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Challenge Player Resources with ‘Adventurers Rests’

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.

The Heroes of the Lance prepare for an Adventurers Rest (artwork by Larry Elmore).

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:

Adventurers Rest

  • 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!

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20 Comments

  1. David

    I’ve been considering an approach that uses Hit Dice to “purchase” long rests on extended overland journeys:

    • When you get a night of rest at a simple, impromptu campsite, you can spend 2 Hit Dice to get all the benefits of a Long Rest except for Hit Dice recovery
    • If the party establishes a fuller, defensible campsite in a suitable location and spends the next day there, they can gain the complete benefits of a Long Rest, including HD recovery, without spending HD

    This will let PCs benefit from half their current level in Long Rests over the course of the journey, assuming they don’t spend any HD on Short Rest healing during the day. It might still give too much advantage to the Short Rest classes, so maybe they only regain their limited-use abilities if they spend at least one HD during a Short Rest.

    • duncan

      Hi David

      Thanks for the comment, and the ideas.

      This is a little similar to Dungeon Dudes idea in that they require players to take a 24 hour rest, if suffering from ‘travel weariness’ in order to take a Long Rest, which is a bit like your suggestion of slowing down to create a more defensible campsite. There’s some logic to both these ideas, but I don’t really want my players to constantly be debating how long to spend in the woods. This is going to take pacing the adventure out of my hands as a DM and could just make journeys drag out into rather tedious episodes (in my experience players will happily ignore ticking adventure clocks even, to get back their slots). It also feels somewhat like you’re creating a (meta)game dilemma to me, not a ‘real life’ one. In ‘real life’ you’d just get on with the mission I think, not consider stopping to set up a base etc., because you’re low on slots / hit points etc. Taking rests are already a pretty metagamey part of D&D, and this might push them further into that direction.

      Expending hit dice to take a long rest is interesting, but for me would have to be a proportional to your level not a flat two hit dice, as this taxes low level characters unduly and hardly affects high level ones. It is the higher level characters who have way too many resources / spell slots, and it’s them that I want to slow down, much more than the low level characters who are still pretty vulnerable, at least in the first tier.

      I also have the same reservation as before that it’s feels a bit gamey…for example two players take a well earned 8 hour rest at the end of the day, but one wakes up fully recovered because (despite being injured, perhaps later in the day) they had two hit dice spare, the other gains nothing, because they used the hit dice early in the day after getting hit in a scrap in the morning and had to use them in a short rest. It’s suddenly weird that the one hour rest the second player took during the morning helped them more than the 8 hour rest at night, and even raises the question whether they should rest at all. Knowing that they can’t benefit from the rest they might as well spend the whole night on guard, or just not rest (you’d have to threaten them with exhaustion). Maybe you could make hit dice recovery the boon of both Long Rests and failed Long Rests, so there’s something in it?

      Regarding short rest characters vs. long rests, I don’t see any issues. Short rest characters expect to get their resources back after each combat pretty much anyhow, and monks, fighters and warlocks are amongst the weaker classes so you’d probably be making the game more balanced.

      Btw, you’ve given me an idea… using hit dice for spell slot recovery. Imagine that Long Rests don’t grant spell slot recovery, only hit dice recovery. Then you could have martial classes saving their hit dice for recovering hit points after combat, while spellcasters would have to decide how many of their hit dice to roll and convert into spell points / slots.

      Cheers!

      D.

  2. Juan

    I like the concept for the Adventurers Rest. I wouldn’t mind trying it out in a campaign that has a heavy focus on traveling and exploration

  3. PK

    Hi Duncan,

    I use a Hit Dice recovery system.
    When you complete a long rest you recover all your Hit Dice – but nothing else.

    You spend and roll Hit Dice to recover:
    – recover Hit Points (equal to your roll)
    – Spell Slots (level equal to your roll, or sum of several rolls)
    – Exhaustion (1 die recovers 1 exhaustion level – no roll).

    Other Class and Race features are recovered after short or long rests as written.

    It gives players the “joy” of rolling, but brings in smarter play about resources, and even tactics for martials.

    If the players push their travel an extra hour, or are disturbed during rest (Combat, Weather, etc), then they get 1 less hit dice in recovery. It allows me to use harrassing enemies and the world to *grind* the Party a bit.

    cheers

    • duncan

      Hi PK

      Smart and simple! And rather tough… I like it.

      I might tempted to throw in half hit points, otherwise spellcasters who get injured might never recover. Then again, if they have to compromise their slots to get over a few bruises etc. then you’ve solved my original problem.

      • PK

        Thanks for your feedback.

        I like play that leans into player choices: risks of the unknown, when to fight and when to flee, resources you have, and how you leverage them to go further.

        Rests are a central factor in player decision making; and with players knowing Combat Complexity means fewer combats per session (average of 3), and Adventure Paths having short chapters (5 Room Dungeons anyone), it generally means the Party is always powered up.

        To be fair to the designers, the 5e is designed on 8 encounters per long rest. If you can rework the modules to have many more but smaller combats with easier creatures, the party resources become stretched, and tension does build. But this is much harder and more nuanced than simply changing rests, and requires players really know their character and game rules to have speedy turns.

        Stepping back and looking at 5e from afar, I can’t help but see it now as overrun with video game design practices. And the term “High Fantasy” is used disguise how it has become a sequence of staged combats on a rigid plot (railroad) that the players are conditioned to follow for rewards.
        There are very few “real” decisions left for players in 5e products. It has become a game that sells the illusion of decisions but in really gears itself for curated experiences – as opposed to emergent play.

        WotC “freezing” 5e rules, so they can build an online tabletop version, leads me to believe that it will go the way of Diablo III online: Commercially successful but end of the line for game development.

        So it is time to fork 5e (creative Commons), and dive into derivative works and homebrew. Build the future you want to play.

      • Rick Coen

        As an interesting side consequence … casters have smaller HD than martials. So multiclass gish will have a choice between spending their martial d10s (vs d6s) to recover more HP, or recover more spell power. The Paladin – or the Fighter/Wizard multiclass – will be able to recover their more limited (vs. a pure caster) spells *more* quickly than the pure caster can!

    • Juan

      wow those implementations are actually really solid!

    • Rick Coen

      Holy crap, PK, I think you nailed the solution with elegance! I – like Duncan – tweak here, clip there, patch thusly, and end up with a lot of different homebrew holding the quilt together. And this works, but leads to 30+ pages of rules on top of the rules (I pad with examples and lots of clarifying text because I know my players). But *elegant* rules are simpler and easier to remember as well as implement. And I think you got it spot on here!

      No changing DCs (like my current rules: DC 8 for exhaustion recovery, for example, or 12 if you’re injured), no worrying about how many hours or encounters. Just “here’s your HD, spend as desired”. (Although I would probably have some modifiers, because I can’t help it… good/bad weather, good/bad shelter, etc.) Nice job PK!

  4. Duncan Idaho

    I’ve got various ideas about long rests in my D&D notebook but nothing that I’ve play tested so I can’t begin to recommend any of it.

    You might want to check out the Advanced 5e concept of “havens”:
    https://a5e.tools/rules/resting

    • duncan

      Ok thanks for the link… seems like Level Up has given a name (Haven) to what I was referring to when I said, “home, cosy inn, baron’s castle etc.”

      Looks like they are making it impossible to recuperate from Fatigue (their version of Exhaustion) without access to a Haven, which could be a bit tedious for players though….

  5. Panos Afendis

    Hello guys from Greece! I also think that Duncan’s concept is quite good as Rick Coen Did but also agree with P K with this. For a long time I’ ve been following another dude’s (Dungeon Coach’s revised rest system) homebrew rule because his idea matched mine when I came to the point of creative a rule. It’s a hard core realistic system which brings up tention naturally. A division of 3 rests, Short Rest, Long Rest & Full Rest (your idea of resting in a campsite or resting a day in a ‘Haven”). So I was using his rule with the exception of taking back all spell slots. I did give them half their level in spell slots/points rounded up as wizards so in Arcane Recovery in a long rest with the exception of removing the 6th level spell limitation, so it doesn’t interfere with the Wizards’ short rest. So P K’s idea of Long Rests and Hit Die use is the best here because it is simple and elegant, you don’t have to spend half an hour to calculate all your players half resourses after each long rest like in Duncan’s system. I like the players’ choise and strategy about their resourses and how to use them but when you play at low levels, casters surely won’t recover from almost anything because they have an important choise to make here. So I’ve come to the colclusion that: If you want to use P K’s ruling which is super cool also, players should revover half their Hit Points and half their Hit dice with a long rest (in a common campsite) and half of their Hit Points and all their Hit Dice in a “Haven” as we call it, a safer place without many distractions and threats. P K, as Duncan said it would be very harse to allow them to only spend HDs to regain spell slots/points, HPs and maybe an exhaustion level especially at low levels. They would need a helping hand.

  6. Madstone

    @Panos, I think the caster having a hard time with adventuring life at low level is “realistic.” Casters spend their time honing their “mental” abilities to deal with magic. So, they are not accustomed to the harshness of adventuring life. I think this is a good concept that the martials have to not only deal with the threat but have to worry about protecting the casters (mage/clerics). 5e is so forgiving that a group can survive without coordinating as a group. Something that could not be done in early versions of the game.

  7. Matt

    I love this!

    My mind has been churning on a way to solve this problem while also throwing bones to Rangers and Druids who should thrive in this space.

    Maybe give Rangers, Druids, Scouts, and anyone with Survival proficiency a d4 inspiration dice to add to anyone’s con save? Something like that?

  8. Rick Coen

    I just spent the last three days (intermittently) trying to incorporate Journey Rests into my set of house rules. I had a brainstorm on maybe using this to streamline other rules (lasting Wounds being the most egregious). I started with PK’s idea for “buying back” your abilities with HD. And then I removed my Wounds idea and had the PC’s Max HD pool reduced by Critical Hits instead – Wounds become a longterm detriment to your recovery, even if you can “power through” (adrenaline, willpower) during combat. It seemed like an elegant way to handle multiple systems, and also gimp casters.

    But the final product ended up being too much math and complication. So I refined it. Then I refined it again. Then I simplified it. I ended up with this:
    1) Critical Hits and Massive Hits (loss of 25%+ of max HP in a single hit) also remove a HD from your pool, and reduce your MAX HD by 1. If you are out of available HD, you suffer 1 Exhaustion instead. [I have other rules, but we’ll ignore for now] NOTE: we’re using the 10-level “-1 to all d20 rolls and spell DCs” rule here.

    2) Short Rest: first is 10 minutes, then 30 minutes, last is 1 hour; max 3/day. You heal 1 HD for free, then pick an action: Rest (spend and heal a HD, maybe with bandages), Renew (regain all short rest abilities), Refocus (spend 1 HD to regain 1 use of a Daily ability, or a 1st level spell), or Recover (spend 1 HD and bandages and a Medicine DC 15 to remove 1 Exhaustion).

    3) Long Rest, a.k.a. Journey Rest.
    3a) REST: Roll your current Max HD Pool, subtract your Exhaustion; you heal half that amount, plus one times your CON mod. [Bard Song of Rest applies.] If Bloodied, you have to spend bandages or else result is minimized.
    3b) RENEW: regain all long rest abilities, and half your Max HD Pool
    3c) REPLENISH: Regain spell levels equal to greater of ProfBonus or Caster Level, minus Exhaustion. (never less than 1 slot, max 1 slot greater than 6th level)
    3d) RECOVER: Attempt to heal a damaged HD or remove an Exhaustion. CON Save DC 12. A trained healer can use Medicine DC 10 to give you Advantage.
    3e) RESIST: (make saves against poisons, diseases, curses, etc.)

    Then…
    3f) FIRST AID: Spend X HD for additional healing (with CON mod)
    3g) REFOCUS: Spend X HD for additional 2X additional spell levels
    3h) RECUPERATE: IF you did not already recover 1 exhaustion, spend 1 HD to remove 1 Exhaustion.

    4) Haven Rest – resting in a safe, secure, comfortable place
    4a) Don’t halve the RESTing healing, and add your CON mod to all dice.
    4b) For REPLENISH, *add* your PB and caster level
    4c) for RECOVER, you automatically restore 1 damaged HD, *and* remove 1 Exhaustion, and then you can try to get one more…
    4d) Certain Havens might provide additional modifiers. A Hospital might allow an extra HD to be healed, while a serene woodland grove might restore all Primal spells and abilities, but no Arcane spells.

    5) a “Full Day” of Rest (either Journey or Haven) heals you an additional 1hp per HD rolled, replenishes half a rolled HD additional spell levels, gives you a second RECOVER attempt (to fix Exhaustion or damaged HD), and (with a healer) gives you a second free save against poisons and diseases.

    In practice, this means martials tend to need two Journey Rests to get back near to full capacity after a beatdown, but generally are good to go after a mild day of adventuring or a “nova” single-encounter travel day. Hybrids and caster-dip gishes tend to be fine too, since they tend to not have too many spell slots; they might start down a few HD to top off their spell power. Full Casters, though… well, at really low levels, it might take two nights and a full day in between to get all their spells back. As they rise in power, it starts to take three and even four nights *in a HAVEN* to regain full power. [The heavily damaged 8th level war cleric took three nights and two full days at home to be full restocked, and was still heading out with only about half his HD!]

    Since this emphasizes martials “just keep going” – this applies to monks and warlocks too, being Short Rest classes! – and cripples a full caster who blows all their spells… this seems like a win? A compromise between “standard” and “Gritty: long resting takes a week”, with intermediate penalties due to Exhaustion. We’ll see how it does in play next session, two weeks from now.

    • Panos Afendis

      Rick, man this is really too much info for just a rule even for a seasoned DM & player like me who like details and ρεαλισμό in my games. Just too much!

  9. Xaos Bob

    From the peanut gallery: The main resting add-on I use to great success is “charging” the PCs for rest by requiring them to use food and water. 1 ration of each can get them a short rest, 3 of each gets them a long rest. I have altered problematic spells and abilities (goodberry, create food and water, Outlander background, etc.) to better suit this, and it creates some really good tension when deep underground or out in the trackless wasteland.

    Players can also use HD to replenish spell slots, rolled just like hit point recovery.

  10. Reflexwolf

    There is a Light Novel series that addresses this, a low powered but creative mage who makes a living going out on adventures and making sure the trip not as stressful, full of her good cooking, magic that helps them rest in the camps so when the party gets where they are going and have to face the big bad they are rested and in top form. The name of the series is “Housekeeping Mage from Another World” by You Fuguruma

    • Duncan Idaho

      That looks like a fun book. Am I right that it is a cozy little tale like like _Legends and Lattes_?

      • Reflexwolf

        Very much so, It is a story about a young lady who was Isekaied from Japan and could not speak the language and had very little magic, there are some dark bits about her back story in the world but mostly its a romance. (no sex)

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