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In D&D 4e encounters are usually bookended by short rests.

Will breaking this convention put too much pressure on the players?

Can it enhance the game for DMs to break this convention every once in a while, or should it generally be avoided?

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7 Answers 7

up vote 7 down vote accepted

If you're just running two combat encounters back-to-back and the party is relatively fresh (i.e. they haven't exhausted their daily powers or healing surges), it shouldn't be much of a burden. Our group has played through that scenario, and it's a fun challenge as long as it's rare. It's a great way to ratchet up the tension, especially if it's part of a quest.

You can probably get away with running a skill challenge immediately after a combat encounter without a short rest in between more often. It's an easy way to make the players feel like they're being pressed without necessarily endangering the characters' lives. They won't generally need encounter attack powers, and they'll burn off utility & racial powers that might not have been used in a combat encounter, so it'll feel like they're exerting themselves a little more than normal.

A bit of an extra reward at the end is nice, though. Emphasize that they hit a milestone and get an action point, and maybe throw in a free ritual or something.

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Our game did this a few sessions back. The context was that one non-minion character, important for the next Encounter, was making his exit strategy.

He had succeeded at becoming Invisible and was making his exit Stage Left, but two characters had enough context to attempt following him.

We had a round-and-a-half (a few seconds) discussion about going after him unrested. We wanted to go after him.

It would not have been feasible had not the wolf-shaped Druid in our crew taken out his remaining minions in that very round.

One character stayed behind an extra two rounds to explain it to the City Watchman - since we had been escorting a 0-level NPC and wanted that one to stay with the guard instead of come with us.

GM ruled that we got no Short Rest, but the non-minion badguy also didn't. We got the new encounter, and we got advantageous positioning due to arrival method. His other buddies were in healthy condition.

We won a more challenging battle than usual.

The GM gave the Druid a small burst of extra XP for giving a tale-worthy wrap to the previous encounter, and staying back long enough to speak with the guard. Her extra speed in beast form meant she was not penalized too many rounds to catch up.

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This is some great experience! Could you please make it more explicit what your group learned from the experience which the questioner can benefit from? –  BESW May 10 at 0:31

Can you? Absolutely - there's nothing stopping you from stacking two encounters back to back.

Should you? Depends. Couple things to watch for are:

  1. As mentioned by others, no rest means no recharging of powers. Healing is the big one here, as 4E in particular is very stingy on in-combat healing.

  2. Treat your two halves as one encounter for purposes of budgeting. It can be a really difficult encounter, but don't just double the budget, or you'll wipe the table by accident.

  3. As mentioned by others, skill + combat encounter is a good combination (or combat + skill), especially if you predicate part 2 on part 1's results. (If you beat the combat fast enough, chasing down the runner is easier, or if you fail the diplomacy, we add an extra monster).

  4. If you do combat + combat, I'd suggest putting the stronger half first. Just the mere act of dropping extra monsters will do plenty to ratchet up the tension - they don't need to be crazy nasty as well. (Also, it gives you an out if the first wave was doing better than expected).

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Point 2 is the important bit - if you don't have a short rest, the encounter hasn't really ended yet. –  Simon Gill Oct 3 '12 at 15:46

A short rest is 5 minutes in length. You should play the situation naturally. If the locale has encounters that less than five minutes of movement apart and there is a chance of the player (or their opponent) action of alerting the surrounding encounters then they won't get a short rest. Otherwise it not much of an issue. Remember to include wandering monsters or patrols in your judgment of the situation.

Remember the game rules are a tool to adjudicate what the players do. I know that sounds obvious but what it means in practice is that a referee needs to look at the situation of the characters as if they really were in the world and then decide what rules apply to what they are doing (or not doing). In your case whether they get a short rest or not.

If you start applying this type of ruling then what will happen is that players will look at their powers and factor in whether it worth alerting surrounding encounters. Likely they will start to scout the region as much as they can to see what encounters exist and plan accordingly.

Now the 4e powers don't really have a mechanic for this. But they do have flavor text and that should be enough to allow to make fair and consistent calls.

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If you set the encounters a level or two below normal, nope, not going to be too much to have two together.

Keep in mind, two encounters without the short rest between are essentially just one longer encounter where you didn't spot the second set of beasts right off.

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As a DM, you can do whatever you want.

However, I would suggest doing this rarely, typically only when the characters have been exposed to a series of smaller challenges in a row, not as a standard method of play.

Consider it a way to add difficulty to the next encounter, as I'm sure you could rule that once/encounter powers wouldn't have time to refresh (though, to be fair, I'd let the players know this in advance...unless I were feeling mean).

Pressure on your players can be a good thing, especially if they're feeling full of themselves.

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You can, but you are indeed putting pressure on the players. Without a short rest, it is essentially the same encounter.

Consider the following effects: Encounter powers will not recharge. This includes heals for healers, second wind.

If a character drops, his 3 healing saves don't start from scratch. So if a character drops, fails one healing save and then gets healed up and drops again? He only has two more saves before death.

BUT: That said, it's totally ok to do this. This is an especially effective way to handle a "Waves of attackers" style encounter- for example- a vault of undead where small waves of undead after undead relentlessly attack the PCs. The trick here is to manage the size of the waves so that the combats are short until you get to.. the next wave. In other words, make the waves bite size. But make 12 of them.

Another possible method for the encounter-breaker style is map out a small dungeon area (say an interconnected series of rooms) and have bite sized encounters in each room. A stealthy party might aggro just one or two rooms at a time, or the rooms could set themselves up to cascade on top of each other once certain conditions are met. A room that starts out looking like a small clutch of goblins in area A brings in an ogre from area B, and then the goblin shaman and his pet ape from area C jump in elsewhere..

A third idea for the cascade encounter is summoned creatures (for example demons) or a monster generator type setup.

Kudos for looking at encounters in a new way!

I think it does enhance the game to change things up like this!

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