One thing which is in scarce use in 4E is wandering monsters. It is one of those random things older editions brought to the table in spades. Sometimes rolling random monsters was a pain, and sometimes it was fun. It all depended on the frequency and the chance in my opinion. I never liked rolling a bunch of times for a small chance. I always preferred to roll fewer times with a higher chance. But along with those odds, came the possibility that the party could be overwhelmed. Well, that was just part of the game in the old days. Today, 4E has largely gotten rid of random monsters, in favor of its encounters. Which works out well for the most part. Sometimes skill challenges will have combative results, and some modules include an extra encounter if the PC’s need some XP, or are getting off track.
This brings me to the Short Rest x2 scenario. One of my players, (who will undoubtedly read this) posed the question to myself and the group as to why they don’t take two short rests back to back in order to allow the cleric and warlord to use their healing/inspiring word powers, so that they get more bang for their buck healing wise. Good question actually, since getting more bang for the buck is generally what the party strives for. However I know full well this is not how the game is “intended” to be played. As we discussed I pointed out that the downside of a Short Rest is that you can literally do “NOTHING”. You sit, burn healing surges, chit chat, and that’s it. You don’t loot, search, research, use powers, or cast spells. You are basically sitting down, having a drink and catching your breath, with some possible talk. This takes 5 minutes.
So when a combat is over, 5 minutes goes to sitting on yer butt. Searching, looting, using powers etc. is in addition to this time. So I mentioned that what I feel the purpose of the short rest is an effort by the game to get the party moving along without RANDOM ENCOUNTERS. Now I’ve run all sorts of modules over my stint as DM, and this 4E mechanic of short resting is right about where I’d say, if you take it, and move on, you won’t have to worry about random encounters. It makes it simple for me as a DM, and frankly it works well. However, when a party decided to circumvent this safety, well they begin to play with fire.
This week, they got burned. (Yes, my players, I am grinning and your spoiler reason follows).
So we are running the Scales of War campaign for anyone who hasn’t followed this blog long. They are in the final stages of the Mottled Tower module where they have tracked the evil bad guy Sharshan, through the root tunnels of the Elder Tree. They actually saw him, and he saw them before he stepped through a portal and let his minions try to hold the party off.
This is key, and I’ll explain why in a second. After the party fought the guards they EXTENDED RESTED instead of pursuing. Thus letting the enemy get further ahead.
Well, such wasn’t necessarily the case. They stepped through the portal to find they were on the outskirts of Djamela, and island built by an evil Efreet for controlling Blood Chaos. But the party didn’t know this because nobody tried to history check it/figure out where they were. As they stepped through the portal they were attacked by guards, (whom were there to get them because Sharshan saw them pursuing 8 hours ago). The portal was just outside the low wall of Djamela where they would have to hop on chucks of rock over lava to get through the entryway to the island stronghold.
Well, they had a tough fight, but eventually won. Then they took a short rest. Ok, no problem, you just beat the guards who were set to ambush you literally 60 feet from the entryway, so gather yer thoughts search and move into the fortress right???? Right???? Nope, they short rest again…….
Really??? ( I asked again to make sure, at which time the rule of short resting was re quoted and explained their advantage of doing so would save on healing surges.
Well when they get done, the captain of the guards has arrived with reinforcements; and the party still hasn’t entered the stronghold! I think at this point some of them were, well, a bit miffed. Not sure if they were miffed at me, or the themselves for not objecting, or the person who suggested it. But from a DM standpoint, I gave them the chance to move in and find a hiding place, to change their mind, etc. But once they rolled the dice used the powers etc. it’s concluded they have used a second short rest. So here we go.
a. major bad guy saw you before the portal.
b. you get into a fight with the ambush party set up by said “major bad guy”.
c. the fight takes place 60 feet from the fortress wall.
d. party hangs out for 15 minutes or so after the fight.
e. Fight took place within viewing distance of many structures in the fortress. Including the main central tower (where main bad guy is highly likely to be). Cmon, that’s where they all are!
Add is all up… REINFORCEMENTS!
Well, to say they got their butts kicked would be inaccurate. Truth is they survived, but not without spending more daily powers, more surges, and of course bringing more attention to their presence. This is all on top of the fact that time has been of the essence.
So, how does a DM handle this sort of deviation. Well, I think its fair to say that main bad guy has been alerted to their presence in spades at this point. It’s quite possible they have given him more time to recruit some more help. Which would logically be expected in my opinion. Now resources of course are not infinite, but militia troops can be mustered for sure.
All in all, I think the DM’s should guard against the abuse of taking more than one short rest back to back. I also play in the Id DM’s campaign too, and wouldn’t try this tactic as a player since I think it also goes against the spirit of the game mechanics. Now I admit I’ve found some loopholes here and there, but most of the ones I have found are usually arbitrary compared to timeline flow and the lack of random encounters, which is potentially quite the larger issue. 4E isn’t built to do “random encounters” as a rule, ergo the short rest is given to the party. I think the bigger issue stems from the fact that encounter powers can be used outside of combat. So that makes players want to use them, yet recharge them for the next encounter. This is a line that could use a bit of ironing out in my humble opinion.