I am a DM for a D&D 4e game. My players (especially the wizard) like to take an extended rest after every single encounter, because he resorts to using his daily powers in every single encounter (additionally, the players like to take a long rest to completely heal instead of spending healing surges).

My issue with this is that it

  1. stretches my suspension of disbelief, because the part will have one fight and then sleep and then repeat,
  2. makes the party feel overpowered because they are constantly using powerful abilities and
  3. bothers me because it seems like the players have no concept of resource management, both in terms of using healing surges and it saving daily powers.

Side-note: I understand that the rules say that you have to wait 12 hours in between extended rests, but I'm still not sure what's stopping players from sitting around for the twelve hours than taking another extended rest.

Another point I can bring up is that my players are not super well-versed in the rules. They have a pretty good grasp but I am not sure they completely understand short rests (although I have explained short rests to them), and I am not sure how to help them better understand.

One solution I've heard is to have time-sensitive missions, and while this does seem like a good solution, not every quest can necessarily be time-sensitive.

How can I prevent my players from abusing long rests by constantly taking them?

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    \$\begingroup\$ @lucasvw please don't answer, even partially, in comments. This meta explains why. \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Commented Jan 3, 2020 at 2:41

10 Answers 10


The First Step Is Admitting You Have a Problem

Have you tried talking to your players about this playstyle? Why are they sticking with this approach? Before you start punishing them for not playing the way you expect them to, make sure this behavior isn't a symptom of a deeper problem.

Do they just enjoy unloading on every foe they see? This can indicate that they don't feel like they have enough options (I often start groups at level 5, so that they'll have more than just 1 daily, 1 encounter, and 2 at-wills).

Are they afraid of running low on resources? This may mean that you're making the fights too hard, and they don't trust you to keep things at a difficulty level they can handle.

Is this the group's first time playing 4e? They may honestly not understand how surges & encounter powers work!

Jesus Is Coming, Look Busy

This one is pretty traditional. As mentioned in comments, you can't stop for a long rest if the bad guys are moments away from completing their evil ritual. However, this doesn't work on some groups. Some players aren't in it to be good guys, they're there to kill monsters (or people) and loot the corpses. If they don't care about the plot, no amount of plot consequences will convince them to change their fight/rest pattern.

The next level up from that is monster preparedness. You killed the guards around the dungeon and then rested for 8-10 hours? Well in that time the goblins that live in the dungeon went on high alert, set a ton of traps, and doubled the size of their patrols. You take out one of those patrols and then take another rest? Well now they quadruple the patrols, and keep them all in constant contact with the main group, so they can all respond immediately if a patrol is attacked. While this approach is realistic, it can backfire, and cause the players to keep taking long rests after every fight simply because the fights are turning into huge struggles that consume a lot of resources (and 4e's heavy use of per-encounter resources makes it not well-suited to tackling multiple encounters worth of enemies without a short rest; I've wiped groups that way).

You can also be more passive-aggressive about it and take the opposite approach, by simply removing enemies ("All the monsters ran away while you were sleeping, terrified of how awesome you are. You're in an empty dungeon, what do you do?"), but that tends to not be fun for anyone.

Before you go too crazy with consequences due to time passing, however, it's best to explicitly warn the party that things may happen that change the situation while they sleep. They've established a habit, and it can be helpful to have them recognize that it is a habit, and one with consequences at that, before you start actually hitting them with the consequences.

Can't Sleep, Clowns Will Eat Me

You can prevent them from taking long rests, either by attacking them while they rest or by simply not allowing them to rest: "You can't sleep here, the area is too dangerous." As TimothyAWiseman pointed out in the comments, the characters would almost certainly set a watch, but if the party has regularly been taking long rests and has never been attacked while resting, it may not have occurred to the players to set a watch.

I've had good results with this, but you have to be careful not to push it too far. If the players swing the other way and don't take long rests often enough, you can end up with the players unhappy because they're struggling to stay alive through days a dozen fights long and you unhappy because you're having to constantly rework fights to avoid wiping them out.

If you go this route, it's important to decide about how often you want them to take long rests, and then not only make sure that they can take a long rest about that often, but also that they know when they can take a long rest, so that they don't pass up the opportunity.

I Used to Fall Unconscious for Hours at a Time

A 4e-specific approach that I've only had a little experience with is to eliminate long rests entirely. Instead, players regain some (but not all) surges & daily powers after every milestone (every other fight).

When this approach works, it works really well. Players know exactly how much they need to pace themselves; adventuring days can't be too long or too short because they're not tied to in-game time at all.

Balancing the amount of resources gained each milestone, however, can take a little tinkering to find out what works best for your group. My initial recommendation would be 2 surges and 1 daily power, but you have to pay attention to how well the party is doing. If they're consistently running low on resources that may mean you need to give them back a little more; on the other hand, if they're often hitting milestones and not getting anything back because they're already topped off, you may need to reduce the refresh rate (though making fights harder is likely to be more fun).

It's also worthwhile to occasionally give them a complete refresh (that is, a full heal and all surges & dailies back, like a long rest would) when they accomplish something especially difficult or plot-significant.

Novak has a separate answer about this approach, and appears to have a lot more experience with it than I do.

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Are rations no longer a thing? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 3, 2020 at 20:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ @candied_orange Many groups simply ignore that kind of logistical concern, unless the party is in the middle of a desert or something. \$\endgroup\$
    – Oblivious Sage
    Commented Jan 3, 2020 at 20:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ObliviousSage I think attempting to live in a dungeon qualifies as 'something'. Don't you? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 3, 2020 at 20:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ @candied_orange That's certainly a reasonable perspective, but I've had groups that would just assume you could forage. Unless you were somewhere where you obviously couldn't live off the land, rations weren't tracked. Besides, with how 4e's wealth by level scales, by level 10 the party can bring a bag of holding with literally years worth of rations in it. Which is probably why a lot of groups don't bother tracking that stuff, when you think about it; it's just not something that's intended to be a concern in 4e. \$\endgroup\$
    – Oblivious Sage
    Commented Jan 3, 2020 at 20:42
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ObliviousSage if the players go outside the bounds of typical play I think it's fair for mundane things to suddenly become important. Hey, roll a perception check... \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 3, 2020 at 20:49

Wandering Monsters

The risk of resting in most locations in a fantasy setting is the potential to be set upon by any manner of strange and dangerous events.

Many DM’s use a random encounter table when players choose to take a rest and you can determine the likelihood of things running afoul.

The players will learn quickly that they have to get somewhere safe to rest rather than doing it in the middle of a dungeon or the darkwood forests.

Asides from a creature encounter, sleepless nights can be the consequence of a variety of maladies.

Consider the wizard has been traipsing through poison ivy and is unable to sleep due to lingering skin lesions burning through the night.

Undead terrors witnessed the days prior creep into the players' subconscious, advise the players should they choose to rest nightmares may prevent them from reaping any benefit of a sleepless night.

A group of fey are having a party nearby, the drumming and merriment is too loud for anyone to fall asleep.

Underscore the danger of rest by asking the players “Who will take first watch?” second watch, third, etc. until the night is through. Events could happen in any hour of the night, and they will have to compensate for the time awake while on lookout. If they say that no one is on watch, they may awake in a blaze with their tent and belongings on fire or missing.

In original D&D, a wandering monster roll would be made in a dungeon every 10 minutes. Roll a 1 on a D6 and a monster appeared. The frequency of rolling can be changed based on the potential for danger, perhaps in a less deadly area a roll is made every hour.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Exactly. Use the existing game mechanics. If the party has truly rendered an area "safe", then a long rest is appropriate. If they've merely beaten the latest "patrol" of denizens, then whether the rest ends up being long or short is up to the dice. \$\endgroup\$
    – railsdog
    Commented Jan 3, 2020 at 13:27
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    \$\begingroup\$ Absolutely this. The thing GM's should keep in mind is that the world isn't static. Creatures don't just sit in a dungeon room waiting for PCs to encounter them. If the PCs take out a group of orcs, they shouldn't be surprised if 3 more groups come by later trying to find out what happened to the first group. Or the orcs may scout the PCs out and now, because they are resting, have plenty of time to set an ambush for them. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 3, 2020 at 23:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ this will only lead to a permanent cast of tiny hut or planeshift or something \$\endgroup\$
    – clockw0rk
    Commented Jan 4, 2020 at 7:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ @clockw0rk thats the reason for the tiny hut spell, lasts 8 hours, takes 1 minute to cast, better save that 3rd lvl slot! (If want to sleep in dangerous area) \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 4, 2020 at 16:35
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'd go one step further than a wandering monster. If your party will not seek out the monsters, have the monsters seek them out instead. After a while, I'm sure that when they realize that there is no rest for the wicked, they'll start adventuring rather than slacking. IMO. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 8, 2020 at 1:26

Re-Balance the Long Rest Mechanics

This answer suggests changing the Long Rest mechanics, but without (it seems) too much direct knowledge. I've done exactly that and have extensive experience with it, so I can give some insight into what I did, why I did it, and how it worked. (Although not actually in that order.)

That will give you some insight into how you might want to tinker with your mechanics to get the effect you want (if this is even suitable for you.)

Why I did it:

Basically, I wanted to run a game with somewhat fewer combat encounters and more non-combat encounters and more non-combat role-playing than the 4e rules suggested. This has little to do with any perceived flaw in the combat system (we all liked the positionality of it, even the less combat-oriented players) and everything to do with us: We over-analyze.

At the time, shortly after release, it seemed to me that the default assumption of the game was about four combats per extended rest and somewhere in the neighborhood of eight to ten encounters per level. Indeed, looking at my notes right now I see the sentence, "There is no way I am running a game at that pace." (Unstated: Because we'd never see level two.)

Looking at more recent, but unofficial, sources, I see other estimates at four to six encounters per extended rest, and in hindsight I think five is about the right number, at least for our group.

What I did:

Initially, I changed the Daily Powers (and healing surges and everything else extended-rest-limited) to be Level Powers, recharging at each new level. Simple, clean, easy to remember, no special cases. I then added a lot more extended skill challenges (I love that concept) and a lot more social time, and re-balanced things so that 4-5 combats along with everything else would get them a new level.

I did this-- imposed this, really-- at the beginning of the game.

A little later, I made one modification: Level Powers could be used twice per level, not once per level. (But not all Level-limited effects, just the actual Daily/Level powers meant for combat.) I don't have any notes saying I added more combats to compensate. I think I did not, but possibly should have.

How It Worked:

Fairly well, I think. No one complained, and even though I wasn't very flexible about it, I feel sure my group would have complained had it not worked for them.

The main reason to do this in the first place was not because of resource-hoarding or profligate resource expenditure, but it did have the effect that, when planning an adventure out, I did not have to spend much effort rationalizing things so that combat encounters came in neat bunches per day, or contrive reasons why the PCs could not rest.

This made adventures that involved long-ish overland journeys fairly easy:

  • Three combat encounters, three hundred miles apart is now just the same as three combat encounters a day.

  • I can now design smaller outposts of foes, with only enough enemies for a single combat, instead of stringing things together in bigger chunks.

  • Heck, I could send them on one-shots and let them come back to home base (a city with amenities) without having them fully recharge.

Another way to think of this is that the powers are now paced to the players' advancement and the narrative of the campaign, rather than forcing the narrative of the campaign to be pegged to single calendar days.

One mild downside, however, is that in some sense, the players don't get to "enjoy" or "experience" their newly acquired powers as often as they otherwise would. (In fact, only 40 to 50% as much.) This wasn't a huge deal, but it was the motivation for changing Level Power frequency as I outlined above.

What Can You Do?

You can do exactly what I did, if the reduction in combat is something that also appeals to you. If not, then you probably shouldn't do exactly that, but this at least gives you a candidate solution: Contrive, somehow, to keep their dailies from refreshing until about 5-ish combats have gone by. This might be by GM fiat, this might be by narrative structure ("when the arc is complete," and all arcs always take 4-6 combats) or something similar.

One thing to note, though, is that this is a Very Large Mechanical Change to impose after a game has begun. I would be more than a little put out by a GM imposing that after a game has begun. (I imposed it, but cleanly, at the start of the game.) You're probably going to have to get some player buy-in for this. Which in turn means that perhaps other soft approaches ("Hey, guys, can you... stop doing this? This is not in the spirit of the rules, you know.") might work and should probably be tried first.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Interesting take on the rest mechanic. I assume you kept the pace of 8-10 encounters per level with this? \$\endgroup\$
    – 3C273
    Commented Jan 3, 2020 at 13:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ Seems like the restriction on how often they can use the new powers might be a big deal for OPs game since they are accustomed to using them every encounter. Sounds like a good option for a new game. \$\endgroup\$
    – JPhi1618
    Commented Jan 3, 2020 at 16:38
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    \$\begingroup\$ @3C273 depends on what you mean. If you mean combat encounters, then, no. Four to five of those per level. If you include non-combat encounters like extended skill challenges, then yes, roughly. I loved skill challenges so much. \$\endgroup\$
    – Novak
    Commented Jan 3, 2020 at 16:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Novak yeah, I meant overall encounter. I was wondering if you changed the leveling curve to match the new mecanic. But 4e's powers do not usually apply to noncombat encounter, right? (4e is not my main game, as you can probably guess) \$\endgroup\$
    – 3C273
    Commented Jan 3, 2020 at 17:10
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    \$\begingroup\$ @3C273 generally, no. At Will, Encounter, and Daily (here, Level) powers are very clearly meant to be combat-oriented powers, even Wizard powers (unlike other editions where some Wizard/Magic-User powers are combat oriented and some are not.) But there are things that are not properly "Daily Powers" (like healing surges) that are on a daily refresh schedule, and certainly extended skill challenges (the way I ran them) can burn off healing surges as a consequence of failure. \$\endgroup\$
    – Novak
    Commented Jan 3, 2020 at 19:34

It's not a long rest unless you say so.

Fate, karma, or some other subtle and unseen force propels the heroes through their adventures. As heroes, they prevail when they press on, not when they retreat and lick their wounds. Once the characters have fought about four battles, they earn a full heal-up.

-- 13th Age, "Rest and Recharge"

This is basically a concept from a self-styled successor to 4E, 13th Age, which split its recuperations into "recoveries" and "full heals", with a full heal happening whenever the GM felt the players had deserved it, usually every 4-5 fights or so.

Any answer is ultimately going to boil down to "unless I say so", really. You can dress it up in other game terms, like "it's not a long rest until you hit your second milestone - it's just a short rest however long you wait around", but given that what exactly counts as an encounter for a milestone is also up to you, it's better just to bite the bullet and say "unless I say so".

Note: this is not pulling stunts to break up "a legitimate long rest", like a screech bird that always shows up four hours into one and messes everybody up. This is just you saying, flat out, that there are only short rests until you as DM say otherwise.

And that opens up a lot of possibilities that don't come into play when you judge resting strictly by the passage of time, like a long journey where you don't need to have multiple wilderness encounters per day in order to not just go nova on them, in addition to handling your specific situation here.

(It also allows you to cram "a long rest" into a time it might not otherwise fit in, if you have an idea for a truly stonking great dungeon and you're wondering when there's time to take a break.)

Still, don't ignore time passing.

Always try and be conscious of what the passage of time is doing to all your NPCs and how they react to the PCs and each other in the interim. Very few creatures are going to wait around to get killed. Very few people are going to put their entire lives on hold while someone else solves their problems. Having things change over time makes them feel like real things and not adventure scenery.

When done well, this can be a secondary concern for whether or not to take the long rest - sure, the PCs have done enough that they can pull out of the caves and take a long rest, but the goblin boss got away, and what's going to happen if they don't chase after him? (And, circling back around to 13th Age, this is an option to "get a full heal at the cost of a campaign loss", except maybe a little more nuanced than that.)

How to break this to them?

If you're wondering how to pitch this to your playgroup, I'd recommend framing it as a solution to a problem you're having rather than a remedy for something they've done.

"I want to feel like I'm not just standing up target dummies for all of you, but all the guidelines in the book are assuming I build an encounter as part of a whole adventure, when you might be wounded, or be missing some daily powers. If I tried to make things harder so you always fought with everything, like you have been, I'd be flying by the seat of my pants and I'd probably kill you all by accident at least once.

"I thought we'd try this: I'll keep building encounters like the books say is fair, and you don't get your healing surges or dailies back until you get the town portal stone back from the goblin cave*. I think it'll all work out, still."

*or something else that's 3-4 battles away from where they are right now.


What are they using for food and drink?

If your party has a cleric who knows Create Food And Water then fair enough. If not, they're going to get very hungry and thirsty, and then they're going to die.

In a straight dungeon crawl, they can't guarantee any food and water apart from what they carry with them. In the wilderness they might find streams, but they won't necessarily find food. In a city they'll need money to buy food, drink and a roof over their heads, and eventually they're going to run out of money.

  • \$\begingroup\$ This question is about 4e, in which there are no cleric spells for creating food/water. \$\endgroup\$
    – Oblivious Sage
    Commented Jan 3, 2020 at 14:01
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ObliviousSage Thanks for the correction. Then the players really are SoL on a dungeon crawl. \$\endgroup\$
    – Graham
    Commented Jan 3, 2020 at 16:27
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    \$\begingroup\$ Have you run this approach before? It seems like it would run the risk of making matters worse once the party can get hold of enough rations to make it a non-issue \$\endgroup\$
    – Pingcode
    Commented Jan 4, 2020 at 9:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Pingcode - Add food spoilage? In fact, the DM could have a pretty fine control over things this way. Too much food stockpiled? Declare that some has gone bad. Too little food? Suddenly there's some leftover lembas in the next room over, standing prominently on the center table. \$\endgroup\$
    – Vilx-
    Commented Jan 4, 2020 at 23:59

More easy encounters

My suggestion is rather than "punish" them for making a fairly reasonable (in their minds at least) decision, try using more encounters, and make those encounters easier.

For example:

  • Split a deadly encounter in two parts, and with the last orc's dying breath he laughs, "You'll not fare so well when the rest of the squad catches you." The party could try to rest, but they won't know if they'll have time for a short rest much less a long one.
  • Travelling through wolf infested territory, the party is frequently attacked by small packs of ravenous animals, with the occasional Dire Wolf pack to mix things up.
  • Kobold scouts find the party. One kobold flees immediately, yelling "Hold them off, I'll get help".

Use Third Parties

While the player party is the protagonist of our DND adventures, that doesn't mean they are the only adventuring party in the world. In the spirit of fleshing out the world, introduce NPC adventuring parties working either with or in competition with the player party. This can be from adventuring guilds in the area or independent parties trying to make it big. We can use these third parties as a means to motivate our player party.

When the player party is exploring a dungeon and decides to take a rest, have the NPC party pass by. Whether they are looking to clear the dungeon or scavenging is up to you, but make it clear to the player party that they are not the only adventuring party in the dungeon. The NPC party is trying to get ahead/get loot during this time. With the quest reward/dungeon loot at stake, this often provides ample motivation for the player party to not waste time.

A hostile party of poachers/bandits/scavengers can also interrupt the player party after the final battle, but before the players get a long rest/turn in the reward. This type of NPC party is looking to steal the quest reward/dungeon loot from the player party. The idea here is to force the players to consider what happens after a battle and possibly spark another encounter. Forcing the player party into a winnable encounter would be ideal to show the player party that they can take multiple encounters and don't necessarily need to rely on the big guns.

  • \$\begingroup\$ this is a good solution, as long as you make it clear from the beginning that the lord / questgiver has sent multiple small parties to find a way into the mountain and get that juicy spellbook back as a quest. this way the other parties do not even need to play any role, just the fact that they are there is pressure enough \$\endgroup\$
    – clockw0rk
    Commented Jan 4, 2020 at 7:20

Bust out the big guns

Just rebalance your encounters to ULTRA HARD/Deadly and make them spend 80% or more of their resources to beat them, that way the long rest at least makes sense and you don't rob them of their agency or force another playstyle.

You could make your fights multi-part, like the sigma bosses in Megaman X or in waves not allowing ANY rest in between them. There are several approaches to this:

  • A transforming monster:

    The villain could be a fighter lycanthrope that transforms midfight, a vampire that shows its true colors after being bloodied, a possessed berzerker becomes a powerful caster after dealt enough damage

  • The chapel of rituals

    Unless the party kills the right target, baddies will keep spawning and getting stronger with each spawn

  • War tactics

    The baddie (I like using hobgoblins for this) blows a bugle as the fight begins and help arrives in a few rounds, or the combat sounds atracts other monsters, etc...

  • The hunt begins

    Baddie gathered a group of mercenaries to find and murder the players, now they can no longer just sit around and wait for everything to recharge.

This are just ideas, you could do anything you want like a sorcerer that is actually a dragon, villain is invisibly buffing other monsters, etc. The point is to make the encounter hard enough to justify the long rest.

That being said

Glazius' thoughts about time passing are amazing; show your players that the world is alive and breathing and won't sit around and wait for them to finish their long rests.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to RPG.SE! Take the tour if you haven't already, and check out the help center for more guidance. \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Commented Jan 5, 2020 at 23:12

Explaining short rests

It's a 5 minute breather. Get a cup of coffee, eat a sandwich, rest your eyes, catch your breath. It's the difference in time between chatting at the coffee machine at work on break and the boss noticing you are gone. You can tighten your armor, clean your blade, rearrange potions and knives in your vests, zone out, and drink a beer. Check the map in detail, do a quick sketch in your journal, or write a diary entry about the previous encounter. Nothing significant to gameplay can be done.

The problem with long rests

Expounding on other earlier answers by others. An example I used on some players who started doing this in a dungeon crawl:

The monsters are not furniture — they react, the think, they feel, they smell blood. If the "dungeon" has sapient monsters like orcs or giants or what have you then they should react intelligently to new threats. Your party kills the gooblegak of the mushroom cave on level 3, well while they are resting back on level 2 in that room with a door that locks, a foraging party from the Hobgoblin band on level 4 stumbled across their fight scene. Noting the magical burn marks, broken ELVISH! arrows, and the big dead monster carved up for parts can now rightly assume that outsiders are here.

So, they form up search parties and begin scouting for location following the trail of dead and dismembered monsters and disabled traps back to level 2 and begin laying new traps or an ambush or maybe withdraw completely and double their defenses on level 4. In the meantime a hazzorziphan on level 5 smells the dead gooblegak's blood and knows it's main rival is wounded and so goes to investigate. It then tracks its new rival back to level 2 from the smell of the dead gooblegak's parts.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Generally, online, when you put a word in ALL CAPS it is interpreted as shouting. Shouting doesn't seem to be your desired interpretation to me, so I have edited it to be bold and italic. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 3, 2020 at 18:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ It is shouting. the hobgoblins found ELVES!!! \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 3, 2020 at 18:33

When adventurers rest, the rest of the world keeps turning

This isn't a question of "time sensitive", these PCs are incredibly slow.

But the biggest problem isn't their behavior, there is a core issue at play:

Every quest should be time sensitive

There should always be some reason for PCs to act. And they need a reason to act now. There shouldn't be years, months, or weeks to sit around and do nothing. What kind of game is that? There is no incentive for the PCs not to have a good night's rest, so like any sane people they are making sure they are well rested. That is just smart logical gameplay.

You need to Rethink the reason for your game's existence.

  • The evil wizard has kidnapped the princess, taking 3 months to rescue her is unacceptable.
  • Goblins have set up shop nearby the town and are killing livestock. Spending 2 weeks to even get to their den is useless.
  • A dragon was spotted nearby the town, we need to warn everyone and prepare a defense. Taking weeks to do this won't be helpful.
  • There's treasure in the dungeon. But if you clear it at a snail's pace then it will refill with monsters and someone will beat you to the loot.

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