Do you have a question for The Angry GM! Well, because people can’t get it right, I had to set up a separate page with instructions. About how to send a f$&%ing e-mail. Ready How to Ask Angry to learn how to submit a question.
Cupcake McSprinkles Asks:
Hey Angry, there was recently a great post on the HappyJacks RPG forum talking about Resting in 5th Edition. It talks about how the rules (in the authors opinion) feel like they work against the purpose of story-flow and encounter balance. It also suggests a few variations and their pros and cons. A Reddit thread popped up around it with some more interesting discussion. My question is: How do you treat Resting in D&D 5e? Do you use the RaW or have you come up with a homebrewed solution? Why?
Guess what! SOMEONE forgot to explicitly tell me how to credit them. So, I used a holiday “What’s My Elf Name” thing and rolled randomly. Thanks for question, Cupcake McSprinkles.
Okay, first and foremost Cupcake, don’t EVER f$&%ing do this. This was f$&%ing homework is what it was. Holy crap. That thing on the Happy Jacks RPG Forum was just painful. Look at all that mathy analysis. At least the Reddit thing was short and to the point. If I wanted to read something wordy and overwrought, I’d read one of my long, rambling, bulls$&% posts.
Let me summarize the two posts so that no one else has to slog through those posts. To be fair, I didn’t read much of the discussion. I only read the original posts.
Here’s the deal. The HJRPG post uses a hell of a lot of unnecessary math to prove that the basic structure of D&D is that it is primarily challenging by attrition. In order to put the PCs in mortal peril, the PCs must face multiple deadly encounters without the opportunity to rest. In other words, the PCs won’t find their lives endangered by combat encounters unless they five four to six of them in a day.
Don’t go read it. I mean, you can if you want to. But it’s sort of like reading a three page treatise on Keppler’s Laws of Planetary Motion, Newton’s Law of Gravitation, and some light General Relativity to prove the sun will rise tomorrow. In short, the poster takes a hell of a lot of time to reach a conclusion that should surprise absolutely no one because the f$&%ing D&D books just go ahead and admit that s$&% right out.
That’s what D&D is. D&D is a game wherein a group of heroes face a whole bunch of obstacles that stand between them and a goal, and each obstacle chips away at their resources. Often, these obstacles are found inside some sort of enclosed underground environment. A dungeon, if you will. And some of those obstacles are dragons.
The PROBLEM that the poster has is that he doesn’t like Dungeons & Dragons. I’m sorry, but there it is. The poster should be playing or running a different game. One like Savage Worlds.
But, there’s another problem. This is a f$&%ing endemic problem. It’s like a goddamned plague. Every GM has it in their head that challenge equals nearly killing the party. There’s this f$&%ed up belief that because all or most of the combats in a day don’t push the party within an inch of death, the party isn’t being challenged. And that’s kind of a big problem. Because when your baseline for difficulty is “almost deadly,” the margin for error is really small. A couple of bad die rolls, one poor tactical decision, and one or more of the heroes is just f$&%ing dead. It’s like every game has to be Dark Souls or I Wanna Be the Guy.
Challenge is about creating obstacles and empowering the heroes to overcome those obstacles. And the better they overcome those obstacles, the less danger there should be. Now, you can complain that D&D makes it too easy to overcome obstacles because the heroes are too powerful, but considering D&D gives you a huge number of tools to tweak the difficulty, that’s sort of inexcusable anyway. If your players routinely trounce encounters that the book says should be deadly, maybe it’s time to adjust the difficulty knobs on your own. The difficulty settings in D&D are set for the average, the middle-of-the-road party. Skilled players with well-built characters will find that too easy. Just like inexperienced players with less expertly built characters will find them too hard. The GM should ALWAYS be tweaking encounter difficulty to suit their tastes and the taste of the group.
I think what bothers me most about the HJRPG post though is that the poster keeps coming back to this idea that the game is forcing a narrative structure on him and he wants a different narrative structure. But when it comes down to it, all of the analysis that’s been done is about knock-down, beat-up combats and how deadly they are. There’s no mention of any form of challenge, any form of risk, any part of the game other than getting into six fights a day or one big fight in a day. The only risk mentioned is “win the fight or die.” Honestly, if I am building a “narrative-focused game,” I kind of need stakes somewhere below “… or die.” If nothing else, that’s terrible pacing. Tension should rise and fall, not ramp up to “oh gods we’re going to die” and stay there.
In the end – and I just KNOW I’m going to get a lot of s$&% for saying this – but this is what D&D is. That’s how it’s designed. It’s designed as an obstacle course. If you don’t LIKE that style of game-play, D&D isn’t broken, you’re just playing the wrong game. Now, I’m all for people modifying the hell out of the game. I’m all for pacing and good story structure. I’m all for hacking the s$&% out of the rules. Obviously.
But, here’s where I think the problem lies. I listen to a LOT of GMs and a LOT of players. And GMs are always bitching about how D&D 5E isn’t deadly enough and how the players never feel threatened. But the players generally seem to be having a good time regardless. I think GMs need to drop the idea that challenge and deadliness are the same things. GMs should focus on building obstacles (not just combats) that are interesting, that are unusual, and that are intrinsically fun to play. I think GMs should focus on the consequences of both success and failure. I think GMs should worry less about how easily the players trash encounters. That stuff doesn’t matter to players as long as they are given interesting choices to make and interesting things to do.
And if that’s not enough for a GM? If a GM can’t somehow wrap their head around the fact that maybe the game doesn’t constantly have to threaten to kill the PCs to get a point across, then that GM has to stop building by the book. That GM has to work harder to get what they want. Like I do. You’ve seen the ways I espouse building combats. You’ve seen what I’m willing to do to get a climactic boss fight. Well, that’s the price of it.
But I will say this, I don’t think f$&%ing with the rest system is going to do anything to alleviate the “problem.” All it does is replace one artificial structure with another. Instead of having to have five combats every day, you’ll have to five combats every week.
My final analysis of this whole post could be summed up by the phrase “tempest in a teapot.”
Hope that helps McSprinkles.