[RPG] How to prevent the players from abusing long rests


I am a DM for a D&D 4e game. My players (especially the wizard) like to take an extended rest after every single encounter, because he resorts to using his daily powers in every single encounter (additionally, the players like to take a long rest to completely heal instead of spending healing surges).

My issue with this is that it

  1. stretches my suspension of disbelief, because the part will have one fight and then sleep and then repeat,
  2. makes the party feel overpowered because they are constantly using powerful abilities and
  3. bothers me because it seems like the players have no concept of resource management, both in terms of using healing surges and it saving daily powers.

Side-note: I understand that the rules say that you have to wait 12 hours in between extended rests, but I'm still not sure what's stopping players from sitting around for the twelve hours than taking another extended rest.

Another point I can bring up is that my players are not super well-versed in the rules. They have a pretty good grasp but I am not sure they completely understand short rests (although I have explained short rests to them), and I am not sure how to help them better understand.

One solution I've heard is to have time-sensitive missions, and while this does seem like a good solution, not every quest can necessarily be time-sensitive.

How can I prevent my players from abusing long rests by constantly taking them?

Best Answer

The First Step Is Admitting You Have a Problem

Have you tried talking to your players about this playstyle? Why are they sticking with this approach? Before you start punishing them for not playing the way you expect them to, make sure this behavior isn't a symptom of a deeper problem.

Do they just enjoy unloading on every foe they see? This can indicate that they don't feel like they have enough options (I often start groups at level 5, so that they'll have more than just 1 daily, 1 encounter, and 2 at-wills).

Are they afraid of running low on resources? This may mean that you're making the fights too hard, and they don't trust you to keep things at a difficulty level they can handle.

Is this the group's first time playing 4e? They may honestly not understand how surges & encounter powers work!

Jesus Is Coming, Look Busy

This one is pretty traditional. As mentioned in comments, you can't stop for a long rest if the bad guys are moments away from completing their evil ritual. However, this doesn't work on some groups. Some players aren't in it to be good guys, they're there to kill monsters (or people) and loot the corpses. If they don't care about the plot, no amount of plot consequences will convince them to change their fight/rest pattern.

The next level up from that is monster preparedness. You killed the guards around the dungeon and then rested for 8-10 hours? Well in that time the goblins that live in the dungeon went on high alert, set a ton of traps, and doubled the size of their patrols. You take out one of those patrols and then take another rest? Well now they quadruple the patrols, and keep them all in constant contact with the main group, so they can all respond immediately if a patrol is attacked. While this approach is realistic, it can backfire, and cause the players to keep taking long rests after every fight simply because the fights are turning into huge struggles that consume a lot of resources (and 4e's heavy use of per-encounter resources makes it not well-suited to tackling multiple encounters worth of enemies without a short rest; I've wiped groups that way).

You can also be more passive-aggressive about it and take the opposite approach, by simply removing enemies ("All the monsters ran away while you were sleeping, terrified of how awesome you are. You're in an empty dungeon, what do you do?"), but that tends to not be fun for anyone.

Before you go too crazy with consequences due to time passing, however, it's best to explicitly warn the party that things may happen that change the situation while they sleep. They've established a habit, and it can be helpful to have them recognize that it is a habit, and one with consequences at that, before you start actually hitting them with the consequences.

Can't Sleep, Clowns Will Eat Me

You can prevent them from taking long rests, either by attacking them while they rest or by simply not allowing them to rest: "You can't sleep here, the area is too dangerous." As TimothyAWiseman pointed out in the comments, the characters would almost certainly set a watch, but if the party has regularly been taking long rests and has never been attacked while resting, it may not have occurred to the players to set a watch.

I've had good results with this, but you have to be careful not to push it too far. If the players swing the other way and don't take long rests often enough, you can end up with the players unhappy because they're struggling to stay alive through days a dozen fights long and you unhappy because you're having to constantly rework fights to avoid wiping them out.

If you go this route, it's important to decide about how often you want them to take long rests, and then not only make sure that they can take a long rest about that often, but also that they know when they can take a long rest, so that they don't pass up the opportunity.

I Used to Fall Unconscious for Hours at a Time

A 4e-specific approach that I've only had a little experience with is to eliminate long rests entirely. Instead, players regain some (but not all) surges & daily powers after every milestone (every other fight).

When this approach works, it works really well. Players know exactly how much they need to pace themselves; adventuring days can't be too long or too short because they're not tied to in-game time at all.

Balancing the amount of resources gained each milestone, however, can take a little tinkering to find out what works best for your group. My initial recommendation would be 2 surges and 1 daily power, but you have to pay attention to how well the party is doing. If they're consistently running low on resources that may mean you need to give them back a little more; on the other hand, if they're often hitting milestones and not getting anything back because they're already topped off, you may need to reduce the refresh rate (though making fights harder is likely to be more fun).

It's also worthwhile to occasionally give them a complete refresh (that is, a full heal and all surges & dailies back, like a long rest would) when they accomplish something especially difficult or plot-significant.

Novak has a separate answer about this approach, and appears to have a lot more experience with it than I do.