Tobold's Blog
Wednesday, April 19, 2017
D&D 5E House Rules: Resting

One of the interesting aspects of Dungeons & Dragons is that people can fiddle with the rules, either by interpreting them differently or by adding "house rules" to their table. So I thought I would create a column on this blog in which I describe my house rules, as well as the reasoning behind them. I'm starting with a rule I already mentioned, about creating a house rule that determines a chance for a random encounter during a rest.

The rule is that I will assign a danger level to any location that the players want to rest at. The danger level would be 0 if they rest in a typical inn, 1 if they rest in a typical wilderness setting. But if there are predictable dangers around, the danger level can go up to 5. So if the group decides to rest in a haunted cemetery, or in the middle of a kobold-infested dungeon, the danger of somebody disturbing their rest will be high. Once during a short rest, and four times during a long rest, the player standing guard has to roll a d20. If he rolls equal or lower than the danger level, a random encounter occurs.

Why do I need this rule? 5th edition Dungeons & Dragons is using a system in which some classes depend very much on limited resources which replenish after a rest, while other classes work with a steady output without limited resources instead of in bursts. A group that could without problem take a long rest after every fight would favor the burst classes and be somewhat unbalanced not just between classes but also with regards to the monsters. Many DMs solve that by saying "You can't rest here!" when they feel the environment is too dangerous. I don't like that solution, because it is arbitrary, and against the general principle that a DM should always say "Yes, and ..." instead of "No". If the players *want* to have a long rest in a danger level 5 area, they should be allowed to, and have to deal with the consequences.

One of the fundamental questions of any pen & paper role-playing game is who controls what happens. I've been playing as a player in sessions where the DM was in complete control all of the time, with very little player agency, and rarely a roll of a dice, and that can be very boring. Good D&D uses a mix of DM control, player input, and randomness created by dice to end up with a game session that nobody could foresee and is thus interesting for all participants. For this resting house rule the players control when to rest, the dice determine if something happens, and me as the DM controls what exactly is happening. The exact random encounter that will happen isn't set in stone, because it depends on the situation. The "spending the night on the graveyard" scenario and the "spending the night in the kobold den" scenario will obviously result in different random encounters. And a short rest on a road might result in a random encounter which is a traveling salesman instead of a combat encounter.

What I am not doing is, as suggested elsewhere in the Dungeon Master's Guide, to fiddle with the duration of a short rest and long rest. One hour for a short rest and eight hours for a long rest (with a maximum of one long rest per day) seems perfectly fine for me. I am also not changing a rule which is maybe a bit less logical: Interruptions do not invalidate a long rest, as long as the interruption is less than one hour. Which means that theoretically a group rolling a 1 on each of the 4 danger rolls during a long rest might have their night interrupted by 4 combat encounters and still be fresh in the morning. Sounds strange, but the alternative that every fight invalidates a long rest might end up with the players never getting the chance to recover, which wouldn't be playable either.


Nobody ever said the Wizard has to get up to fight the kobolds who are trying to disturb his sleep. :)
I'm curious whether you would tell your players the exact danger rating of the area they're trying to rest in.
And you're having them make the roll? My old school DMing would make me want to roll this myself behind the screen, so I can tweak it if I choose to. Maybe you're trying to get to the next interesting encounter, the players have earned a rest, and nobody wants to spend the next 45 minutes killing a half dozen random kobolds with success a forgone conclusion. So I might fudge a quiet rest then. Or, I have a rather interesting random encounter planned, they players are being rather greedy with blowing their powers & taking rests, and there's no other urgent events being put off. In that case I might want to fudge a "random" encounter regardless of the roll.

I guess much of it comes down to your general philosophy about fudging rolls.
Yes, I would tell them the danger rating when asked for, so they can make an informed choice of whether they would really like to rest here.

And I don't like to fudge dice. Fudging dice is an admission of failure of decisions you took before. If I think the players deserve a rest, I'd rather create a safe location. And if lots of random encounters I wanted I increase the danger rating.
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