Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Notes on playtesting L16 Characters

Some commentary today. As a lover of game mechanics, I often playtest games by myself. In order to figure out how high-level 4th edition D&D combat works, I’ve been playing my playtest party in fights at higher and higher levels. I just had my first fight with the party at level 16, jumping them from level 11. I’m not using the quick-and-dirty rules for creating high level characters, I laboriously calculated every magic item they would have received under the guidelines during the passage to level 16.

I am very good at controlling and playtesting game characters, and in most games I have no trouble controlling 5 characters plus their opponents. But, wow, D&D 4th edition is not most games. These are the most complicated characters I’ve ever seen! Among the 5 characters I have a total of 195 combat-related powers and abilities. This doesn’t include abilities which simply factor directly into the combat values. And I gave the characters a very low number of consumable items, simply because I was getting overwhelmed. It is incredibly hard to remember all of these powers, especially since they tend to have little relation to one another or the character background (how am I supposed to remember the cleric is the one with the boots of swimming?). I guess these characters really are meant to be played by one person each who has controlled that character through 150-odd encounters and knows his abilities like the back of his hand.

Anyway, the fight was against a Rakshasa Noble, 2 Cambion Hellfire Magus, and 2 Rockfire Dreadnought. A lot of cool stuff happened, but it was 18 ROUNDS long! It just went on – and on – and on. I guess the issue is that the monsters have very annoying powers, and are extremely hard to hit while being super-accurate in return, but they only do about 2d8+8 damage. This just isn’t much against a level 16 character. The characters, in turn, used up their great powers to kill a few monsters, then they were all dazed or stunned, and with no effective powers left. So it just took forever to chip away at the remaining monsters. I hope this fight is an aberration, or I could be in for a long haul trying to playtest...

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Rituals - part 2

Continuing from here. I was pondering Pilgrim’s comment that rituals don’t end up being used much.

To some extent, this is actually an advantage of rituals. In previous editions of D&D, every noncombat spell you memorized meant one combat spell you didn’t memorize. The spell lists were full of interesting-to-read but obscure spells that were highly unlikely to see use. For instance, a spell that detect secret doors in a given area. This spell sounds good, but doesn’t help the game much. An adventuring wizard is unlikely to memorize it, since he would have no idea when to use it unless the dungeon just happens to have an area where he knows a secret door exists and is vitally important to find, but for some reason no one can find it. The only real way to use this sort of spell is to find a way to abuse it (spending a month to explore the dungeon, perhaps), or to bump into the rare situation where it is useful, then rest for 8 hours memorizing the spell. In 4th edition, this is simplified by increasing the casting time to 10 minutes but getting rid of the memorization time. If you know the ritual, and you end up in the rare situation where it is useful, you can just use it. Presumably the gold cost is set so that it is very worthwhile to use when you know you need it, and not worthwhile to use frivolously.

So the ritual list does seem to be chock full of practically useless spells, but if they are very cheap to learn, this isn’t a problem game wise. They are useful in very rare circumstances, and once you know them, they don’t take up “space” – they will always be ready when you need them. If they aren’t cheap enough to learn, this would be an issue of execution, not of game design (i.e. you could just make them cheaper).

One problem is that it may be kind of boring if you are set on being a secret-door finding wizard, and the ritual you have for it is almost never useful. But this would just be a case where what you want is not a ritual at all, but an arcane power to find secret doors, something you actually pay for (i.e. sacrifice some other power or ability for) so that it is actually a significant part of your character.

On the other hand, the fact that rituals are a storehouse for colorful but useless noncombat spells may be a bit of a disappointment for the ritual caster. You would have to be very high level before the cost of these obscure rituals is trivial enough to be worth getting them, and at that point you are paying trivial costs to get trivial powers. Fair, but not very exciting. It is nice for game balance that the wizard isn’t using noncombat magic to trounce on all the skill-based characters, but when does he get to use his rituals?

Well, there are a few rituals of real interest, like “Hand of Fate” which tells you what course of action to take. A lot of the other rituals almost seem like they are not meant for the players at all; they exist for color, so that the players can identify them when the DM puts them into an adventure. It would usually be quite rare for a PC to want to create a magic mouth, but maybe the ritual is meant to provide inspiration to the DM to put one in a dungeon, and then the PC wizard can look at it and recognize what exactly it is. Otherwise, though, if rituals aren’t used very often it is OK with me – if everyone is using skills instead, the wizard has just as many skills as everyone else, and is just as exciting (or more) in combat, so everything is good.

One trap I do see with rarely-used rituals is that they have a certain similarity to rarely-used skills, which 4th edition D&D got rid of. Typically, the only way for such a skill/ritual to get used was for the DM to specifically put it into the adventure for the benefit of the player. But this could be a problem in the case of rituals. If the ritual isn’t really necessary, you are penalizing the players by tricking them into spending hard-earned gold. If the ritual is essential for the adventure, you can’t put it into a general-purpose adventure because the players couldn’t complete it if they don’t have the ritual, and that would be bad adventure design. But if you know the adventurers have the ritual and must use it, you would be punishing the players for having the rituals, since groups who have rituals would end up with less gold for other things than groups which don’t have rituals. This sort of thing is one of the problems with spending experience to take actions (and in 4th edition D&D, gold is a form of group experience points).

This particular problem can be solved with the same adventure design used for skills. Using the ritual should provide a tangible benefit, but you can still get on without the ritual. There are only 17 skills, so you can readily account for each one when designing your adventures. But there are as many rituals as they have time to publish. To really balance your adventure around rituals, you practically have to custom craft the adventure for the characters. For a general purpose adventure, you would be hard-pressed to account for every ritual that exists. Most rituals would never see use in a general purpose adventure, but if you are unlucky, some ritual could exist that totally defeats the whole adventure.

This would seem more likely with very high level characters, as it seems the stated idea in 4th edition D&D is that high level adventures are awesome events of godlike beings, and the charaters are expected to have incredible game-breaking abilities. But how do you plan a non-character specific adventure for characteres with stupendous noncombat rituals? If you give them an earthly challenge, they might just ignore it – you give them a mighty journey to go on, and they just teleport to the end. So you can give them godlike challenges – journey to the Xth dimension. But if you give them a godlike challenge, what if they don’t have the right godlike abilities? After all, there is no guarantee they have any particular ritual, or any at all for that matter. Oh well, I haven’t played to that level yet anyway.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Rituals: Gold for Magic

One new idea from 4th edition D&D that I think is really great is the idea of making noncombat magic into long rituals that cost money.

In a fantasy game based around a world of magic, you want magic to be an amazing force that can do practically anything. But fantasy is also supposed to have a flavor of the medieval, and feature non-magical characters using their skills and abilities in a nom-magical world. This runs into problems when you also want to support wizards with stupendous powers. It isn’t very exciting being the world’s best cat burglar when your buddy the wizard can easily duplicate all of your abilities with spells to bypass traps, open locks, fly up high walls, or just teleport directly into the enemy fortress. Yet all of these are abilities that a wizard character might reasonably ask to have.

One way to cut down on the overuse of magic is to make it a precious resource. This fits a lot of fantasy material very well. When using typical magic systems, players can trivially use magic over and over again, as if they were using superpowers. In the actual fantasy genre, magic is often used sparingly, which is more appropriate and better for game balance. But figuring out how exactly to limit the use of magic is tricky.

The great idea of 4th edition is to transform these noncombat magic powers into a ritual, which basically acts as a form of consumable magic item, rather than an inherent character power. It costs gold to buy a given noncombat spell, and gold every time you want to use it. Gold becomes the precious resource that is being spent to use the magic. So you can make many amazing powers available, and players will not abuse them over and over again. The natural miserliness of players with long-term resources can make them covetous of their magic, just like in the source material.

Also, rituals now take a long time to perform. This helps differentiate rituals from normal skills. In many of the situations you would want to use skills that might be superceded by magic, using a ritual just won’t be possible. This helps prevent skilled characters from being totally overshadowed by magic.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Simplifying Assumptions in my posts

Something I should note with my posts is that, when I use a game or a rule as an example of some point I am making, I usually make simplifying assumptions that I may not spell out. For instance, in my last article, I did not mention that Champions has body damage, a form of long-term damage. Body damage can be a considerable annoyance when it occurs in Champions, but it wasn’t relevant for the point I was making, which was to analyze the concept and practice of total recovery of health between fights, without worrying whether any existing game completely meets that extreme. Simplification is particularly important with an game like 4th edition D&D, which is based on general rules with countless exceptions. When I describe the way healing surges work, I described them as representing health. Of course, D&D also has special ways of using healing surges to directly fuel offensive powers. But this would just be a distraction from my main point of how you can use the distinction between hit points and healing surges to create a combination of short-term and long-term health.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Rate of Noncombat Healing

Previous posts (1, 2, 3) have discussed issues revolving around daily powers. A related issue is that of recovering from damage sustained during fights.

In a game using health as a long-term resource, the damage you take during a fight is recovered partially or not at all between fights, so that you start each fight weaker than you were in the last. 1st edition D&D is an example of this, at least if you played in the classic style of fighting many battles per day. Hit points could only be recovered by healing magic, which was in short supply (except at high levels). Basically, they were a resource that had to last you through the adventure, or at least one portion of the adventure. The biggest disadvantage of this form of recovery from damage is that each fight, until the very end of the adventure, cannot be strong enough to seriously endanger the characters. If you have to fight multiple battles per day, and you cannot recover a lot of health between battles, then the game balance requires that no one battle cause a lot of damage. The goal of the early battles is not to win, but to lose as few hit points as possible. If the GM tried to make the early battles tough enough that the monsters threatened to defeat the characters, he would be making those battles cause way too much damage, and there would be no way for the characters to last long enough to reach the later battles. This makes the fights seem less dramatic; instead of life or death struggles, they are a form of resource management.

The opposite form of game is one where health recovers completely between fights. In Champions, for instance, the normal form of damage taken by the characters, stun damage, recovers completely after every fight. So the PC’s can engage in a fierce combat, get battered all over the place, and still be ready for the next exciting encounter. This allows each fight to be more exciting. It also means that, when the big encounter comes, the characters can fight to the very limit of their abilities and go up against the toughest foes, rather than being so weak and damaged that they are only a shell of their former selves. The main disadvantage of total recovery between fights is that if the foes are not powerful enough to threaten victory, how well or how badly you do during the fight has no effect at all on the adventure. This means that characters cannot be “softened up” by sending minions at them. The GM can pretend to do so, but in reality it is a sham, the weak opponents don’t slow them down at all. So although total post-fight recovery allows you to have much more menacing foes than with limited recovery, it makes fights without menacing foes less interesting because nothing is affected by the outcome – no matter what happens during the fight, if you win you are OK.

In my experience, the advantages of total health recovery far outweigh the disadvantages, at least when playing with a cinematic style. In Champions, there were a lot of fierce fights against very dangerous supervillains, or hordes of agents with fiendish secret weapons. The purpose of weak fights against thugs was not to slow down the characters, but to give them some relief from the dangerous fights, a chance to be mighty superheroes and show off their abilities. The fact that they took no long-term damage was probably a good thing, as they were free to “act like Superman” and bounce bullets off their chests with impunity. Sometimes I considered creating a long-term damage system to allow certain types of adventures to be made, but most of the time it just wasn’t an issue. Whereas the advantage of having the players be able to fight full-out in every exciting combat was quite noticeable.

4th edition Dungeons & Dragons introduces a new method to try to simultaneously gain the advantages of both limited recovery and total recovery. In the new D&D, you essentially have a small amount of short-term health, and a large amount of longer term health. Between combats, you recharge your short-term health with some of your long-term health. At the end of a day, you gain all long-term health. You can essentially fight every battle at full health, but if you take too much damage in your early fights during a day, you won’t have enough long-term health to last until the later fights. This allows each fight to be challenging and badly damage the characters, while still allowing multiple fights during a day, so in some sense it has the best of both worlds. I’d have to say the idea is cool, and I like it much better than 1st edition. The disadvantage here is that the adventures have to be tightly crafted in a rather constrained manner for the rule to really work to its full extent. There has to be just the right amount of time pressure / encounter frequency. If there ends up being too few fights in a day, there is no difference from the total recovery method; too many fights in a day, and you have the issues of the limited recovery method. The method ties into the daily power concept discussed in my last few posts, which has its own drawbacks in terms of using the day as the key measuring point for everything. Actually, its is really only use of the daily powers that would cause a character to get “worn down” by waves of early monsters. Healing surges in D&D are pretty touchy; you are fine when you still have them, and rapidly get into big trouble if you run out. Since the party wouldn’t want to go on without them, the use of healing surges doesn’t so much weaken the party, as force it to rest more often than they would want to. And this is only interesting if you have the right kind of time pressure in the adventure.

Another form of healing I find very interesting can be found by looking at a portion of the Torg game. In Torg, characters can survive a small amount of damage with short-term health, but must often back this up by spending possibilities if they come under pressure. Possibilites are available in large numbers because they also act as experience points. Possibilities can be earned by completing adventures, but they do not renew with the passage of time. This means that spending a possibility is spending a permanent resource – you may gain more experience later on, but you will always be less experienced than you would have been had you not spent the possibility. Players care about permanent resources, so if the fight goes bad and they are forced to spend possibilities to survive, they care what happens even when they end up winning the fight. At the same time, there are enough possibilities for the characters to get out of really tricky situations. So the game balance is not so twitchy, and the GM can put in some really tough villains, knowing the players can bail themselves out, at a price, if they get unlucky or the GM has underestimated the difficulty. And because time is not an issue, the GM has great flexibility in designing adventures. One disadvantage of this method is that, if the players keep a large buffer of possibilities, they are pretty unlikely to ever get defeated, which can reduce the tension. I myself have noticed that it can be fun to limit the number of stored possibilities to make dramatic fights more exciting – though this makes the game balance tricky again. Another problem I find very troubling is that defense-oriented characters have a natural tendency to spend fewer possibilities, and thus gain experience more rapidly.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

New Open Forum

I've had requests for a way for others to post game design issues for discussion, so I've created an associated forum, If you want to post anything that is not a response to one of my blog posts, you can do it here.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Daily Powers, continued

Previous posts here and here.

4th edition D&D ameliorates the daily powers problem in several ways. First, it has encounter powers, rather than having only at-will powers and daily powers. Encounter powers are really cool because they limit the use of a power without creating any of the problems associated with daily powers. With more powers being encounter powers, fewer are daily powers and thus the degree to which the characters get stronger by hoarding daily powers is reduced. Also, in previous editions you pretty much had to use up daily powers in a fight in order to make your character interesting (especially if you were a spellcaster). With encounter powers (and more interesting at-will powers), you can do interesting stuff every fight without needing to use your daily powers. This reduces the pressure to use up daily powers and the desire to renew them as often as possible.

4th edition D&D also has “milestone” powers like action points and magic item dailies, which are recharged with the number of encounters you face in a day. This makes it slightly easier for the characters to keep going during a day rather than rest.

A change which I find very helpful in giving the players a structure for how often to rest per day is the healing surge rule. Healing surges address the issue of character healing, which is slightly different from, but closely related to, the issue of daily powers. I should discuss that more in a future post. But the key point here is that healing surges create a natural stopping point for the day – you must rest when you don’t have enough healing surges to go on. Healing surges in general cannot be spent without limit during a battle, and are (for the most part) only spent to recover from monster attacks. So they cannot all be spent in one battle, and (ignoring certain powers) there isn’t really any incentive to try. This creates a natural flow for the game, where you adventure as long as you have enough surges, and spend your daily powers evenly over that time.

None of these changes, however, actually remove the basic problem. It is still most efficient to fight only one encounter per day. The changes just lessen the problem and make the regular solutions easier to employ. It seems to me that the rules work best when the characters choose when to rest, but have a strict time limit for the adventure as a whole. So now, whenever I create a D&D adventure, I put a time limit on the adventure. Usually my rule is that if you finish with only one extended rest, you gain maximum success. If you take two extended rests, you gain partial success. This sort of constrains the adventure design, but I’m happy with it right now.

The whole idea of “adventuring by the day” is rather D&D-centric. For other RPG’s I prefer to make adventures using the Torg concept of dividing into Acts and Scenes. Then you don’t have to worry about all of these nitpicky time details.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Solving Broken Rules by not abusing them

When the rules of a role-playing game are broken, one general purpose way of fixing the rules is to rely on the players to be reasonable and not to take advantage of the broken rules. I thought I'd give my opinion on the usefulness of this technique.

In general, this technique relies on having players who are not power gamers. A player who is a power gamer will naturally want to do whatever is most powerful within the rules, and will not normally want to hold back in any way, so this technique will not work (unless they agree to totally change their play style). You can try to make it work by threatening to punish the player for abusing the rules, but I find this sort of player-GM interaction to be highly undesirable. Power gamers are likely to be happier if you either fix the rule or let them exploit it. I will assume for the following cases that none of your players are power gamers.

Relying on the players not to abuse the rules works best when you have to perform unusual actions to take advantage of the broken rule. It works even better if the decision to abuse the rule can only be made during character generation. For instance, a classic way to break the rules is to find a combination of multiple powers, which, when taken together, become a devastating combination. If the players are not trying to power game and are just making cool characters, chances are that no one will ever choose this combination, and once play begins, this combination will not be available for use. Therefore it won't, in practice, create any problem at all for your game. If everyone in the group knows the combination is broken, they may even decide to intentionally avoid it for that reason.

Another case where it is very typical and useful to rely on the reasonableness of the players is when you have multiple choices with different game effects and different special effects, and you want the choices to be balanced. Ideally, each choice would be exactly game balanced with every other choice. In practice you cannot always achieve this, but if the choices are reasonably close to being balanced, it will not be a problem. Players who play "in character" will naturally want to do things that are fun and appropriate. If option A is more fun and appropriate than option B, and is not blatantly inferior, they will choose option A even if a deep analysis reveals that option B is probably a bit more effective overall. After all, the purpose of a role-playing game is to have fun, not simply to win at all costs. When designing game rules, I often rely on this. If a rule is close to being balanced, I can just assume the players won't try to power game and move on to the next rule, rather than agonizing over every little detail.

On the other hand, if option B is clearly far better than option A, you have a definite problem. There is no getting around the fact that the game balance is flawed. It is certainly possible for players to stay in character and choose option A anyway, but I think this is not as good a solution as fixing the rules. First of all, it puts a lot of pressure on the players. It can be awkward to make a decision knowing that it is making your character far weaker .Even if the players are not trying to abuse the rules, if the rules are not balanced, you end up with a situation where some characters and actions are far more effective than others for reasons that don't make sense within the story. For instance, it is very annoying when you want to make a character who is a mighty warrior, but because your character conception leads you to choose powers and abilities that are inefficient in game terms, you end up being a rather mediocre warrior who just tries to provide support for his more powerful buddies. Also, rules that are broken in terms of game balance are often (though not always) less fun to use. A power that is broken on the “too strong” side can seem bizarre and ridiculous; a power that is broken on the “too weak” side can be boring because it has no effect.

Another problem is when you have a slippery slope, which is the case with the daily powers problem I mentioned in the last post. If it is efficient for the party to fight fewer encounters per day, and there is no definition of how many you "ought” to be fighting and no real penalty for resting too often, then basically the players are being told to just decide for themselves how powerful and successful their characters will be. They can rest more or less often, and are always tempted to rest more often except for the feeling that it doesn't seem right. Giving the players total control can work under the right circumstances, but this seems more like interactive storytelling, where you don't really need rules at all. If you are going to use a game with rules, I usually I think it is more interesting if the game sytsem actually provides some sort of meaningful challenge to the players, some sort of framework that the players can interact with so that they are playing a game in addition to telling a story.

Of course the players (or the GM) can come up with self-imposed limitations – “we must fight 4 encounters per day”. Having guidelines can be very helpful in terms of reducing uncertainty about what is abusive. But to the extent that the guidelines are followed, this is really an informal way to make new game rules rather than a way to avoid having to make new rules at all. And to the extend that the guidelines are not followed, you still have the uncertainty of when and why you shouldn’t follow them.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Daily Powers – Part 1

A classic problem with earlier editions of Dungeons & Dragons revolved around the fact that many important character abilities, most importantly spells, could be used once per day. This was presumably done to prevent the characters from casting unlimited numbers of spells. If you limit a spell to being used once per day, and the characters do many things in the course of the day, then a spell becomes a precious resource to be used at the best possible moment. Having a powerful but limited resource that you use at the most opportune moment can be a fun game mechanic.

This also allows you to imitate the “hero point” concept, which D&D does not have. Hero points allow you to rise to the occasion and fight more effectively in the big fights. If you have multiple fights per day, with a number of small fights and one big fight, daily powers allow you to “pull out the big guns” and use lots of daily powers when the big boss appears.

The problem is that D&D, being a free-form role-playing game, has no real rules to control how many encounters actually occur during a day. This creates a great deal of instability in terms of how effective daily powers are, especially when those powers are very important. If you have only one encounter in a day, and you use all of your daily powers in that encounter, then your daily powers are much more useful compared to your “at-will” powers, and you are much stronger than if you have to string your powers out over 5 encounters.

If the GM controls and announces the number of encounters that will occur in a given day, the use of daily powers should, in theory, work quite well and not cause any serious game balance problems. The GM can simply make the encounters more powerful when there will only be one encounter per day. In practice, there are some small associated disadvantages. First, it is harder to balance encounters. Even if you figure out how many monsters are required to challenge a party, you still have to figure out how much tougher or weaker to make the encounter based on the number of total encounters there will be that day. Also, if some players have lots of daily powers and some have few, the relative potency of the characters will vary based on how many encounters there are per day. All else being equal, a party with lots of daily powers is much better when fighting one encounter per day than one with few daily powers and more at-will powers. A second issue is that it can feel weird that weak monsters are hopelessly steamrolled when the plot of the adventure makes it clear that no other fights will occur that day.

In most adventures, however, the GM does not have total control over the number of encounters per day. The classic D&D adventure is a dungeon crawl, where the characters encounter an ancient dungeon and fight through it room by room. The character decide when to press on and when to stop and rest. Since the players are much more powerful when they fight only one encounter per day, there is a strong incentive for them to do so. This is usually not desirable. It ruins the feel of daily powers as a “precious resource” when you can use them in every encounter. If the powers were supposed to be used every encounter, they should be specifically designed that way. And it just feels wrong and weird for the characters to explore the dungeon for 15 minutes, then camp out doing nothing for the rest of the day (or however long it takes to recharge their powers). It hurts the atmosphere and believability of the adventure for character to do things which are so disconnected from both reality, and the works of fiction which define the genre.

There is no solution to this problem within the structure of the rules, but in terms of game play there are multiple solutions. Probably the best solution is to impose time pressure on the adventure. This has several forms. The most powerful is to make a “cinematic” adventure in which an external force is driving events in motion, and the players cannot avoid the encounters. For instance, an adventure where the players are defending a town from repeated attacks. In this case the GM is controlling the number of encounters. The players either participate, or fail the mission. This totally solves the problem of the “15-minute adventuring day”. However, this isn’t the typical style of a D&D adventure, where the players are the ones actively exploring.

A form of time pressure which is easier to integrate into a dungeon crawl is an overall time limit, where the players can rest whenever they want, but if they rest too many times, they will suffer consequences or lose the mission entirely. Perhaps they have three days to defeat the evil cultists before the princess is sacrificed. This is what I currently favor when playing 4th edition D&D. This gives the players more flexibility while still maintaining the integrity of the daily power system. It also seems to fit the atmosphere better – the players have plenty of time to explore, but they aren’t tempted to stop and rest until they are actually tired out and need to recover.

Another form of time pressure, encouraged in the old D&D modules, was to make the mission more difficult every time the players rest. If the players tried to rest in the dungeon, they would be beset by endless wandering monsters. If they left to town and returned later, the monsters might have left, or formed a civil defense league, or set up better defenses, or invited allies, or whatever. This can be an effective form of time pressure to encourage the players not to rest too often. As usually implemented, however, it tends to break down the more you have to put it into effect. It is hard enough just to come up with your perfectly laid out dungeon. Having to invent all sorts of things for the monsters to do to beef up their defenses is hard work for the GM! And once you do so, this may slow down the characters even more and make them rest even more often. How much can the monsters do anyways within the context of the adventure? If the players start to camp out after every fight and become far more powerful, you may have no choice but to have all the monsters flee, or band into an army and attack the characters.

This veers into my least favorite form of time pressure, the fear of GM retaliation. Instead of building a time penalty into the adventure, if the GM thinks the players are resting too often, he can correct the problem by using his limitless powers to punish the players until he thinks they are playing properly. This usually takes the form of extra events that could logically happen, but wouldn’t happen if the GM wasn’t ticked off at the players. Maybe the GM decides now would be a good time to besige the players with tedious “wandering monster” fights that he would normally skip. This is a drastic measure because the players are no longer trying to solve puzzles within the context of the adventure. Instead they are trying to figure out how much resting the GM will let them get away with. I don’t care for the sort of play environment when the players are fighting directly with the GM, rather than everyone working together.

Speaking of working together, this brings up the other solution to the 15-minute adventuring day. What if the players simply agree to “play in genre” and not abuse the rules? This, and the impact of 4th edition D&D on the problem, will have to wait for my next post on this topic.