In my exploration-based game I am using a variant on the Gritty Realism optional rules. I have a good handle on most of the implications of this, however I have some concerns about my handling of the exhaustion condition.
My variant rest system
A simple summary of my rest system is below:
- If the party are in a safe place (i.e. their home base or an allied city) they can rest as normal.
- Long rests take 8 hours
- Short rests take 1 hour
- If the party are exploring or in hostile/neutral territory use gritty realism.
- Long rests take 5 days (half a tenday)
- Short rests take 8 hours
- Receive the benefits of a short rest for the first night of a long rest but not for subsequent days.
The aims of the system are to:
- make resource management during exploration more important.
- encourage the party to engage with the faction system (more allies means more places to rest)
- increase the stakes of low CR encounters while travelling
- mitigate the 5-minute adventuring day and increase the number of encounters per long rest (compared to previous campaigns)
So far (14 sessions) I think the system has been extremely successful and the players are giving extremely positive feedback. I'm averaging about a full adventuring day worth of XP per long-rest, something I haven't managed to achieve in previous campaigns.
Exhaustion and Rests
Currently I still require the PCs to sleep for 6 hours (4 for elves) per night, regardless of whether they are taking a short or long rest. If they fail to do so they make a DC10 (+5 for each additional 24 hours) constitution saving throw to avoid gaining a point of exhaustion (as per the rules introduced in XGtE. I am also aware there are other sources of exhaustion that will come up in future (e.g. environment effect, particular monsters, etc.).
The problem comes in how much more difficult it is for the party (currently level 4) to remove points of exhaustion due to gritty realism. 3 of my 4 PCs have been carrying a point of exhaustion for the last two sessions. The players and I agree we want managing rests and exhaustion to be important. However disadvantage on all skill checks for multiple sessions feels harsh and risks quickly becoming un-fun.
How should I manage exhaustion/resting mechanics to maximise player enjoyment (i.e. reduce the bits that suck while maintaining the difficulty of the variant rules)?
I've considered three options but am open to outside suggestions:
- Status Quo: Continue with the current system, PCs will learn to be more careful about avoiding gaining exhaustion.
- Reduce the sleep requirements: Relax the requirements making a save in some way. Either by lowering the DC or increasing the amount of time before requiring a save.
- Make removing exhaustion easier: Add a more accessible means of reducing exhaustion. E.g. Make short rests remove 1 point of exhaustion, add a homebrew spell with lower costs than Greater Restoration.
Assume the party is facing the standard XP budget per long rest of encounters, regardless of which type of long rest they are getting.