Rest Rooms & Dragons

If you google ‘roleplay, the fifteen minute work day’ you’ll see quite a few entries on it. It’s not quite what I’m going to talk about, because as I understand it the people who raise that concern have an issue with how it fails to depict the genre they imagine. They imagine the heroes fighting all day long, like in the books/movies. But what they find is the PCs have a fight and then….they long rest. Doesn’t matter if they can only do so once in 24 hours, they’ll just wait out that time AND long rest. Making the long rest even longer. This sedentary life is nothing like the genre they wish to emulate and that’s why they have a problem with it.

For myself, it’s a lack of any drama or uncertainty. I don’t really care if the party has one fight a day, that’s fine. I’m cool with how players play as something that creates it’s own genre rather than trying to slavishly emulate some other one.

But a fully charged party – they can pretty much walk over plenty of encounters and there is absolutely no risk to them. So if combat will take thirty minutes to an hour (or even if you can make combat take just ten minutes), what is the point of running a combat where the outcome is predictable?

There is no attrition that will lead to an uncertain outcome. The party will just heal after the combat or whenever they feel like it. There is no point in running combats where the PCs wont even have the minor inconvenience/drama of being unconscious briefly. Let alone actually dying. Caveat: Okay, sometimes having fights like this is nice – but having them all the time just plain sucks.

Sometimes what there seems to be is just the impression in gamers that there is any risk remaining. They roll dice hoping for a high result…not thinking that it really doesn’t matter, their rolls will hit average eventually and the enemy will be whittled down. And then they’ll rest. But if you don’t look at the big picture and just focus on the dice rolls then it can be like running a war reenactment inside a simulation. War reenactors know the outcome of the battle they are about to act out – there’s no surprise there for them, it’s just a matter of acting it out. Here it’s much the same, just a matter of how aware you are off there being no risk – the players roll their dice, lose maybe 10% of their HP, then having overcome the enemy by sheer resources, they long rest (or wait a bit then long rest, so as to not make the 15 minute work day too glaring).

Or I don’t know, maybe like people like to do war reenactments, maybe they like this. If they actually do, ok, there are many ways to game. And my own way of gaming isn’t that one.

However, maybe D&D 5e is designed for that? It takes an hour of combat to break a long rest – a whole hour. Some read the text as taking an hour of walking or any amount of fighting or spell casting – this isn’t correct (though they can run it that way if they want and it probably works out closer to something I want as a result).

Long rests are effectively unbreakable. It is much the same as a simulation inside a simulation from before – there appears to be a way of breaking them, thus satisfying the simulation. But with scrutiny, like a war reenactment gives the same result every time, it becomes clear a long rest will give the same result every time. The party will long rest. You will get the fifteen minute work day. Even if you were to somehow make the party flee for an hour of in game time…they’d just start a new long rest right after anyway.

So, make the monsters worse? Well there’s only so many times you can double, triple, quadruple, etc the XP requirement for a ‘Deadly’ encounter, making it many multiples of ‘deadly’ before players complain that the fights are too deadly. And technically when you’re running at 3x deadly or 4 x deadly, that’s a fair complaint. When is a DM “doin’ it wrong” if he’s taken the XP for a deadly fight, multiplied it by three and run that fight against the PCs? Never mind that of course the fully rested PCs then beat it because they just activate all their powers and best spells on the fight then long rest right after, because there is no need to conserve powers and spells for in between. So you’ve got a DM who appears to be doin’ it wrong, and yet the fights are still beaten consistently and anything less would be spending 20 to 40 minutes on a fight in real life on a fight that is entirely predictable. But then again the war reenactment guys spend hours on reenacting battles that have a fixed outcome – and presumably they do that because they enjoy it.

People call the early levels of D&D the most dangerous – they make much of a skeleton being able to down you in one hit. But that’s good! Or at least A kind of good play. I have to wonder if D&D 5e goes from being a game in the lower levels to becoming a war reenactment system once you get past around level 7ish. I can’t say that’s what I signed up for.

 

12 thoughts on “Rest Rooms & Dragons

  1. If the world is static and everything can be accomplished one non-challenging fight at a time, then yes, it sounds like quite a boring game. Of course, some players might wish to push forward out of sportsmanship or interest in seeing how far they can push things, but a dynamic game world (with for example dungeon restocking, organized enemies, or simply things happening in the game world as time passes) gives actual reasons to not be too slow. Or at least consequences to time spent.

    1. Well I’d disagree a dynamic world will somehow just organise itself to the fit the resource recovery system of a ruleset. At the very least that’d be forcing the foot to fit the shoe.

      1. The players react to the ruleset and the game world, and that is the game play. I do not know what you mean by the game world fitting the resource recovery system. Maybe you can explain that more clearly?

      2. The ruleset uses an attrition based system – this means over multiple fights the fights get more tense as the resources start to run out. But if there is only one fight to be done before a rest, the party can drop all their power on it – as illustrated here.

        This is a property of the rule set. It doesn’t have to be that way in a rule set. It could make every fight have an amount of risk, even if the party can rest right afterward.

        You mentioned ” but a dynamic game world (with for example dungeon restocking, organized enemies, or simply things happening in the game world as time passes) gives actual reasons to not be too slow.”

        The thing is in a rule set where there is risk even if you can reset right after, none of those things would HAVE to happen.

        Are those things really a normal part of your game world, or are you putting them in in order to make the ruleset work? In order to make the foot fit the shoe?

        Keep in mind before you reject the idea, I think I mentioned in the OP that the 13th age’s rules had milestones to reach before you could rest (or there is a consequence). Like the actual rules started to carry themselves, instead of a DM adding things to his game world in an attempt to make the rule set work.

        You’ll probably say you don’t change anything, that’s your natural game world. But…if you have a ruleset where a fight has risk even if you can rest after and you’re entering the ancient tomb that’s remained sealed for centuries…a time limit or other dynamic would be kind of redundant at that point. Plus also out of place since the place has laid still all that time.

        To me, I think with the attrition ruleset you’re adding time limits or other dynamic stuff – which you wouldn’t do if every fight carried risk. You’re making the game world fit the shoe that is the rule set. Distorting the game world to do so.

      3. Personally, the fiction is primary, and the rules are a default means of resolving what happens there.

        In a static tomb would I roll encounter at the local wilderness rate (thrice a day being typical) and those would be wilderness encounters; wild animals might choose to sniff at tracks and go away, while a band of orcs might choose to make the tomb their new home. In an active location the typical rate would be once per ten minutes, plus whenever there is much noise (such as in most combats), but this obviously depends on the location.

        So, in different location the time pressure is more or less pressing.

        But the hobgoblin army marches on regardless. You spend a week cleaning up a tomb with care and patience? World moves on. Maybe you find a burned city where you wanted to sell the mummy wrappings, or maybe they are under siege, or maybe they have driven off the hobgoblins. But you were not there influencing the outcome, because you were doing something else.

        This means that players have the power to set their own challenges. They can proceed methodologically, accepting that they accomplish fairly little but also have fairly small risk, or they can push forward and take greater risks in order to succeed faster or at a less static challenge. And if they want to attack the dracolich at level 5, they can also do that. Or just kill a few goblins. Players set the challenges for themselves, within the limits and options available in the game world, and with consequences for the game world.

        The system of 13th age is very gamey and artificial. It is certainly suited better for a scripted game of dramatic set-piece combats.

      4. “This means that players have the power to set their own challenges. They can proceed methodologically, accepting that they accomplish fairly little but also have fairly small risk, or they can push forward and take greater risks in order to succeed faster or at a less static challenge.”

        No it doesn’t – this is classic gamer bleed over to start speaking in terms of game world time and ignoring real world time passing. If they go through the dungeon ‘methodically’, which is to say to rest over and over, it still takes as long to do that in real life as it is to fight it without rests.

        And what does ‘very gamey’ even mean? Of course it’s artificial – it’s all artificial, it’s all just made up fiction and made up rules.

        As I think I said in the OP or a recent post, gamers don’t dislike ‘gamey’, they dislike the game controlling things instead of them having utter control. It’s not about fiction and instead about power.

        There’s never a clear critique of rules, because ultimately many gamers want absolute control over the fiction (or otherwise it’s ‘gamey’) so you never get better rules that actually work.

        Sorry, I can’t say I’m into toothless rules so the DM can be the man behind the curtain, pulling the real strings. People play in different ways and calling something ‘gamey’ (whatever that means) and artificial is just not very open minded to playing in different ways.

      5. “No it doesn’t – this is classic gamer bleed over to start speaking in terms of game world time and ignoring real world time passing. If they go through the dungeon ‘methodically’, which is to say to rest over and over, it still takes as long to do that in real life as it is to fight it without rests.”

        This discussion is about players selecting the nature and difficulty of threats in the style of play I am explaining, and what are the consequences within the fiction for taking that time. The time this takes in real life is not relevant.

        About “gamey” – if you find the term distasteful, then I am completely fine with alternatives, such as “disassociated (from the fiction)” or “formal”.

        As I remember, characters in 13th age only recover their resources after a fixed amount of encounters. Let me know if I misinterpret the game, here. The effect of this rule is that no matter the fictional circumstances, the characters cannot recuperate, no matter how plausible it would be. Hence, the rules for recovery either are so abstract that they have no interpretation in the fiction, or they make some actions that are plausible in the fiction, impossible, which breaks the credibility of the fiction. This is useful for very different ways of playing then fiction-based rules, and as such, making the distinction is useful.

        When running a game, the game world is the thing behind the curtain. Players often enjoy playing with hidden information (as exploration, mysteries, and making decisions with incomplete information is fun), so there needs to be a referee to act as an intermediate. They faithfully reveal the game world and create more of it as is required. They freely discuss their methods and decision-making, as credibility of the process is what makes play meaningful. If the players believe the referee is not fair, they can ask to see their notes and so on, but this rarely happens, because the referee is open about their methods and does not pull the strings.

        So, when the keep of a high-level warrior is attacked by the hobgoblins (and player characters are elsewhere), I discuss the matter with the players, if this is important for them; maybe the warrior is their enemy or ally. We agree to the probabilities and roll a die (in the open, of course) to see what happens. If the keep is not important, then I just assign the probabilities by myself and roll, or make a decision if the outcome is quite certain.

        This is my preferred way of playing and running games. There is no game master behind the curtain, and the rules are not toothless. The rules are: “The group agrees what is credible in the fiction and that is what happens.” Typically one uses some mechanical system to speed up the process – like defaulting to D&D 5 or whatever rules set for resolution, as long as it does not conflict with the actual rule, above.

      6. “This discussion is about players selecting the nature and difficulty of threats in the style of play I am explaining, and what are the consequences within the fiction for taking that time. The time this takes in real life is not relevant.”

        I assure you, it’s a bleed over. You talked about doing the dungeon faster…but it was just faster in the game world. But you thought it’d be a feature to me somehow in the real world.

        You’re saying ‘it’ll be faster’ to me…I’m a person in real life. As much the time it takes in real life is what is relevant to me. That’s your bleed over, blurring real life concerns with game world concerns. We’re not playing right now, Tommi.

        Most of this discussion is going to end up informed by this bleed over, where fiction gets treated as if it still matters when we are not currently roleplaying,

        Take this for example – I once saw a picture of skydivers playing chess mid skydive. It actually kind of freaked me out, because when I play I concentrate on the activity and forget about other stuff. But to do so would mean death, because you’d hit the ground.

        What if they were roleplaying up there? Would the real life time it takes be irrelevant? Of course not! But you’re arguing it isn’t relevant – this is the bleed over, where the significance events of real life are being ignored in favour of fiction. Sure in real life there generally isn’t going to be a dire effect for this bleed over as there would be in skydiving roleplay that just focuses on the fiction. But there are going to be negative effects. You’ll hit the ground in various ways.

        ” the characters cannot recuperate, no matter how plausible it would be.”

        This is your own rejection of letting rules dictate fiction – I’m not sure you can see the decision you’re making on this. If by the rules they cannot recuperate then you shouldn’t be making fiction where it’s plausible they can recuperate! Why would you make it plausible they can? Well, because you’re rejecting the process of the rules telling you what fiction to make.

        Yet at the same time you want to insist there have to be some kind of dynamic events for after the fictional time spent in a long rest. Because you’ve decided you want that – for whatever reason you’re making fiction that fits the game mechanic there, but you wont do it for something like 13th age. Maybe it’s just luck that the way you run a game somehow fits the eight hour rest game mechanic – or maybe you’ve eventually just started making fiction as the rules require, but you don’t realise it? While I am aware I’d be making fiction as the ruleset is instructing me.

        In the end you’re being told what fiction to make by the rules (or your fiction just happens to always match the needs of an eight hour rest, coincidentally). But when I talk about actually using a ruleset that will provoke me to produce…the kind of fiction I want to produce (ie, you have to keep doing encounters until you can rest), you balk at it.

        To me the whole eight hour rest has you running around, trying to conjure up dynamic events so as to combat how they get everything back after the eight hours and make combat trivial. And I don’t think you’re aware of that – you’re skydiving and utterly focused on play. You reject rules coming first, even though you are making a bunch of dynamic events so as to conform to the needs of the eight hour rest rules. Which is making rules come first.

        “There is no game master behind the curtain, and the rules are not toothless. The rules are: “The group agrees what is credible in the fiction and that is what happens.” Typically one uses some mechanical system to speed up the process – like defaulting to D&D 5 or whatever rules set for resolution, as long as it does not conflict with the actual rule, above.”

        You mean the actual rule is not toothless, where as 5e is toothless in this context. 5e does not override the ‘actual’ rule.

        And yet you don’t realise how much you are adhering to 5e’s long rest rule by making fiction to fit that rule.

        All I’m doing by raising the 13th ages rules restriction on resting is talking about choosing a ruleset that will ask me to create the fiction I want to create. But the reason you’re so against this is you can’t see how with 5e you’re still making fiction the rules tell you to make – you think you’re free in the fiction you’re making, like you’re in control of the fiction. Rules are very much changing your game as much as prone snake rules would, but you insist rules (apart from the ‘actual’ one) are not in charge of your game at all, when they are controlling its fiction.

      7. 1. I feel you are intentionally misunderstanding me at this point. My claims are the following.

        A. Take two environments, one where there is significant in-fiction time pressure, and one where there is not (for in-game reasons like long-lost tomb).

        B. If there is sufficient in-game time pressure, then there are explicit and immediate reasons to not rest after each encounter. The amount of in-game time pressure affects how often it is possible to rest.

        C. In contrast, in the no-pressure situation, the players can decide when their characters rest, and thus adjust the difficulty of encounters.

        D. In contrast to both of the above situations, if the rate of encounters depends on GM fiat or formal/disassociated/gamey ruleset, the players face encounters at arbitrary or constant rate. The two fictional scenarios, above, are treated in the same way.

        E. I make no claims about how fast anything would go in real-life terms.

        F. If there is a dynamic game world, than the (in-fiction) speed at which player characters move progress has an effect on the game world, even if there is no immediate time pressure. The game world changes as in-fiction time is spent.

        Please state what parts you do not understand or you disagree with, if any. I think all of this is quite obvious and non-controversial.

        2. When running the game, the rules do have an effect on the fiction, but it is not due to me altering what there is in the game world as a response to the ruleset; rather, it is due to the rule set affecting what the characters can do and how quickly they recover. I have used the same game world with various different rule systems. The rate of random encounters has been the same. I am discussing the in-fiction rate, here.

        Pathfinder, where characters recover special abilities per day and hit points at that rate or slower, depending on whether there is a dedicated healer. Various OSR systems, where recovery of abilities might be the same as in Pathfinder, or might be that spells are recovered once per adventure, or maybe severe wounds and spells are recovered once per adventure but hit points can be partially recovered quickly and often, but one recovers fewer and fewer hit points until resting between adventures. Here, adventure means that there is explicit danger or that you leave the civilized and safe areas, and adventure ends when you return to civilization and do not need to be wary all the time, anymore. That is, “adventure” is a state that is determined by in-fiction state of the character.

        Players characters have, for example, gone to a dungeon, faced one very difficult battle, and then retreated because the players judged that was all they could take. In another situation, they cleared an entire level of a dungeon before retreating, because they were powerful when compared to the denizens there. Once, they tricked some mummies into a barn, burned that, and managed to kill them while almost all of them also died; only one encounter before the (final) rest. With 13th age none of these would have been possible; either the players or I would have had to manipulate the game world in some way to justify them taking a rest already or not taking it yet, or we would have to adjust what there is in the game world so that “encounters” would be “sufficiently challenging” and happen sufficiently often. This would defeat the entire purpose of play, which is to see what you can accomplish in a dynamic and dangerous game world, which does not adjust according to who you are.

        The players have several characters and I never know which ones will be in play. I do not know their levels except roughly (the highest are something like 5th to 7th, the lowest are first). I typically have no idea what they can or cannot do, or what spells they have. That’s none of my business; I’m running the world, and they decide what to do. Then we see, together, what happens.

        The key concept here is that the rules work on fictional input. I can use any game that does that in this kind of way. I am currently playing in a Gurps game that works like this, though it is a little bit boring as there is too much figure chess for my tastes and too little fictional problem-solving.

        In fact, here is an offer: If you want to play any traditional game in this manner, I’ll run it for you. I live in Trondheim or we could play using Irc or Discord or maybe something else if I can figure it out. I’ll need access to the game, so ones I have or that are free are better. I also have a nice homebrewed ruleset (several in fact) for this purpose.

      8. Well I feel you’re not considering I could be making a point but you’re not understanding it – you’re only considering that I am deliberately misunderstanding you. That’s not a very charitable position to take, Tommi. If you can’t consider I might have a point but you don’t understand it then really you’re deliberately misunderstanding me. If I’m getting near making a point, every time I do you’ll just read it as if I’m not getting you, rather than the other way around. Humour the idea that maybe, just maybe by a tiny chance some fragmental parts of what I’m saying could make a small amount of sense – they aren’t a missunderstanding of you, they actually just make sense and the way they describe things as working is not how you thought things worked.

        On your claims
        C: The players don’t adjust their difficulty, that’d be like they are acting as DMs to themselves.

        D: You seem to be treating it that you don’t use DM fiat and again you distance yourself from ‘disassociated’ mechanics, because as I’ve described a few times you wont let the mechanics tell you what fiction you are to make. Also I don’t understand what is meant by “The two fictional scenarios, above, are treated in the same way.”

        E: You told me it’d be faster – like that’s some kind of feature to me in real life. If you meant it’s faster in game world time, it’s still a problem because you think it being faster in game world time is some kind of feature to me in reality. This is where you bleed over a great deal, confusing what I want in real life and what might be a feature if I were to actually live in the game world. If I lived in the game world would I want to sit around for eight hours? Not really. But my real world desires are completely different, but you’re saying ‘it’s faster if you don’t rest’.

        F: You don’t seem to be taking into account the actual issue, which I described already: If you have two games, one where every fight is risky and another where you have to do about five fights before a fight is risky, this whole dynamic world thing wont matter to the first game because combat is always risky and with the second game the ‘dynamic’ seems to be there to compensate for the rules being used.

        So a fair amount of controversy, really.

        On 2, I don’t know how you can’t see how a system where every fight is risk Vs a system where you have to do five fights before its risky will be different in play. They are different right there in the description.

        You would have to alter the game world in order to make the ‘five fights’ system to feel like the ‘every fight is risky’ system. If only because it normally takes five fights before the PCs will feel any risk!

        “With 13th age none of these would have been possible; either the players or I would have had to manipulate the game world in some way to justify them taking a rest already or not taking it yet”

        You’re already either manipulating the game world to make long rests not always be possible or you’re not actually doing anything that helps with my problem, the problem being resting, steamrolling, then resting again.

        The thing is first level play in D&D 5e is like my first example where every fight is risky. A skeleton can take you down to zero HP in one hit – and even if you long rest a skeleton can take you down to zero HP in one hit.

        Then as the party gets to higher levels the system changes to one where it takes five fights before there is any risk. And if the party rests before five fights, then there is never any risk.

        You see 13th ages control of rests as bad somehow, but either you are doing the same thing but you wont admit it OR you’re doing nothing about it and you’re not on topic – you’re just kind of insisting your dynamic game world addresses this when actually it doesn’t. Which is fine for you if it doesn’t, that’s okay. But this is about my concern.

      9. Earlier, you wrote: “Are those things really a normal part of your game world, or are you putting them in in order to make the ruleset work? In order to make the foot fit the shoe?”

        I am addressing this. I am not claiming this will cure your problems; maybe, maybe not.

        If you feel that I am not addressing your points, please ask explicit questions and make explicit claims that you want me to respond to.

        C. The players do indeed adjust the difficulty. They can take no rest, short rest or long rest before proceeding. This affects how much resources they have for the next encounter, and thus how challenging the next encounter is.

        This might also help with your initial problem. If figure chess is your thing, then make players responsible for the difficulty level.

        Example, players: I bet we could take on a red dragon in its lair now. Are there any living nearby?
        GM: Nah, sorry, but there is a greed dragon in the Forest of venom, or at least that is what the rumours say. It lives in the very heart of the woods. Oh, and one sage tells you about a presumed portal to the Plane of fire, where salamanders supposedly have a smithy and nice magical weapons.
        Players: Yeah, I guess the green dragon would be suitable. Can we find a map or a guide…

        On the fictional level, the player characters are getting information about adventurous things to do. On meta level, the GM is laying out the adventures he has prepared and telling their rough difficulty level and what type of challenges there are. If the group wants, there is nothing wrong with telling that this is an adventure for fifth level characters while the other one is for seventh level ones.

        If the nature of the discussion is explicit to all, then the players know they are responsible for the rough difficulty level of what they try. They can kill rats in cellars at high levels if they really insist, but maybe it will be more exciting to take on harder challenges eventually.

        D. Yes, I am distancing myself from disassociated mechanics. They do not work for my preferred style of play. With the unclear part I meant that with 13th age or GM fiat one treats the situation with time pressure and the situation without time pressure in precisely the same way; the fictional situation does not affect when it is possible to rest.

        E. I never claimed that the in-fiction time matters to you in the same way as real time. I claimed that, in a dynamic world, depending on how long it takes for your characters to accomplish something, the state of the fictional world will be different. This is meaningful if you care about the state of the fictional world. I have found that caring about it is very common among roleplayers and game masters; but maybe you are only interested in, say, figure chess and character optimization, and the fictional setting is nothing but an irrelevant backdrop?
        Players often care about the world because they play a character who cares about the world, and as a player they, to whatever extent, take on the perspective of their character or try to have their character accomplish their goals.

        F. If I understand you correctly, you agree with my claim, but consider it irrelevant. Ok?

        A dynamic world might or might not help with your issue of fight not being deadly. As mentioned in E, many players are motivated by the state of the fictional world. For some groups this is enough to have them push through as many encounters as they can handle before spending in-fiction time; and this would lead the fights to be interesting in the sense of how much resources are spent, and the last ones before the rest might also be deadly in the sense you explained, if the group pushes hard enough.

        Worth a try, I would say. But this does shift some of the responsibility from the GM to the players, as per point C. Not all players enjoy the responsibility.

        2. I see why every fight being deadly is different from one fight in five being deadly, and have not stated otherwise. Please ask, rather than assume, what I understand or do not understand. It makes the conversation more pleasant and reduces irrelevant noise.

        Also, please note that point two is part of my response to your quoted question. I am explaining what you do, because you seemed to have misunderstandings about it.

        “Are those things really a normal part of your game world, or are you putting them in in order to make the ruleset work? In order to make the foot fit the shoe?”

        So: The world works as it does. I am not putting anything there to make a ruleset work, since the game world remains the same regardless of which ruleset I am using.

        3. You did not address my invitation to play. Play by email or forum or WordPress page is also fine, though slow, if you prefer.

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