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D&D 5E Examples of adventuring challenges you can spare a few minutes to do but not a few hours?

I'm working on something that I don't want to get into details on yet to as to keep the thread focused, but I realized that I really need to analyze this particular issue. What sorts of situations are there that come up in adventuring where a party can easily spare a few minutes to devote to better or more safely accomplishing the task (or even accomplishing it at all), but can't afford to devote a few hours for the same purpose? The time frame is intended to exclude the Combat Pillar, and also exclude anything that you can take all day on.

Thanks for any thoughts or examples!
 

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Stormonu

Legend
Basically, that'd be anything the characters need a minute or few to plan, or to gather the materials to accomplish a task.

Stuff like:

  • Build a plank bridge over a hazard, such as a pit or stream
  • Foraging for food in a garden
  • Rigging a trap or disarming one
  • Laying out a meal
  • Getting directions to a location
  • Pumping an NPC for information
  • Praying to the gods
  • Discussing a plan of action to tackle a hazard or encounter
 

Thanks!

So, in looking at those, it seems like the only one that you couldn't spare a few hours to do might be the social ones of getting directions or pumping the NPC for information. For all the rest, is there any reason you couldn't just take all day on it if there were some meaningful benefit for doing so?
 

Something to consider is the point of diminishing returns. You could spend a lot of time on a simple task, such as foraging, but after a while you've gotten what you need. Spending more time on it doesn't really benefit you that much. Despite the way some of the rules are laid out, this is pretty much true for every task.
 

Quickleaf

Legend
Riddles come to mind.

Yeah, the party could spend hours trying to solve a riddle, but you know the players won't have the patience for that and somebody is going to try to solve it by sword or by spell. The PCs have better things to do with their time, so if they can't solve the riddling door in a few minutes, Eltebald the dwarf is going to turn that door into firewood.
 

Really depends on time pressure. If a task is important, and the party have no reason to rush, spending a few hours smashing a door (or the stonework around it) can be time well spent.

On the other hand I have twice blown a level 5 Animate Objects spell just to get through a door. The first because there was no time pressure and heavy combat was unlikely. The second because it was absolutely imperative that the party get through it immediately.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
For all the rest, is there any reason you couldn't just take all day on it if there were some meaningful benefit for doing so?

How much time you can spare for a task is going to be largely situational.

If you are building a bridge across a steam on a pleasant sunny day in a grassy meadow, you can take all the time you want. If you are building a bridge across a gap between an outer wall and a building while sneaking into the Evil Duke's keep that is crawling with guards, you probably can't spend hours on it.
 

Okay, I’ll probably have to give context. I‘m analyzing which items require attunement and why. There are precisely 2 listed reasons for an item to require attunement in the DMG (though examination shows those reasons are not sufficient to explain actual items that require attunement a lot of the time). The particular rule I’m currently examining, to determine which attunement items it actually applies to is:

”If having all the characters in a party pass an item around to gain its lasting benefits would be disruptive, the item should require attunement.”

I‘m assuming “disruptive“ means either overpowered or a hassle. Since you can’t effectively pass an item around in combat rounds this criterion must be talking about out-of-combat usage. Depending on party size, a party can attune and pass around an item for everyone to use in about 4 to 6 hours, which means they could even do it a couple of times a day if they wanted to. This means that attunement does nothing to prevent overpowered usage either in combat or on a day-long scale. It can prevent hassles on a day-long scale in rare situations, such as regeneration items. If they didn‘t require attunement a party would pass them around regularly, and even if they were high enough level for it not to be overpowered (doesn’t take much) it would be a hassle for the players and DM alike. While you still can pass it around to a lesser extent even with attunement, because of the amount of healing normally available in 5e it just isn’t worth the effort. So in that situation attunement does exactly what it is supposed to by eliminating a disruptive hassle from the game.

But items like that, which involve daily level hassle rather than being overpowered are rather few and far between. I’m attempting to determine what types of situations that criterion may apply to that could happen in an in-between time scale: when you are willing and able to spend 5 minutes to a couple hours, but not willing to spend half the day on it. I‘m searching for such examples because I want to give the attunement criterion the benefit of the doubt that it actually is meaningful, but it requires an additional timescale where it is regularly and significantly meaningful for that to be true.

One possible example would be damage resistance and a trapped corridor that shoots gouts of flames at you when you go down it. Wear the ring of fire resistance as you pass through it, then toss it back to the next party member, and repeat. But even that example relies on there being an actual time pressure. Otherwise attunement just means you spend half the day rather than 5 minutes to accomplish the same thing. Attunement creates a “disruption” rather than preventing one. (I actually think attunement requirements on damage resistance are based on the other criterion I didn‘t bring up, so I don’t want to focus on this as more than example of the difficulty in finding good examples.)

I’m sure that context will help, but I’m hoping it doesn‘t derail the thread into a more general attunement discussion. I’ve started general attunement threads in the past, and will start one to report my findings in the future, but in this case I‘m wanting to focus in particularly on that quoted criterion and when it could actually be meaningful.
 

Ooof. OK. I might start with some houserules to attunement like "any effect created or maintained by an attuned item ends if the attunement of the user who created it ends"
and possibly limit items like the ring or regeneration to only restore hit points lost whilst the item was attuned.

Or you could limit item attunements to once per day per item.

However, in terms of tasks, its all about the time pressure. If the party has no reason to rush, they could pass around that Ring of Fire Resistance. If they have less time to play around, they might just spend one short rest so the person most likely to die in the Corridor of Flamey Doom gets to use the ring, or they might just take their chances if they're really in a rush.
 

aco175

Legend
Would it be better to look at the items themselves? Some of the items may lend to being more a problem than others. Some situations I present thinking the players will come at one way and they come at it completely different and I just need to say meh, maybe next time.

I'm having a hard time coming up with good responses but limited time.
 

Stormonu

Legend
To me, what that statement would be talking about would be:

  • Items that modify saves or resistances (ring of fire resistance, ring of protection)
  • Non-charged items that grant non-cantrip spells (ring of invisibility, ring of the ram, ring of regeneration)
  • Items that replicate skills (Cloak of Elvinkind, Boots of Jumping)
  • Items that modify ability scores (Gauntlets of Ogre Power)

Granted, I haven't gone over the magic item list very much (to be frank, I've actually given out exceedingly few magic items in my 5E games until recently), but these would be the sort of things I'd keep my eyes out on.
 

Would it be better to look at the items themselves?
In process. Basically, I want to figure out exactly what they actually did with the rules for attunement before I start changing them (whether in general or for a particular item). So this topic is just one of several I‘m examining, but it stands out as rather odd.

To me, what that statement would be talking about would be:

  • Items that modify saves or resistances (ring of fire resistance, ring of protection)
  • Non-charged items that grant non-cantrip spells (ring of invisibility, ring of the ram, ring of regeneration)
  • Items that replicate skills (Cloak of Elvinkind, Boots of Jumping)
  • Items that modify ability scores (Gauntlets of Ogre Power)

Granted, I haven't gone over the magic item list very much (to be frank, I've actually given out exceedingly few magic items in my 5E games until recently), but these would be the sort of things I'd keep my eyes out on.

How do you derive those points?

I ask, because most of those actually are hidden rules I’ve extracted from my analysis of the items in the DMG.

Resistance/immunity or Advantage on saves always requires attunement, with the odd exception of the periapt of proof against poison.

Items that allow you to cast (or produce the effect of) non-cantrip, non-ritual spells at-will always require attunement.

Items that modify ability scores always require attunement.

Skills are tricky. For some skills you can get bonuses or Advantage without attunement, but for others it is less consistent. There seems to be a trend to require attunement for things that grant skill bonuses for Perception or Stealth, but there are exceptions to both of those. Swimming (and even getting a swim speed and/or water breathing) doesn’t require attunement, but climbing for some reason you just can’t have without attunement (other than the non-equipable rope of climbing). Jumping is undecided, because the items that help you jump either follow another rule (like producing an at-will spells) or are bundled with another uncommon effect that is hard to analyze.

So I’m quite interested to hear what elements of those particular features make them fit that particular criterion. Since you may be thinking the same as the designers about it, you’re already ahead of me on it.
 

Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
I'm working on something that I don't want to get into details on yet to as to keep the thread focused, but I realized that I really need to analyze this particular issue. What sorts of situations are there that come up in adventuring where a party can easily spare a few minutes to devote to better or more safely accomplishing the task (or even accomplishing it at all), but can't afford to devote a few hours for the same purpose? The time frame is intended to exclude the Combat Pillar, and also exclude anything that you can take all day on.

Thanks for any thoughts or examples!
Things like these?

 

Things like these?

Yes, that sort of thing. I've got some things like that on my own "Interesting Encounters" tables, though not as well developed.

In thinking about the sorts of mid-time frame exploration challenges that would matter for attunement passing, I think I've focused in a bit more today. For attunement to actually prevent the party passing the item around, these things all need to be true:
1. It needs to be something that you can't wait to address--it has to matter now (even though it is longer than combat rounds)
2. It needs to be something where you can address the challenge one character at a time
3. It needs to be something where the challenge actually matters

An example of one that I can think of is an unstable/collapsing area where you need to climb out of it. You aren't in combat rounds, but you can't take all day to do this. Without attunement, you could pass around those gloves of swimming and climbing or belt of giant strength to let each character have the bonus to their Strength (Athletics) checks to climb out of it, which is exactly the sort of thing this is designed to prevent.

But many of the sorts of hazards you'll come across are either ones you can take your time on (ie, if you need to climb that cliff and it isn't collapsing), or ones where everyone has to address it at once (a blizzard or tornado, or other situation where it hits the whole area at once). And if the challenge/hazard/danger isn't really meaningful, then making it easy for the party to overcome it isn't overpowered. In any of those cases, attunement doesn't seem like it should be present, based on the stated criterion.

So I guess the inquiry could turn to whether or not there is the assumption of exposure to sufficient exploration hazards that fit #1-#3 to justify considering that factor for the purpose of attunement rules. I've run hundreds of hours of 5e D&D, and I can't think of many situations (none off the top of my head) where there have been time sensitive challenges outside of combat rounds where item attunement restrictions would make any difference. There have been time-sensitive situations in combat (where passing items is impractical and therefore irrelevent for the passing to the whole party criterion), there has been the Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan where rests damage the whole party (so you can't deal with things one character at a time, again making that attunement criterion irrelevent), and there have been the standard situations where something will happen in a certain number of days, or you need to get to place A within time period B, etc. Again, off the top of my head I can't think of any situations in hundreds of hours of play where #1-#3 all applied in the same situation.

Can anyone else think of any from their campaigns? And are they frequent enough to be worth taking account of for rules restrictions?
 


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