In-Universe Burnout and the 3rd Rest State: ‘Standard Grit’, the Rest Variant Compromise

Intro

Hi everyone, I’m back again with a continuation of my series on Rest Variants. Once again this post is building on the foundational concept outlined in the first post. You can read it Here. There are other posts in this series too, and I would implore you to check them all out, but reading the first one is mandatory before you read this post.

In this entry I’m going to discuss a concept that pushes the boundaries of Rest Variant rules. I call it ‘Standard Grit’.

What Is Standard Grit?

Standard Grit is at its core a method of adding an extra kind of rest. I’ll explain fully how it works, but first I want to give some background (2 whole paragraphs of it, in fact).

My original post discussed switching between different Rest variants during the course of a campaign to suit different situations, with the core premise being that as long as the relative length of short vs long rests was preserved really any length of time could be used depending on the circumstance. I’ve mostly anchored this discussion in Rest Variants that exist within the Player’s Handbook and Dungeon Master’s Guide, as well as adhered to the general idea of there being 2 kinds of rest – short and long. Today I’m going to break that association.

Since my original posts I’ve ended up having discussions with DMs who felt that they wanted to mostly use the standard resting rules, but also wanted there to be an idea of ‘extended downtime’ sometimes meaning a week or so spent in town because of the RP and narrative opportunities it provided. Essentially they were finding it hard to create those opportunities for extended downtime without using Gritty Realism, and didn’t want to commit to Gritty Realism for the parts of their campaign that weren’t downtime. As a response to this, I’ve created what I think is an adequate solution that builds on the idea of rests having lengths relative to one another.

Standard Grit adds a 3rd kind of rest beyond the long rest and is there to function as our opportunity for the kind of downtime that mandates a week’s rest in town. This rest adds two sets of benefits, one mechanical and the other narrative. In terms of gameplay the net effect of the 3rd tier of rest is simple. Most of the time the party can short rest in an hour while they patch up wounds and eat some light rations. When they’re tired, they need a good 8 hours’ sleep. When they’re burnt out, they need a week in a comfy bed.

The Narrative Benefit

The narrative benefits of Standard Grit are related to the concept of burnout. In real life, we can perform at our peak for only a limited amount of time. If you have a busy month at work it fast becomes the case that simply a weekend of ‘downtime’ isn’t enough, so you book a week’s vacation. IRL your short rest is your sleep between workdays, your long rest is your weekend, and your ‘Standard Grit’ rest (which we will start calling ‘extended rest’ from here on out) is a week on a tropical beach sipping mimosas.

Heroes get burnt out too. Adventuring is hard work. Sure they can push themselves for a couple of weeks, only getting 8 hours of sleep between adventuring days, but eventually their bodies will need more time than that to recuperate and so they return to town for a good week of bed rest and minimal exertion.

This offers us an extra narrative device for our adventurers. They know they’re going to hit their limit eventually, so they need to start thinking and planning how they’re going to move through the world. “Sure we can push out to that dungeon, but we’re going to want to get back to a warm bed within a week after we clear it out. Let’s plan out a route that has us back in town before we hit the wall.”. Much in the same way that players have to consider when they will next need a short or long rest, they now also need to consider when they will need their next extended rest. This allows us to have a slightly harsher and more “realistic” world in the narrative sense without having to commit fully to the Gritty Realism Rest Variant and the slower paced campaign it creates.

The Mechanical Benefit

I mentioned in my original post how you as a DM can use Gritty Realism in the ‘overworld’ to encourage things like more downtime (and my second post, which can be found Here, discusses opportunities created by having that longer period of downtime). Using the ‘Standard Grit’ Rest Variant we can still create these longer periods of downtime and extract the mechanical benefits from them without having to commit to having them literally every time the party needs to long rest.

Some of those benefits, in brief (though I really would encourage you to read the post I linked in the paragraph above), are:

  • Opportunities for narrative expansion through scenes of the party socialising with townsfolk in their downtime.
  • Interacting with trainers to gain extra skill proficiencies and narratively justify feats that characters take.
  • Time available to immerse the players in the world and gain a deeper connection to it. It’s easier to care about defending a town when you’ve spent several days there meeting its inhabitants.

There are more, obviously, and I would implore you to consider what mechanical benefits such a situation could bring your campaign. Once again the mechanical benefits are essentially the same as those created by the way Gritty Realism handles long rests.

Implementing The System

So how does this work exactly? When do the players need to take an extended rest instead of just a long rest?

The simplest way to implement I’ve found is as follows:

A character can long rest a number of times equal to their character level before they must take an extended rest.

If you want to add a mechanical drawback to trying to go beyond this (much like there is a mechanical drawback to attempting to avoid long resting), simply add the clause “If the character attempts to take a long rest again before taking an extended rest, they suffer a level of exhaustion.”.

This helps us do a few things. First of all it adds another benefit to levelling up in that it increases what I call the party’s ‘Adventuring Stamina’ (i.e they become able to stay out in the non-civilised parts of the world for longer at a time). It also makes this a clear resource to be managed rather than an airy-fairy ‘sometimes your character will get burnt out’ system. It puts the control in the player’s hands, much in the same way usual resting does. The players know when their character needs a short rest, they know when they need a long rest, and they know when their character needs an extended rest.

Just as the Wizard player might say “Yeah I’m gonna need a long rest to get my spell slots back.”, now he also might say “I can only do 1 more long rest before I’m burnt out, so we need to start heading back towards a town.”. Players are given the agency to use their character’s limitations to inform their character’s decision making and adventuring.

A Standard Conclusion

As with every Rest Variant, this may not suit your campaign at all. It may also suit your campaign, but only after a little adjustment. Maybe you don’t like tying the number of long rests a character can take before they need an extended rest to their level. Maybe you’d rather tie it to their Con modifier, or maybe you’d rather just have it be a flat number that doesn’t change over the campaign so as to maintain consistent pacing. Perhaps you don’t like the idea of it being another resource for the players to keep track of and would rather just declare when their next extended rest is coming up. In any case, experiment with this idea and see how it might fit in to your next campaign!

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