I like D&D but… Resting is a Mess

Yep, I’m still criticising D&D 5e. I do love the game, but for the sake our relationship, it needs to agree to change. This time I’m looking at the long and short of resting.

Five-Minute Adventuring Day

A known issue with 5e is the structure of a ‘typical’ adventuring day, and how the classes are balanced around it. The DMG suggests:

Assuming typical adventuring conditions and average luck, most adventuring parties can handle about six to eight medium or hard encounters in a day.

Which is a lot of adventuring for a day! Do less than this however, and the game can go a bit wonky.

Classes like Fighters and Warlocks don’t get many uses of their abilities (one action surge or two spell slots), but get them back on a short rest. Other classes, such as Wizards and Clerics get a lot of stuff (primarily spell slots), but only get them all back during a long rest. So in a ‘typical’ day (with a couple of short rests between encounters) the Fighter gets to use their action surge 3 times, and the Wizard has to be fairly careful about spending their spell slots, so that they don’t waste them all on the easy encounters and have nothing left later on.

But if you only have one or two encounters in a day – common when travelling and the DM rolls for a random encounter or two – the Wizard can go crazy with their spells and absolutely dominate, while a Fighter can… attack a few extra times one turn. This can get really noticeable at the higher levels, when spells like Cone of Cold or Flame Strike can dominate fights, and something like Dominate Person or Commune can trivialise other encounters. Solving an encounter with a cool spell is fine, until you get a long rest and can do it all over again, making the Fighter/Monk/Warlock feel like they’re just along for the ride.

That Damned Tiny Hut

Ok, so a long rest is a Big Deal for the Wizard in the party, but if you’re trekking through the jungle, what are the changes of them getting a good nights sleep? …Wait, what’s this:

Tiny Hut
3rd-level Evocation (ritual)
A 10-foot-radius immobile dome of force springs into existence around and above you and remains stationary for the duration. The spell ends if you leave its area.
 Nine creatures of Medium size or smaller can fit inside the dome with you. The spell fails if its area includes a larger creature or more than nine creatures. Creatures and objects within the dome when you cast this spell can move through it freely. All other creatures and objects are barred from passing through it. Spells and other magical effects can't extend through the dome or be cast through it. The atmosphere inside the space is comfortable and dry, regardless of the weather outside.
 Until the spell ends, you can command the interior to become dimly lit or dark. The dome is opaque from the outside, of any color you choose, but it is transparent from the inside.

Wow, there’s a 3rd level spell (that a Wizard can ritual cast without spending any resources) that just totally negates any threat from trying to rest in a dangerous area? Cool. Cool cool cool.

I’ve heard arguments that the DM should introduce a ‘ticking clock’ to prevent taking an 8 hour rest, or ‘restocking’ dungeons or otherwise allowing for reinforcements while the party rests, or even including spellcaster who can dispel the hut while they’re sleeping. But that’s a lot of work to sort out every time (and may not always fit the theme of the adventure), and all for the goal of preventing a long rest to maintain game balance.

To be clear, I don’t hate the Tiny Hut spell. My group has used it in clever and useful ways, such as sheltering from a snowstorm, a safe zone to conduct a hostage negotiation, and more. I just don’t like having a 3rd level ritual spell that just gives the party a safe long rest, negating any tension or challenge from exploring a wilderness or dungeon.

Interrupted Rests

You’re tucked up in your bedroll, but an Owlbear stalks out of the darkness and attacks! Then just before dawn a massive storm blows in, and the party is woken in a torrential downpour. What counts as a long rest? The rulebooks say (emphasis mine):

A long rest is a period of extended downtime, at least 8 hours long, during which a character sleeps or performs light activity: reading, talking, eating, or standing watch for no more than 2 hours. If the rest is interrupted by a period of strenuous activity--at least 1 hour of walking, fighting, casting spells, or similar adventuring activity--the characters must begin the rest again to gain any benefit from it.

ONE HOUR of fighting?! Keep in mind that’s 360 rounds of combat, that’s an awesome amount of combat to interrupt that all-important long rest. It also makes things go strangely when it comes to early starts: you had the early shift of keeping watch, so you kept watch for 2 hours then slept for 5, but were then woken up 1 hour early. By the rules you’ve not had a long rest and gain no benefit.

When I ran Curse of Strahd I came across the interruption problem. The party tried to bed down in Castle Ravenloft, so of course the vampire lord woke them up! I just didn’t realise he needed to do that 12 more times through the night to actually interrupt their rest…

And while I’ve not done the early start one myself, if you listen to Critical Role, this exact scenario happened (campaign 2, around ep 121 I think). The party were woken very early, by a semi-threatening NPC, and essentially tried to stay in bed an hour to ensure they got their spell slots back. It wasn’t too big a deal, but just a bit odd and immersion-breaking.

Times a-Changing

So what’s my solution to all this? Simple: make short rests shorter and long rests longer.

A short rest is just a breather, a lunch break. It’s a chance to get your breath back, tend a few wounds, eat a sandwich. At the lower end, in a dungeon say, I could see it being 15 minutes, just enough time to pull yourself together before you open the next door. When you look at what’s recovered on a short rest, this makes sense: Fighters get their abilities (i.e. stamina) back, Monks refocus to regain their Ki, Warlocks…shall we just ignore what the Warlock’s up to?

The length of short rest really depends on how seriously you take lunch… (https://www.deviantart.com/pechschwinge/art/Schicksalspfade-Dwarfen-Fighters-374111109)

During a long rest however: everyone is fully healed, and the Wizard has practised and memorised a new set of spells. I don’t like that all that can occur within 8 hours – the last time I tweaked my back (and took 1d6 damage) it took all weekend to heal! I know D&D is not meant to be a realistic system, but the idea that you can get ripped to shreds by a dragon one day, sleep in a magical dome that night, and then get up fully healed and refreshed is a bit much.

I’d like to see a long rest as a more extended period of downtime, more like a weekend, or at least a day off. And I think the conditions of the rest are key: it should be somewhere safe and relaxing, with some amount of home comforts. Resting in the haunted castle, dinosaur-infested jungle, or anywhere similar shouldn’t count. Primarily, the long rest shouldn’t happen mid-adventure, it should be something that happens during a reasonable break in the action, either because the group has returned to base, or got to the next town/planet/whatever. It’s an end-of-level reset button.

I know some groups have tried using the ‘gritty realism’ variant, where short rests take 8 hours, and long rests take a full week. I’ve tried this, and it works really well for travelling – treat the journey as a series of encounters in a dungeon, but spread out over a week rather than a day. But then things get really odd when the party gets to an actual dungeon, and have to clear a section, then nip back to town for a rest, then go back and do some more, etc. It doesn’t always fit the ‘feel’ of the adventure I want, and whole week of downtime for a long rest is just too much most of the time.

This puts a lot more emphasis on the DM deciding it’s ok for the party to rest, which might be a problem for some groups. But hopefully from a player’s point of view it’s clear enough, and there’s only the edge cases like hanging out in the Ewok village where it might be up for argument. It might also screw up some spells and abilities that are meant to last an ‘adventuring day’ – Mage Armour, Darkvision and a few other – but I think these could be fixed. And it does leave a big gap between the short and long rests, so maybe there needs to be a ‘medium rest’ (say of a night’s sleep), to get some (but not all) hit points/dice and/or abilities back.

I don’t feel like this change (or my dislike of Tiny Hut) is too controversial, but I’m sure I’ve missed something. Let me know in the comments!

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