09 June 2023

Rest and Recovery in Into the Unknown versus 5e D&D

One of the things that I dislike the most about the standard 5th edition Dungeons & Dragons rules is its system of “rests.” Even if adventurers have been in the savage wildlands for several weeks, so long as they can manage to camp for eight hours, i.e., take a “long rest,” all of them will be (almost) as good as new. After a long rest, characters recover all their hit points, spells, abilities, and so forth. The only minimal kind of attrition that they experience is that they can recover only half of their hit dice (but another long rest a day later can get them back to full).


The potency of long rests greatly reduces the roles of attrition and resource management in adventuring, things that were very important in earlier (TSR era) versions of the game. Attrition and resource management make the game more interesting and challenging, in my view. And while D&D has never been very good with respect to “simulation” (to say the least), completely “recharging” after a nap in a sleeping bag is “video-gamey” at its worst. 


Now there are options that DMs can use alter the unfortunate nature of rests and recovery in 5e D&D. The Dungeon Master’s Guide mentions a few decent ones in Chapter 9. One is “Healer’s Kit Dependency,” which requires the use of a healing kit in order for a character to spend any hit dice (healer’s kits come with 10 ‘uses’ each). Another is “Slow Natural Healing,” which eliminates the automatic recovery of hit points after a long rest (characters have to spend hit dice in order to recover any hit points, whether after long rests or short rests). And then there is the “Gritty Realism” rest variant, according to which a short rest is eight hours, and a long rest one week. A version of the latter option is used in Adventures in Middle-earth (now Lord of the Rings Role-playing), with “long rests” possible only in ‘safe’ locations (e.g., Rivendell or Lake-town), which perhaps explains why I was so thrown off by the standard 5e rules after having run an AiME campaign in the past.


The Into the Unknown rules make rest and recovery somewhat less easy than do the standard 5e rules, although they don’t go as far as AiME or the “Gritty Realism” variant. Below I’ve summarized them. I also added “safe rest,” although I think that it just makes explicit what is already implicit in the rules. Obviously, these rules could be used in any 5e D&D game (given the compatibility of ItU with 5e). 


Short rests: One segment (10 minutes) with no strenuous activity (e.g., combat).


·       No more than one short rest can be completed in any given hour. (Characters can “rest” for longer than one segment if they choose, of course, but they will gain the benefits for only one short rest in doing so.)

·       Characters must consume rations (one-third of one day’s worth) in order to gain any benefits from a short rest.


·       During a short rest, a PC can:


o       Spend one hit die to recover hit points (only once/PC).

o       Use a healing kit to spend one additional hit die to recover hit points (only once/PC).

o       Regain “Second Wind” (fighters).

o       Regain “Mighty Deeds” (fighting style – fighters).

o       Regain “Action Surge” (fighters).

o       Regain “Indomitable” (fighters).

o       Regain “Channel Divinity” (priests).

o       Use “Arcane Recovery” (magic-users).

o       Regain “Arcane Study” (magic-users).

o       Regain “Spellcraft” (magic-users).


Long rests: Two watches (8 hours) with no significant disruptions (e.g., combat, strenuous actions, chases, etc.).


·       No more than one long rest can be completed every 24 hours. (Characters can “rest” for up to 24 hours if they choose, but they will gain the benefits for only one long rest in doing so.)


·       After a long rest, a PC:


o       Recovers one used hit die.

o       Can spend multiple hit dice to recover hit points (these rolls are made with advantage, unlike rolls after short rests).

o       Recover one level of exhaustion.

o       Prepare spells.

o       Regain spell slots.

o       Regain “Arcane Recovery” (magic-users).

o       Regain any abilities that would be regained after a short rest (see above).


Safe rests: At least one full day (24 hours) of rest in a safe, civilized location (e.g., a well-protected keep, an inn within a friendly town, an elf-lord’s haven, etc.).


·       After a safe rest, PCs recover all lost hit points, hit dice, spells, class abilities, etc. 

o       Certain unusual conditions (e.g., specific diseases) may require multiple safe rests or special treatments (e.g., potions, spells, rituals, divine intervention, etc.) to remove.



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I'm a Canadian political philosopher who lives primarily in Toronto but teaches in Milwaukee (sometimes in person, sometimes online).