Solving The Extended Rest Riddle

I started to listen to the Exemplary DM podcasts while driving this week. One of the hosts briefly mentioned the idea of Endurance Checks to replace or build upon the Short and Extended Rest mechanics. I found the idea intriguing because I have run into so many situations as a player and as a DM when it does not make any sense AT ALL to take an 8-hour Extended Rest in the story. However, moving forward with more combat is a death sentence for one or more characters. So I find that I spend a good deal of my time thinking about resource management, both for my own resources (as a player) and considering my players’ resources (as a DM).

"This appears to be a fine place to camp."

As a player, the drain on my Daily powers throughout combat encounters is a factor, but I’m not overly concerned about it. Yes, they are powerful and useful, but the more worrisome problem for me is running low on surges. I play a rogue, and I took Durable (2 more surges) right away because I’m more of a front-line striker in our group. On Saturday, I was fully charged to start the night and after two encounters, I was down to no Daily powers and 3 surges (from 9). Two of the other players in the group were down to 1 surge by the end of the night. (We are playing through the Scales of War campaign if you are curious). Our group is just starting a big dungeon delve, but three of us are on death’s door. It does not make any sense to rest in a hostile environment, but we pretty much have to before or after the next encounter or we are likely to die. When playing, I would like to focus on more on the story and encounters than resource management. 
As a DM, the current mechanics limit the type of story I can tell. Even if I run encounters below the party’s level, they still use up Daily powers and surges. The party in my group is currently assaulting a tower. They had two relatively easy encounters (at their level or below) but have several more ahead of them. It will not make sense for them in the story to rest for 8 hours before taking the tower, but forcing them to go through a few more encounters without an Extended Rest is not terribly fair. I’ve been thinking of ways around this for several weeks, and one possible solution is presented below.

My idea is based on the discussion in this Exemplary DM podcast – I am thinking that players could make an Endurance Check when they each a Milestone. To be clear, this is not a unique thought on my part. Several months ago, I stumbled upon this document created by Randall Walker at Initiative Or What?, which provides a table for how players can regain Healing Surges and Daily Powers through endurance checks based on the environment. I really enjoyed the chart and meant to incorporate it into my game, but I never attempted it. I think part of the reason is that it seemed too complicated; Randal even mentions in his original post that the table at first looks “overly complex.”

The system I came up with below is far more crude than the table above, but more simple for everyone at the table to understand. The number of surges recovered each Milestone would be tied to the Level-appropriate Endurance DC.
Easy = 1 surge
Moderate = 2 surges
Hard = 3 surges
A player that does not match the Easy DC would not regain any surges. This system favors players with high Endurance scores, and those players will typically be Fighters and other front-line classes. It may encourage people to train in Endurance when they otherwise would not, but I am alright with that consequence. I would have to test it out, but it would not seem to “break the game” in any way. There is still luck involved in recovering surges, but it gives the players more breathing room and me (as the DM) more room to stretch the party without them refusing to move on any further or searching for very creative ways to incorporate an 8-hour rest into the campaign story. 

For example, I am currently playing a Level 10 rogue, J’hari Wrex. J’hari has an Endurance modifier of 6; he has not trained in this skill. Looking at the DCs for Level 10, they read as follows:

  • Easy (DC 13)
  • Moderate (DC 18)
  • Hard (DC 26)

When J’hari reaches a Milestone (two consecutive combats without an Extended Rest), he would have the opportunity to use his Endurance skill to regain Healing Surges. With the above DCs, he would have a 30% chance of regaining 0 Surges, a 25% chance of regaining 1 Surge, a 40% chance of regaining 2 Surges, and a 5% chance of regaining 3 Surges.

If I knew this mechanic existed in J’hari’s campaign, then I would have likely trained in Endurance, which would increase my Endurance modifier to 11. Staying with the above DCs, he would then have a 5% chance of regaining 0 Surges, a 25% chance of regaining 1 Surge, a 40% chance of regaining 2 Surges, and a 30% chance of regaining 3 Surges.

Perhaps a 30% chance of regaining 3 Surges every Milestone is too high. The DM could adjust the DCs according to taste, the situation and environment, but it seems to me that this mechanic would give players and DMs a bit more wiggle room to extend delves and move away from the one, two, three encounters and then rest syndrome.

I also think that players could regain a Daily Power during a Milestone or perhaps after 3 consecutive battles. I have to think more about that. Perhaps tying the recovery of a Daily Power to the appropriate skill during each Milestone. For instance, a wizard could make an Arcana check to regain a Daily Power of a certain level, and my rogue could make an Athletics or Acrobatics check to regain a Daily Power, and so on.

I can rationalize this mechanic in my head. The players are heroes, and their stamina is something that increases with advancement along with their other skills. It seems reasonable that they would have an opportunity to regain some energy after battle. The same goes for recovering Daily Powers. If a Rogue knows how to effectively execute a Handspring Assault (or in my case, roll a 2 and miss!), then he should be able to pull off that move later in the day if he is skilled enough. Same with a wizard regaining his spell if he is intelligent enough.

I am interested in reactions or modifications to this concept and mechanic. Would you enjoy this flexibility as a player or DM? Or do you think it would make your lives more complicated?

Final note, I found the image above from The Art of Tim Ide. I love Google Image Search.

10 thoughts on “Solving The Extended Rest Riddle

  1. Good article, I only disagree in a small way. Me, I personally enjoy resource management. That’s been a staple of D&D ever since a wizard would memorize a spell. It’s something you have to careful with. How and when you use your magic/skills/powers etc. I would disagree with regenerating Daily powers, in fact in my game I’m probably going to remove the Recharging of Daily item powers due to the errata change that lets you use any and all daily item powers you own.

    I like the idea of tying the endurance check into resting, but I’m not 100% sold on the method you present. I’d have to think longer on that one. The one thing about 4E that does bug me is potions of healing. Having to use a healing surge to get a flat value is sorta lame… I understand the reasoning, but the mechanic isn’t solid imho.

    Perhaps if a Healing potion had options?
    1) Restore a static amount of HP. (mainly for those who don’t want to use a surge or who donot have one to spend.)
    2) Allow an the user to actually spend a Healing surge and recieve full value of the surge.
    3) Allow the user to perhap use an Endurance check to recover one or more Healing surges.

    i.e. A regular potion of healing might be DC 10 for one, DC 20 for two
    Whereas a Potion of Vitality would be DC 10 for one, DC 20 for two, DC 30 for three.

    Keep in mind as a character goes up in level that DC 20 gets easier to hit, ergo when using a Vitality potion which is level 15, a level 15 character has a static +7 to roll simply from level. Also keep in mind a level 15 char is likely to have a surge value at or near the static number of 25 that a potion of vitality grants on it’s own. Ergo goign for the endurance check is tempting since one is almost ashured, and two would be a big bonus.

    Other than that, players should have to deal with burning powers too frivelously, and with poor decisions in battle. That’s been a staple of D&D from the begining. If the Cleric was low on spells, you fell back and recovered.

  2. AJ, you touched on something that does not make sense – the Potion of Healing mechanics. The Potion of Healing becomes more of a hinderance in some ways since you sacrifice not only a surge, but also valuable hit points. Since your surge value increases with level, a static 10 Hit Point recovery for the price of a Healing Surge is a bad value. To stick with my character, J’hari, I believe I have a total of 9 surges/day and my surge value is 18.

    If I use 9 Potions of Healing, I’d recover back 90 hit points throughout the day. If I used surges without Potions of Healing, I’d recover 162 hit points. That is a HUGE difference. I think one reason the group in your campaign is drained quickly is because we rely on Potions of Healing too often; now with a Cleric in the party, it should become less of an issue.

    I think the Potion of Healing should be a static hit-point recovery without the use of a Surge, or a full-surge recovery with the use of a Surge.

  3. I like the mechanic of using an Endurance check to regain healing surges after a battle for exactly the reasons you stated in your article.

    In my game want to increase the threat level of encounters; engaging monsters should be dangerous. To achieve this I’ve considered scrapping the mechanic of “When you are dying and receive healing, you go to 0 hit points and then regain hit points from the healing effect.” (the Rules compendium), but instead letting healing start from their current negative HP-value. To alleviate the consequence of this ruling I’m putting character death at -100% of their max HP (note: this haven’t been play-tested yet) 🙂 This will probably lead to PCs chewing through healing surges at a quicker pace than normal, and therefore the endurance checks makes sense when taking short rests between encounters.

    Also, concerning your ideas of reusing powers, you might want to check out (if you haven’t already done that) the “At Will” blog:


  4. I think at low level “consumables” which is the calsification that potions fall under are priced ok… But they also increase to ridiculous levels. So ridiculous nobody would ever bother crafting some of them. One of the few faults I’ve seen with 4E is in this specific crafting mechanic. Particularly crafting at higher levels. Unless the GP’s jsut fall from the sky, there is no way crafting items of equal level is even realisitc compared to the GP output of WoTC’s own modules. I personally beleive the crafting systems needs a sleight kick in the pants.

  5. Interesting. I like this, perhaps better than the “negative reinforcement” of penalizing extended rests that are taken too frequently or in dangerous territory.

  6. Null, exactly, I think this system is rewarding rather than punishing. A player could still land in bad shape because of poor rolls, but that can happen at any time in and out of combat. I am going to try it with my group moving forward and see how it goes. If it seems to negative affect gameplay, then we’ll continue to tweak it.

    AJ, I agree the price of magic items is outrageous in general. But Consumables are definitely overpriced. If you notice, I rarely buy Potions of Healing, which is seems like others do with a high frequency in the group. Perhaps I have too much faith in our healers, but I don’t want to spend 50gp for 10 hit points. That seems like a very bad value, especially now when an average hit from an enemy is going to be well over that number.

    dmmindy, I read that article at At Will a week or two ago and I enjoyed it; partially because I play a rogue and always try to use my skills in creative ways. I think it would be difficult to execute with non-martial classes though. What type of skill checks would you employ for a wizard’s spell or a cleric’s divine powers; that seems like a gray area in terms of skills. I’d have to playtest the healing starting from negative hit points instead of 0. I think that would place the party in a difficult spot, especially if they only have one healer. Since Potions of Healing only recover 10 hit points, if you have two players in the group down a good amount of negative hit points, then it’s going to be tough to get them both over 0 again. And even then they’ll still be close to going down once again. Let me know how that runs for you moving forward! 🙂

    Thanks for the comments, everyone.

  7. I’m liking the endurance check idea, and I’m really drawn to the idea of letting healing potions recover surges; possibly making it an either/or so it can still be used to recover the 10hp if needed under dire circumstances (such as the healer having exhausted his abilities in a tough fight).

    • My DM started to allow players to use Healing Potions for a static 10 HP increase WITHOUT spending a surge or to use a Healing Potion to gain your surge value WITH spending a surge. It seemed to work the one encounter we used the rules.

  8. I have recently become interested in this sort of management but I had spent most of my time focusing on the extended rest in risky environments. I didn’t want a binary choice of how well you rested so I have 4 levels of restoration. The range goes from just full HP & 25% surges to a full rest. (Have to pretty much roll 19 or so to get the full deal.) So I have a table, but I didn’t go so far as to list out things like urban/jungle/… I’ll just throw a check modifier at it if I feel it’s warranted.

    Reading this, has convinced me of the possible merits of regaining something as part of I also like the idea of getting some surges back as part of a short rest. I think I’ll experiment with this as well.

    If you’re are curious, here’s what I whipped up for my players:

    • I’ve seen several well-detailed charts to manage extended rests depending on the surrounding enviornment. I like the options, but I wanted to go with something that was easier to manage.

      Let me know if you use the ideas mentioned above and how they work for your game. 🙂

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