Tobold's Blog
Sunday, August 05, 2012
 
The Five-Minute Workday

4th edition Dungeons & Dragons fixed an old problem of D&D. Now that D&D Next is undoing that fix, the discussion of the problem is back in full swing. The problem is called "the five-minute workday", and works like this: In the old editions of D&D, as well as in D&D Next, spellcasters work fundamentally different from non-spellcasters. Spellcasters have powerful limited resources, non-spellcasters have a more constant damage output. Imagine a fight in which both a wizard and a fighter are both always using their best possible damage output. Now you plot their total damage output over number of rounds. What you get is the wizard starting off much stronger than the fighter, but then running out of spells and after X round being reduced to a rather low damage output. The fighter has a nearly constant damage output round after round, so in the first rounds he looks weak compared to the wizard, but in a longer fight he actually deals more damage than the wizard.

The problem pops up when the group has finished a fight and the DM asks them what they want to do next: The spellcasters will want to recharge their power, by having whatever the editions equivalent of "a night's rest" is. Thus the five-minute workday, if you count it on the in-game time scale. 4th edition Dungeons & Dragons is the only edition which doesn't have this problem built in as a conflict between character classes. You could still have a problem if one player uses up all of his daily powers every fight and wants to rest then, but the number of daily powers tends to be small, so all characters can work perfectly well after just a short rest with their at-will and encounter powers. And there is no inherent difference between classes, as each class has the same number of daily powers.

Mike Mearls of Wizards of the Coast discusses the five-minute workday and proposes the same solution that some players on the forums do: Let the DM fix the problem by preventing the party from resting. He says: "What does this mean for the five-minute adventuring day? DMs will have a crystal clear guideline on how many rounds of combat a group should tackle before resting. If the group spends less time in fights, casters grow stronger. If the characters spend more rounds fighting, the fighter and rogue grow stronger. The solution to the problem rests in the DM's hands, who can use the tools and guidelines that we provide, plus keep track of how long fights take and adjust adventures accordingly.". I find that to be a rather bad solution. Yes, of course I can think of ways of preventing my party from resting by adding some Deus Ex Machina devices to the adventure: Time limits, competing adventurer groups rushing past them, whatever. But do I really want to add such a constraint to EVERY SINGLE ADVENTURE I'm running? What if I am using a pre-made adventure in which such an added restriction doesn't fit with the story at all?

Sorry, but if a rules system causes an inherent problem all the time, the obvious solution is to change the rules so that the problem disappears or is mitigated. 4th edition clearly showed that it could be done: Just give every class about the same number of daily powers, and make the difference in damage output between using your strongest daily power and your at-will powers small enough that players don't feel that their workday is effectively over once they used their dailies. Don't force the DM to mutilate his stories to fix a rules problem!

Comments:
What I found was that there was no conflict in the party at all - everyone wanted the clerics and magicusers to burn through their spells in the first 2-3 encounters then for the party to rest. After all resting isn't really downtime if the party says "we rest" and the DM says "ok, you get all your spells back." The occasional midnight wandering monster wasn't enough to deter this behaviour which is the most rational way to play 5 minute workday games.
 
The rest problem is an inherent problem in the D&D magic system.

Even in computer games like Temple of Elemental Evil where most areas are not suitable for resting, the player will simply spend his 7 fireballs/ice cones and then look for an area to rest, breaking immersion and breaking content too. You are NOT supposed to yield that much power AND be able to replenish it in 1 minute of rest.

The DM can mitigate this but he will be in direct odds with his players who want that power for their next encounter. It's an entitlement complex - you have your 7 fireballs, you want to use them.
 
When I played, things went exactly as Stabs describes. I don't recall it ever being a problem. Of course, our group routinely spent six hours of an eight-hour AD&D session roleplaying "being in an Inn" and when we moved to Golden Heroes, the super-hero system, we spent far more time designing our lair and arguing over the group hierarchy than we ever did fighting so our characters tended to get more rest than they actually needed.

Wouldn't a practical solution be to have melee characters become exhausted at a matching rate to spellcasters?
 
A realistic solution would be that the monsters go on high alert once attacked, and if characters sleep in the same zone they will be found, whereas if they leave and come back the monsters will have guards replaced and on high alert.

So you have one game-day to win, and if you have to retreat you better not come back for a couple of weeks.
 
I do like the 4th edition at-will/daily system better.

Perhaps a system where the spell re-use timer is based off rounds in-combat instead of out-of-combat might work.

After you cast your fireball, it will be ready again after X rounds of combat and does NOT reset or cooldown while out of combat. (aside from special circumstances)

If each spell were on a separate timer, this would encourage the use of more than just the 1 or 2 "go to" nukes.
 
I always felt that when what you describe has happened then either,
1. The spell caster is unnecessarily burning through spells in an inefficient manner or
2. The DM has designed a scenario in such a manner that Requires them to burn through everything they have every fight in order to win.
 
While I can agree they fixed the balance by making all classes almost exactly the same (something I don't give as much credit for as you do), this did not fix the problem you are describing.

Players can still all spend their first round like this:

1)1st daily power
2)spend Action point
3)2nd daily power

Win in the first round, and then sleep after each fight.

I don't understand your problem with fixing this as a DM. Most of the solutions seem incredibly obvious from a role playing standpoint. You can't sleep in the middle of a dungeon (or the entrance), monsters will jump you while you are trying to sleep. If you leave and come back the next day, the dungeon will have noticed your first attack and be "on guard" (erasing all progress, possibly making it harder). A lot of things have built in "time limits," such as trying to rescue a kidnapped maiden, or catch a thief before he escapes, or stop a dark ritual, or any number of things.

I honestly can't think of very many situations where trying to sleep in the middle of it wouldn't rightly cause problems.
 
I honestly can't think of very many situations where trying to sleep in the middle of it wouldn't rightly cause problems.

Your group just died in every single published adventure. I can't think of a single one which doesn't have enough encounters so that the group NEEDS to sleep in the middle of it to survive.

While you don't want the group to sleep after every encounter, you can't run an adventure without letting them sleep either.
 
When I say "trying to sleep in the middle of it," I mean in the middle of the situation, not the entire adventure. Adventures tend to be balanced around having purposeful stopping points, such as dungeons with 5-6 encounters in them, 5-6 encounters in your path to rescue the maiden, etc.

Any rational role playing would not allow you sleep after the first fight without severe consequences. You would have to go out of your way to design an adventure that let you sleep after each encounter.
 
I've found that realistic responses are good enough for most situations. If the adventurers want to do one fight, then retreat back to town to rest, well, then the kobolds whose lair they sacked only the first part of will just pack up and leave, call a nearby clan to get help, or beef up their defenses in another way.

After a time or two of learning that the game world doesn't go static when the party decides to take a break, they learn that there's realistic consequences to their actions, and that those who hesitate are often lost.

You don't need an artificial mechanic to deal with lazy adventurers, just realistic responses to their actions.
 
Tobold,

If you think the solution to the 5m workday is to force the players to continue, then I daresay you're not thinking hard enough.

This problem was solved a long time ago.

However, given the way the human brain works, if I just give you the answers (there are multiple) you'll find reasons to disbelieve. However, here's a hint: If you think the 5m workday is a problem, it's because you're treating the PC's opponents as static and stupid.
 
Oh, I don't think I've heard the "I know the answer, but I'm not telling you, because I am so superior" argument since primary school.
 
It's a social contract thing, really. We've never had a five-minute workday in my group, but we also tend to fight like uber-conservative accountants and not go all-out on the first fight.

Now, when necessary, we're very good at panic-firing and flooding out dailies and action points when we feel we need to, but we try to make sure we have those available when we need to.
 
"No first" is a well-known human cogntitive bias - being told something that should improve your reaction to something you have a negative feeling toward as an adult tends to immediately trigger a 'No, that's not true' reaction.

It's something you have to be aware of and train yourself out of. Children don't have this bias, their brains are wired differently (they, OTOH, tend to believe everything they're told).

So if you want to actually learn about something that you have a negative reaction to as an adult, there is no way to do it but figure out why for yourself.

Or you could imagine that I was being a dick, which is much more... fun... I suppose.

So, to reiterate and get this topic back on track:

Stop treating your NPCs like they're lazy and stupid.

If you do this, your 5m workday 'problem' goes away.
 
I never had this 5m workday issue either, while dming and while playing. We always had our monsters patrol.
 
I largely agree - it's this 'make your adventure/foot fit the ruleset/shoe' attitude that floats around. Like you have to force your adventure to have certain elements, in order to patch up the game systems currency leaks.

One idea someone had with 4E is that the party could not long rest until they hit a milestone. Sure, they could sleep, but it would not qualify as a long rest. Which is a really interesting solution and could be used here - you have to go X number of encounters before the wizards spells will return.

It also depends whether the five minute day is an aesthetic concern - if it just bugs you that the heroe's go nap after a quick skirmish, rather than emulating fiction. Or whether it's a question of game difficulty that bugs you.
 
For me in 3.5 it was always a case of it just felt weird. The wizard would get maybe three or four spells he could use in the entire day, and in that day you really need to get through four or five encounters, meaning you spent at LEAST one encounter doing absolutely nothing.

"I cheer from the sidelines as the fighter does all the work."
Or fire a crossbow and hope it doesn't hit a friendly.

With penalties to armor and being less than useful with most weapons, a starter wizard is really a liability. Especially since the first few spells really only get done in one round what the fighter could do in two.

Even if the wizard rations his damage output such that, "OK, I've done as much as the fighter did in this encounter, I will stop casting," that only lasts a couple encounters, then you're down to nothing.

Maybe suggesting a focus on wand-use/lore?
 
Depends on whether you can die or, through various methods, you can't.

I played AD&D a few months back and a dozen wolves came at our newly formed party. In that system one attack can == one downed PC. So the wizard sleeping them all was a relief!

If you can't die, the wizard being able to do burst damage isn't any kind of relief.
 
One thing to keep in mind is that in the older editions of D&D (basic, AD&D and 2nd ed. for sure) the scale was the entire dungeon expedition. You planned, purchased equipment, chose spells and then executed with the idea of getting as far and deep into the dungeon as possible without having to turn back. As you pounded your way through the dungeon, you would have encounters that would slowly deplete your resources and you had to decide when to flee to the surface (hoping to have enough left in the tank to overcome random encounters), or rest in the dungeon (again having to face the possibility of wandering monsters). It was a logistics problem.

In 4th. edition, the scale is the encounter, or a short string of encounters. There aren't nearly as many resources to monitor -- mostly dailies and items -- the rest you get back once the encounter is completed. It is more of a tactical minis game than an expedition planning simulator.

In those terms, the differences between the editions make a lot of sense. In 1st ed., you have fighters, who have a lot of hit points and can deal sustained damage, wading through a bunch of small encounters. The mages have to watch and wait; their spells can end many fights quickly, but firing them too soon, or in a fight that could otherwise be handled by the warriors, is wasteful.

Other seemingly weird D&Disms make sense once you get used to this view. Wandering monsters act as a way to make the choice of when to return to the surface more meaningful. Do you press on into the next set of rooms, or turn back now to save that last precious sleep spell in case you run into a gaggle of goblins before returning home? Similarly, the GM advice of "don't let them rest" or "make the dungeon harder when they return" work in this context. These are the risks associated with the choice of when to rest/flee. Flee too early, and you will face more and tougher monsters on the way to your goal. Rest too often and you subject yourself to way too many random monster checks to get far.

So, if you look at AD&D in terms of scale, the 5-Minute Workday isn't a problem, it is the key decision point in the game!

No point to this comment really, other than give some "historical" perspective to the 5-Minute Workday problem.
 
One thing to keep in mind is that in the older editions of D&D (basic, AD&D and 2nd ed. for sure) the scale was the entire dungeon expedition. You planned, purchased equipment, chose spells and then executed with the idea of getting as far and deep into the dungeon as possible without having to turn back. As you pounded your way through the dungeon, you would have encounters that would slowly deplete your resources and you had to decide when to flee to the surface (hoping to have enough left in the tank to overcome random encounters), or rest in the dungeon (again having to face the possibility of wandering monsters). It was a logistics problem.

In 4th. edition, the scale is the encounter, or a short string of encounters. There aren't nearly as many resources to monitor -- mostly dailies and items -- the rest you get back once the encounter is completed. It is more of a tactical minis game than an expedition planning simulator.

In those terms, the differences between the editions make a lot of sense. In 1st ed., you have fighters, who have a lot of hit points and can deal sustained damage, wading through a bunch of small encounters. The mages have to watch and wait; their spells can end many fights quickly, but firing them too soon, or in a fight that could otherwise be handled by the warriors, is wasteful.

Other seemingly weird D&Disms make sense once you get used to this view. Wandering monsters act as a way to make the choice of when to return to the surface more meaningful. Do you press on into the next set of rooms, or turn back now to save that last precious sleep spell in case you run into a gaggle of goblins before returning home? Similarly, the GM advice of "don't let them rest" or "make the dungeon harder when they return" work in this context. These are the risks associated with the choice of when to rest/flee. Flee too early, and you will face more and tougher monsters on the way to your goal. Rest too often and you subject yourself to way too many random monster checks to get far.

So, if you look at AD&D in terms of scale, the 5-Minute Workday isn't a problem, it is the key decision point in the game!

No point to this comment really, other than give some "historical" perspective to the 5-Minute Workday problem.
 
with the idea of getting as far and deep into the dungeon as possible without having to turn back.

Why that idea?

Of course the old answer is simply machoism. Just like players are loathe to retreat from any combat (often fighting to the death even if they could easily retreat safely), they machoistically try to push as far into the dungeon as possible.

But it's kind of...well, dumb! It's certainly not chess like play - it's what Sirlin would call 'scrub' play. The five minute workday is actually smart play. But then you get people insisting to force your foot/adventure to fit the problematic design/shoe, by always putting time limits on your adventure, etc.
 
"The five minute workday is actually smart play."

This is true if and only if there are no consequences for delay.

If your antagonists are used as set-pieces, then sure, 5m workdays are 'smart'.

If your antagonists use the time to prepare for the PCs, then it's a recipe for disaster.
 
Why would it take a full night for them to prepare? Why wouldn't the antagonists use the 5 minutes the players are in combat to put the whole dungeon into red alert?

Intelligent antagonists are an illusion, they would destroy the game if they existed.
 
It doesn't take a whole night for them to prepare. But when patrols don't sign off at the end of their shift, or show up for dinner, they start to get suspicious, and send out armed search parties etc., which might very well stumble on a party of sleeping adventurers.

Monster stupidity is needed for gameplay, but you don't have to enforce it when it is harmful.

If they are intelligent enough to post guards, they are intelligent enough to notice when the guards have missing.
 
"Intelligent antagonists are an illusion, they would destroy the game if they existed."

This is only true if you insist on forcIng players into combat with everything. Take Keep on the Borderlands, no first level players have even a ghost of a chance at 'clearing' even the Kobold caves. Now make your reaction rolls per encounter like you're supposed to. Not every faction is going to be hostile. This is by design.

Additionally, in DnD games other than 3e and 4e, xp comes from LOOT, only a pittance comes from defeating monsters. Killing monsters is not and never has been the 'point'.

Most recently in KotB, my players treated with the Kobolds and used them to smash the Hobgoblins in a sneak attack. They now rule over the caves and are planning an attack on the real source of treasure in the area: the keep itself!

At no point were the monsters 'stupid', at no point were any of them unprepared. No 5m workday problems occurred because the world reacts intelligently to the PCs actions and NPCs are not treated like set-piece, static displays.
 
I have to disagree with the illusion, too. Complicated villains can be perfectly intelligent and react appropriately. Why doesn't the villain - if alerted - put the whole place on red alert? That puts the impetus on the party to think strategically about how they approach each situation. If they kick in the front door, set off the alarm spell, and loudly murder the guards, then hell yes the whole place is going to be on alert.

However, there's intricacies, too. Is this villain going to send all his forces away to fight the PCs, leaving himself relatively unguarded? Is he going to have them hold position to keep up defenses? Will he flee? Besides the main bad guy, I play most of my henchmen realistically, too. Some of them might be so loyal (or afraid) as to fight to the death, but most won't. Intelligent (even barely so) creatures will often try to save themselves when it's clear they're losing. If the PCs have smashed their way through half the guard, the other half might very well decide to take some vacation days.

All of these nuances lend themselves to impregnable fortresses being a lot more pregnable than they first seem. Don't hold back! Give your PCs realistic consequences for their actions. Sometimes, the PCs will have to flee; that will teach them something valuable, too, both about their approach, their perceived power in the world, and how the villain responds. When they go back, they may very well use that to gain easier access to him. If they can simply kill every enemy they come across, it WILL go to their heads and there WILL be trouble in the long run, when they take a disliking to an NPC who you view to be a good guy.

They have a place in the world. It's not at the top of the food chain or the brain chain. They should have to outthink realistic villains and prepare and execute realistic plans.

Make complex villains. Arrogant ones might not behave super-intelligently. Scared ones might flee and be hard to catch. Politically powerful ones might flaunt their evil to the party while hiding behind a position of power, making them seem inaccessible.

One of the most interesting villain encounters I had in my D&D campaign was a villain who'd been brought back to life after the party had defeated him and magically enhanced to be a tougher adversary. When the party met him, they simply explained the situation to him, how he wasn't in the past anymore, than he was simply a pawn in someone else's game, and he just left. He went soul searching, and later came back as an ally to the party. He knew he'd been beaten, that his grand design had failed, that, then, he must have been wrong, so he changed.

Another telling encounter was with a local councilman whose son, a gangster, the party had killed. He kidnapped one of the party's babies and falsified records indicating his new baby's birth and the death of the player's child. The PCs knew what had happened, but couldn't just outright kill the man as everything looked legit. They had to work to undermine him while he kept the player's child as his own, flaunting it at social events to rub salt in the wound. Eventually, the players found a trail of evidence that led from him to the local gang his son had been running, then found the forger of the documents, cut a deal to have him confess, and took the baby back. There was no fight at all. They could have kicked they guy's door down and faced his security and him, then faced being wanted criminals, but they played it slow and smart.

You want to encourage that kind of realistic game play, which adds depth to the game world. I'm certainly not saying you don't; you've worked hard to flesh out the locality and the people within it, but there's no reason villains shouldn't be fleshed out, too. Nor is there any reason that killing them after fighting their way through the castle is the only way to resolve problems.
 
Sheep, so much work simply to patch up this issue!

If you enjoy adding all that, okay, I can see the merit in you doing something you enjoy.

But do you acknowledge your patching something - like buying a pair of socks, then straight away spending time darning holes that are in the sock? If you enjoy darning, then fair enough. But even if you do enjoy it, you'd still need to acknowledge it's patching, right?

Or would you say it's deliberately designed to provoke GM's into inventing creative ways around the 5 minute workday?

I don't think it's anything deliberate, it's just a flaw in design.


Roger,
If your antagonists use the time to prepare for the PCs, then it's a recipe for disaster.

Why didn't the antagonists use the time before the PC's even showed up the first time, if they can somehow do it afterward? Wouldn't that be the smartest move? Instead of preparing after they have been attacked?

The result is the monsters are as prepared as they are ever going to get, when you first met them. They don't get more prepared afterward. Unless they were being lazy to begin with.

And following them back just results in the players going right back to town, which results in the dungeon bash starting one yard outside the town walls, as the monsters simply camp there waiting for the PC's to leave. Sans any treasure, of course. It's not like the monsters are going to bring loot with them. So assuming the game is somewhat about getting treasure, there's a big gap of getting through all the forward patrols for whatever number of miles it is to the dungeon, before you actually get to the fun/treasure stuff in the dungeon.

Do you have any accounts of play from the table, where this sort of 'monsters pursue the PC's' has been enjoyed, rather than just being a plug for the 5 minute workday hole?
 
4E fixed the 5 minute workday but created some new issues....I really wish DDN would just work on improving 4E's issues instead of moving backwards like this.
 
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