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My party were rather foolhardy and have got themselves knocked out and captured. Their captors want to keep them alive for a bit to question and then to sacrifice.

The party expended pretty much all their resources in the battle and so without a long rest are not going to have much chance of escape. However, it also feels wrong to say "you spend the night tied up in a stable and now you have all your spells and HP back". Which would make escape probably quite easy and anticlimactic.

Is there a way to reflect that they got some rest, but not a good night's sleep?

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    \$\begingroup\$ The title of the question calls out spell slots, but the question seems to indicate any/all player resources. Which is the question you'd like answered? There are other resources beyond spell slots that can be recovered in a short rest. \$\endgroup\$
    – MivaScott
    Mar 28, 2021 at 2:02
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    \$\begingroup\$ In my defence the title says "spells slots etc" but I'll make it clearer \$\endgroup\$
    – Dan
    Mar 28, 2021 at 8:38
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    \$\begingroup\$ Related: rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/71330/… \$\endgroup\$
    – findusl
    Mar 28, 2021 at 10:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ This feels a bit of an XY problem. I think what you're looking for is not how to award them some resources and not all during a long rest, but how to prevent them from resting in the first place. \$\endgroup\$
    – STT LCU
    Mar 29, 2021 at 11:19

4 Answers 4

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This is a class feature of Wizards and Warlocks.

Wizards have a class feature called Arcane Recovery:

You have learned to regain some of your magical energy by studying your spellbook. Once per day when you finish a short rest, you can choose expended spell slots to recover. The spell slots can have a combined level that is equal to or less than half your wizard level (rounded up), and none of the slots can be 6th level or higher.

And the Warlock’s Pact Magic feature says:

You regain all expended spell slots when you finish a short or long rest.

So I would be quite hesitant to just give these class features to other casters for free.

Either give them a proper long rest or only a short rest, and adjust the difficulty accordingly.

I’ve run this both ways. I’m sure many DMs know what this is like: either your party blows everything early in your dungeon, or they play conservatively and it looks like the end of your dungeon won’t even be a challenge.

Here’s the thing: your players don’t know what tomorrow holds. You’re only having this issue because you’re the DM and you know what you have planned. So change your plans. If you don’t want them to get their spells back, adjust your encounters accordingly so as to be manageable, but still engaging. Or maybe you think they would better enjoy a significant challenge on a fresh set of spell slots. Adjust your encounters accordingly.

I’ve never implemented a half-rest sort of mechanic where every gets some of their spells back, so I won’t speak to how that might work, but I can say this: I’ve never needed to. I’ve had success both ways, either giving them a full rest or giving them nothing back. You just have to be flexible.

For what it’s worth, I see no reason from your description not to give them a proper long rest. A long rest requires 8 hours of down time and at least six hours of sleep. I’m usually somewhat flexible with those numbers, but the rules do not say it has to be good sleep.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks, I was probably being too inflexible. The party already know what's there - they are in a castle that they woke up, so I can't really adjust how many enemies there are, but I can control how many they might run into at a time if they are careful. \$\endgroup\$
    – Dan
    Mar 27, 2021 at 22:40
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    \$\begingroup\$ For completeness, land Druids also have a feature, natural recovery. And when you say "A long rest requires 8 hours of down time and at least six hours of sleep...but the rules do not say it has to be good sleep." you are correct, but the optional rules in XGtE for sleeping in armor imply that a lower-quality rest does not return all the resources that a higher-quality rest does. Further, that the rest has to be uninterrupted implies that some rests are better than others. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Mar 28, 2021 at 2:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Kirt - I concur. Thanks. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 29, 2021 at 20:56
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In Xanathars Guide to Everything P78 there is a rule concerning partial long rests. This one is because someone sleeps in medium or heavy armor, but you could adjust it to sleeping on hard ground without bedrolls or something similar:

When you finish a long rest during which you slept in medium or heavy armor, you regain only one quarter of your spent Hit Dice (minimum of one die). If you have any levels of exhaustion, the rest doesn't reduce your exhaustion level.

Also on the same page it states that if you do not longrest in a 24 hours period, you have a chance to suffer a level of exhaustion. Exhaustion is also applied if a group marches for more than 8 hours (PHB 181) or in extreme weather conditions (PHB 291). You could apply a similar rule to your group if they long rest under very uncomfortable conditions and have them make con saves against exhaustion. (Noteworthy, extreme weather conditions do not strictly prevent someone from gaining a long rest, as long as they can make the con saves against exhaustion and prevent dying.)

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The rules don't have a "partial rest" feature, although you could add one, if you wanted, of course.

Obviously, there is a lot you can do short of giving them a long rest with access to all their equipment.

If you want to add to the plot, take away their equipment, and let them escape but then have to recover their stuff. They will be severely limited without spellbooks, material components, spell focuses, magic items, armor, and weapons. Instead, they'll be sneaking around buck naked with whatever they can scrounge as improvised weapons, and with only spells not requiring material components. What fun!

I used it myself not so long ago, when the party was beset by arachnids more interested in capture than killing the party. The arachnids managed to capture the paladin. The player was pretty happy to wake up alive in a cell, even more happy when after a time when he managed to find a rusty bar to the cell, and through a feat of strength, break out. Once he found his stuff it was party time, as he worked to find the party, and the party worked to find him. Fun all around.

A word of caution, while a valuable plot twist on occasion, as NautArch suggests in comments, equipment deprivation can backfire and lead to less fun, especially if used too often.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for the ideas, temporarily confistcating a lot of equipment will balance things a bit \$\endgroup\$
    – Dan
    Mar 27, 2021 at 22:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ You can quote me on this: those are some of the most intense, and scary, and thrilling game sessions, the "we got nothin' and need to do {X}" \$\endgroup\$ Mar 27, 2021 at 23:59
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    \$\begingroup\$ My experience is the other regarding having equipment taken away. Have you done this and how often? This trick isn't a bad one off, but use it too much and you'll have unhappy players in my experience. Can you talk more about your own experience with doing this? \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Mar 28, 2021 at 0:40
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    \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch thanks for the warning, I don't expect to this again, but I want the party's rashness to have some consequences short of a TPK. We're all fairly new to the game so hopefully they'll learn from this that they can't always kill everything in front of them. \$\endgroup\$
    – Dan
    Mar 28, 2021 at 9:30
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    \$\begingroup\$ FWIW they took the equipment loss well, and it gave the cleric a reason to prepare and use locate object to find their stuff again. \$\endgroup\$
    – Dan
    Mar 28, 2021 at 14:36
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You're title seems to better reflect what I think you're asking

You're not concerned about rest; you're concerned about regaining resources

So given that a party is locked up for 8 hours, how do you prevent them from being back at full strength when it's over?

There are a number of features that allow party members to recover some resources given a "short rest":

  • Hit points via using hit die
  • Warlock spell slots
  • Monk ki points
  • Bardic Inspiration (after 5th level)
  • Cleric Channel Divinity
  • Wizard Arcane Recovery
  • Druid Wild Shape
  • And many more

So given even just an hour of alone time, there are a number of resources that a party can replenish. But not everything; other than Warlock, most all spell casters only get back all of their spell slots after a long rest. A Barbarian doesn't recover Rage without a full rest. And so on.

So what the party can do with a short rest depends entirely on the party makeup

Even stripped of their equipment, most of the short rest features will still work. So while the Wizard cannot do Arcane Recovery, the Warlock still get back their slots.

So regardless of the method used, if the party is allowed a short rest, they can still be a force to reckon with. Or they can just spend their time licking their wounds and hope an opportunity to escape presents itself.

So how do you stop/limit people from getting a short rest?

The obvious way would be to have guards stationed nearby that would prevent the party from relaxing. But even then, that borders on torture which may trigger players and doesn't seem like fun game play.

My suggestion; don't.

Let the characters get their short rest but not a long rest. Have the guards wake them up every other hour for whatever reason.

And when the morning comes, have the guards ready to handle the characters--Dispel Magic, Charm Person, Command, handcuffs, blindfolds, what have you.

If you make up some rule saying the players cannot use the abilities of their characters, then you are taking away their agency. Build the story around what is possible; don't change the rules to fit your story.

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