The “standard adventuring day” is one of the most hotly-debated topics in 5th Edition Dungeons & Dragons. It arises from the Dungeon Master’s Guide’s instruction to use six to eight combat encounters per adventuring day. Most tables don’t follow this directive. The fact that many only run one encounter per day is influencing the design of future classes.
Better to have a system that is agnostic to the duration of your adventuring day.
Spoiler: we’re getting rid of short rest class features.
Short Rest vs. Long Rest Classes
Let’s take a look back and see where this came from. In D&D 4th Edition, each class had at-will powers, encounter powers, and daily powers:
When 5th Edition was published, the designers preserved this stratification by making certain class features reset on short rests or long rests. However, in dispensing with the “gamified” nature of 4th Edition, they did not ensure that these were balanced equally between the classes.
As a result, certain classes (Fighters, Monks, Warlocks) are much more dependent on short rests to recharge their features. Conversely, other classes (spellcasters) are reliant on long rests to recharge their features. When the party has fewer combat encounters (and therefore fewer rests), the “short rest” classes are nerfed and the “long rest” classes become comparatively stronger. If a mage knows that can blow all their 8th and 9th Level spells every battle, they will vastly outperform other classes.
The Adventuring Day
The Dungeon Master’s Guide (p. 84) suggests six to eight combat encounters per day. It also provides guidance on how many short rests should be taken in that span. Since there’s two rests per day, the implication is that the final rest is a long rest. We know the adventuring day is based on a 2:1 rest system.
We’re going to make the adventuring day agnostic as to character class. That way, everyone’s going to be on a level playing field, regardless of how many encounters you run. How do we do this with linear fighters and quadratic wizards? It’s simple. We kill the short rest.
We’re not going to get rid of the short rest system entirely. We’re going to keep it for what it’s good at: healing with Hit Dice. While there may be some variance between party members in this regard, squishies have a mutual interest in seeing that their meat shields are at max HP.
The Triple Play
Since the designers intended you to take two short rests for every long rest, we can assume that short rest features are going to be used three times per day:
feature (1) > short rest > feature (2) > short rest > feature (3) > long rest
Keeping that in mind, let’s take a look at the short rest features in the Player’s Handbook and see how they scale.
Class Feature Conversions
For most abilities that can be used a number of times per short rest, this is an easy fix to convert to a long rest ability: multiply the uses by three.
- Fighter’s Second Wind
- Paladin’s Channel Divinity
- Bard’s Font of Inspiration
- Druid’s Wild Shape
Monks (Ki Points), Warlocks (Pact Magic), and Battlemaster Fighters (Superiority Dice) have resources which they can expend to access their abilities. To a lesser extent, Clerics (Channel Divinity) and Fighters (Action Surge) also gain access to abilities that scale with level. While Monk’s Ki Points scale quickly, the others increase at a more deliberate pace. If you’re giving treble uses to the character, consider doing some smoothing as to how they’re doled out. Feel free to use this as a guide:
- Monk’s Ki Points
- Warlock’s Pact Magic
- Battlemaster Fighter’s Superiority Dice
- Cleric’s Channel Divinity
- Bard’s Font of Inspiration
- Fighter’s Action Surge
Wizards (Arcane Recovery) and Circle of the Land Druids (Natural Recovery) benefit from class features which allow them to recharge spell slots on a short rest. This is a little tricky to convert, since we can’t have them recover three times as many spells on a long rest–they’re already recovering all their spells. However, these features have an interesting wrinkle that will allow us to convert them.
While these features can only be used upon the completion of a short rest, their limit is actually once per long rest. As a result, we can just replace the “after a short rest” language with something a little more flavorful. The Wizard can spend ten minutes (or longer) in study to recover spell slots. The Land Druid can spend ten minutes (or longer) communing with nature to recover spell slots. If you’re the type of DM who only runs one encounter per day, flavor these down to an action.
- Wizard’s Arcane Recovery
- Druid’s Natural Recovery
As the Sorcerer’s capstone ability at Level 20, this was probably never balanced anyhow. There’s two ways to employ the triple play. We can multiply the effect by three, and just give Sorcerers 12 extra Sorcery Points at Level 20. This boosts their Sorcery points from 20 to 32, which is a massive increase. We might be better taking a hint from Arcane Recovery and Natural Recovery, and allowing the Sorcerer to trigger Sorcerous Restoration by absorbing energy from the weave. Whether this requires an action or a ten minute meditation depends on how many encounters you run per adventuring day.
Song of Rest
Since this Bard feature occurs during a short rest, instead of resetting after a short rest, we’re safe keeping it untouched. The effect is to increase the healing experienced during a short rest, which benefits the entire party equally, so there are no balance concerns. Since we’re keeping short rests, but only for healing, this does not disturb the limited scope of short rest mechanics. This is a really flavorful ability for Bards, which would be a shame to lose. Since this class feature does not impact the party’s decision of whether to rest or forge ahead, it stays.
4 thoughts on “The Agnostic Adventuring Day”
Seems like the video linked to early on (“many only run one encounter per day is influencing the design of future classes”) has gone dead. That sounds like an interesting conversation. Is there any chance they backed up that Twitch video on YouTube? (I’d check myself, but they don’t even show the title anymore.)
I have often used a house rule that says you don’t gain the benefits of a long rest until the 5ish encounters have been completed, with challenging encounters counting as extra and skill challenges and such counting as well. You may also recharge abilities twice during short rests in the interim. It’s worked great for balance and my players generally like it, but many of my DM friends find it lacking in flavor and have a difficult time with it conceptually. This is an excellent and simple solution that I think will be less difficult to swallow than the houseruling I’ve been using.