In my last post I complained that 5e spellcasters have too many spell slots. They almost never run out of the buggers. This can cause issues in all kinds of scenarios, and one of them, on my table, is during travel. I’m not one for hand-waving travel, nor do I want to make travel an endless grind of random encounters that takes up an entire session. And, before you suggest it, I find the whole ‘shared story-telling’ approach to travel, vaguely wrapped around a skills challenge, pretty twee and unsatisfactory.
In the end, when it comes to D&D travel, I usually try to create a mix of atmosphere, using some evocative descriptions, difficulty, via obstacles (often throwing out exhaustion as a consequence of failure), and danger, via combats.
My players aren’t stupid however, and if they’re on a multi-day journey to the adventure location, they can feel fairly assured that if a combat develops en route it’s going to be the only dust up of the day… and whoosh, the minute that ankheg pops out the ground out come the fireballs etc. to sizzle the unfortunate wandering monster, with the swagger of a caster who is confident they are due a Long Rest before the next encounter.
It’s not D&D biggest problem, but, as regular readers know, I like to take my thinking iron to any and all of the game’s little creases and it was this video by Dungeon Dudes that put a little steam in my machine. In the video (around the 11th minute mark) the Dudes propose that travelling 4 or more hours a day brings on ‘travel weariness’, after which you need a full 24 hours of rest to get the benefits of a Long Rest.
I don’t actually like that rule much for a number of reasons (one being that there’s no difference between travelling for 8 hrs a day and 4 hrs a day), but I very much like the concept. Adventuring is tiring, and this ‘travel weariness’ rule stops players being able to fully charge up their resources on day six of a gruelling journey, as easily as if it were day one of their adventure.
Still, I think a much better idea would be to create a kind of compromised long rest mechanic for whenever the players are facing the rigours of travel by camping out in the wild, or trying to get a good night’s rest in the depths of a dank dungeon fraught with dangers. Let’s call them Adventurers Rests.
An Adventurers Rest happens whenever the players take a Long Rest in somewhere other than their home, a cosy inn, a baron’s castle, or rustic elven tree house. In other words, whenever the players are busy adventuring and conditions are suboptimal for resting, usually with a threat of danger thrown in.
Now you could cut this different ways and tweak it to your needs, but the key idea here is that players get less resources back after an Adventurers Rest than a Long Rest, and I’ll start by suggesting the following:
- Regain expended spell slots equal to half total slots per level, rounding up.* (Eg: if you’re a 4th level bard with four 1st level spell slots and three 2nd level spell slots, you’d recuperate up to two 1st level slots and two 2nd level slots, assuming you’d expended them, instead of a maximum of four and three).
- Regain half of any other expended multiple resources, rounding up. (Eg: if you’re a 2nd level paladin with a Lay on Hands pool of 10 hp, you recover 5 hp of that pool).
- Roll a Constitution check to successfully regain each expended single resource, which is usually recovered on a Long Rest. The DC is 2 x the number of hours spent travelling or exploring (or being otherwise active), with disadvantage imposed for exposure to elements, being wet/cold, or other adverse factors.
- Roll a Constitution check to successfully lose a level of exhaustion. The DC is 2 x the number of hours spent travelling or exploring (or being otherwise active), with disadvantage imposed for exposure to elements, being wet/cold, or other adverse factors. (Note: see my House Rules for Exhaustion).
- Regain half your hit points.
- Regain half your hit dice (note: this is the same as with a Long Rest, but given we are reducing the amount of hit points recovered, no need to double up here. Plus hit dice are a cool resource I like to use for things like temporary alleviation of levels of exhaustion).
*Thinking about it, it would probably make more sense if players had to pass the same Constitution check (DC = 2 x hrs spent travelling / adventuring) to be able to round up half a spell slot to a full one.
As you can see this is a pretty substantial departure from the rules, but I feel a relatively simple and easily workable way to make on the road encounters meaningful, and with it travel in general. Now, if you are forced to use up a lot of hit points and spell slots en route to the main adventure location that will carry into the next day (suddenly travel is no longer trivial!). It also helps address the spellcaster vs. martial classes imbalance that I complained about recently, by forcing wizards and clerics etc. to conserve their spell slots.
In general, Adventurers Rests should help make D&D a bit grittier and tougher, without radically changing gameplay (the optional rules in the DMG for gritty play effectively lead to a different game entirely, with Long Rests taking a ridiculous 7 days to complete!).
I’m sure these ideas will need some refining, but I’m looking forward to playtesting Adventurers Rests as soon as my D&D games resume in autumn!
End of the Day Exhaustion
One way you could remix this idea a little would be throw in the Constitution check (DC = 2 x hrs spent travelling / adventuring) at the end of an adventuring day, come what may, and punish a failure with a level of exhaustion, and failure by 5 with two levels of exhaustion. Players would then gain a level back from an Adventurers Rest (no check required) and two levels back if they are able to take a comfortable Long Rest.
Your House Rules for Rests?
I know a couple of regular Hipsters & Dragons readers love to play around with these kind of things as well, so I’d be interested to hear how other DMs handle rests, specifically if they’re created any new types of rests etc.
Enjoy your Sunday, and comment in your own sweet time!