Tearing 4E a New One: Short Rests and Encounter Resources

February 22, 2011

Are Short Rests Changing Your Game

Ground rules. In case the title didn’t tip you off, this article is not going to pull any punches. I’ve got some not-nice things to say about 4E. Why? Because despite the fact that I’m not currently playing it, I still like the game. A lot. And I like the people who play it. And the thing is, you only truly hurt the things you love.

Thing is, there are people out there pointing out a lot of problems with 4E. And these aren’t just the people who were determined to hate it from the get go and never played the damn thing. These are people who, like me, played it from the day it came out, and now are starting to think about how to improve things, streamline things, and just generally give the thing a tune-up.

Is combat too long? Is the encounter construction system flawed? Is the skill system working as intended? Are there too many options? Do solo monsters work? Do minions? Some of these topics have been discussed over and over. Others are starting to gain momentum. But where are they coming from? Why are people saying these things? What are my problems with the system? Can they be fixed?

But I’m not just here to tear things apart or spout hate-filled, unsupported opinions. Honestly, I’m not that interested in discussing whether combat really is too long or not. What I’m more concerned about is what is happening inside the system that is making some people feel that way.

Recently, I was reminded by a Twitter buddy of a quote by E. Gary Gygax. In the AD&D Dungeon Masters’ Guide, he encouraged people to make the system their own and to make whatever changes they wished, but first, to make sure they really understood the system they were changing and what it was trying to do.

So, don your rubber gloves and grab your flashlight, because we’re going to take a look at some of the mechanics of 4E and figure out whether they are doing what they were meant to do and what unintended side-effects are cropping up. And then, when we find those nasty side effects, we’ll talk about ways to fix them.

Some caveats though. First, I’m not going to waste a lot of time reminding people that I like the game, nor am I always going to be polite to it. If you can’t fathom how someone can both like and criticize a game at the same time, you need to leave. Likewise, if you can’t stand to hear suggestions that there might be some warts inside the system, you should also leave.

That’s not to say I think the system is broken, flawed, or poorly built. On the whole, I think it’s very well put together. And just because I don’t personally like part of the system, that doesn’t mean it’s broken, bad, or flawed. But there are some bugs. Unintended bugs. And we know they’re bugs because they make the system do things the designers didn’t intend the system to do.

So, fair warnings out of the way. Still with me? Good. Let’s talk short rests.

Short Rests and Encounter Resources: A Quick Review

One of the new features that 4E introduced was the idea of encounter resources. Basically, these are things the PCs can access once (or a fixed number of times) during an encounter. At the end of the encounter, all expended encounter resources are refreshed and the party can use them all again in the next encounter. Encounter attack and utility powers are encounter resources. So is the Second Wind action. Action Points are an encounter resource too, even though they recharged every second encounter. And, effectively, so are hit points.

Because hit points as an encounter resource are going to be a large part of the discussion, we should take a minute to be very clear about them. Technically, you do have a pool of hit points that recharges on a daily basis in the form of healing surges. And those healing surges do technically limit the number of hit points you can recover during encounters and at the end of the encounter, but hit points are effectively an encounter resource just the same.

Why? Because, at the end of each encounter, if the party does not have enough healing surges to fully recover themselves and to power all of their various healing options (powers, potions, etc.) during the next encounter, they are going to take an extended rest. This is just the smart thing to do. This assumes, of course, that the party has the choice. But we’re looking at the rules themselves, not what the DM does to screw it all up. A PCs pool of hit points is effectively an encounter resource.

The short rest is actually just a tiny little mechanic that makes it easy to determine exactly when the party can do their end of encounter recovery and recharge. Whenever the party has about five minutes during which nothing is chewing on their faces, they can take a short rest.

Actually, when you get down to it, most of the resources a PC has in 4E are either at-will resources or encounter resources. Action points are encounter resources on a slow recharge. Healing surges aren’t really a resource so much as they are a limit on the day. And that just leaves daily attack and utility powers and magic item powers. That means that at the start of every encounter, a PC is pretty much guaranteed to have access to every resource except the daily attack, utility, and magic item powers (and every other encounter, they won’t have an action point). This shouldn’t be news to anyone. What might be news, though, is what this does to the game – both the intended benefits and the side effects. But first, a little historical perspective.

Tags: , , , ,




74 Responses to Tearing 4E a New One: Short Rests and Encounter Resources

  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Dean Gilbert, Scott, Matthew Bowers , Scott, Scott and others. Scott said: New Article: An overly critical, angry analysis of how the short rest mechanic is making your players play wrong: http://tinyurl.com/4pb6eau [...]

  2. hvg3 on February 22, 2011 at 3:11 am

    A very interesting read! :)

    I will say to your “fifteen minute workday” trap, the rules (PHB1, p263) do still state that you can only have one a day. If the party wish to rest for an entire day before going forward, they certainly cannot expect the world to stay still, and no enemies to move in! :p
    (an aside: I’ve kept limited daily item powers, so milestones still have merit)

    An epic game I am in (level 28, we’ve played since level 1), we still try to push through as many encounters as possible each day. Partly, we have items that become more effective after milestones; partly, two of us have that tattoo that gives THP based upon how many surges you have used (and we start with 14-16, so we get big bonuses towards the end of the day), and partly, we see it as a challenge. Even if we run out of daily powers, we will often press ahead until we are too battered to risk another fight.

    Now, I will admit that I fall more into the “is it broken?” side. Under your “But the DM Should Fix It!” heading, you stated that “it should be possible to write a perfectly enjoyable, meaningful adventure using only the tools given in the rule books”. I think it is. And I think that I’ve done it, as have other DMs I play under. I guess, I am not certain that there’s anything wrong with the “reset at the end of an encounter” idea. It happens in movies, it happens in novels, why not our games? Sure, we become a little weaker, as our daily options dwindle, and our healing surge pool dries up, but I don’t think that detracts meaning.

    However, I will say that you may very well gain more fun (or at least, different fun) by adding in other effects. Have someone gain a temporary limp after a nasty critical, or have someone who was knocked unconscious three times act a little slower in the next encounter. But I think these should be the exception, not the rule, and thus firmly fall under the DM’s rule, not in a core rulebook. (though, a DM guide with them as options would be great!)

    Your options are both interesting, too. The HS restriction would make for a tougher game, and the ‘wait for daily attack powers’ idea has a lot of flavour in it (DBZ-long charge-up sequences!). I might limit it to attack powers, if I were to try it, as an encounter might have to last 8-10 rounds before you can pull out your big daily, and that might get annoying :p Now, if we just played more often, and I could afford games to test the ideas out!

    -hvg3

  3. Geek Ken on February 22, 2011 at 5:34 am

    Nice post, Angry DM.

  4. Hunter Rose on February 22, 2011 at 6:59 am

    My 4E group goes in the other way. The DM house rules that the you only need 1 hour for an extended rest and among the players we always have a dedicated healer and 1-2 multi-class characters (for the healing). It makes things way too easy.

    Of course, the game being too easy, I start thinking about how I would “fix” it: on get 1 surge back per extended rest, increase the DC on saving throws to increase the duration… but then I remember that I’ve not played two sessions with the rules as written. :/

  5. Dave Tavener on February 22, 2011 at 9:26 am

    I was really struck by your claim that combat encounters mean exactly nothing. Even if there is no lasting mechanical drain from an encounter (other than disease, that is), encounters should define “failure” states that drive the story in different directions even if the party wipes out all the critters. You killed the evil priest, but not before the ritual was completed and now there are undead swarming the streets. Etc.
    I think the encounter resource depletion issues rests on a knife edge between the 15 minute work day and combat irrelevance. Mechanical changes will tend to push it one way or the other. Therefore, I think story needs to step in and add relevance to combat encounters.

  6. The Gneech on February 22, 2011 at 9:57 am

    This problem was pointed out vehemently and in great detail long before 4E came out — specifically, the moment Mike Mearls first unveiled his “rust monster” that didn’t actually destroy the PCs’ gear, on the grounds that “it stops the action.” In fact the phrase, “no lasting consequences” became something of a battle cry, as I recall.

    This has been a recognized problem since 4E’s conception, but those who pointed it out as such were called a bunch of big ol’ bedwetting doodie-heads.

    -The Gneech

  7. Camelot on February 22, 2011 at 10:03 am

    I knew there was something wrong with the system, I just couldn’t put my finger on it. You got it right on the nail. However, your solution doesn’t sit well with me. I’m sure it’s fine for your and many others’ games, but you actually gave me a different idea: Drama Points. The DM can get Drama Points if the PCs rest too much to make later encounters harder. I’m going to work out the kinks of this and put it down on paper! Thanks!

  8. Stuart on February 22, 2011 at 10:44 am

    “Basically, the idea was that the single most effective way to handle a string of combat encounters (say, like, a dungeon) was to enter the first encounter and expend all of your most powerful resources to blast it into component atoms. After that, the party healer would expend any remaining magic on healing the party (or break out a wand, depending on the edition). After that, the party would retreat, go to sleep, and recover all of their resources. Lather, rinse, repeat, kaboom!”

    I think if you’re playing the game fully (which many of us in our 30s or even 40s most likely weren’t doing circa pre-3e editions) there are some factors that prevent players using this strategy.

    #1 Wandering Monsters – sleeping in the dungeon is stupid.
    #2 Dungeon Restocks – the player retreat to recover resources, the dungeon recovers resources as well
    #3 Non-renewable resources – player are burning coin for flaming oil, torches, food, retainers, arrows, etc. if they aren’t bringing back treasure they’ll run out of these resources

    The 15 minute workday is a good strategy for winning a few combat encounters, but a poor strategy for exploring the dungeon and finishing the overall adventure.

    “A string of well-handled encounters would leave the party very powerful when facing the big, climatic encounters planned for later on.”

    I don’t think D&D as originally designed was a good game for building this type of “boss encounter”. Like you noted there’s no way to ensure the PCs arrive with the amount of power you want for the “epic fight”. The best you can do is put in the powerful monster and leave it to the players to decide whether to fight, run, or get cunning in defeating it.

    “The encounter resource mechanics render moot many of the choices that the excellent combat system allows and reduce the importance of combat in the game to near insignificance. That’s not hyperbole. I’m not trying to be shocking. This one mechanic basically makes every decision the PCs make during combat almost utterly meaningless in terms of the adventure.”

    Absolutely agreed. You did a good job of explaining why in practice there’s not that much actual tactics + strategy to the game.

    I do like the idea that action is what recharges the characters powers in 4e rather than resting. You could tie all the powers to that model so that X rounds of non-power using combat (At-Will, Encounter or Daily) and the better powers recharge. This could also encourage players to do things other than use their big damage powers while they wait for them to ‘recharge’: tactical movement, helping allies, defensive fighting instead of constantly pushing forward. If that let them recharge their “big” powers and use them more often it might cut down the “grind” some people complain of as well. Getting to use that daily power more than once a day would certainly move things along. :)

  9. AlioTheFool on February 22, 2011 at 11:14 am

    Great post Angry! Honestly, I had never really looked at resource management that way. I had just thrown encounter after increasingly hard encounter at the party in order to compensate for the subconscious metagaming you pointed out.

    The thing I find really funny, and the comments so far have proved it out, is when you mentioned that a system shouldn’t need the players (especially the DM) to work around it in order to “fix” it. It should be up to the system to “just work” as written, and regrettably 4E “doesn’t.” Not without at least a little bit of effort from the DM.

    It’s interesting that 4E capitalizes on the “delve format” yet doesn’t include a consequence when gaming that idea. 4E’s resource management works great at cons when you’re trying to run through 3 encounters within a time limit, but trying to apply that same system at a dinner table changes things.

    Now granted, as some comments have discussed, you can throw wandering monsters at the party, or have events in the background occuring while the PCs Rape, Rinse, Repeat through every adventure, but that’s not really how the game was written, and is thinking that comes from players who ran through previous editions.

    Most (arguably all) people who chime in with “it’s the DM’s responsibility to compensate” comments have played previous editions, and so have the knowledge of how to run an adventure including wandering monsters or background events. However, newer DMs, such as myself, don’t really have their finger on that pulse. It gets frustrating to see the incessant “there isn’t a problem with the system, the problem is how you’re playing!” comments, and not just on this particular topic either.

  10. Stuart on February 22, 2011 at 11:30 am

    I just checked my Basic D&D book… you needed a “safe place” to regain hit points, and have an “uninterrupted” sleep to relearn spells. The dungeon certainly isn’t safe, and you aren’t going to get that uninterrupted sleep with wandering monsters. Even if you barricade yourself in a room they’ll be pounding on the door and disturbing the Wizard’s beauty rest. :)

    Since the dungeon is unlikely to have a bed and breakfast 5 minutes down the garden path from the entrance it won’t be as easy as running back and forth from home to heal up before continuing. If the dungeon is amidst a dangerous area that also has wandering monsters (eg. B5: Horror on the Hill)… there’s not going to be a lot of healing and re-memorizing at all.

  11. Richard on February 22, 2011 at 2:11 pm

    Excellent post! I think the DM does need to provide story-based reasons for encounters to have consequences but I do like your two suggestions. Might give them a go!

    Cheers

    Rich

  12. ericthecavalier on February 22, 2011 at 2:34 pm

    if only there was some kind of guide for dungeon masters… hmmm.

  13. Frank "Darth Jerod" Foulis on February 22, 2011 at 6:07 pm

    Great Post! I had not really run into this problem yet I do not know if it is because my players just are thinking the mindset of one extended rest a day means they go all day and sleep at night, I just do not know.

    I have been reading all the posts and blogs about combat being to long and the suggestion was to go play something like Dragon Age as an alternative. I think that is just caving if the DM does so, my opinion. I had been under the impression that the problem with combat lengths was because the encounter system is designed with balance in mind and if you as the DM are designing the encounter you might just be making them so good and balanced that it just becomes a slugfest. I tend to side on the stronger encounter makes for good intentions.

    Again just my thought on that anyway. I have two games coming up in short order and I will have to pay attention to how they are playing.

    I do like the limited healing surges. The Ravenloft and Ashardalon boardgames use the group surge pool and once the surges are gone the game is over, since 4e is not a boardgame it is not the same mechanic but even having a group surge pool and they have to ration it outside of combat or else not have them later might work as well.

  14. Grokkit on February 22, 2011 at 7:55 pm

    Interesting read. I too was struck by your comment about combat essentially being a coin toss. I will definitely have to chew on that one some more.

    As for the healing surge short rest issue, one way I have dealt with this is to disallow PCs the ability to use their Healing Surges unless they have an ability or item that permits the use of the Surges. So unless a Healer is in the group or unless they are stocked on potions, healing surges are unavailble short of Second Wind. It’s a bit draconian, but so far it has worked well in keeping the players from inexplicably “Powering Up” after every encounter.

    I definitely am intrigued with the “adrenaline idea”. I may have to try this one out and see how it works. Typically I have resorted to making locations unsafe to rest in order to motivate the PCs to move forward. This addition may provide another incentive.

    Keep up the awesome angriness!

  15. The Angry DM on February 22, 2011 at 10:59 pm

    Thanks for all of the comments. I’ve raised a lot of discussion and more than a little ire, enough that chatting through my comment feed just isn’t enough. Check out the follow up to hear how I justify calling this a design flaw, why I’m willing for forgive the designers anyway, why the “nothing is a problem if the DM can fix it mentality” is so dangerous, and more about experimenting with fixes for the issue.

    http://angrydm.com/2011/02/tearing-4e-a-new-one-addendum/

  16. Arcane Springboard on February 23, 2011 at 10:50 am

    A few comments(I mentioned these on Twitter and Angry asked me to post them here).

    1. It’s probably better to explicitly state that Daily powers can be gained through non-combat encounters as well.

    2. I think the idea of dealing out Daily Powers with each encounter is great, and is very reminiscient of Torg. In that game, each encounter started with no Drama Deck cards (which gave significant bonuses, like Fortune Cards but even more powerful) on the table. Each turn, the player got to put down a card into their ‘pool’ and could only play from the pool. This was very important for dramatic encounters, as the players were largely screwed without good cardplay. The difference of course is that Angry’s system is on an per-encounter basis, but it works I think.

    3. However, there is a problem where if by some chance the players do an Extended rest before a major climactic encounter (like Level +3 or +4). Without Daily powers, they’re in major, major trouble at worst, and the combat is going to grind at best. A suggestion is that for certain encounters, some method (like a skill challenge) should be used to acquire the Daily powers. Basically adrenaline on overcharge. “Holy crap! It’s the Necromancer!”

    I’m going to test these out myself, though I don’t play again until next Friday.

  17. Arcane Springboard on February 23, 2011 at 10:54 am

    Also, I’m thinking that limiting healing surge usage after combat to 1 probably will be better. I know that in my game often the players aren’t even using their Second Wind.

    With allowing 2 healing surges to be spent after combat, anyone who isn’t bloodied will be at max hp for the next encounter, if they choose. If they didn’t use their second wind, they have to be below 25% in order for that to happen.

  18. The Angry DM on February 23, 2011 at 1:31 pm

    Thanks for putting your comments here, Arcane. I like Twitter, but its nice to get this conservation tacked onto the end of the article so everyone can benefit.

    1) Yes. While that was my intention, it is probably best to explicitly state it. If the party does something that would have an experience budget (combat, skill challenge, trap) or would otherwise count toward a milestone, charge the dailies.

    2) Thanks. Not much to say there. I will have to see if I can check out Torg, though. Its not a system I’m familiar with.

    3) First of all, they shouldn’t start with no daily powers. They should start with one. So, they aren’t go wake up with nothing. The question: is that enough?

    My answer is that it was good enough for the designers. If you look at the resource management, encounter length, and day length assumptions that are woven into 4E, it breaks down like this: at their full potential, a character has 4 encounter attacks and 4 daily attacks. A day of adventuring should include about 5 encounters. An encounter is about 4 to 6 rounds long. Let’s say 5 for simplicity.

    These numbers aren’t accidental. Assuming a balanced resource expenditure, a fully realized character will basically go through each five round encounter using four encounters and one daily. They have just enough resources to pull this off four times in a row. At-will attacks fill out the ranks, allowing for fights that drag a little longer and give the party something to do with action points.

    Monster stats and encounter balance rules are built around exactly this model. That’s why blowing all of your dailies in one fight is so effective. The game expects each member of the party to use one per fight. More than that blows encounters part.

    If the party has to face one encounter – even the “tough” encounter with only one daily power each – it still fits well within the system’s math. It might be harder. That might end their day because they take more damage than anticipated. But they are also coming into it with more HP than they would have (under my system) at the end of the day. But it seems to me its still perfectly manageable.

    Beyond that, as I’ve said, I want to make the decision to rest be a meaningful choice. And that means it has to have an impact. The party that decides to rest and then wanders into a tough encounter while they are still groggy will feel the impact of the choice they made. Maybe they will make a different choice next time. But its not out of left field and its not unfair. Its a direct result of a choice they made – even if they didn’t have all of the information.

    As for the idea that certain encounters might allow an “overcharge,” that is an example of a new tool for the DM toolbox, a way of going beyond. Its the sort of thing that would deserve a mention in the DMG, but not neccessarily a codified rule. Kind of like the way they mentioned that DMs might consider making a tough encounter a milestone by itself or not awarding a milestone for a too-easy encounter. The milestone system is what it is – a very basic, simple rule. But then there is advice for how to extend it or play with it. Same thing here, I think.

    As for the Healing Surge limit, I mentioned in the addendum that I would like to play with that number myself, but I chose it specifically because it ties to bloodied. Bloodied is defined as the state at which your injuries actually start to visibly effect you, right? So, if you get through a fight unbloodied, it makes logical sense to heal up to full at the end. If you’re bloodied during a fight, you can clean up, but you’re not going to be in top form for a little while.

    There is an insidious hidden incentive there to keep the party safe. As it stands, one problem I’ve had is that my players tend to wait for emergencies before they think about being defensive or retreating. But an emergency is usually pretty hard to identify and rarely are all the players on the same page until it is too late. Without explicitly stating it, the bloodied condition is now the point at which you’re not going to feel fresh after a rest. That starts the party thinking about defense a little earlier than they otherwise would. Bloodied is a nice, visible mechanic that often gets overlooked.

    I’m wary of letting too much damage carry over from one fight to the next anyway. As I’ve said, it is very valuable in terms of encounter planning to know the party will be pretty close to fresh. But beyond that, if the party has a bad fight and has to carry -too much- of that bad fight into the next one, it means they will probably have another bad fight.

    The side effect of this is that less skilled or less players will find the difficulty increasing. This is the opposite of what you want. You want skilled parties to deal with more challenge and less skilled parties to deal with less challenge so everyone has an even, level experience. Video games tend to do the same thing – the spiral of death – each time you lose or screw up, the game gets a little harder because you have less to give it another try. Its a very fine line – you want people to feel a loss so they try to avoid it, but not make it so overbearing that they just get frustrated and can’t ever make up lost ground.

  19. [...] AngryDM’s blog about resource management [...]

  20. hvg3 on February 23, 2011 at 4:42 pm

    On the “daily powers with each encounter”, I’m still not sure if you are referring to only attack powers (a maximum of four), or utility powers (up to another seven) as well?

    I think the rule could still work if it were restricted to daily powers, but I would probably implement one change – it doesn’t have to start at the bottom and work up. It’s just 1/2/3/4 daily powers are available.

    My reasoning is that for most characters I interact with, their daily powers are not simply “do more damage”, but have a lot of interesting effects and other parts to them. I know that some of my dailies are really set up to only be useful on a few encounters a day anyway. (This goes triple…or more?… when we look at utility powers; my latest daily utility can only be used if a surprise round occurred. If I cannot use that for the first three encounters, but one of them features a surprise round, it’ll feel a lot more akin to a kick in the guy than merely stretching out the work day).

    Rather, if the players know that they can only use one daily, then a second one after another encounter, and so on, that would allow them to still have tactical options at hand (more than just 2[W] or 4[W]), and not feel gimped by the ideal encounter for their power already being behind them when it comes online. :) In essence, it makes sure the rules change is focused on reducing power output / extending the workday, and not removing fun from the player / reducing their options.

    Anyway, just some thoughts :)

    -hvg3

  21. Is 4E broken? No! | Roving Band of Misfits on February 24, 2011 at 12:21 pm

    [...] an interesting article up at The Angry DM that argues that 4E is, in some ways, fundamentally broken. I want to disagree [...]

  22. [...] Angry DM crafted an excellent article the other day (“Tearing 4e a new one” and an addendum) that has spurred some discussion and debate. Particularly he pointed out the [...]

  23. exemplarydm on February 24, 2011 at 11:33 pm

    On the topic of the rules changes… would you think of a compromise on the short rest cap on healing surges. Instead of flat 2, what about CON MOD (min 2)? This still significantly reduces the number they can spend in a short healing rest.

  24. The Angry DM on February 25, 2011 at 12:12 am

    Compromise? You don’t have to negotiate with me, man. You do your thing. I promise I won’t be angry… angrier.

    But if you want my opinion, I don’t think CON mod (min 2) is as desirable. Why?

    Healing surges are variable. The more HP you have, the more they are worth, all else being equal. And folks with high CON mods already have high HP and thus high Healing Surge values. On average, they also tend to be the classes with the most HP.

    The problem I foresee is that incoming damage does not vary based on the target’s HP total. Its based solely on who’s doing the attacking. So the folks with the highest CON modifiers who already take less damage (in relative terms) are now also able to heal up better between fights than the folks who don’t. The fighter who already feels damage much less than the wizard can also erase more damage from himself more quickly. So, the characters with fewer hit points are also healing less and therefore bearing more and more risk than everyone else as the day wears on.

    Now, I do admit that this might be balanced by the fact the folks who benefit the most from this are also the ones who are supposed to take the most damage (defenders) and shield the party. So, it supports it their job and, as the day wears on, a good defender becomes more and more important as the rest of the party is hurting.

    However, while this is a great thing in terms of tactics, I’m not sure its really somewhere I want to go in terms of the attitude at the table. As the day wears on, the defenders are more likely to want to keep pushing ahead while their buddies start to flag. There’s conflict and then there’s conflict. While I very much support conflict between incentives, I don’t like the idea of the system creating a conflict within the party – especially when the result of a bad decision is a dead character. If the defenders push the party forward and then fail to rise to the challenge, I can see it creating some ill will at the table.

    I am also worried about throwing yet another something on Constitution. As it stands right now, after your treadmill abilities (Primary attack and Secondary rider ability), Constitution is pretty much the most valuable ability score for everyone. I don’t want to throw any more into that column, if you see where I’m coming from.

    Finally, given that a person can only use 4 Healing Surges at a pop anyway and most people are probably not going to end a fight in their last quarter hit point (if they play well, which is what we want them to do), allowing anyone to spend 3 or 4 healing surges gets us back where we started: end of combat, HP up to full.

    We want everyone, as a team, to own success or failure in combat and to feel it. It is already going to vary based on how well everyone performs, I’d like to make it as even and fair as possible beyond that.

    But again, I’m not running this through computer simulations or anything. Just thinking about it in terms of what I see it doing, which might be right or wrong. End of the day, my opinion is try it and see and then let us all know.

  25. [...] encounters, but unfortunately, it also leads to one of 4E’s biggest problems, namely that any given encounter doesn’t really make a difference. Unless someone uses one of their daily powers or by some quirk of fate a character actually [...]

  26. onedtwelve on February 25, 2011 at 3:00 pm

    I run a 4E game once a week and I’ve had trouble really challenging my players with encounters and I couldn’t figure out why. I’m pretty sure you hit the nail on the head with this post. I talked to some of my players about trying the rules you posted above and they like the first one, but they’re not really up for trying the second one, however I do think that by simply applying that first rule to our game we may fix the problem of combat difficulty, so thank you very much. We’ll try it out.

  27. The Angry DM on February 25, 2011 at 4:27 pm

    @Onedtwelve – I hope this does help. If you try it out, let me know. I still think both things wort best in tandem like chocolate and peanut butter because I think its valuable to have an incentive that rewards the push, but I’ll take whatever I can get. Please come back and let everyone know what the result was.

  28. hvg3 on February 25, 2011 at 4:52 pm

    Maybe I’m just a harsh DM? Last night, we had three encounters (once at the end of the previous day, then two after a long rest). They now want another long rest, sure to some having no surges left (silly monks), whilst others had hardly any.

    Of course, they aren’t getting one, as they still have to wait another 18 hourshave phased, and thee are a band of raiders searching for them, minutes away.

  29. Tony on February 25, 2011 at 10:41 pm

    Angry, just when I was getting use to the fact that combat in 4e is more about winning and losing than living and dying now, you write this excellent, thoughtful piece that analyzes the impact of the resource system from so many important angles. Talk about food for thought.

    It’s funny, I DM more often than I play, but when I do play, I’m always the one reminding everybody we have a lot of resources to consider beyond just dailes and surges first before one or two of the “wussbags” and/or powergamers start crying about taking an extended rest soon.

    There’s incentives for pushing forward, but, like you’ve touched on, there’s not enough of them and they’re not strong enough compared to the much safer, metagamier alternative – which I find boring, personally, but I get where the tacticians, powergamers and metagamers are coming from. They system, like you said, lets them do it.

    As a default, it’s borderline silly. Only experience with 4e has taught us as players and DMs to not be total jerks about it and metagame it to death. But fact remains, it easily can be, because it’s. right. there.

  30. hvg3 on February 25, 2011 at 10:45 pm

    …wow, my phone *really* messed up my last message. I will easily forgive anyone who looks at it, shudders, and moves along! :(

    short story: players wanted to rest after two encounters. But that was mainly because they were almost dead. Fair enough, but it’s only been 15 minutes since their last long rest, and they are nothing like safe!

  31. [...] DM posts, it’s generally quite prolific.  He sparked a Twitterstorm this week by “Tearing 4e a New One.” Of course the nerd rage was so fierce, he ended up posting an addendum.  Also, be sure to [...]

  32. onedtwelve on February 27, 2011 at 10:02 pm

    Okay, so we’ve implemented the healing surge rule, but we haven’t had a chance to really test it out. It’s kind of funny that we put it in because there won’t be a dungeon crawl or any such thing for a few sessions. We got to use it a bit today, though and it seems like everybody likes it so far. It gives more of a feel of not being superheroes. They get hurt and now they actually feel it, and everyone likes that about the rule. I hope it works out as we get to test it further.

  33. Simon Withers on February 28, 2011 at 5:51 pm

    I imagine you could get some mileage out of recharging daily powers and healing surges in proportion to the number of milestones reached – I explore this idea in http://step14.blogspot.com/2011/02/healing-surges-daily-powers-and-15-min.html

  34. Natespank on March 3, 2011 at 1:06 am

    Good post!

    It should interest the player to choose whether to enter combat and how to approach a battle; the choices also ought to carry consequences.

    For me, I’ve taken an attrition approach: a PC starts off with 2x the normal number of healing surges but only regains 1 per extended rest (2 for defenders). The party is able to fully heal between encounters but their total strength is diminished each fight because they regain so few surges. To fully heal will take a week or so of downtime, or else the players will have to risk their lives in a harsh dungeon.

    To play more on the healing surge mechanic, I include magic items that grant special abilities by spending healing surges (blood weapons), and a lot of hazards which basically reduce your health by a surge’s worth.

    The consequence of leaving the dungeon or quest alone for a week is “quest failure,” or else dramatic changes to the dungeon.

    I may reduce the total surges from 2x to 1x however. My players are pretty tough nuts…

  35. Mike Karkabe-Olson on March 5, 2011 at 1:27 pm

    Here’s another idea to throw out there: Don’t give PCs an action point for taking an extended rest; in addition, have them lose all existing action points they’ve accumulated when taking one (the rule mechanic that is already in place). In other words, the only way to get an action point is to complete two milestones without undergoing an extended rest. In this way, it creates the same “need to build adrenaline or momentum or whatever you want to call it” to gain action points (as you mentioned for daily powers) but does it without limiting the use of daily powers. Or, maybe, you could even combine the two mechanics; now that would REALLY encourage players to not take extended rests!

  36. Mike Karkabe-Olson on March 5, 2011 at 3:02 pm

    I would also suggest modifying your second idea a bit. Maybe something like… 2) In order to use their best abilities, the PCs need to build adrenaline or momentum or whatever you want to call it. Mechanically, it works like this: after an extended rest, a player has access to all of his normally available daily powers; however, he can only use one of them during the next encounter, his choice (and the choice is made during the encounter). Then, after each encounter, during a short rest, he gains one more use of a daily power, if he has any left to draw upon (and again he makes his choice or choices as to which ones are actually used while in the next encounter, marking them off from his normal daily allotment of powers available for the day). He can then stock-pile the daily power uses for future use if he wishes, and blow them all in one encounter if he has enough uses accumulated. Once they have been used, though, it still require an extended rest to regain them.

  37. Mike Karkabe-Olson on March 6, 2011 at 8:03 am

    Another possibility is to grant milestones after every encounter instead of every two encounters. If you combine this idea with my idea above (to wipe out all action points following an extended rest and NOT giving them an action point to start the day with) it will really encourage players to push on. Knowing that they will only gain action points following encounters, and not having any if they take an extended rest, will make for a tougher choice and give them a lot of incentive to push on. In fact, you could stretch this mechanic even further to say they lose all action points, and have none for the next encounter, if they take ANY kind of rest (short or long). This will make them think twice about taking short rests as well. Even better, you could give them the following options to choose from following each encounter: 1) no rest = gain one milestone for each encounter completed without a rest in between; 2) short rest = retain all existing action points accumulated, but don’t gain a new one for the last encounter completed; 3) extended rest = lose all accumulated action points and start the day with none (they must complete a milestone/encounter to gain their first action point)

  38. mbeacom on March 7, 2011 at 1:12 am

    Very interesting post, but I’m not seeing it.

    “The party can’t be whittled down by small guerilla groups of weak foes.”

    I regularly whittle my players down with a variety of difficulties and challenges. I chip away at their surges each combat. After a couple of fights, they are generally very low on surges and often start to wish they had fought more defensively. In fact, during short rests, they frequently won’t use a surge to get to all the way to full if it would mean wasting a few HP as when the surge value is 15 and they are only 10 from being full for example.

    I’ve not seen many WotC written adventures where an extended rest is assured or easily obtained, and I’ve run quite a bit of WotC 4E material.

    I suppose, as a DM, you could hand wave the concept of resting such that you’d allow your players to take rests wherever and whenever they want, but I think this would create exactly the problems you mentioned, moreso than encounter resource design.

    In a recent game night, the groups paladin was down to 2 healing surges in a major combat. He was sweating bullets. Isn’t this normal? What am I missing?

  39. Osric on March 9, 2011 at 9:30 am

    I used to be angry at my players for all being gloryhound Strikers and no one wanting to be workhorse Defenders or Leaders. But I’m calmer these days because we’d hate for fights to take longer than they do already, and only one (the worst powergamer, a DPS Wizard) argues seriously for Full Rests before the party really need it.

    Most encounters are no real threat. (And the Bard’s player will be delighted at your having put your finger on this for him.) But I manage to get fleers to link Encounters together without a Short Rest often enough that we get some tension.

    Most GMs are clued-in to the idea that abuse of Extended Rests is against the spirit of the game. But not many people seem to feel the same way about Short Rests. How many of us have had a Short Rest outside a door with hostiles on the other side of it?! That’s just wrong too. If they want a Short Rest, make them engineer a situation and/or work to get a location in which it’s realistically OK to do so!

    In old D&D you could use the prospect of wandering monsters as a disincentive, but nowadays threatening to impose an hour’s grind on the players isn’t an in-game disincentive to certain behaviour, it’s a disincentive to playing the game at all!

    My group’s problems differ slightly from what’s been described here. We mostly suffer because only the Barbarian and maybe one other PC ever get hand-to-hand with the monsters. (No Defender.) Since the other PC would tend to be a different one every encounter, it’s always the Barbarian needing his full rest way sooner than any of the Ranged Strikers. And they would ‘reluctantly’ agree to a short working day.

    The game-saver for this problem, was the ritual: Comrades’ Succour. At the cheap price of one Surge from anyone, this allows the party to donate Surges to their needy comrade. (I’ve slightly reworked this on my Obsidian Portal wiki to Clan-Brothers’ Succour.)

    But also…

    I’d like to flag up the flipside of 4e’s smoothing out the party’s swings in power-levels: even Dailies are not the fight-winners that their counterparts (mostly MUs’ spells) were in earlier editions. Maybe it’s just my game, where we’re still only Heroic, but the things like Sleep or Web that used to make a massive difference (the real causes of the 15 minute working day) are now much less so. If the party is in real trouble, they don’t have anything to pull out of the bag to enable them to escape. TPKs therefore become more likely rather than less.

    I really like your suggestions for limiting the flow of Dailies and/or Surges. But I’d like them to be available at real need, just not available to be casually abused first thing after breakfast. I wonder whether it’d be better to control them via some cost instead. But an XP cost would be too unpopular; and a cost that’s paid out of any daily-refreshing or encounter-refreshing resource would only defer the issue instead of solving it.

    Cheers!
    –Os.

  40. haze on March 10, 2011 at 5:35 pm

    First things first – I love your writing. I’ve read many of your articles and I really embrace your style and attitude towards the game (and gaming in general). You are a real inspiration to me as a DM. Thank you.

    Having publicly displayed my unwavering devotion to you and squandered my last remains of manliness, I’ve got a bunch of crazy idea for making damage “stick” between short rests – when spending surges to heal after a short rest, you must spend an additional surge per surge spent beyond the first (so if you want to heal 2 surges worth of hit points you must spend 3, if you want to heal 3 surges worth of hit points you must spend 5 etc.).

    This in addition to a limit on the number of short rest you can have in a row should mitigate some issues. Or alternatively, you could combine this with the other mechanism – having more than one short rest between two encounters “removes” your highest level daily charge (this would make negative charges a possibility, what can one make of that?).

    Another idea I had was combining loss of healing surges with some form of fatigue factor – gaining more depending on how many surges you have lost in relation to how many you could have. This could mimic encumbrance, penalize saves or certain skill checks. One could make it deadlier by adding in increased vulnerability to damage depending on surges spent, but this might rather encourage a “15-minute workday” than discourage it. And it also makes defenders in general more willing to risk another encounter than controllers or strikers, which isn’t good for party balance.

    Although maybe there could be some crazy desperation mechanic when you’re low on surges? Such as gaining more daily charges and damage boosts? This could really work in favour for strikers and controllers, which in my opinion usually have some of the better dailies.

    Finally, there is one issue here that might need some thought: Essentials classes without dailies. My ideas seem partially incompatible with them, so what other rewards could there be besides daily surges? Increased action points?

    Anyway, those are my spontaneous thoughts on reading this article. What do you think?

    Keep churning these things, I’ll be reading them. :P

  41. Nerd Rage: A Response to the AngryDM on March 11, 2011 at 7:00 am

    [...] A couple weeks back, AngryDM posted an extensive and well-detailed critical analysis of the short rest mechanic. [...]

  42. Andy on March 11, 2011 at 12:28 pm

    Awesome post. I think that the solution to this problem really does lie in removing the lack of consequences for taking hits during combat. Any time the fight goes badly, but the PCs still emerge, they should be pushed into a desperate situation. It reminds me of Mouse Guard: in a combat, if the winning side loses half of their health, they don’t get their goal unopposed. The losing side gets a “compromise”, which means that their goal is partially achieved as well.

    If the PCs are trying to find the ogre’s treasure, and the ogre is trying to kill the PCs, then maybe you impose a lingering wound on one of the PCs if they win, but take heavy losses.

    Granted, this presupposes a “condition” system, with conditions that extend past combat, which would be a new homebrew ruleset. But I think it would work. You add conditions that players get tagged with for bad performance during encounters. These are lasting effects, not unlike the disease tracks in 4E, which have to be removed.

    Just a thought.

  43. hvg3 on March 12, 2011 at 4:41 pm

    After much more thinking, I have to suggest that the two suggested rules kind of work against each other.

    On one hand, we have something that makes players want to long rest – that is, after a battle, they don’t recover fully, and thus are less eager to fight on. Being damaged is one big incentive to rest up more!

    On the other hand, we are trying to punish them for taking that early rest, and (using the stick) encourage them to push further through the day.

    The second one can work (though it is definitely more stick than carrot) to get players lasting longer before extended resting; the first though, works against the idea of wanting to discourage a 15-minute work day. Just as going nova in the first encounter and long resting may well be a mechanically sound option (assuming that you don’t play with anything aside from the mechanical rules), then resting until you have healed is also mechanically sound.

    So, I think that the two rules really don’t work together, and are really trying for different ideals. If you want players to push past the 15 minute workday, get rid of any healing restrictions, so that they are not constantly cowering from any fight they may run across. If you want to hamper healing, do it at the long rest: say they only get one (or two, if you are generous) surge back for every encounter they did that day. They only complete one encounter, they only get healed minimally. If they want to heal fully, they better be fighting a whole lot more.

    -hvg3

  44. The Angry DM on March 12, 2011 at 8:55 pm

    hvg3 – That’s kind of the point, actually. Honestly, my concern isn’t really the fifteen-minute workday, though a lot of folks seem to have fixated on that. My larger concern was the lack of a way for one encounter to have an impact on another. And that is why I came up with the limited healing rule.

    The problem with the limited healing rule, by itself, was that it would increase the drive toward a fifteen-minute workday, as you recognize. So I needed to offset that somehow.

    Ultimately, I created two rules that do conflict with each other or – more correctly – create a conflict for the players to resolve. They can choose to push forward weakened but with greater momentum (another daily power) or they can choose to rest and recover, losing their momentum. Both ways have benefits and consequences. And that is what makes the choice interesting. Whether the party chooses to rest or not, they have to live with the consequences and it will change the next encounter or two or three. More importantly, even without any other influence, the choice to rest is never trivial. Its never a matter of “running out of resources so we have to,” its a matter of giving up one resource for another.

    Moreover, that conflict sets down a very nice foundation for the DM to play with when the story allows. Time constraints, hazardous conditions, and so on all change the balance and make the decision harder. All of the various narrative tools the DM might use are all still valid, but they are added on top of an already tricky decision, thus making it much more interesting than DM fiat.

  45. Natespank on March 12, 2011 at 9:19 pm

    Okay- honestly, I see an easy exploit in Angry’s system.

    If you can only heal during encounters, what stops the party from attacking a wall or a corpse? What about attacking a child? Attacking a towns person? Attacking an armed towns person? Does the encounter have to harm a PC? By defining healing as something that must happen during encounters you set up a weird situation.

    Actually, I like the 15 minute adventuring day. In our Rifts campaign we’d spend 3 sessions sneaking through enemy territory trying not to use our resources. At the end, we’d surgically assassinate the leader, fight off a horde, and run away at top speed. It’s a great tactic… nothing wrong with it. It’s how combat must matter.

    In Rifts, your hp doesn’t regenerate. You have to go back to town and have your armor repaired or replaced as it takes hits. Easy- attrition, and combat with consequences.

  46. Mike Karkabe-Olson on March 13, 2011 at 11:17 am

    Alright, after reading your ideas and other people’s comments (a big call out to “haze” and his ideas–I especially like the cumulative idea for surge costs during a short rest, and I have incorporated it into my own solution), I think I’ve finally come up with a system I like best, and it seems to work well when actually used during play, and my players like it. Here is a copy of the verbiage. It, I believe, catches the spirit of what you are trying to accomplish. It now breaks down all the benefits and drawbacks of all choices available to the players after an encounter (including existing ones from the original rules). So here it is…

    Modified Rules for Resting

    PCs no longer receive an action point for taking an extended rest; in addition, they lose all existing action points they’ve accumulated when taking one (the rule mechanic that is already in place). In other words, the only way to get an action point is to complete a milestone without undergoing an extended rest or by forgoing all rests (see “no rest” below). In this way, it creates the need to build adrenaline or momentum or whatever you want to call it to gain action points. Also note: that if the party successfully completes anything that would have an experience budget (i.e. skill challenge, trap, combat encounter) or would otherwise count toward a milestone, they are rewarded a milestone following that encounter. Also, for short rests, PCs can still expend an unlimited number of surges, but it is now done in a +1 cumulative cost (i.e. the first surge costs them 1 surge, the 2nd costs 2, the third costs 3, etc.). If more than one short rest is taken in a row, PCs must now suffer most of the same drawbacks as an extended rest (i.e. they lose all accumulated action points and marks toward a milestone and start fresh with none) without the benefits of regaining their daily powers or resetting their expended healing surges, but they do retain the benefits that the rest is shorter than an extended rest and it has less chance of incurring an encounter. In addition, if PCs manage to complete two milestones without an extended rest and without taking back-to-back short rests, they can recharge one daily power of their choice during the next encounter (and they make that choice during the encounter).

    Basic list of choices now available for gaining/losing action points and healing surges:
    1) no rest = gain a mark toward a milestone and keep all existing action points and marks toward a milestone accumulated so far. In addition, gain one bonus action point during the next encounter if that encounter occurs within 5 minutes of the most recent one (as a reward for maintaining momentum, adrenalin, and confidence from the most recent victory).
    2) short rest = gain a mark toward a milestone and keep all existing action points and marks toward a milestone accumulated so far. In addition, expend as many surges as you want, but at a +1 cumulative cost (so the first one costs 1, the 2nd one costs 2, the 3rd one costs 3, etc.). This is in addition to any healing surges expended through the use of magic (which do not generate a cumulative cost), such as Healing Word or a potion.
    3) back-to-back (multiple) short rests = lose all action points and marks toward a milestone accumulated so far and start fresh with none (they must complete a milestone/encounter to gain their first action point). In addition, expend as many surges as desired, but at a +1 cumulative cost (so the first one costs 1, the 2nd one costs 2, the 3rd one costs 3, etc.). This is in addition to any healing surges expended through the use of magic (which do not generate a cumulative cost), such as Healing Word or a potion. And the cumulative penalty resets after each short rest taken (so if three short rests are taken, they can spend one surge per rest without incurring a cumulative penalty).
    4) extended rest = lose all action points and marks toward a milestone accumulated so far and start fresh with none (they must complete a milestone/encounter to gain their first action point).
    5) two milestones bonus = PCs who complete two milestones in a row without taking back-to-back short rests or an extended rest will receive a bonus. During their next encounter they can recharge one previously expended daily power of their choice, and they decide when to do it at any time during the encounter (or they can save this bonus for the next encounter, provided the PCs continue to adventure without taking back-to-back rests or an extended rest).

    Extended list of all benefits/drawbacks:
    1) No Rest. Players who opt to not rest and continue adventuring after an encounter receive the following benefits and drawbacks from not resting. Benefits: they can continue to maintain their sustainable powers for 5 minutes and benefit from those powers so long as their next encounter or encounters takes place within that allotted amount of time. In addition, powers that normally end at the end of the encounter (if used during that encounter) will not do so; instead, they will remain in place and continue to provide their benefits for the same 5-minute period. They also gain a reward of one bonus action point during their next encounter if that encounter takes place within the same 5-minute timeframe (as a reward for maintaining momentum, adrenalin, and confidence from their most recent victory). So, if they have another encounter right away, they will continue to benefit from these powers. They also gain a mark toward a milestone. Drawbacks: PCs will not be able to repower their expended encounter or daily powers, or to repower their second wind. They also cannot use the short rest mechanic to expend healing surges.
    2) Short Rest. Players who opt for a single short rest after an encounter receive the following benefits and drawbacks. Benefits: at the end of a short rest they regain use of all expended encounter powers and their second wind; and they can use as many healing surges as they like at a cumulative cost of +1 per surge expended (unless it is done through magic), as long as they have surges remaining. In other words: the first surge costs 1 surge, the next costs 2, the third costs 3, etc. Short rests are quick and relatively safe, so players will not likely encounter “wandering monsters” (see drawbacks below) as long as they take proper precautions to avoid them. They also gain a mark toward a milestone, and a single short rest does not eliminate existing action points or other benefits gained through previously achieved milestones (but back-to-back short rests do, see below). Drawbacks: the effects of all encounter and daily powers expended during the last encounter must end immediately (you cannot rest until they do so). Players also risk the possibility of an encounter with “wandering monsters,” but this chance is small as long as they take precautions to avoid them (i.e. they don’t rest in the middle of a well-travelled causeway or next to a room full of hostile monsters, or without hiding). As a rule of thumb, this chance of having an encounter is about 1 in 20 on a 20-sided die for each short rest taken. In addition, the players must do no strenuous activity for the entire short rest (5 minutes), without interruption, to gain the benefits of the short rest. Otherwise, they will not regain the use of their encounter powers or second wind, or the ability to expend unlimited healing surges, and they will still need to rest a full 5 minutes, uninterrupted, to gain a short rest’s benefits. In addition, players do not regain use of their daily powers or expended healing surges as they would for an extended rest. Another drawback: any powers used during a short rest (including healing powers) require an additional short rest to renew them so they cannot be used again until then (requiring back-to-back short rests to replenish them). Also, if the players run out of healing surges, they cannot heal until they take an extended rest to regain their surges. In addition, players suffering from a disease or other long-term effect, are often forced to make an endurance check at the end of the short rests to avoid worsening the condition.
    3) Back-to-back short rests. Players can now opt to take more than one short rest in a row, but they receive the following benefits and drawbacks. Benefits: at the end of each short rest they regain use of all expended encounter powers and their second wind; and they can use as many healing surges as they like at a cumulative cost of +1 per surge expended (unless it is done through magic), as long as they have surges remaining. This cumulative cost resets to 1 after each short rest taken (so if you are willing to take three short rests in a row, for instance, you can expend one healing surge per rest without the cumulative-cost penalty, even if the healing is non-magical in nature). The chances of a random encounter are still less than an extended rest, but is more than a single short rest, and the time expended on resting is still less than an extended rest. You otherwise retain most of the benefits of a short rest as outlined under #2, above. Drawbacks: The risk of encounters increases because a roll must be made for each short rest taken (but the chances of an encounter are still less than for an extended rest). In addition, taking more than one short rest in a row has the same penalty as an extended rest below when it comes to losing action points and marks toward a milestone (all action points and marks toward a milestone are lost and are reset to zero).
    4) Extended Rest. Players who opt for an extended rest after an encounter receive the following benefits and drawbacks. Benefits: at the end of an extended rest, you regain any hit points you have lost and any healing surges you have spent. At the end of an extended rest, you also regain all your encounter powers and daily powers. Drawbacks: after you finish an extended rest, you have to wait 12 hours before you can begin another one. You normally sleep during this extended rest, though you don’t have to, and you can engage in light activity that doesn’t require much exertion. At the end of an extended rest, you lose any unspent action points and marks toward a milestone and start fresh with no action points. If anything interrupts your extended rest, such as an attack, add the time spent dealing with the interruption to the total time you need to spend in the extended rest. The chances of a random encounter increase significantly for as long as the PCs remain in a hostile area (typically this chance is 1 in 20 on a 20-sided die per hour of rest taken, so long as the PCs take reasonable precautions to avoid encounters). But this chance can drop to as little as 1 in 20 for the entire rest, or no chance at all, if the PCs find a significant “safe haven” (DM’s discretion) or opt to leave the dangerous environment to return to a “safe haven,” such as a peaceful town. In this case, though, the consequence of leaving a dungeon or quest alone for more than one day can result in the possibility of rooms being re-inhabited and areas being further fortified or guard posts re-manned and otherwise altered in their absence as inhabitants of the locale realize previous guards and occupants have died. Another drawback: PCs need at least 6 hours of sleep every day to keep functioning at their best, so if at the end of an extended rest, they haven’t slept at least 6 hours in the last 24, they gain no benefit from that extended rest.

  47. Redhobbit on March 16, 2011 at 10:24 am

    Thank you for taking the time to isolate one mechanic to analyze Angry. You’ve given me a full understanding of why I dreaded more combats both as a player (oh boy more trivial encounters or another life and death’er) and as a DM (how do I challenge them this time?)

    Now that I think about it this is always why I found Dragon Age (the video game) so boring. With a short rest you were restored to full making all combats that didn’t threaten a game over simply tedious. After the initial joy of entering combat to try out new power/talents I started doing my best to avoid combat entirely because of how droll it had become. Contrast this with Baldur’s Gate, its spiritual predecessor, and you have a constant flow of danger and excitement due to the scarcity of healing, the highly variable nature of combat and the nearly even ratio of HP to Damage.

    Now Dragon Age tried to take steps to make in-combat death have a consequence with long term injuries such as head trauma, wrenched limbs, coughing up blood etc. However, these would all go away with a trip to the Campsite (an extended rest) or by using an injury kit which were extremely plentiful. It would be easy to add these long term conditions to your game but it does nothing to address the Nova -> Extended rest problem. Next time I play D&D I’ll give your suggestions a shot and let you know how it goes.

  48. Dakroll on March 22, 2011 at 6:12 am

    Everything I read suggests limiting the PC’s spending of surges, but if your looking for limiting a PC’s resources then use the mechanics you have. Every player has healing surges, so why not utilize the number of them. If a PC is down to 50% of their daily surges they take a -2 to skill checks from mental and physical weariness. If they are down to 25% then they suffer a -1 penalty to all attack rolls and defenses. The severity of the penalties can be adjusted by how much the DM wants the players to play smart.

  49. Dominic Amann on March 24, 2011 at 10:58 am

    I liked this criticism of the game – a well thought out discussion on an unintended side-effect. I am quite dissapointed that milestones are meaning less these days (I didn’t know about the rule-change re: magic item dailies).

    A friend and myself have come up with an alternative approach to the two balancing forces you discuss.

    1. The lack of any cross-encounter penalty for taking punishment.

    This I would deal with by reducing each total character’s HP cap for each surge spent with magical enhancement. This exempts second wind (which I feel is not abused – or even used enough) anyway. I think 2 points per surge is enough at Heroic tier at least – we need to play with it some more to get it right. So a fighter who starts with 35 HP, and second winds, and subsequently gets healed twice, will then have a cap of 31 HP going in to the next encounter. I recommend leaving bloodied and surge values alone (no extra math please). An extended rest will reset the cap to the characters’ full HP value.

    2. The lack of in-game incentive to proceed to the next encounter without taking an extended rest.

    Having thought about this for a while, and finding that tweaking daily power uses does not work equally for all classes including essentials classes – a thought dawned on me – what do characters adventure for? Why XPs and cool loot of course. What if we tweak the XP system to reward pressing on? I decided that a cumulative 10% XP bonus for each XP earning encounter would be a neat incentive to press on in spite of cumulative wear and tear from combat.

    I like both of these from the simulationist point of view as well as being mechanical incentives – they both feel “justifiable” in a simulationist sense, as well as being game-mechanics that may achieve the stated goals.

    The proof of this will be in the playing of course, and we are eager to find out how it plays out in our game tonight. I will post a follow up tomorrow about how it worked.

    Thanks again Angry DM for getting me thinking.

  50. Dominic Amann on March 24, 2011 at 11:19 am

    @Mike Karkabe-Olson

    TLDR ;).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *