Hostile Terrain -or- Multiple days with no extended rest

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So I will be DMing again soon, and one of the things I want to do is represent the PCs crossing a massive expanse of very nasty desert (something akin to Dark Sun). I'm working up the flavor for the area so that it's essentially land that was cursed and is now savage and hostile to all but very unusual lifeforms (aberrants and some reptiles and insects).

My idea is to represent this by telling the PCs that, although they must take extended rests to stave off the negative effects (such as fatigue, etc), because of the environment, they will not be able to gain the benefits of an extended rest until they finish crossing the desert.

My reason for this is that I want the desert to feel big, and the trek to feel long. I intend for this to take up about a third to half a level's worth of encounters, but I don't want them to end up with an extended rest between each encounter, because then I'd either have to bump up the difficulty or just have the encounters be more cakewalk.

Does this seem fair? I fully intend to give them all of this information before they enter the desert, so I'm planning to allow for contingencies such as them finding a way around this, but I'm hoping it will work. 

"Not only are you wrong, but I even created an Excel spreadsheet to show you how wrong you are." --James Wyatt, May 2006

Dilige, et quod vis fac

It's perfectly fair if you have a path through the desert with a balanced set of encounters, about the right number for a D&D "day".

A good contingency is location of an oasis whwre they could take a proper extended rest (at teh expense of an extra enocunter or two, and delay to the journey), so at the least the players can exert some control.

But otherwise, this is no different within the game as declaring the team has to defeat all the encounters into the castle in one go, else the princess will be sacrificed.

It is a good idea to give the players a sense of how many encounters they are likely to have - if you can find a way of getting that info across IC even better. Without that, you might find them un-necessarily hoarding dailies (at least that was my experience) because they fear that the next ncounter will be too tough without them.
I wouldn't outright disallow extended rests, but I would write a skill challenge in which they'd have to participate in order to find a place (or prepare a place) to rest. In a desert, you're only going to be travelling during the early and late parts of the day and sitting around trying to find shade the rest of it. And at night it's probably freezing. That sitting around during the hottest part of the day or huddling together for warmth at night probably doesn't make it easy to rest, especially if ferocious desert creatures are attracted to campfires.

So really an extended rest would either occur at the hottest part of the day or the coldest part of night. Preparation would be required (the skill challenge) to find a decent spot, make some shade, and resupply during the day; or, find a decent spot, make some shelter to protect from the cold, and watch for stalking predators at night. For either day or night, throw in some kind of challenge or skill checks related to the strangeness of the place - Arcana, Religion, etc. so that characters with those skills can participate. Succeed, and you can rest. Fail and either the sun saps you and you can't rest or you're attacked by a feral creature at night.

The oasis is a good idea as that's very deserty. If you succeed on your skill challenge to find an oasis, you can rest. If you fail, you're screwed and can't. The benefit to this is you can repeat the skill challenge to find multiple oases (for a multi-day track) just like you can repeat the skill challenge idea above. The best option is to combine the two - finding the oasis, setting a camp, scrounging for supplies of food or water, dealing with the strange effects of the desert, and watching for predators, could all be one big complex skill challenge (in stages). What's more, it is the PCs' choice to participate in it. They won't have to if they don't need an extended rest because they cakewalked the encounters. Optional = seemingly more choices for the players = good game.

I recommend you watch some Bear Grylls before you run the game and steal liberally from his desert episodes, especially on foraging or when and how to travel so you can bring it to life during the game. When we played Dark Sun, I used to put one of his desert episodes to get everyone in the spirit and give them a frame of reference.

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
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I think it would be easier to have a skill challenge going on, where the party healing surges are reduced in value if they fail and/or take penalties to attack rolls would do the same thing you're talking about.
Salla, on minions: I typically use them as encounter filler. 'I didn't quite fill out the XP budget, not enough room left for a decent near-level monster ... sprinkle in a few minions'. Kind of like monster styrofoam packing peanuts.
I think it would be easier to have a skill challenge going on, where the party healing surges are reduced in value if they fail and/or take penalties to attack rolls would do the same thing you're talking about.



It sounds like you're suggesting I give them a skill challenge every time they rest, and punish them for failing it. That's not really what I'm going for.

Typically, this group runs 3-6 encounters between extended rests. However, that would require a full two levels worth of encounters just to represent the first quarter of the overall adventure, and I'm only DMing for, at most, four levels (probably closer to three).

I think I will have a skill challenge prepared to enable the party to find some sort of rest should they decide they absolutely need to recharge daily resources. I will probably at some point just prior to them starting this leg of the adventure flat out tell them, out of character, what's going on, so that they know what I'm looking for. The group is pretty good with that sort of thing, as most of my players also DM. 

"Not only are you wrong, but I even created an Excel spreadsheet to show you how wrong you are." --James Wyatt, May 2006

Dilige, et quod vis fac

I think it's perfectly fine to disallow extended rests entirely under certain circumstances. This sounds like a region in which one would not want to spend any more time than necessary. It could very well be that there are only a few hours each day in which one might get the kind of ease that would contribute toward an extended rest. This would mean that certain races would be at an advantage, muls and eladrin, or anyone else that doesn't need a full rest. But that's fine. Those abilities should come into play sometimes,

[N]o difference is less easily overcome than the difference of opinion about semi-abstract questions. - L. Tolstoy

taken from the compendim under Environmental Danger:


Environmental Danger

The Endurance skill determines how well a character can withstand such dangers. Every eight hours within an area of environmental danger, the character must succeed on an Endurance check. Each time a character fails, he loses one healing surge. If a character has no healing surges left when he fails a check, he loses hit points equal to his level.

The adventure sets the DC for the Endurance check. Here are some useful benchmarks. When designing your own environmental dangers, rely on the Difficulty Class and Damage by Level table and your common sense.












































ConditionEndurance DC
Severe weather20
High altitude21
Extreme altitude26
Cold22
Frigid cold26
Heat22
Stifling heat26
Pervasive smoke or ash26
Pervasive necromantic energy31



If a character takes an extended rest while in an area of environmental danger, he recovers healing surges lost in combat but not those lost from failed Endurance checks. During the six hours that include extended rest, the character gets a +2 bonus to Endurance checks because he’s resting and not exerting himself.

If two or more environmental dangers apply at the same time (such as climbing a mountain in a snowstorm), characters make Endurance checks against each danger.



Looks like this type of scenrio has been thought of.

This makes sense to me for your scenario, being I think your reason for not allowing extended rests is so that they wouldn't just pop back up to full hit points again, even though they would still be physically depleted. Dehydration, hunger, heat stroke, hypothermia, etc would not go away after a night spent in a crude shelter in the middle of a desert.

You thinking Death Valley kinda desert (cliffs, caves, dried river beds, minor plant life) or Sahara (endless sand dunes, no cover)?
Fair? No, but a lot of things in life are not fair and adventurers are expected to overcome them sometimes. You would have to consider the power balance of the party though, some characters would be heavily effected and some could nearly ignore it. Some Essentials characters in particular are built entirely on encounter powers and wouldn't care about extended rests at all except for healing surges, but other characters depend on their Daily power and would be greatly reduced. If your party is really unbalanced in that regards, you should probably avoid it.

In general though, I would me more concerned that it will be boring if the characters never use their daily powers. However, as long as the characters are high enough level to have multiple encounter powers it could work for a while. It would be a good idea to give the party some idea how far they are across the desert, so they can gauge how many daily powers they can afford to use.

If you want it to feel like an extended desert, I would also recommend adding some sort of navigation skill challenge and use more weaker encounters. Since the party won't be getting full rests, you can throw more individually trivial encounters, making the whole thing seem bigger. Just be sure to mix up the monsters and terrain so that things don't get boring.

Jay

FWIW I came across a nice mechanic while playing LFR lately. The adventure CALI3-3 Agony of Almraiven use a system of Fatigue point for a cross in the hot desert which really well represented the heat and exaustion this harsh environement represented. 

It may be worth a look if you are looking for inspiration

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CALI3-3 Agony of Almraivenby Dan Anderson, Lori Anderson, Larry DeLucas, and Joe BoerjesHeroic TierDownload (ZIP)



Yan
Montréal, Canada
@Plaguescarred on twitter

Fair? No, but a lot of things in life are not fair and adventurers are expected to overcome them sometimes. You would have to consider the power balance of the party though, some characters would be heavily effected and some could nearly ignore it. Some Essentials characters in particular are built entirely on encounter powers and wouldn't care about extended rests at all except for healing surges, but other characters depend on their Daily power and would be greatly reduced. If your party is really unbalanced in that regards, you should probably avoid it.

The original post says that he wants the trip to cover "a third to half a level's worth of encounters." That's only 3 to 6, which is what he later says his ground can handle in a day. So, if a character with a Daily uses it in the first encounter and doesn't recover it for the entire trip, it's still no different than if the character had used it in the first encounter of the day.

I think it will work fine. I'd like to try it myself.

[N]o difference is less easily overcome than the difference of opinion about semi-abstract questions. - L. Tolstoy

FWIW I came across a nice mechanic while playing LFR lately. The adventure CALI3-3 Agony of Almraiven use a system of Fatigue point for a cross in the hot desert which really well represented the heat and exaustion this harsh environement represented. 

It may be worth a look if you are looking for inspiration

Show















CALI3-3 Agony of Almraivenby Dan Anderson, Lori Anderson, Larry DeLucas, and Joe BoerjesHeroic TierDownload (ZIP)




I second this. CALI3-3 managed to portray a 10-day trip through the desert really well, making it nasty and harsh, but still manageable for nearly every character, regardless of his skill set (though pure knowledge skilled characters might have a very hard time, but hey... that's what you get for only hitting the books instead of getting excercise). You'll do well if you draw inspiration from that adventure. In this particular adventure, there weren't even extended rests during the cross, since there was a pursuit from Efreeti's.

Heroic Dungeon Master
So I will be DMing again soon, and one of the things I want to do is represent the PCs crossing a massive expanse of very nasty desert (something akin to Dark Sun). I'm working up the flavor for the area so that it's essentially land that was cursed and is now savage and hostile to all but very unusual lifeforms (aberrants and some reptiles and insects).

My idea is to represent this by telling the PCs that, although they must take extended rests to stave off the negative effects (such as fatigue, etc), because of the environment, they will not be able to gain the benefits of an extended rest until they finish crossing the desert.

My reason for this is that I want the desert to feel big, and the trek to feel long. I intend for this to take up about a third to half a level's worth of encounters, but I don't want them to end up with an extended rest between each encounter, because then I'd either have to bump up the difficulty or just have the encounters be more cakewalk.

Does this seem fair? I fully intend to give them all of this information before they enter the desert, so I'm planning to allow for contingencies such as them finding a way around this, but I'm hoping it will work. 


I tried this exact same thing in my campaign and it worked very well. So 

Environmental dangers and long overland journeys over dangerous terrain?  I got plenty of experience here!

I've done the whole skill challenge approach for when I think the journey and terrain/elements are unique enough.  I've also simply used the Environmental Dangers' Endurance check-related rules.

To be honest with you, it's a tough call.  I have had severe terrain and weather-only based skill challenges feel less than exciting.  Those qualities alone often aren't enough.  Mixing in combat helps a lot, relative to check results. 

I've also just ran with a handful of weather-based Endurance checks as a sort of "spice" to add just enough game mechanics and reminder of risk to the journey, while focusing on actual encounters - combats and roleplay - like usual.

Again, if you're going to make a skill challenge out of it, make sure there's a lot of depth, risk, and uniqueness to it.  Fantasy those elements up greatly.  The biggest call you make is deciding when a skill challenge will be a good, engaging event, and when a skill check or two - like Endurance in your case - might be best instead.  The latter has worked well ocassionally in my current Primal Frostfell campaign.

Experiment - it's no exact science and it's good to use and experience both!
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Fair? No, but a lot of things in life are not fair and adventurers are expected to overcome them sometimes. You would have to consider the power balance of the party though, some characters would be heavily effected and some could nearly ignore it. Some Essentials characters in particular are built entirely on encounter powers and wouldn't care about extended rests at all except for healing surges, but other characters depend on their Daily power and would be greatly reduced. If your party is really unbalanced in that regards, you should probably avoid it.

The original post says that he wants the trip to cover "a third to half a level's worth of encounters." That's only 3 to 6, which is what he later says his ground can handle in a day. So, if a character with a Daily uses it in the first encounter and doesn't recover it for the entire trip, it's still no different than if the character had used it in the first encounter of the day.

I think it will work fine. I'd like to try it myself.



ding ding ding

This is basically what I'm going for. I want to give them one day's worth of encounters, but I want it to represent a much longer period of time. A level 9 group has 3 daily powers, and if they're only fighting one encounter per extended rest, there's not much point in having any combat. I will probably incorporate some form of skill challenge, representing the fatigue of the desert (or something like what Cali 3-3 does), and I do intend to write up a skill challenge to help the PCs find an oasis or something if it turns out they need it (I like to be prepared).

Thanks all for the tips and advice. 

"Not only are you wrong, but I even created an Excel spreadsheet to show you how wrong you are." --James Wyatt, May 2006

Dilige, et quod vis fac

There is a huge sand worm off in the distance that is far enough that it will not kill them but if they stop and take an extended rest it will catch up to them and devour the party. simple enough? if they somehow absolutely need to take an extended rest they can do a skill challenge to try and confuse the monster and throw if off course so that they can throw it off their trail for enough time to take the rest.  
There is a huge sand worm off in the distance that is far enough that it will not kill them but if they stop and take an extended rest it will catch up to them and devour the party. simple enough? if they somehow absolutely need to take an extended rest they can do a skill challenge to try and confuse the monster and throw if off course so that they can throw it off their trail for enough time to take the rest.  



Yeah, actually that's pretty awesome. However, I'm forced to dislike you because I did not think of it first. Nothing personal.

Imagine if they ever got to the point where they couldn't go any further and had to extended rest and failed the skill challenge. Next session: An adventure inside the worm as you dungeon crawl through its innards. 

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
DMs: Don't Prep the Plot | Structure First, Story Last | The Art of Pacing (Series) | Improvisation Guide | Prep Tips | Spoilers Don't Spoil Anything | No Myth Roleplaying
Players: 11 Ways to Be a Better Roleplayer | You Are Not Your Character
Hilarious D&D Actual Play Podcast: Crit Juice!
Check Out My D&D Next Playtest Campaign: The Next World

Follow me on Twitter: @is3rith

There is a huge sand worm off in the distance that is far enough that it will not kill them but if they stop and take an extended rest it will catch up to them and devour the party. simple enough? if they somehow absolutely need to take an extended rest they can do a skill challenge to try and confuse the monster and throw if off course so that they can throw it off their trail for enough time to take the rest.  



I actually don't really like this idea, as it would force the PCs to constantly be on the move. I don't want them to constantly be on the move. I want their desert trek to be like any other long distance journey, I just don't want to have to beef all my encounters up to a high enough level that they will still be a challenge for a group of level 9 PCs who each have 3 daily attack powers.

I get the feeling either people aren't understanding what I'm asking, or just don't think it's a good idea....

"Not only are you wrong, but I even created an Excel spreadsheet to show you how wrong you are." --James Wyatt, May 2006

Dilige, et quod vis fac

There is a huge sand worm off in the distance that is far enough that it will not kill them but if they stop and take an extended rest it will catch up to them and devour the party. simple enough? if they somehow absolutely need to take an extended rest they can do a skill challenge to try and confuse the monster and throw if off course so that they can throw it off their trail for enough time to take the rest.  

I actually don't really like this idea, as it would force the PCs to constantly be on the move. I don't want them to constantly be on the move. I want their desert trek to be like any other long distance journey, I just don't want to have to beef all my encounters up to a high enough level that they will still be a challenge for a group of level 9 PCs who each have 3 daily attack powers.

I get the feeling either people aren't understanding what I'm asking, or just don't think it's a good idea....

I do.

I don't think you're understanding the sandworm suggestion. The way I see it, it's having a harsh environment, but more specific and less easy to get used to. It's constantly moving up behind them, but they can widen the gap if they keep moving. They can't and shouldn't be constantly on the move, so sometimes they'll stop and rest, but that means the worm (or whatever inevitable force - The Nothing, maybe) is gaining on them. They can rest, but not as much as they need in order to restore their resources.

There was an episode of Avatar: The Last Airbender like this. Also of the new Battlestar Galactica.

[N]o difference is less easily overcome than the difference of opinion about semi-abstract questions. - L. Tolstoy

I actually don't really like this idea, as it would force the PCs to constantly be on the move. I don't want them to constantly be on the move. I want their desert trek to be like any other long distance journey, I just don't want to have to beef all my encounters up to a high enough level that they will still be a challenge for a group of level 9 PCs who each have 3 daily attack powers.

I get the feeling either people aren't understanding what I'm asking, or just don't think it's a good idea....



If you want the desert trek to be unlike any other journey, then the sandworm idea is perfect. In fact, when in this game or even in a future game will you have a plausible chance to set up a scene wherein, yeah, they can't stop or rest (without a skill challenge)? A grueling trek across a twisted desert with no chance to rest or else... The Worm.

Push them to their limits. Use the Endurance rules for lack of sleep or dwindling resources. I know I've never had a chance to implement that into a game. Here's your chance. It's all an abstraction anyway no matter how you look at it. Your stated goal is to make sure they aren't fresh for every encounter. So have it stretch across many days wherein they can only get a few minutes rest here and there before the worm shows up.

The skill challenge allows them the option to rest, but they don't have to take it if they don't really need it (added bonus of you not being the bad guy and stripping rests away outright with no alternatives).

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
DMs: Don't Prep the Plot | Structure First, Story Last | The Art of Pacing (Series) | Improvisation Guide | Prep Tips | Spoilers Don't Spoil Anything | No Myth Roleplaying
Players: 11 Ways to Be a Better Roleplayer | You Are Not Your Character
Hilarious D&D Actual Play Podcast: Crit Juice!
Check Out My D&D Next Playtest Campaign: The Next World

Follow me on Twitter: @is3rith