D&D5E and the Resource Economy - How does it work? [AP and question]

I've recently joined an ongoing D&D5E campaign.

The characters are all roughly levels 5-7, and they don't have a dedicated spellcaster, so I made a Sorcerer (and a Wild Mage, which, it turns out, is kind of a trap, because the class is basically useless unless you and the GM are on exactly the same page).

I was having a discussion with @Deliverator recently, where he (having an excellent grasp of the rules) outlined how important the resource economy of the game is. The game expects you to face 6-8 encounters per long rest, with short rests in-between (some of the time, anyway), and the rules are built to handle that. He said that people screw it up all the time - allowing long rests between every encounter, never allowing short rests between them, stuff like that - and that it can ruin the game. For instance, if you allow a long rest between every encounter, pretty quickly the spellcasters can handle everything and the other classes become almost irrelevant.

So, I've been pondering this, and I'd like to hear your thoughts.

Here's my scenario in this game:

After an adventure, we (the party) made camp on the rocks, to spend the night and earn the benefits of a long rest. We took turns to keep watch.

During my watch, a group of Death Dogs (nasty creatures!) came sniffing around the camp. I decided to use up the last of my magic to trick them, leading them away from my sleeping companions. The plan worked, and I saved the day.

However, we had to all get at dawn to resume our adventure (we have to find a Maguffin before a strict deadline, you see). Everyone else got their rest, but I didn't fulfill the 8 hr requirement because of my little "side adventure".

As a result, I spent the next session without access to any of my abilities (aside from cantrips). A few weeks later, we continued to the next session - but still taking place in the same "day", so no rest.

Now, I'm looking at a *third* session in a row (and these are long sessions!) without any access to the powers and abilities that I designed my character to use (and was looking forward to trying on). It's hopefully not hard to see how it's not too much fun, from my perspective, to sit around while the others do all the work.

My question:

Is this how D&D5E is supposed to go?

In other words, did the group screw up and/or let me down?

Or is this the correct consequence to our choices made in play, and the way the game is intended to be played - there's a strategy angle in play here, and I made some bad or unlucky decisions, and these are the correct consequences.

How do you see the resource economy functioning in D&D5E?

Comments

  • The game's too procedurally and creatively lax (non-committal, whatever) for your question to have a truly meaningful answer. On the one hand what you have there is stupid, but on the other hand it explicitly supports that kind of play also, so if that's what you collectively want to do with it...

    The idea that long rests will only happen every 2-3 sessions is solidly by the book, I think; as Deliverator says, the game assumes so many encounters that unless your sessions are pretty long and back-to-back combat, you won't get through one whole "day" in one session. This is probably a part of why some groups would have long rests too often in comparison to what the game assumes (on top of this being the natural thing to do in many cases, of course).

    The GM probably actively likes the course of events here because from their perspective it works out as a nice organic strategic detail, an exchange of sorts. If the time limit thing is real and not just theater, then your choice was the strategically correct one, too.

    Probably what I would do myself would be to suggest that my character stays to guard the camp for the day, and I'll grab a henchman or something to play instead. This might or might not be mightily confusing for the campaign, but I wouldn't know that without trying. Who knows, the GM might embrace the character stable idea and let me run a 1st level Fighter or whatever instead of the pooped-out sorcerer.

    Perhaps the only truly smart observation I can make on this is that these types of structural injustices persist largely because the people actually suffering from them are somehow marginalized or unwilling to stand their ground and make the issue known. I don't know how your group would choose to resolve this problem, but unless you make it very clear that there is a problem and you want a hearing for it, then it won't get addressed at all - after all, everybody else's characters are just fine, the party is fine, the GM is fine with it... By asking for explicit judgement on it you'll at least get the group and the GM to make an explicit commitment to the idea that it's OK for this kind of thing to happen. Doing the thinking explicitly instead of just ignoring your plight will do them good, no matter what they choose.
  • Hey Paul, been giving this some thought today, and I apologize in advance for the forthcoming wall of text:

    I absolutely agree with Eero on two big points:

    1. Talk to your GM! Invite them to be explicit about the kind of narrative they want to have, and how they want it to feel for their players.

    2. This is is a tough question to answer fully, due to the loose, quasi-procedural nature of the D&D ruleset. Just because the book says the game can be played one way, does not inherently mean that the game must be played that way.

    The true answer to your question is that it resource management in 5e functions in any way that is mutually agreed upon by the group. For as many rules as the books lay out, there are an equal number of optional rules in the back of the book that contradict them (Newton’s 1st Law of Role-Playing). This makes talking to your GM even more important, as having them be explicit about what kind of game they want to run will help better inform you on which rules to pay close attention to.

    Based on your description of play so far, I’m guessing that the bulk of your time and encounters are combat-focused? If so, the choices that you and your GM have made so far sound thematically appropriate for a sort of gritty-realism, hack-and-slash sort of story. If you’re playing strictly by the books, your character’s main combative resources have been used up to save the party, and you will feel the consequences for a while. If the GM’s goal for this campaign is for their players to feel consequences of any and every action, I’d say they nailed it. That said, placing your sorcerer into that setting also raises an opportunity for a discussion about the nature of Wild Magic, and its mechanical applications in a combat-centric game.

    When given out-of-combat opportunities to use magic, the Sorcerer is potentially the most capable of affecting change in the world. Wild Magic Sorcerers have a special propensity for this, thanks to that handy 1d100 chart. What may start as an attempt to Charm Person a visiting royal may quickly become a bitter and endless war across space and time (with rabbits), for example. At the level of your party, while the Fighter and Rogue and Barbarian are still in the “I attack it with my sword” phase, your Sorcerer has the power to speak any language, walk on water, drive men to madness, and disappear entirely. Even with just cantrips, the Sorcerer can move objects remotely and create images with their mind at the drop of a hat.

    Contrasted with non-spellcaster classes, the highs of playing a sorcerer are much, much higher. But the lows are also much lower: as you’ve noticed, once your spells are used up, your turns in combat are mostly reduced to “I try not to die this turn”. Meanwhile, your punchy-punchy teammates continue to have the same opportunities for dealing damage that they always have, even if they were also suffering from a lack of long rests.

    If that’s the kind of game that the GM wants to play, more power to them, but perhaps there are other ways that your Sorcerer can be useful until the next long rest, which you can discuss with them before the next game. For example, given the class’ need for a high Charisma, maybe you’re given the opportunity to talk your way out of a combat encounter. Or maybe your Wild Magic manifests itself in a way that grants you a boon of some kind? There are lots of options, they may just require planting the seed in the GM’s mind off-camera, as it were.

    TL;DR, I really like sorcerers. I really like Wild Magic. Being strict about resource management can be a fun way to play D&D, but it sounds here like you got the short end of that particular stick (which sucks, I’m sorry). Like many things in life, talking and being honest about your desires and intentions in D&D will bring more joy out of the game than any rules in the book, both as a player and a GM.

    Best of luck, and if all else fails, cast Magic Missile at the darkness.




  • Hey, thanks for that thorough and intelligent answer. :)

    However, my particular situation here is meant mainly as an example. I'm interested in learning how the game works best, so that I can understand it better, run it myself, and out of general design curiosity. Do you have any opinions on that?

    Also, when you say "speak any language, drive men to madness", etc, are you referring to the Wild Magic table outcomes? If so, I follow you (although, sadly, I've only had one opportunity to roll on it in the whole game so far - I've discussed that with the GM, though, so once I get a long rest, it will happen somewhat more regularly). If not, please clarify!
  • Also, when you say "speak any language, drive men to madness", etc, are you referring to the Wild Magic table outcomes?
    Most of that was me waxing poetic (like I said, I really enjoy sorcerers). Those specific abilities are low-level spells that they get access to (Tongues, Crown of Madness, etc.), which often get a short shrift due to their lack of use in combat, IMHO. While powerful enough on their own, Wild Magic allows these spells to get real capital-W Weird when used in role-play scenarios, which I feel is the true joy of this class.

    With regards to the ways that resource management works best in 5e, my cop-out answer will probably always be “it depends”, unfortunately. The books do a great job of giving a baseline: of your players are delving into dungeons, finding treasures, and fighting the occasional dragon, you should aim for something like 5-7 encounters per long rest. You can then tweak that up or down depending on what you want play to actually look like, and what you want those rests to mean for your players.

    For instance, right now I’m running an evil campaign, and I was up front with my players that each session would be a grand spectacle set piece. Because of this, they get a long rest between sessions, and we’ve found a way in-fiction to accommodate this (planar travel lets you bend time in useful ways). Each rest means that the players can tackle the next challenge fresh, and make things look as cool as possible.

    If instead we wanted to play a group of heroes chasing across the open fields to save our friends a country away (a-la the Plains of Rohan), I might offer even fewer long rests than your current game, to better simulate that feeling of having to ration your supplies and energy. Each rest then feels like a privilege, but also a chance for the orcs they’re tracking to slip further away.

    Clearly, I have a bias towards whatever is thematically appropriate. I wonder if there are any exhaustion mechanics out there for D&D or related games, to help mechanically require long rests for classes other than spellcasters. I’ll have to do some research!
  • One thing that can drive the party to more long rests is lot's of HP damage. If 2-3 encounters is enough to burn through 50-80% of the HP resources of the party, then you'll be taking long rests more often. If course, given that HP damage may not be distributed evenly, this implies a high lethality play style.

    Isn't there a rule in the PHB that you can have an interruption to your 8 hour rest and still prepare spells? Designed to accommodate keeping watch and so forth.
  • edited January 2018
    On the other hand, in lower lethality situations, is there anything stopping your sorcerer contributing in combat without magic? I thought the point of 5th ed was you didn't have to be a fighter to hit things.

    Of course, none of this helps with not getting to do your fun sorcerer stuff. Agree that you should talk to the group about that. If this is a genuinely strategic play then perhaps the better play was to save your spells for later. If it's more railroaded then the GM needs to structure the railroad so you get to take long rests more frequently.
  • In this particular game, HP damage is pretty low/rare. We've never ended a combat without returning to full HP, I don't think. (But there's a Paladin and a Cleric in the party, as well as a very serious store of healing potions...)

    Looking at my fellow adventurers, their gradual use of resources feels about right - they're starting to use up many of their important resources and powers, but still have some left, as we have gone through about 7 encounters since the last long rest.

    However! I did not benefit from that long rest, so I *started* that sequence of 7ish encounters "out of juice".

    I do, indeed, have lots of ways I can contribute to the game - cantrips and magical items keep me in the game, as well as occasional clever ideas or suggestions. Still, it's weird to have created a character based on a particular thing - in my case, Wild Magic - and have only had one opportunity to engage with it at all (at first, I was waiting for the GM to call for Wild Surges, but eventually I asked him if *I* could trigger them myself, which I did once before I ran out of spells). Considering we've played for a total of

    Worse, though, given our current situation and time-pressure, I do not foresee any opportunities for a long rest in the coming session (and, possibly, the next one).

    Assuming the best-case scenario (long rest at the end of the next session), I'm still looking at 5 long sessions (about 25+ hours of play time!) with only one opportunity to actually engage with the thing I was curious about.

    It's an interesting conundrum. As far as I can see, we've followed the correct steps faithfully, but it's not terribly fun, either.

    If we view my choices as a player error, what do you think I should have done instead?
  • If we view my choices as a player error, what do you think I should have done instead?
    There are two types of player who would have simply gone "I alert the camp!" at the first sign of trouble. The first type are the shallow "dumbie" players who'd make this choice either because it's the cliche default reaction in the D&D genre, or because they're afraid about taking any responsibility for anything. The second type are cynical "smarties", who might pick this choice because it's the safest (the GM doesn't dare punish the whole group for taking the traditionally "obvious" choice), or because they don't care - essentially, because they're playing dumb for the time being.

    If you're neither a dumbie or a smartie, then you might be a "rolié" or "rollie". As you might imagine, the former would be all about figuring out what their character would do, so maybe they would determine that their prideful and self-confident sorcerer will try to deal with the situation alone. The rollie would attempt to solve the gaming conundrum, and he'd probably determine that it's still the best choice for the party for only one of the group to lose their rest period.

    The smart money is on alerting the camp, in other words, on the premise that the GM will back off about the rest thing once he realizes that he's intending to put the entire party (including the touchy guy sitting two stools over, who's certain to start complaining bitterly if his character has to go into the next dungeon without his long rest) into a situation where they can't get their long rest. However, it's often not very fun in D&D to be the smartie.

    Looking at it more generally, perhaps the party should do the old-school thing and actually figure out which members need that long rest and which don't - aren't some classes in 5th edition more reliant on that than others? It used to be the case that the magic-user was the only one who didn't stand guard, precisely because they needed their rest to be able to memorize spells.
  • That seems to be more or less the case here, yes. Interesting thoughts, Eero!
  • It's the dumbiest player categorization scheme ever!

    (I have clearly been working too long today.)
  • Worse, though, given our current situation and time-pressure, I do not foresee any opportunities for a long rest in the coming session (and, possibly, the next one).
    "We go back to bed. We'll spend the next day relaxing and telling stories around the campfire, get another night of good rest, and then head back into the fray tomorrow."

    That can't be done in five minutes, maybe with some random encounter rolls, but likely with the intended effect of starting the next scene with a long rest behind you?
  • Also, RAW, this is dickery, because:

    "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."

    Emphasis added.

    A combat is not enough to interrupt a long rest.

    During an 8-hour long rest, you can:

    * wake up repeatedly
    * take a watch of up to 2 hours
    * wake up and fight some monsters
    * adventure for 59 minutes
  • Can't take another rest day if it actually causes strategic loss condition to trigger (and the adventure has high stakes so you can't just bail on it). Of course this only happens in sandbox D&D where failure is really on the table, and many games aren't like that. That's why I suggested above that depending on the campaign the smart move would probably be to wake up the whole camp, make sure that everybody gets the same amount of rest and dare the GM to tell you that nobody got their long rest. The GM then has to choose between sending the whole party to the next adventure non-rested (might be too extreme for him), deciding that everybody got enough rest despite the night encounter, or accepting that hey, apparently that supposed time limit wasn't so harsh after all, and you can totally still do this adventure despite coming in a day later.

    That being said, the nitty-gritty of the rules seems to make the "I alert the camp!" a very attractive tactical option in all situations, as fighting per se doesn't disrupt the rest period. Of course if it's a hardcore wargame the monster response may well not be a neat attack and a battle to the death, over in five minutes - what I would do as a monster in this kind of D&D would be to lurk in the bushes, ruining my quarry's sleep without actually engaging combat [grin].
  • But, Eero, my point is that, RAW, waking up the whole camp for a combat doesn't invalidate the long rest.
  • Yeah, that's what I said - if that's how the group is playing (I mean, I don't know if Paul's group is all "RAW above all things" or not), then waking up the camp is obviously the best and intended response to any combat threats. Much superior to a single character trying to avoid combat by leading the monsters away.
  • Adam,

    You're correct that the rules adjudicaton here may have been somewhat injudicious against my character.

    However, we are on a strict timeline to recover the Maguffin before a certain time (the coming dawn or some such*), so resting has been vetoed on strategic grounds.

    (*: oddly enough, the deadline is self-imposed - that is, by the players - and I'm not at all convinced they have proper justification for the same. From what I can see, they just made it up! But then again, I'm new to the campaign and my attempts to discuss that have not been welcome.)

    Anyway, this is precisely what I was hoping to discuss here:

    What is "ideal" d&d5 play supposed to look like?

    How do we achieve that?

    In this case, perhaps (I'm guessing here) a time limit (a good way to create a sequence of encounters without an opportunity to rest) interacted with a random encounter (another way to limit opportunities for rest) as a sort of double whammy.

    Another approach I've seen: our own Deliverator has house ruled something called a "medium rest", which is a compromise between a short rest and a long rest, and then redefined a "long rest" as requiring serious "time off" - basically, going on vacation, eating nice meals, etc: not sleeping on the hard earth while wolves howl in the distance.

    If I've understood him correctly, this allows him to make the desired number of encounters per rest easier to justify in the fiction - a long rest is more of an adventure-breaking proposition now.
  • Next time just don't do the watch and warn everybody that your character is less useful when awoken in the middle of the night.
  • 4th edition has this same conceptual problem of being a skirmish wargame with resource management, so then you gotta have some sort of systematics for determining when rests occur. I've done some preliminary work on fixing this mess in that particular context. I don't think that this is directly applicable to 5th, but perhaps it helps provide some sense of the problem.

    My solution in 4th edition essentially boils down to discarding experience points and mailstones (itself an extremely half-baked implementation in an attempt to fix this same issue). I instead award "tactical impetus point" (TIP) to the party, the same number that the 4th edition calculations give for XP.

    The TIP are then used during long rests (mainly; no technical reason not to use them during the adventuring day, too) to purchase various benefits, depending on where and how you rest. Better benefits are more expensive, so if you rest often, you don't get the advantages of being "strategically fast". You can buy e.g. surprise attacks on your next target (you've been moving so quickly that you stole the march on the enemy, that sort of thing), scouting information, reduced or increased enemy numbers as you prefer, terrain placement, whatever. Last summer in my Chronicles of Prydain microcampaign you could straight out buy magic gear: the more TIP you amass during your expedition (that is, before retreating back to home base for the long rest), the more time you buy for the local Gandalf-equivalent to enchant you some more weapons before you must go out anew.

    (In case you're wondering, levels in this scheme work on a simple whole-adventure basis: the GM pre-determines what the adventuring options are, and each adventure gains you a level when it's fictional premise has been fulfilled, unless you're over-leveled for that particular adventure, in which case you don't gain the level. Quest XP essentially, except I'm not counting points because why bother in 4th.)

    The advantage of this scheme is that I remove the "stick" that D&D traditionally uses to encourage players away from the 15 minute work-day. The stick sucks, it doesn't work psychologically or socially or creatively. The only thing the stick does is that it makes the GM seem puny and laughable and something to be confronted: he tries to create a sense of urgency by threatening you with all sorts of fictional consequences if you tarry, but when you weight that against the fact that your character is almost out of spells, what does that matter? In skirmish combat charop D&D the fiction is definitely creatively less important than character survival and combats that are meaningful in the character's context. If bowing to the GM's stick means going into combat without being able to use the abilities you designed your character to use, then you might as well not go into that combat at all, because it's a lose/lose for you.

    With TIP I instead bribe the players into figuring out for themselves when to rest. Let their greed ensure that the work day isn't just 15 minutes long. They know better than I do how much their characters can take, anyway. Party endurance, should the players choose to design for that, is amply rewarded by achieving higher-tier TIP rewards.
  • In my megadungeon campaign, I'm running two-hour sessions once or twice a week. It's also "open table," meaning different players show up game to game. To solve this, we start in the city, explore the dungeon, and end in the city.

    That means that technically everyone can take a long rest after two hours of adventuring, which takes away a lot of the resource management.

    So I offer the carrot: Take as many short rests as you like between sessions, but if you take a long rest, you reset your "Advancement" counter.

    Then math.

    If you need N1 minimum XP to be your current level, and you need N2 minimum XP to reach the next level, then N=(N2-N1) is the number of XP you need to earn to level up. If you earn N/4 XP without taking a long rest, you earn one Advancement.

    An Advancement is similar to the same in 13th Age: one cool quality from your next level. Could be the extra hit points, more spells, access to spells of a higher level, a class feature, and so on.

    I'm still playing with the details, but it does seem to be enough to keep players from taking a long rest until they level up. At least most of the time. When they get their asses kicked hard, they sacrifice the Advancement, reset their counter, and take the long rest to heal up. But I can tell that it's a sacrifice for them.

    At 1st and 2nd level, they level up so fast that Advancement doesn't play much of a role. Starting around 3rd or 4th, leveling up is slower, and they tend to want the Advancements.
  • Adam,

    I was just thinking about your suggested "solution" here, and was about to post on the topic! It seems like an excellent one.

    Eero,

    Your recommended solution here is to provide XP (TIP), which is then wiped (and/or spent) during a long rest, right?

    Both of those seem like excellent counter-incentives.

    Is it your position then (either of you, or anyone reading) that D&D's resource economy is flawed, by not providing incentives for the PCs NOT to rest? And that is why you are introducing such rules, to provide one?

    If not, why not?

    This topic is fairly D&D specific, but also applies to games with refreshing pools, like TSoY (when we played, we found choosing when to do so was occasionally tricky - usually we went by our dramatic instincts and the needs of the fiction, but a few times the heroes were in the middle of some really important action and were completely spent in terms of their resources, which created a bit of conflict between the needs of the characters and story and the need to refresh their resources so as to be able to be effective in that action).
  • Is it your position then (either of you, or anyone reading) that D&D's resource economy is flawed, by not providing incentives for the PCs NOT to rest? And that is why you are introducing such rules, to provide one?
    My take:

    '74 D&D: Resource economy not flawed; the basic constraint for rest is that you cannot normally expect to rest in the dungeon. Retreat puts you back in base camp. Resources are reasonably scaled, keeping this in mind. Wizards are specialists, you carry like one for each five fighters at most.

    Basic D&D: Same. Addition of hexcrawl is never integrated with the rest scheme in any real way, but because the game works just fine with the 15-minute work day, this doesn't matter.

    Advanced D&D 1st edition: Slightly flawed in the right contexts. The main issue is that the game assumes high-level play that is essentially dungeon adventuring (which I personally would argue is an aberration), and this causes the need to maintain some parity between classes even at high levels. It sort of works, but it's shaky. Worse, it's not artistically very authentic, it's all just motivated by lack of imagination, lack of ambition and willingness to go with "same old".

    AD&D 2nd edition: Essentially broken resource economy when it comes to the newly dominant plotted epic playstyle. Fighters are marathon runners as always, clerics are fighter heal batteries as always, wizards are one-shot wonders as always. However, now it's not the variety of strategic issues determining when to rest, but rather it's the GM and his plot. Even worse, the game has moved fully into a combined arms small party paradigm instead of the "50% fighters, rest various specialists" big party composition of old, which means that a much greater percentage of the party are now wizards. It's a lot of responsibility for the GM to determine when a rest is allowed, and the game provides no real tools for it whatsoever.

    D&D 3rd edition: Hopelessly broken unless you remove all non-magicians from the game. If you do, then it sort of works as a flashy wuxia game - every day is normally one combat only, but then why should that bother you when you don't need to care about what the Fighter, mr. "I can do this all day if I have to" thinks. It's intuitively more realistic anyway, you don't expect actual human beings to fight multiple times per day unless they absolutely have to. With Fighters and similar in the mix the game sort of works for like the first couple of levels (like up to 2nd level), but after that it becomes an aggressive game of coping with the fact that the Fighter has no utility at all if the magicians can blow their wad on one encounter per day. The GM is again left with no real tools for dealing with this, but the traditional baling wire solutions (cultural pressure, gamesmanship, various types of fictional excuses) can generally keep the game together up to say level 6-10, around which point the difference in power between a nova-ing magician and the fighter becomes so much that they basically cannot participate in the same combats in any but the color sense.

    D&D 4th edition: Passable, about comparable to 1st or 2nd edition. All characters run the same simplistic resource scheme, and there are no exotic power curves, so it's pretty easy to know what to expect. The GM may expect so much control over non-combat play that he can essentially decide when the rests occur, if he wants to do that playstyle. (This would have been much less natural in earlier editions, but by now it's not strange at all if your campaign position is that "this is the plot, I don't have any different combat scenes prepped".) The average group will not find it difficult to simply assume 4 or however many combat encounters in between long rests, and judge resource expenditure by that. The GM is free to build curve balls and variety, stuff like "you gotta beat the boss before resting or you'll be driven out of the dungeon", or "you can rest how much you want in between wilderness encounters", so occasionally the resource constraint changes.

    D&D 5th edition: I guess it's sort of similar to 3rd, except not as bad? Of all of these I know this one the least. Still apparently the same old broken concept of the GM having to choose when the rests occur (because otherwise he will find it difficult to balance the encounters), but him also having to convince the players about it by arguing about the fictional particulars, because notionally you choose what your character does, so if he wants to sleep the GM needs to provide some reason why he can't just now.

    Anyway, as you can see, my take on this depends strictly on what we're talking about. The different editions are pretty different both in terms of dominant culture of play, and occasionally in their rules, too. There are crucial questions about play procedure that really determine the answer to whether the resource management works or not. Things like "who decides the next adventure", "is the GM responsible for game balance", "do we have to fight now if we don't want to", "can we resolve this without fighting"... it's a long list.
  • Indeed, Eero. That's what it looks like to me, as well. Older versions of D&D also had things like "dungeon restocking" procedures, which further complicated attempts to "sneak in and out".

    This particular thread is about 5th Edition, as far as I'm concerned. (And I'd say that, from my experience with it so far with this group, it's definitely a "GM delineates the adventure, and is responsible for game balance" deal. With very rare exceptions, it's also clearly "we have to fight now/no resolving this without fighting", except for some rare cases.)
  • Speaking of the technical elements of the game, D&D has always been a game where much of what actually goes into the System in the lumpley sense is cultural. By that I mean, it's stuff that the GM, alone, is fully empowered to change, insofar as he's willing to change the culture of play and/or his own job as the GM. This is often a great confusion for discussion of what the game is "like". 5th edition for instance could do a decent job playing just about all major variations of what D&D means creatively. It could do sandbox wargame, princess play plot railroad, skirmish combat wargame, whatever. Nothing wrong with the mechanical ideas in there, just swap out the procedural elements and attach the right wires in the mechanics to make it dance.

    This is probably why you get so much equivocation from us on this. It really depends on what your group is doing with the game. You could do a close exegesis of the 5th edition GM's guide, but I've always found that pretty childish - the GM guides for D&D have always been explicitly intended as GM guidebooks, not some sort of social law of the game table that you can usefully apply to take the GM to court about not playing the way the game's supposed to go. The only way it's "supposed" to go is the way your group decides to take it. Mainly, where the GM decides to take it - the D&D culture is very GM-centric. The GM guides, whether good or bad, are that because they're full of good or bad ideas, not because the given GM guide forms a cohesive and exact treatment on the procedural side of the game. (1st edition comes closest to being coherently applicable, and it's also the one with the worst individual ideas, so pick your poison, I guess...)
  • Yes, I'm quite aware that this is, at root, a pretty subjective matter.

    Still, hearing people's opinions and experiences is interesting to me. How do you find the game runs best? What turns into a good experience and what turns into a bad experience? (To make an oblique reference to our other conversation... ;) )

    A design analysis is also handy, to know that the game "expects" a certain type of experience as a design goal. Yours have been quite insightful, thanks!
  • Also, RAW, this is dickery, because:

    "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."

    Emphasis added.
    To offer a counterpoint, I read that as meaning "at least 1 hour of walking", then "[any] fighting, [any] casting spells," as three separate examples of "adventuring activity".

    That said, even in my read, the problem could have easily been fixed by re-starting the clock for 8 hours of downtime from the moment the fight is over - that's at most 2 fictional hours lost, am I right (wasn't it the first watch)?
    D&D 3rd edition: Hopelessly broken unless you remove all non-magicians from the game. If you do, then it sort of works as a flashy wuxia game - every day is normally one combat only, but then why should that bother you when you don't need to care about what the Fighter, mr. "I can do this all day if I have to" thinks. It's intuitively more realistic anyway, you don't expect actual human beings to fight multiple times per day unless they absolutely have to. With Fighters and similar in the mix the game sort of works for like the first couple of levels (like up to 2nd level), but after that it becomes an aggressive game of coping with the fact that the Fighter has no utility at all if the magicians can blow their wad on one encounter per day. The GM is again left with no real tools for dealing with this, but the traditional baling wire solutions (cultural pressure, gamesmanship, various types of fictional excuses) can generally keep the game together up to say level 6-10, around which point the difference in power between a nova-ing magician and the fighter becomes so much that they basically cannot participate in the same combats in any but the color sense.
    Playing 3rd Edition as the GM all the way from 1st to about 8th level or so, the economy of resting was never an issue - but that's because mine was largely a dungeoneering campaign, exploring a single very large dungeon out of a close-by home base, no resting in the dungeon allowed. Thus, the "work day" coincided with the session of play (usually a Sunday afternoon) pretty exactly. In those conditions and level range, not even significant class disparity manifested (there was significant disparity between characters based on optimal vs. sub-optimal "builds": race+class combos, preferred weapons and spells, ability scores - such as the pickaxe-wielding dwarf ranger being nowhere remotely as effective as the 18-str greatsword fighter).
    Using nominally the same rules, but playing a specialist wizard under a GM of very different mindset, I found myself in the same situation as @Paul_T all the damn time. The expected class disparity was reversed: when negated recovery time and strategical options, and playing as an arcade "beat 'em up", spells are used up fast, 1/day powers almost never available and straightforward character builds with high at-will damage output rule the game (of course). The only way I could effectively participate in the game was to build a different character after my wizard had been eaten by a dragon.
  • Great to have lots of different input on this and to hear people's experiences.

    For the record, my watch did take place towards morning. We discussed "sleeping in", but ultimately decided time was too precious.
  • edited January 2018
    I'd like to ask more questions about the resource management in earlier versions, if that's okay with you Paul. Hopefully this will help us understand/fix newer versions.

    One of the issues with the longer working day is spellcasters tend to end up bored - unable to use spells either because they already have used them all, or because they fear needing to in the future. Was this not still an issue in Basic D&D? Or when Eero says 1 spellcaster per 5 fighters, was the spellcaster also playing a fighter, and thus always guaranteed a slice of the action?
  • edited January 2018
    Good questions. I welcome further discussion.
  • Is it your position then (either of you, or anyone reading) that D&D's resource economy is flawed, by not providing incentives for the PCs NOT to rest? And that is why you are introducing such rules, to provide one?
    The implied genre (heroic fantasy) of modern editions is quite at odds with the resource management aspect of the game. Frankly, it sucks. D&D's resource management scheme works very well in the scheme of the dungeon crawl or wilderness exploration, where players are budgeting their survival tools against challenges. It is very clearly a square peg/round hole situation outside of this. Resources-per-rest is valuable when resting itself is a gamble against wandering monsters or random encounters; it falls apart very quickly otherwise. The game's push toward X ENCOUNTERS PER REST as a balancing mechanism is agonizing in practice. As resources are often only expended through combat encounters, the GM is forced into a situation where proper balance is maintained only by barking out "roll initiative!" and hurling dozens of miniatures at the party.

    It's frustrating and slows the game to a crawl. Even though I like 5e well enough to play it, the mechanics are entirely at odds with the game's agenda, and they fail GMs and players who play the game expecting fantastical shenanigans against the Dark Lord but instead wind up negotiating sleep schedules!
  • Things like dungeon restocking and wandering monsters mean that 15-minute-workday play often won't get you very far in terms of absolute progress. In terms of environment-based play, rather than (combat) encounter-based, your yardstick is completely different. It's not about completing each objective one by one, but about being able to find as much as possible/go as deep as possible before you have to turn back.

    Particularly in low-level play, I think the spell choices reflect this aspect of exploration over combat; a first level spell like Magic Missile or Burning Hands might take out one pitiful enemy if you're lucky. But stuff like Knock, Spiderclimb, Featherfall, and Cures allow you to extend the time you spend exploring; Light or Tenser's Floating Disk are encumbrance buffs, etc... You don't start seeing a focus on powerful combat-useful spells until several levels later.

    Since exploration-based play isn't nearly as driven by character abilities (the Thief problem notwithstanding), everyone does get a relatively equal "slice of the action." It's just not combat action.
  • edited January 2018
    Wow. That's a tremendously concise restatement of the tension I'm seeing in this game. (Edit: was responding to ValyrianSteelKatana.)

    @yukamichi - that's been my experience of old-school d&d, as well.

    Also, in comparison to 5e, the characters are on a much more even playing field when it comes to combat. If you have a +1 to hit and a d6 damage, whereas I deal d4 damage, we can meaningfully adventure together.

    In 5e I'm seeing a rogue who can regularly deal 30-50 points of damage per turn, and a paladin on a magical warhorse which allows them to make four attacks per round together and trample enemies (for a similar output). This means that monsters we face typically have 100+ hit points (this is standard y the book at our level). Suddenly my d4 damage seems like a waste of time.
  • Same here, it looks more to me like the designers had to make too much of a compromise and couldn't decide whether to keep the game faithful to one creative agenda over the other, but at the same time trusted players to pick what they needed and discard the rest in favour of the exact type of game they are looking for. It's doable but it takes some deep knowledge of the game.

    After a somewhat difficult campaign with 5e, I'd now either play low-level, no spellcasters (and perhaps no barbarians with the outlander background) hex&dungeon-crawl with full resource management, encumbrance and balanced combat encounters. Or 5-20 lvl progression of a power fantasy with plenty of items and major villains, ditching the resource management part and encounter balance. I find this last one to be an incredibly frustrating constrain to story-oriented matters to be honest.

  • One of the issues with the longer working day is spellcasters tend to end up bored - unable to use spells either because they already have used them all, or because they fear needing to in the future. Was this not still an issue in Basic D&D? Or when Eero says 1 spellcaster per 5 fighters, was the spellcaster also playing a fighter, and thus always guaranteed a slice of the action?
    I don't think that you can make blanket statements for how a vaguely defined group of people long ago played, but my personal experience is that magic-users don't get bored for the same reason everybody else doesn't get bored: the old game is simply not a combat game, you're not deriving your enjoyment from winding up a character build and looking it go, being better than everybody else's character builds.

    Being a magic-user does not prevent you from mapping, strategizing, optimizing logistics and so on. It makes you a protected asset, essentially: the party has these couple of spells, personalized in this one member of the party, who is not very good at fighting. He's basically part of the civilian contingent in the expedition, same as mules and servants, except when the captain calls for the artillery strike. (The magic-user can be, and often is, the captain himself; no reason why not.)

    If the old game was about combat 80% of the time, and its reward cycle was all about combat accomplishment, then magic-users would get bored just like in newer editions. There's nothing special preventing that.
  • I wrote a bit more about my specific problem here before seeing your post here Eero. I'm not sure where the conversation should continue at this point. :)
  • Let's keep the old-school conversation separate! I'll copy Eero's comments there.

    We can talk about different editions here, so long as it's somewhat relevant to 5th Edition.
  • The economy exists and provides guidance for about how much of the party's resources an encounter will expend. That said, players may overuse their resources and in most scenarios the players (rather than the economy explicitly) dictate when rests will occur.

    Blowing resources, or playing it too safe, and taking lots of rests to top off on resources means more passage of time: draining other resources like rations, exposing the adventurers to more wandering/random encounters, and possibly providing time for a dungeon to restock or for inhabitants to make ready for their return. Time is also a resource, and you are trading one for the other. That should mean something within the fiction.

    An adventure on a "strict timeline" requires that players acknowledge that they will have to conserve resources as best they can and take fewer rests. It should also mean that the individual encounters faced are designed to require less resources per.

    Casters are, imho, also a bit more hearty in this edition. They often have weapon proficiencies they would not have had access to in past editions, and (particularly at lower levels) it should be assumed they are making use of those resources too and not exhausting their spell slots immediately. Cantrips are also there to alleviate spell slot exhaustion.
  • There is some (somewhat more abstract) discussion of the rest/resource economy in 4th Ed going on right now at Ron's new website, Adept Play. It seems to me (as a non-4th Ed person) to be very similar to and relevant to our discussion of the 5th Edition resource economy.

    Link to Adept Play

    At this point, I must admit I'm still somewhat at a loss as to how it can be enforced and paced unless the game is played in an unapologetic "Gamist" style (where the players make strategic choices and total failure to play well is an entirely possible outcome).

    If anyone has tips and tricks for leveraging the resource economy as a way to pace play that is still fictionally consistent, I'd love to hear them.
  • At this point, I must admit I'm still somewhat at a loss as to how it can be enforced and paced unless the game is played in an unapologetic "Gamist" style (where the players make strategic choices and total failure to play well is an entirely possible outcome).
    Well, it could be "Narrativist" style, you know, like Ron's doing with 4th [grin].

    That is: instead of the players having to evaluate the impact of taking a rest on their strategic position, it could be the case that the GM is obliged to amass natural fictional consequences for tarrying, and the players are tasked with deciding whether the consequences of resting are something they can live with, or if they're forced to take the risk and push on to prevent the consequences of the delay.

    Both creative priorities certainly work to give teeth to D&D's rest-based resource economy in a consistent manner. In one the GM has to construe scenarios to make resting have a strategic price; in the other the GM has to ensure that resting has a moral price. In both you will and always should rest when no such prices are present.

    (If I may go all GNS geek for a second here, the Simmy-D&D rest-response mechanism is obviously railroady: the GM tells you when you get to rest, no choice necessary. When the GM gives a choice, it's because he's crafted a compelling setpiece situation especially for the purpose.)
  • edited February 2018
    Eero,

    I think there's no question that some sort of pressure on the characters is necessary to make the resource economy function. (Although I actually really like mechanical incentives, like Adam_Dray's XP hoarding mechanism, as an alternative.)

    I get the impression that 4E handles this better, but my experience with 5E is that if you don't adjust the game to the right balance of encounters/rest, it starts to get wonky.

    If you rest too often, fights are really easy and the spell casters start to dominate, sometimes to the extent where the other classes have little to contribute.

    If you don't rest often enough, then the classes which rely on spells and other non-renewable resources/abilities get bored or become useless liabilities.

    The zone for fun play seems to lie in the middle, where players can at least somewhat estimate the number of encounters they will have before their next rest, and ration their ability use accordingly.

    How to create that environment reliably, absent some kind of adventure structure (like your excellent Prydain experiment) is somewhat beyond me at this point. (With the caveat that a failure state may be a desirable possibility in a certain form of seriously Gamist play, as I said earlier.)

    If not, then what techniques can be used?

    Your post suggests laying all the responsibility on the GM, but I wonder how, effectively, the GM can do this absent a very strict formula of encounters as in your examples - essentially an involved Choose Your Own Adventure of setpiece encounters.
  • Your post suggests laying all the responsibility on the GM, but I wonder how, effectively, the GM can do this absent a very strict formula of encounters as in your examples - essentially an involved Choose Your Own Adventure of setpiece encounters.
    Well, the traditional answer obviously is careful planning (often phrased as GM "skill" and "experience" - as in, the rulebooks don't quite tell you to be cynical and single-minded enough to really make it work) and furious illusionistic tap-dancing where necessary. Also, a heaping pile of constructive denial - we the D&D hobbyists collectively have to pretend that the 3rd or 5th edition resource management thing makes sense in those many, many cases where it really doesn't, and the only reason we don't rest up after the combat is that the GM will be sad if we're quite that blatant about pointing out the logical flaw.

    More specifically, though - if I understand correctly, you're saying that you don't see how to do this even in a gamist or narrativist context. I don't think that it's so difficult for either. Rather, it's much, much easier than for the prospective Sim game, which I think will usually resort to railroading to keep the resource management appropriately tight.

    For example, let's say that we're playing narrativist D&D for some reason. (Ron likes to do that, I remember how he played 3rd edition in a Nar way at one point, too.) The very crudest of the crude, simplistic principles to adopt would be for the GM to write up notes with "upcoming bad stuff" on them, and put them on display for the players, just to cut out some trivial middlemanning. Tell them that these things are on the horizon. Sort of like Apocalypse World fronts and timers and clocks and whatnot, I forget the terminology.

    Then, inform the players, dressed up in whatever sort of fictional language you desire (wise old wizards telling the adventurers stuff are sort of the expected trope) that the enemy is on the move, dark forces are gathering, the bad stuff herein conveniently displayed is on the brink of occurring. Something's gotta be done!

    So the adventurers go on an adventure the stop the bad stuff. The thing is, every time they take a long rest, one of the things on the table will come to pass. Or becomes worse. Or new ones appear, generated by one of the things in there akin to a monster birthing monsters. Every time they succeed on an adventure or adventuring milestone or whatever, they get to prevent the bad thing they were questing for. Dress it up in careful time-tables if you have to, like something happens on "day 1" unless stopped, and something happens on "day 2" unless stopped, and so on, but you could just as well say that "a long rest takes however long it takes for you to recuperate from your horrendous experiences, and that conveniently happens to be long enough for the enemy to make their next move".

    How long does it take to achieve that quest? How many combat encounters are on the way? For these purposes the frame is very lax, I think, and the GM should go primarily by his fiction-based inspiration. Something like 5 encounters in between rests is what 5th edition expects, right? So do that, then, but it is enough to be in the ballpark, because what regulates the resource management is the moral desperation of the heroes, not the GM. If you're making it too hard, then the story gets dark as the heroes are forced to take more rests; if you make it too easy, then the heroes will heroically save the day. Either way doesn't really ruin the experience, I think.

    Isn't all this very doable? You put "your sister is deadly ill, gotta find the cure" on the table, the player goes "oh no, gotta find the cure!" and then the adventurer goes on the adventure. The first encounter is sort of harsh, gotta do the 15-minute adventure day thing now... except, what about the sister? The players know the rules, they know that the GM will "advance the clock" every time they take a rest. Maybe there's a roll involved with being ill, maybe it's just a 50% chance that the sister dies while you're resting up. Maybe it's a stark either/or situation: you push on, or she dies. Narrativistic enough? Robust enough? Flexible enough?
  • Yeah, but the real problem - which spawned the thread - remains, that in most flavors of D&D (4E being actually the one exception) some character types ("casters", for short) depend on regular full rests to be active participants in the "combat" sub-game, while some other characters ("non-casters") don't, and only depend on rests to reset their HPs. Now, that wouldn't be a problem if D&D combat were just predicated on mutually assured HP attrition (as per Into the Odd), but in "modern" D&D at least they aren't: enough character "builds" are predicated on rarely being hit, often striking first and often one-shotting opponents for HP loss to register as a "failure state" to be mitigated, rather than basic resource expenditure.
    This being the case, depending on the proportion of caster and non-caster PCs, a number of not very fun scenarios may occur - depending on how aware of the issue the players themselves (DM included) are.

    This is, however, strictly related to the real time it takes to resolve combat encounters. The game design solution would be calibrating the difficulty (expected resource expenditure) of combat encounters based on the number of such encounters one expects to fit, on average, in single session of play - so that PCs only rest once per session, in-between sessions.
  • Yes, Rafu, that's the problem. What I suppose I was driving at in my night-rambling was the notion that what is unacceptable when it's arbitrary - the off-step resource management of the different classes - becomes desirable when the responsibility to push on or rest, and accepting the consequences, are left up to the players. The choice is not simply "I vote to go on until my own character's resources are depleted", because what sort of moron would only look at that when you need the entire party to be in good enough shape? The party presumably makes a communal choice that engenders discussion and roleplaying around the moral conundrum.

    This process still ends up with fighters not getting to show off their endurance because the wizards get their rest, or wizards not getting to show off because they don't get their rest, but the choice between the two is accidental and therefore fair: we're pressing on despite your lack of spells because it's important and the consequences are real if we rest now, on a formal top-down systemic level. The next time we're taking the early rest, and easily, because the dangers pressing in the horizon are not very pressing yet. So the game has variety on this, and insofar as you buy into the dramatic premise, you're willing to swallow it that your character's not always going to be in top form.
  • edited February 2018
    Based on suggestions above we introduced a "medium rest" into our ongoing D&D 5 gamist sandbox and I think it's working really well.

    The rules, in brief are:

    * You can only get the benefits of a long rest if you let your guard down: take off your armour, don't interrupt your sleep with watches, smoke the halfling's pipeweed, etc. "Relax from the knife-edge of imminent violence" is how my notes put it.
    * If you do the things that would give you a long rest in normal D&D 5th (i.e. rest for 8 hours, but you can take watch and I assume you're on the edge of action) you get a medium rest instead.
    * A medium rest restores you back up to half HP if you're below. It also gives you back 1 spell slot or 1 use of an ability that recovers its uses on long rests (your choice). I might scale this up at higher levels, but for levels 1 - 5 that seems good enough. You don't get any hit-dice back.

    It's made hexcrawling much more challenging - until you can get back to town you're in real danger. It hasn't made dungeoncrawling much more challenging, as most dungeons have a town less than a hex's travel away. But it also opens up interesting strategic play:

    * Finding settlements in the wilderness is now much more important, as they let you explorer further for less risk.
    * But on the other hand, you have to trust the people of the settlement. If it's a real hive of scum and villainy, you may not get a long rest.
    * But it's up to the players to take that gamble - they can take a long rest anywhere they like, even halfway up a volcano, so long as they don't mind being completely unprepared if a wandering volcano demon shows up.
    * There's the prospect (untried as yet) of taking a bunch of hirelings out into the wilderness to a very remote dungeon to set up a fort. Then you can retreat from dungeoncrawling to this place of safety. So conquering hexes, setting up strongholds, clearing out small dungeons to be places of safety, all become very important.
  • That's a cool idea.

    (Can you mix medium and long rests for different party members or can the wizard only truly relax when the thief stops looking over her shoulder, too? =)
  • You can mix and match - there's not much difference really between paying a squad of hirelings to keep watch while you sleep, and the high and mighty wizard getting the fighters to do it.

    But if a fight occurs, the ones who have been properly resting are going to take several turns to be ready to fight, even if they don't have armour they want to put on.

  • If anyone has tips and tricks for leveraging the resource economy as a way to pace play that is still fictionally consistent, I'd love to hear them.
    As with most things D&D-related, this weight falls upon the shoulders of the GM, and this manifests as mostly a stick-not-carrot approach: random encounter rolls, dwindling resources (rations, torches, etc.), looming deadlines.

    Time management is an integral component to D&D, thus sayeth Gygax in capslock:
    Game time is of utmost importance. Failure to keep careful track of time expenditure by player characters will result in many anomalies in the game. The stricture of time is what makes recovery of hit points meaningful. Likewise, the time spent adventuring in wilderness areas removes concerned characters from their bases of operations – be they rented chambers or battlemented strongholds. Certainly the most important time strictures pertains to the manufacturing of magic items, for during the period of such activity no adventuring can be done. Time is also considered in gaining levels and learning new languages and more. All of these demands upon game time force choices upon player characters and likewise number their days of game life…YOU CAN NOT HAVE A MEANINGFUL CAMPAIGN IF STRICT TIME RECORDS ARE NOT KEPT.
    Once the passage of time no longer becomes important to the constructs of the game, the game falls to bits. To answer your question directly, you can't really. As @Eero_Tuovinen notes:
    In both you will and always should rest when no such prices are present.
    For better and for worse, this is entirely sensible. In a dangerous world of monsters and sorcerers, where you are braving death and dismemberment every time you step away from home, not keeping yourself "topped off" is for those foolish and suicidal.

    There is no real solution to this mechanically, save for reworking the game system through-and-through.
  • MartinEden, I don't know if you play with our friend Deliverator, but he does exactly the same thing. I mentioned it earlier, and it seems like a really good "halfway measure", as well as a nice strategic consideration (for all the reasons you outline in your post):

    Another approach I've seen: our own Deliverator has house ruled something called a "medium rest", which is a compromise between a short rest and a long rest, and then redefined a "long rest" as requiring serious "time off" - basically, going on vacation, eating nice meals, etc: not sleeping on the hard earth while wolves howl in the distance.

    If I've understood him correctly, this allows him to make the desired number of encounters per rest easier to justify in the fiction - a long rest is more of an adventure-breaking proposition now.
    I am also very fond of Adam's XP-hoarding rule; it's much more "meta" but makes the choice much more interesting - taking a long rest (almost) always has a meaningful cost associated with it.

    Eero,

    I'm not entirely following your suggestions for "Narrativist" D&D, since it seems to me that, in that setup, the game would really become a question of combat tactics (albeit with an emotional context for entering the fight in the first place), and then still face all the same problems we're discussing here.

    I don't know if that's worth digging into here, though. (Feel free to do so, if you feel you've been misunderstood!)

    Overall, I'm pretty shocked that such a fundamental element of the game's design goes basically unexamined in the books, rules, and advice.

    Rafu's on the right track, I think, in saying that it should be possible to calibrate difficulty of encounters based on the rate of play (duration of sessions, how many sessions per rest, that kind of thing), so the group would at least have a shot at getting it right.
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