D&D 5E The Adventuring Day XP budget makes sense when you consider it is a budget for you to stock your dungeons

mamba

Legend
Narrative time pressure doesn't work in every situation, let alone every campaign. It also drastically narrows the kinds of stories you can tell with the game. What happens to downtime activities when everything is under constant pressure?
I did not say constant, did I. You were the one saying it cannot be done, I showed that it can.

Usually pressure builds up, I do not really care if they take a few hours / days longer along the way, but when it comes to some climactic ‘finale’ then you can be sure they cannot explore one room today, go back to heal up and return tomorrow again to find things unchanged.
Doesn’t even need time pressure, just a living world

Instead of constantly punishing the PCs for doing things you don't want, reward them for doing what you do want.
I fail to see how them succeeding is not a reward

No, it isn't. Abilities in real life don't have cooldowns or recoveries.
well, I was more referring to the HPs, despite quoting both, but yes, if you consider HP your physical fitness then you won’t perform great feats while you are exhausted / injured, so they are tied to that too
 
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mamba

Legend
Time pressure can certainly make sense. But time pressure as an omnipresent crutch for poor mechanics is ridiculous when you could just fix the stupid mechanics!
nothing wrong with the mechanics supporting this, but you getting stronger / gaining abilities as you fight / progress during the day is not the solution to me.

You just turn it into some nonsense game mechanic, this is not how anything works in life, as I already said.
I rather stick with what we have over that.

A boxer does not suddenly go all out in round 7 and perform at a better level than in rounds 2 and 3. A marathon runner does not have their fastest mile at around mile 20…
 
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Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
Narrative time pressure doesn't work in every situation, let alone every campaign. It also drastically narrows the kinds of stories you can tell with the game. What happens to downtime activities when everything is under constant pressure? They just never happen. Hope that crafting background really wasn't necessary to your character because it really is guaranteed to never come up. What about developing relationships with friendly NPCs? No time for love, Dr. Jones. Building a castle, tower, or domain? No, sorry. You've got a 10 o'clock with a troll.
Downtime activities tend to occur during downtime. As in, when you’re not in the dungeon. Time pressure in a dungeon or other location-based adventure doesn’t conflict with downtime at all.
It's extremely lazy DMing. That's why there's a much more common name for it: Railroading. I think it's easy to understand why DMs might want to have alternatives to the game being broken other than railroading the players in every campaign and every adventure.
Well, no, it’s just design you don’t like. Which is perfectly fine, you’re under no obligation to design your adventures with time pressure. But it is the kind of adventure D&D 5e was built for.
Endless ambushes are not particularly good answer, either. It doesn't encourage the PCs to not rest. It encourages the PCs to plan defenses. It encourages the PCs to always take spells like Tiny Hut, then just smash that button all the time. And then we see people posting here about how Tiny Hut ruins their game. You haven't fixed anything. You've just moved the problem and avoided addressing its root.
I’ve never found Tiny Hut to be a problem. It’s a useful spell, sure, but in my experience it doesn’t completely eliminate the risk of resting in dangerous locations like it seems it has for some other folks.
Worse, both solutions have knock-on effects. Now the PCs can easily decide to never risk a short rest which nerfs Fighters, Warlocks, and Monks. Now you've completely warped the game.
Parties who never take short rests in my campaigns are liable to run out of steam in the midst of a dangerous location. Not generally a great plan.
Don't worry, we can introduce the grim and gritty rest options so short rests are 8 hours and long rests are 7 days! Never mind that that will completely transform the style of play of the campaign from heroic adventure to survival adventure, potentially introducing attrition and death spirals into a campaign.
I mean, I don’t think those timescales are really necessary, but yes, location-based adventures do tend to be survival-focused. That’s not really transforming the campaign, that’s once again what D&D 5e was designed for.
It also means nearly all published adventures often won't work because they're written and tested assuming normal rest schedules.
Yeah, most published adventures for 5e don’t work super well within 5e’s rule structure. Lost Mine of Phandelver is the standout exception. But in my opinion that’s an adventure design problem, not a problem with the core mechanical framework.
And it nerfs a whole swath of class abilities and spells that rely on them being available every adventuring day (Rage, Mage Armor, Hunter's Mark, etc.). That means you're limited as a DM for how much you can throw at the PCs. They must retreat to a town after they've reached the XP budget. God help you if the PCs roll badly and your time pressure doesn't give them the opportunity to recover at all. You'll end your campaign with the remarkable climactic event of, "We failed because a random wolf rolled 6 natural 20s." How heroic!
In this framework, the DM shouldn’t really be throwing encounters at PCs. The adventuring day XP budget is like a dungeon-stocking tool, it’s up to the players how much of the dungeon they want to risk exploring before retreating to the safety of town (and spending the treasure they acquired in the dungeon on downtime activities and equipment for their next expedition into the dungeon). Yes, random deaths and even random TPKs can happen. That’s the nature of the sort of roguelike game that location-based adventures are.
Instead of constantly punishing the PCs for doing things you don't want, reward them for doing what you do want. Talk to any psychologist. They'll tell you that punishment is a bad motivator. Punishment only encourages avoiding and mitigating the punishment while rewards actually encourage the behavior you desire. If you want the PCs to complete an adventuring day, reward them directly for doing that!
It’s not about punishing or rewarding player actions. It’s about setting up interesting risk/reward propositions for the players to consider, and take on what they feel comfortable taking on.
The real reason we know the above changes don't work is... it's 2023 and we still see threads where DMs complain about being unable to reach the daily XP budget! This very thread is trying to address the topic pre-emptively! It's such a common problem and common point of discussion that OP thought they could get ahead of it. This is 10 years after 5e D&D released. Never mind that the Five Minute Adventuring Day complaint that short rests themselves were intended to address dates to both 3e and 4e discussions! It's been a problem for nearly 25 years at this point.
We’re still seeing these complaints because DMs are still trying to treat the adventuring day and the encounters therein as a sequence of events in a narrative, rather than as a tool for stocking locations with appropriate risk and reward to entice and challenge the players. The OP has come to the realization of what these guidelines were always meant to do, and the design of the game has clicked into place for them. Many of us have had similar experiences. People get mad at us for saying it, but there really is a particular gameplay loop 5e was designed to facilitate, and a lot of the complaints you see come up over and over again from 5e DMs come up because they’re trying to use 5e to do something other than what it was built to do.
No, it isn't. Abilities in real life don't have cooldowns or recoveries. In real life when you have an ability, you can use it pretty much non-stop. When you're too tired from using it to continue, you're typically too tired to do anything. And often you need only a few minutes rest to continue. Meanwhile, recovery injury takes days, weeks, or months to recover from, not overnight. If someone was injured so badly yesterday that they were on death's door after a fall of 200 feet, they will not be climbing a mountain the next day.
Yeah, it’s definitely not realistic by any means. But it makes for fun gameplay.
 
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Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
That still doesn't solve the problem that it just doesn't pass the smell test, though. It's just silly. Every lost, ancient tomb from 10,000 years ago has load-bearing, self-destruct device that goes off in exactly 3 days? The Duke will only task you with arresting or destroying the marauders that have been savaging the realms after some innocent maiden was captured?

Time pressure can certainly make sense. But time pressure as an omnipresent crutch for poor mechanics is ridiculous when you could just fix the stupid mechanics!
Time pressure doesn’t have to mean a doomsday clock. Simple random encounter checks at regular time intervals are a perfectly sufficient source of time pressure. Doomsday clocks are frankly better for event-based adventures than location-based ones, and I think 5e handles the latter better in general.
 

One of the goal for a DM is to setup challenging and satisfying fights for his players. The xp budget is a tool to help that.

We should not use the reverse view : the goal of the Dm is to respect the xp budget and use fights to fill the budget!
 

IMO the (short) answer to that problem is more dungeons. Once you leave the dungeon to take a long rest, the dungeon won't be waiting for you passively. Its residents are now alert they are being invaded and muster defenses, set new traps or even hunt you outside the dungeon. Thus, once you delve into the dungeon you have one adventuring day to accomplish your objectives, because once you leave it and recover your energy, so the dungeon does.

E.g: The last dungeon my players invaded was a thieves' guildhouse. Their objective was to either capture the thieves' leader. They knew once they were spotted inside the guildhouse they wouldn't have a chance to try again later and had to press until the end, because their leader would be hiding somewhere else if she knew she was being hunted and her hideout was revealed;

It works for a specific kind of game, but it works well.

Edit: Additional note. Not every situation is a "one try only" kind of situation. When delving into ancient ruins searching for treasure or with an objective in mind, for example, doing it "one encounter per day" shouldn't make it easier. Instead, it should make your job harder, since you're giving the underworld time to react to your strategy. So, once you delve into the dungeon again, you're not as close to accomplishing your objectives as you were last time you left the dungeon, but it's still feasible.

Only working in specific situations is a big part of the issue. The DM shouldn't have to do special work or make narrative decisions to make the mechanics of the game work. The mechanics should support the narratives. We shouldn't have to say, "Well, I need to structure the story this way or else I'll run into adventure day XP budget problems." I think that's an indication that the game is foundationally broken in a pretty significant way.

The problem here is, what do you do when you're running a dungeon with more than 8 encounters? Rappan Athuk is workable because of the nearby town, but there's no way you're retreating all the way to Hommlett while you're going through Castle Amber, Temple of Elemental Evil, Demonweb Pits, or Undermountain. Even 5e adventures like Storm Kings Thunder, Descent to Avernus, Out of the Abyss, or Rime of the Frost Maiden don't really work like that. You often can't withdraw and long rest because there's nowhere to go. If you need to long rest -- and I think the module authors assume you will -- you've got to hole-up in place. Think of how many adventures there are where the PCs go through a portal, end up on another plane, and are then stuck there until the end of the adventure when they can finally escape.



I did not say constant, did I.

No, I did. Under the assumption that if you want the issue you're trying to fix to stay fixed, then you can't eliminate it without the same issue returning. Having a solution to a problem that only works some of the time is not particularly compelling.

well, I was more referring to the HPs, despite quoting both, but yes, if you consider HP your physical fitness then you won’t perform great feats while you are exhausted / injured, so they are tied to that too

You're no less able to pass a skill check at 1 hp compared to max hp. That's about as realistic as a fireball.



nothing wrong with the mechanics supporting this, but you getting stronger / gaining abilities as you fight / progress during the day is not the solution to me.

That's only one possible solution. The point is to reward the players for progress, not do exactly the first thing I happen to suggest. The point is that narrative solutions require you to twist the game. They limit your options as a DM, or require you to repeatedly punish the players when all they're doing is literally reading what the book tells them and making the most logical decision. It's a bad design.

A better solution would be to eliminate "daily" powers entirely, and instead do what nearly every other TTRPG does. Have limited use abilities recover per scene or per set of scenes. Recovery can be automatic at the start of new scenes, or at a fixed rate of in-game time that is significantly divorced from health recovery.

A boxer does not suddenly go all out in round 7 and perform at a better level than in rounds 2 and 3. A marathon runner does not have their fastest mile at around mile 20…

No, but the first round is seldom the most dramatic or exciting, and the first mile is rarely the fastest, either.



One of the goal for a DM is to setup challenging and satisfying fights for his players. The xp budget is a tool to help that.

We should not use the reverse view : the goal of the Dm is to respect the xp budget and use fights to fill the budget!

No, that sounds nice but that logic leads us to the conclusion that there is no problem if the PCs long rest after every encounter. The difference in the design of Fighter and Wizard pretty significantly contradicts that.
 

Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
What is it that they want then since you appear to have a finger on the pulse of the market? (Or are you just referring to your own group?) As well, this doesn't align well with what I see out there. Perhaps it's algorithm bias, but isn't there a whole movement toward going back to megadungeons with Dungeon23? And doesn't WotC's own adventure products feature a mix of location-based and event-based design? With perhaps one or two exceptions, I don't think their modules are great, but it does seem to have a mix of content that some are bound to enjoy.
This thread wouldn't exist if 5e didn't have fans complaining about the adventuring day in order to have the OP revealing the logic behind the adventure day.

The good news is that D&D 5e is very easy to hack in my experience. But again, what do they want? What game serves that goal better? Play that.
Not exactly. Hacking 5e to match how many fans want it to work requires fundamental changes which aren't easy to deal with.

And almost not game solved that problem without diving deep into a heap of personal preference to gut core assumptions of the game.

I mean, Ive done it. But I more or less focused everyone to have a second character sheet and enforced the existence of flowing magical energy.
 

Jolly Ruby

Privateer
We shouldn't have to say, "Well, I need to structure the story this way or else I'll run into adventure day XP budget problems." I think that's an indication that the game is foundationally broken in a pretty significant way.
I agree to disagree. When I'm playing Vampire: The Masquerade, I structure the story around intrigue and politics. When playing Call of Cthulhu, I structure it around mysteries and paranormal investigation. Isn't it reasonable to structure Dungeons & Dragons stories around dungeons? Every game works better with a specific kind of story in mind.

The problem here is, what do you do when you're running a dungeon with more than 8 encounters?
You answered the question. The characters find a hole to hide for eight hours, and while they rest the environment reacts to their presence in some way.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
This thread wouldn't exist if 5e didn't have fans complaining about the adventuring day in order to have the OP revealing the logic behind the adventure day.
I certainly didn't read it that way. I reached the same conclusion as the OP 8 years ago because I try to play games as they are designed, not try to play it how I want to play it then complain about something being wrong with the game. "This screwdriver is really bad at driving nails into plywood - it must be the screwdriver's fault!"

Not exactly. Hacking 5e to match how many fans want it to work requires fundamental changes which aren't easy to deal with.

And almost not game solved that problem without diving deep into a heap of personal preference to gut core assumptions of the game.

I mean, Ive done it. But I more or less focused everyone to have a second character sheet and enforced the existence of flowing magical energy.

If you need to make it into another game entirely, I would suggest buying a game that matches what you want. But it can be hacked here and there quite easily without breaking it in my experience.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
I agree to disagree. When I'm playing Vampire: The Masquerade, I structure the story around intrigue and politics. When playing Call of Cthulhu, I structure it around mysteries and paranormal investigation. Isn't it reasonable to structure Dungeons & Dragons stories around dungeons? Every game works better with a specific kind of story in mind.
Entirely too reasonable. :sneaky:
 

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