Saturday, February 28, 2009

Milestones And The Extended Rest

4th Edition intoduces the concept of "milestones". A milestone is reached any time the party completes two consecutive encounters without taking an extended rest.

Reaching a milestone has two effects. First, it grants players an extra action point, which can be traded at the end of a player's turn to immediately take another standard, move or minor action (that's "or", not "and"). That's good, but not wonderful, as you can only spend one action point per encounter in any case.

Secondly, it grants players another use of a daily equipment power. Normally players can only use one daily power granted by equipment per day, no matter how many such powers they may have access to. (If you have a daily on your armour and a daily on your boots, for example, you can use one but not both.) The milestone allows a further such use.

Milestone benefits vanish after an extended rest; no matter how many you've accrued, sleeping sets you back to a single action point and a single daily equipment power.

The commonly cited intent behind these powers is to "reward players for a long adventuring day". That's something of a misunderstanding, though. Milestones don't reward long adventuring days, they merely make them less punishing. Given an unlimited pool of time, it is always better to take an extended rest after every encounter, to refresh your daily class powers and regain your full pool of healing surges. If the benefits of a milestone outweigh the cost of surviving two encounters without resting, then your encounters are probably too easy.

Milestones are a very poor way of balancing extended rests. They don't encourage players to press on, they merely make them less angry when they're denied a rest for long strings of encounters in a row. DMs who don't want their players taking a nap after every fight are going to have to introduce time pressure into every story (which generally improves the story, so not much of a loss) or repeatedly make it too dangerous to camp (possibly realistic but rarely fun).

Wizards of the Coast should have gone down a different path. Instead of hitching daily effects to the concept of resting, they should have connected them to some narrative element. "Daily" effects should instead have been "once per session", or, if you don't trust your GMs to wrap up game sessions at an appropriate moment, "once per chapter", with the GM having the explicit power to declare a "new chapter" at any appropriate lull in the action.

It would have been more consistent, too. We already have the concept of an "encounter", a unit defined more by narrative than by time; it seems odd that daily effects don't follow the pattern.


Alex said...

It seems that the problem is with the balance between difficulty of encounters and the ability of characters to recuperate. In my (low-level, extremely limited, personally anecdotal) experience, newish characters can muscle through 4, maybe 5 encounters before absolutely requiring an extended rest (out of surges, daily power used, not fully healed). That might even be a bit much generally, as my group includes a pretty bad ass battle rage vigor fighter who can absorb tons of damage--but we don't get the extra cleric HP for healing outside combat.

The problem is that 4 encounters might be a full game session, but it's probably not enough to reliably get the narrative to a resting spot. In Keep, there are the two ambushes and then either the cave or burial ground--you could rest after doing one of those without a narrative problem. But the idea of backing out of the keep itself to sleep and charge right back in? That strikes me as...a difficult feat to incorporate into a reasonable narrative.

Encounter difficulty is necessary for the fun. Limited resources are similarly useful. But huge dungeons with more than one days worth of encounters are there too...

I rambled away from the milestone thing. Since you start with an action point, you can use one in every other encounter, and losing them in an extended rest is no problem at all. There is little point in massing them up. I don't really understand why you can only use one in an encounter; if they are to "stand in" for used up dailies, shouldn't you be able to throw three+ attacks in one turn? If that's a problem for paragon/epic level play, maybe you can spend 3 in an encounter on heroic, two on paragon, and one at epic?

Oscar said...

I thought you could only take an extended rest if it's been at least twelve hours since your last extended rest. My group can make it through the same four or five encounters before needing to take an extended rest, but realistically, this constitutes maybe an hour or two of in-game time. In twelve hours, they should be all the way through a dungeon.

That presents some interesting results. Either the party, most likely, isn't powerful enough to make it through the entire dungeon without taking an extended rest, which the adventure assumes, since you're supposed to return to Winterhaven sometime, which, without metagaming, would mean to most people that they're too weak to stop the ritual from taking place and not ready for the dungeon. Or else nothing presents enough of a challenge to the party, they're not using up healing surges every combat, and there is no reason to take an extended rest after four or five encounters, so obviously the game is too easy to be challenging and therefore much fun to the party.

And with 4th edition rules stating one extended rest per day (12 hours), isn't that counter intuitive to the classical DnD idea of a dungeon crawl of connected rooms with encounters lasting less than a minute with five minutes between encounters? With a single encounter even at every ten minutes, that's still a dozen encounters without being close to the 12 hour mark. What is going on?

It'd make more sense to have a milestone recharge a healing surge or a daily power or something. Not enough to keep the party ahead of the curve, but maybe enough to keep them trudging through a few extra encounters and perhaps the dungeon before needing to either hole themselves up (for close to a day if they have to wait for 12 hours, and then take an 8 hour extended rest) or retreat with their tails between their legs.

Titanium Dragon said...

Rings counteract this somewhat, and if more stuff improved after you'd passed at least one milestone, you'd actually have a viable choice. Sadly, its not, but maybe next edition they'll make it so some powers (probably encounter powers) got better after you'd passed at least one milestone. That would make it unfavorable to retreat from a dungeon mid-adventure, because you're better off with the improved encounter powers.

Another possibility would be to simply limit daily powers and healing surges on a per-level rather than a per-day basis, but that has its own issues.