5E Resource-Draining Model D&D Doesn't Work (for me)

Retreater

Adventurer
One of the key mechanics of D&D over the years has been the idea of resource-draining encounters. You burn torches, you fire arrows, you lose hit points to swarms of mooks, you cast spells from encounter-to-encounter, you scrape by with just enough strength left in you to fight the Big Bad at the end of the dungeon. Or you camp in a "safe area," hoping your characters can recover their resources without random encounters that further drag out the game and spend more resources.

Herein is the problem (for me). My group gets together twice a month, if we're lucky. We get about 3 hours of "quality" time each session (after taking out breaks, snacks, general socializing, etc.) Knowing that the majority of our time is going to be spent with "another ho-hum goblin encounter that will only challenge us by spending a 1st level spell and a few arrows" or a trap that might do 1-6 hp of damage, it just doesn't seem a good way to spend time.

Any one else experiencing this? Any work-arounds?
 

Bitbrain

Adventurer
Well, the group I DM for meets once a month for about four hours.

I try to limit the combat encounters to 2 or 3 fights, with a short rest between each.
then at the next session, everyone restarts at full, as though they had had a long rest.

EDIT
Also, each combat is of Hard or Deadly difficulty, which tends to make even the most reluctant spellcaster start casting spells like there is no tomorrow.
 
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happyhermit

Explorer
Goblin encounters don't have to be ho-hum, whether they are short or long, much of this depends on the people playing/world etc.

More to the point though, how long does it take your group to run a "trivial" combat? 5/10/30 minutes? I think that can be a big factor.
 

Xeviat

Explorer
Any one else experiencing this? Any work-arounds?
I feel like this is part of the feel of D&D. The only work around is to make the encounters you do have on the harder side and shoot for 3 encounters a day with short rests in between.

4th Edition really helped avoid this, but it changed so much that I had a hard time getting enough players.
 

Fanaelialae

Adventurer
I've definitely had game sessions where, between RP and debating plans, there really wasn't time for more than one encounter. It would be nice if there was a resource to estimate encounter difficulty for a 1-2 encounter day, in addition to the 6-8 model. It wouldn't be as balanced between the short and long rest classes, but it would be nice to have for those days.
 

5ekyu

Adventurer
One of the key mechanics of D&D over the years has been the idea of resource-draining encounters. You burn torches, you fire arrows, you lose hit points to swarms of mooks, you cast spells from encounter-to-encounter, you scrape by with just enough strength left in you to fight the Big Bad at the end of the dungeon. Or you camp in a "safe area," hoping your characters can recover their resources without random encounters that further drag out the game and spend more resources.

Herein is the problem (for me). My group gets together twice a month, if we're lucky. We get about 3 hours of "quality" time each session (after taking out breaks, snacks, general socializing, etc.) Knowing that the majority of our time is going to be spent with "another ho-hum goblin encounter that will only challenge us by spending a 1st level spell and a few arrows" or a trap that might do 1-6 hp of damage, it just doesn't seem a good way to spend time.

Any one else experiencing this? Any work-arounds?
Every statem is designed with a set of assumptions about the experience in play. 5e gives GMs that as a sort of heads up, not as a requirement. Many systems dont tell you, let you guess.

In my experience, few tables tend to execute those expectations - regardless of dystems.

If my gsme were limited sessions I would skip any worry about resource drain, definitely **never** have a "just goblin drain" encounter - any of those would contain more meaning and tie-ins.

I would then raise the threat on key encounters and especially focus on dramatic raises of threat and tension through "waves" or what 5e calls "extended encounters."

I would also tend to focus on non-resource related "solutions" elements too, right alongside the others.

I think a frequent problem among dome GMs is their reading the 5e under the hood stuff about how resources and 6-8 encounter etc as either requirements or actual expectations of play for their table, instead of them being just an example of the assumptions used so the GM can adjust.
 

Retreater

Adventurer
Goblin encounters don't have to be ho-hum, whether they are short or long, much of this depends on the people playing/world etc.

More to the point though, how long does it take your group to run a "trivial" combat? 5/10/30 minutes? I think that can be a big factor.
Closer to the 20-30 minute mark. Between drawing a map, ordering initiative, determining battle positions, etc, even "trivial" combats take too long when the only consequence is a few minor resources spent. But the game isn't set up for "edge of your seat, tax the party to the max" combats.
 

Retreater

Adventurer
I feel like this is part of the feel of D&D. The only work around is to make the encounters you do have on the harder side and shoot for 3 encounters a day with short rests in between.

4th Edition really helped avoid this, but it changed so much that I had a hard time getting enough players.
I've been running a bit of 4e in recent years. Unfortunately the problem seems even worse with 1.5 hour trivial encounters.
 

CubicsRube

Explorer
Closer to the 20-30 minute mark. Between drawing a map, ordering initiative, determining battle positions, etc, even "trivial" combats take too long when the only consequence is a few minor resources spent. But the game isn't set up for "edge of your seat, tax the party to the max" combats.
I'd strongly encourage theatre of the mind for trivial combats and using maps only for big set encounters. Run the trivial ones more cinematically and describe their actions more. Runs much faster, and when you do pull out the map it creates variety in the players minds and they know that shizz is going down.

I'd also just scrap initiative for these eno:):):):)ers and just use side initiative, but your players might not like that.
 

Xaelvaen

Explorer
One of the key mechanics of D&D over the years has been the idea of resource-draining encounters. You burn torches, you fire arrows, you lose hit points to swarms of mooks, you cast spells from encounter-to-encounter, you scrape by with just enough strength left in you to fight the Big Bad at the end of the dungeon. Or you camp in a "safe area," hoping your characters can recover their resources without random encounters that further drag out the game and spend more resources.

Herein is the problem (for me). My group gets together twice a month, if we're lucky. We get about 3 hours of "quality" time each session (after taking out breaks, snacks, general socializing, etc.) Knowing that the majority of our time is going to be spent with "another ho-hum goblin encounter that will only challenge us by spending a 1st level spell and a few arrows" or a trap that might do 1-6 hp of damage, it just doesn't seem a good way to spend time.

Any one else experiencing this? Any work-arounds?
I don't experience the problem in the same way as you, in that we play weekly - however, there are similar situations that arise for different reasons; mainly, we've been playing for 20 years, and you have to continuously keep it fresh and interesting. Here's a few things that I use. While they may not be ideal for you and your party, I hope it helps:

1) Glass Cannons: I create my own monsters to be very low in Hit Points when the battle needs to go quicker, but pack a far deadlier punch than their durability might otherwise portray. This allows a lot of damage to be inflicted onto the party early, and you create a sense of 'edge of your seat danger' right off the bat. The enemies die quickly, which means that the damage output goes down very rapidly, and the battle becomes quicker with each passing round. Bugbears are a great example of this, provided they start the battle hidden, of course.

2) DMG alternate - 5 minute Short Rests: We found that we go without magical healers more often than not when we play 5E. Hit Dice healing is absolutely necessary. So instead of players worrying about that hour of time to recharge their abilities and heal, we just made it so you can do that right after every battle. It creates a sense of automatic memory and players can do this very expeditiously, saving not only time 'in character' but also time in reality.

3) Success at a Cost: When a player just barely misses a target number (attack roll, skill check, saving throw, etc.), I give them the option of succeeding anyway, but at a cost. This decreases the number of wasted turns and lets the combat go a bit faster, at least as far as the players feel. The cost is up to you. (At my table, we use GM Tokens. When a player wants to succeed at a cost, the GM gets a token. The GM can spend these tokens to add +1d6 to any d20 roll a badguy makes.)

4) Round Time Limit Bonus: I have a 1 minute stopwatch behind my DM screen. On each player's turn, they get 1 minute to complete their turn, including all dice rolling and information conveyance. If they take longer, that's okay - no one is punished. But if they are done within the minute, they get a bonus on whatever action they took for the round. The players know this, so they try to work together off-turn, plan and strategize, and get their things organized better for each round. A lot of the time I make that bonus +2 to the attack (if they need it to hit), or +5 damage. Again, this makes things go much faster, and encourages teamwork and communication.
 

happyhermit

Explorer
Closer to the 20-30 minute mark. Between drawing a map, ordering initiative, determining battle positions, etc, even "trivial" combats take too long when the only consequence is a few minor resources spent.
Yeah, if I get what you mean by trivial then that is along time. Have you tried to streamline things down, if so what worked/didn't? When we aren't playing slowly for some particular reason (off-topic conversations, snacking, brand-new player etc.) initiative order takes literal seconds to write down, for instance, whereas it used to take minutes and be more stressful. I almost always run Totm in general, but less complicated combats even more-so. Using existing maps or predrawing ones can help, or just trying to sketch quicker. Determining battle positions is easily handled by declaring "marching order" outside of combat, often just casually in description.

But the game isn't set up for "edge of your seat, tax the party to the max" combats.
I don't know if it's not "set up for" it, but it can certainly handle them. If you only ever get 1 combat per long rest, that can be an issue for inter-party balance, sure.
 

Eric V

Adventurer
I've been running a bit of 4e in recent years. Unfortunately the problem seems even worse with 1.5 hour trivial encounters.
I usually found that once a fight got down to spamming at-wills, it was over and we just handwaved the rest.

I really appreciate your position on this one though; though I play a bit more frequently than you, it's still a slog for no real (fun) reason it seems.

It's a big enough problem that, after this campaign wraps up, we'll be switching to 13th Age. Have you considered that?
 

S'mon

Legend
My Princes of the Apocalypse game plays monthly, maybe 4 hours. There is still resource drain - several fights between (1 week) long rests is common - the fights aren't normally trivial since a trivial fight doesn't drain significant resources anyway. 5e expects PCs can do 6-8 medium to hard fights per LR before being tapped out.
 

ccs

39th lv DM
Your main problem is that you're writing/running the wrong type of adventure for your particular group.

But you're compounding it by wasting time on stuff that doesn't much matter - drawing maps that are more than just crude sketches, rolling initiatives.
If it's not a vital encounter just describe the area ToTM style, give the PCs the initiative (or roll group init), etc
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
One of the key mechanics of D&D over the years has been the idea of resource-draining encounters. You burn torches, you fire arrows, you lose hit points to swarms of mooks, you cast spells from encounter-to-encounter, you scrape by with just enough strength left in you to fight the Big Bad at the end of the dungeon. Or you camp in a "safe area," hoping your characters can recover their resources without random encounters that further drag out the game and spend more resources.

Herein is the problem (for me). My group gets together twice a month, if we're lucky. We get about 3 hours of "quality" time each session (after taking out breaks, snacks, general socializing, etc.) Knowing that the majority of our time is going to be spent with "another ho-hum goblin encounter that will only challenge us by spending a 1st level spell and a few arrows" or a trap that might do 1-6 hp of damage, it just doesn't seem a good way to spend time.

Any one else experiencing this? Any work-arounds?
Which version of D&D are you running? And what level are the PCs?

If it's 0-1-2e then the simple encounters, particularly at low level, shouldn't take long at all (though for the love of your sanity avoid RAW 1e initiative like the plague!); and for some of them you might not even need a detailed map. At about 4th level or below in 1e I can usually get through several simple encounters in a session, plus some intervening story, scouting, information gathering, and in-character arguments. As the PCs get higher in level, however, even the most basic of encounters can get bogged down in a hurry - my PCs average about 8th-9th level these days and even a simple battle can take half the night.

If it's 3e or 4e you're a bit more up against it at any PC level, as both those kinda demand proper battlemaps and that time be spent on tactics and abilities etc. even in a simple combat. And 4e comes with the added time-sink of higher PC and monster hit points, unless you use a lot of minions...though some of this can be mitigated by skill challenges taking the place of time-consuming exploration and info gathering if you so desire.

Itf it's 5e - well, the advertising told us it could play quick, or be made to, if that's what you want. Reports from posters in here, however, would tend to suggest otherwise; and that's all I can go on as, though I've read the core books, I've yet to play it myself other than a couple of convention games (which are a completely different animal than ongoing home campaign games).

That said, regardless of edition I've a few suggestions that may or may not be practical for you:

- Run longer sessions. I've learned over the years that it generally takes the players an hour or two - sometimes more - to get the socializing and out-of-game chatter out of their systems, plus another hour or so if it's been two weeks instead of one since they last saw each other. Thus, with a 4-hour session you're often just nicely getting started when it's time to pack it in; but with a 6-hour session you'll get those extra couple of hours of good play in.
- Run back-to-back sessions. By this I mean run the same group two nights in a row; or a night and then the following afternoon. The first night will be the usual; but if my own experience is anything to go by the second night will be pure gold - they got all their socializing done the night before and they (and you) haven't had time to forget everything that's going on in the game.
 

Raith5

Adventurer
While 4e was the most naturally adapt at this play-style, I would say that there are many non D&D games that are focused and balanced by the encounter and do not have daily resources. You should give marvel heroic a try (which is based on various superheroes) for some quick fun. It is based on the Cortex plus system and there is a fantasy version out there as well.
 

dave2008

Legend
Closer to the 20-30 minute mark. Between drawing a map, ordering initiative, determining battle positions, etc, even "trivial" combats take too long when the only consequence is a few minor resources spent. But the game isn't set up for "edge of your seat, tax the party to the max" combats.
Yikes! That is a big part of your problem then. A trivial encounter in 5e should take 10-15 min max. If you can't get to that, I don't know that my suggestions for making more engaging encounters will help you as they usually involve making them more difficult in some way, which also makes them longer.

How many people are in your group?
 

Nevvur

Explorer
@Retreater

Learn another system, teach your players, and don't look back.

Okay, that's the reply no one wants, but needs be offered lest we become too narrow minded in this DnD dedicated forum. Truth is I've experienced it, too, and I'm not about to learn a new system, either. You should spend a hot minute considering it, though, because resource management isn't just a key mechanic of DnD, it's the heart and soul of the system.

I've seen a few good ideas pitched already, many of them I've experimented with and can attest will edge you closer to what I think you want.

2-4 combats at higher difficulty will probably serve your needs well. Back-to-back combats with some minor narrative handling to bridge them is another approach. Enemy reinforcements arrive, the boss transforms into its true form, etc. Be careful about combining higher difficulty standards and back-to-back combats!

@Xaelvaen recommends glass cannons. You can take it a step further and use 4e-style mooks. Regular monsters with 1 HP. Maybe not your DMing style, but they can serve a purpose. I've only ever used them in milestone XP campaigns where tracking individual kills isn't important.

On that note, consider going to milestone XP. For reasons.

Finally, @5ekyu touched on one of my favorite methods of handling the problem, which is to feature more encounters where resource management - primarily HP attrition - is not the sole mode of engagement.
 
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