Eliminate the 15-Minute Work Day by Using House Rules
A long time ago, I ran across a post at the “The Angry DM” in which he discusses what he sees as a problem in 4th-edition D&D, what he calls the 15-minute work day. This phrase is commonly used to describe a tactic in which players expend all their powers, including dailies and encounters, to go supernova, knowing full well they’ll take an extended rest to replenish them. As he puts it they repeat the process for each subsequent encounter to “lather, rinse, repeat, kaboom!” Even if the PCs do not take a long rest, they basically reset their hit points and encounter powers each time they take a short rest, which brings characters instantaneously from near death to full hit points for every encounter they have until they run out of surges.
Well, without going into too much detail, I share his dislike for both these mechanics. I personally find such methods artificial, contrived, stale, and even awkward at times. The death’s-door-to-full-recovery mechanic for short rests is especially disconcerting to me, jolting and unrealistic for my tastes.
So in an effort to create a more gritty, realistic solution for my own games, I use the following house rules. I also added another house rule that makes a slight distinction between magical-type and mundane healing. This house rule makes magical healing a bit more powerful than mundane-type healing and more sought after.
2) For short rests, PCs can still expend an unlimited number of surges, but it is done at a +1 cumulative cost. The first surge costs only 1 surge, the 2nd surge costs 2, the third costs 3, etc. Magical-type healing, such as healing word and healing potions, do not count toward this cumulative cost; they always cost their standard cost of surges (usually one).
3) If more than one short rest is taken in a row, PCs now suffer most of the same drawbacks as an extended rest, but without its benefits. That is, they lose all accumulated action points and marks toward a milestone, and they start fresh with none, but they do not get the benefits of regaining daily powers or resetting their expended healing surges. There are some benefits to back-to-back short rests, though. For one, back-to-back rests are still shorter than extended rests. Secondly, PCs typically have less of a chance of incurring encounters while resting in this way in an unsafe area.
4) If PCs manage to complete two milestones without taking extended rests or back-to-back short rests (single short rests are okay), each PC can recharge one daily power of their choice for the next encounter. Even better, the PC gets to choose which power they get back during the encounter, assuring it is of the most use in the situation.
5) To gain action points PCs must complete a milestone as outlined in the Players Handbook (two encounters without an extended rest) or they have to push on after each encounter with no rest at all. If they push on with no short rest at all, they immediately receive an action point at the beginning of the next encounter instead of a mark toward a milestone, so long as that encounter occurs within 5 minutes. Previously accumulated action points or marks accumulated toward achieving a milestone are also retained.
6) PCs who take no rest can continue to maintain sustainable powers that they used in the last encounter for 5 minutes afterward and continue to benefit from those powers as 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 an encounter do not do so. They will remain in place and continue to provide benefits the PCs for the same 5-minute period.
7) As outlined in the Players Handbook, only one action point can be used per encounter.
8) If the PCs successfully complete an encounter or series of encounters that do not involve combat but do include experience point budgets (i.e. skill challenges or traps), they do not lose existing action points or markers accumulated toward their next milestone unless they take an extended rest or back-to-back short rests. Even better, they gain an additional reward of one mark toward their next milestone for each of these occurrences they overcome.
In the above rules, I find the changes add tension to the decision-making process for taking rests. PCs must now weigh risks verses rewards. I like the gritty feel this creates, and it does not appear to unbalance the game.
What about you? Do you like the above ideas for changing the rest mechanics, or do you prefer to do something else? Do you prefer to leave the 4th-edition rules mechanics the way they are?