task. Or, you could use it for a post-apocalyptic world, where finding water or fresh food or shelter gives you your Reward Rest. You can even use Gritty Realism + Rewards at high levels, making it easier to operate around the player's immense amount of resources while still rewarding them for their in-game accomplishments. These manipulations let you hone in on a game's feel, because resting itself is so core to the game. The ripple effects I mention in this post are just the tip of the iceberg.

A lot of people say that D&D is only good for one thing. But I find that simple alterations like these opens up D&D to new stories.
 

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Mort

Legend
Supporter
Absolutely,

the rest paradigm alone can easily set a game from heroic to horror.

For example, if I want a more heroic and high paced game - I set the short rests at 5 minutes (generally limit 2 between long rests).
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
Heroic. Short rests take 5 minutes. Max 2 per long rest.

Superheroic. Short rests take a free action. Max 2 per long rest. Long rests take 5 minutes.
 


aco175

Legend
I tend to think that pulling at one thread like this changed a lot of other things like class choice and spell use. If the game is designed to have 3-4 encounters before a short rest and another 3-4 before a long rest, then changing this ripples through other things. I think that is why the new edition will be going to profiency bonus/day over 1/rest mechanics.
 


Oofta

Legend
I use the gritty rest rules myself. The primary difference I see is that it allows me to have in-world pacing of adventures that makes more sense to me. Since I regularly run city campaigns, I don't do the safe haven because they can usually return to their residence at night. The other benefit is a bit more verisimilitude when it comes to healing; I also typically describe most injuries as strains and bruises, an accumulation of small injuries.

I originally used the regular rest rules, but got tired of trying to emulate the 24 tv show where everything happens over the course of a day. Sometimes it makes sense, other times not so much. Now I can get in 4-10 fights between long rests while still having people run around all over town chasing down leads, having stake-outs and all sorts of other things.

I do add a houserule though, that any spell that lasts 30 minutes or more (other than cantrips) gets their duration multiplied by 4. That's just so that things like Mage Armor still function in-game similar to what they do with standard rest rules.
 

Mort

Legend
Supporter
I do add a houserule though, that any spell that lasts 30 minutes or more (other than cantrips) gets their duration multiplied by 4. That's just so that things like Mage Armor still function in-game similar to what they do with standard rest rules.

That seems like it would be a good houserule. One thing 5e did was make durations for most spells ridiculously short. There are a few standouts but most are way too fast!
 

Changing the rest paradigm without talking about pacing is... well, it's short sighted. The number and types of rests that fit the game mechanics best changes depending upon what type of adventuring you are doing. Wilderness exploration the standard rules don't work well because how many days of travel are going to have more than one encounter? But in a dungeon, or even in a city in the middle of a tumultuous series of encounters the standard rules can work great.

You've got to coordinate your resting along with encounter pacing.
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
Supporter
Changing the rest paradigm without talking about pacing is... well, it's short sighted. The number and types of rests that fit the game mechanics best changes depending upon what type of adventuring you are doing. Wilderness exploration the standard rules don't work well because how many days of travel are going to have more than one encounter? But in a dungeon, or even in a city in the middle of a tumultuous series of encounters the standard rules can work great.

You've got to coordinate your resting along with encounter pacing.
I would go along with this by saying that the one that people always seem to add to their Short Resting mechanics that to me seems rather unnecessary is something along the lines of "Max 2 per Long Rest".

To me, I just don't really get the need to make this a hard and fast rule. After all... I'm the DM-- unless the party just voluntarily goes out in the world to kick the crap out of every single thing come upon-- I'm the one who will pretty much dictate how many encounters the party will have. If I want the party to have three encounters with a pair of Short Rests between them and then have a Long Rest... then that's what I will put in front of the players. But if the situation of the narrative calls for like six or seven encounters over the course of a day (usually dungeon crawling) and the party is able to squeeze three or four Short Rests in there... why put in a rule that says to them "No! You can't take those! Two only!" What's the point of denying them more Short Rests on occasion?

As the DM I will be able to give every character with all of their various resource recharging mechanics relatively equal time and spotlight just by varying up the different encounters (in size, length, and number). So there's no reason to create or force an arbitrary rule. See what the party might need on any particuar day, and work around it accordingly.
 

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