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I have started running Keys from the Golden Vault with my group. We just finished the first heist, the Murkmire Stone, which we ran at level 1.

My players ended up running afoul of the mimic in the basement. (I did weaken it before the encounter started, but didn't alter any damage dice.)

This caused one of the players to take (relatively) massive damage, leaving them at 2/8 hp. They asked if they could take a short rest alone in that room while the other players continued (they are on a time crunch). I agreed, but stressed to this player that they will be resting for a full in-game hour with not much to do, especially considering they had already scoured the entire room they were already in. They agreed, stating they just made this character and don't want her to die so soon.

The other players continued working towards the McGuffin and immediately got into a fight with museum guards. This caused a large amount of real time to be taken up for something that was barely a minute in game and frustrated the player that was resting. They voiced their concerns to me and I offered to let them take a shorter rest (30 minutes in-game) for half of the hit-die they had already rolled, but they declined. For context, they had gotten a 6 on their hit-die.

Once the guards were handled, the barbarian grabbed the resting character and put them in a bag, papoose style, so they could investigate/unlock things around the museum with everyone else while still not exerting energy. After the session, the resting player told me again that they felt left out at the beginning of the session and wished that I had done something to include them. I just told them sorry and that I'd work on it in the future, but I had some other thoughts cross my mind.

  • I warned them ahead of time that they would have to sit out for a full in-game hour if they wanted to roll a hit-die
  • I couldn't predict how the other players would act immediately following this decision
  • She didn't want to change rooms because they didn't know where all the guards were, and they didn't have a solid method of long distance communication

My question is, how do I include a player that is scared to continue with the party when the party is doing something incredibly risky for that player?

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    \$\begingroup\$ @Stef: I assume Shadomew just means that the character taking a short rest has to spend an hour of in-game (not real-world) time just resting, while the rest of the party is still actively adventuring – so the rest of the group still has to play out the group's actions for that hour (encounters, exploration, etc.), while the resting character has no real way to participate (other than deciding to stop resting). \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    May 5, 2023 at 18:04
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    \$\begingroup\$ @V2Blast Then my next logical question is: how much real-world time does this full in-game hour correspond to? I suppose the game master could get rid of the problem by stating "the rest of the party are traveling for 1h, during which not much happens" so that this full in-game hour corresponds to only 10-second of real-world time. \$\endgroup\$
    – Stef
    May 5, 2023 at 18:08
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Stef: It sorta depends on what the rest of the party does. It could pass just as quickly as saying "You search around for an hour, but find nothing of note" – or the party could end up running into a room full of enemies trying to kill them, and spend a whole session resolving that fight. \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    May 5, 2023 at 18:15
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    \$\begingroup\$ (...And since 1 round of combat equals 6 seconds, most fights are resolved in less than a minute (10 rounds) of in-game time – even if the fight itself might end up taking a few hours of real-world time – so the party could theoretically end up getting into half a dozen fights over multiple sessions while the lone party member tries to finish a single short rest.) \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    May 5, 2023 at 18:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ Theoretically, the game master has the responsibility to make sure that a player isn't excluded from the game for any significant length of real-world time, so the in-game hour during which one player is resting should be as short as possible. \$\endgroup\$
    – Stef
    May 5, 2023 at 18:37

6 Answers 6

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I think the player is being a bit unreasonable here. You warned them that the consequences of taking a rest by themselves would be being excluded from the gameplay, they agreed and then got upset when exactly that happened. Did they give you any example of how they wanted to be included? It looks like they're trying to eat the cake and have it too. You can't include them if they have deliberately and willingly just excluded themselves.

FWIW I think you already were generous letting them complete the rest while stuck in the bag and carried around.

I wouldn't let the players take a short rest by themselves anymore. Unless the whole party wants to take a rest together, no one does. This is one of the house rules that I use at my tables, precisely to avoid situations like what happens here where a player wants the PC to stay behind to rest and then complains about being excluded. It also helps keep the party together and prevents situations like splitting the party in half because 2 want to rest and the other 2 want to continue and then half of the party stumbles across something that was meant for all of them to face and gets wiped out.

If you're running a module that you think incentivises the party to split I've find it useful to provide them some means to keep contact between the groups or/and work out some rules to allow players whose PCs aren't taking part in the scene to still contribute and stay engaged.

If a PC is low on health and a player doesn't want to continue they can either persuade everyone to stop and rest, ask someone to heal them or just proceed carefully and hang out at the back with some ranged weapon. It's not so easy for a character to die in 5E anyway, at 2hp they're still a long way from dying. If the player still refuses to play while presented with this reasoning then I think it's some sort of out of game problem and requires out of game handling to get to the bottom and solve.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I will add that the healer had been separated from the party because of some in-game miscommunication and the characters had no method of contacting them without seeing them in person. I did not provide them with any healing potions at the start, but they had made note of that out loud at the beginning of the heist. \$\endgroup\$
    – Shadomew
    May 3, 2023 at 13:29
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Shadomew I think I see a pattern here. D&D is generally not a system that handles split party well. It works best if the party stays together and works together. Perhaps reminding your players of this is in order. \$\endgroup\$
    – AnnaAG
    May 3, 2023 at 13:37
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    \$\begingroup\$ I see where you're coming from, but I feel splitting is incentivized specifically in Keys from the Golden Vault. To run a proper heist, very rarely is everyone involved in same location at all times. You call it a pattern, but this is one of the few times the party has split. Our group has been together for a few years and we religiously believe in the mantra "Don't split the party." I was honestly surprised that the group did split up for this mission. \$\endgroup\$
    – Shadomew
    May 3, 2023 at 13:45
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    \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch I did play through but didn't have this issue. Like I said, I don't let a single player rest on their own and one of my reasons is to prevent a situation like this from happening \$\endgroup\$
    – AnnaAG
    May 3, 2023 at 14:45
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    \$\begingroup\$ I think if you can discuss your experience with the module and why you didn't have the split party issue would be great addition. OP seems convinced that module is set for splits. \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    May 3, 2023 at 14:51
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Your player is right.

Losing 75% of their health is something that in any game should make you stop, and think about how to recover and how to avoid that in the future. Roleplaying characters aren't board game set pieces, where you just plant another piece if that one dies. To be a somewhat believable character, they should be afraid to die, given that their chance to die from the next successful attack just went from roughly 0% to a good 66% if the enemy has a normal d6 weapon.

So for your player, there is little agency here. If they want to play a somewhat believable character, they should recover. If they like their character and don't want to play another, they should recover.

So their agency, their game here, is to pick how to recover.

Your question makes it sound like there was no choice. A short rest. Period. The solution at this point is to bring back the agency. Let them make a meaningful decision.

Normally this is already implemented in the game. Someone around the table will have resources, limited resources, to use instead of a short rest. A healing spell, a potion, something. And whether to use it and expend the resource, or spend the time for a short rest, or take the risk and go forward without recovering, that seems like a good debate among the players. Something to decide. Choices to make. Agency.

If they don't have those resources, why not? Bad party composition? Already expended them?

Even if the adventure doesn't say so, there is no harm in giving them a few (maybe 1-2) healing potions. The fact that they are scarce will give them a decision to make. Is it worth chugging one down now? What if they could be more useful later on?

My point here is: the gameplay as it unfolded bored a player. Not a character. A player. Because the only sane decision they could make (and I would say if you only have one option, that is not a "decision") was to not play the game. That is bad. While there are tons and tons of different ways to have fun in a game, sitting at the sideline while your friends have fun playing it is rarely one of them.

As a DM it is your job to open up those decisions. You make options available. And none of those options should exclude the player from the game for a long time in real life.

You will need to find your solution to this, to be honest I don't know the adventure you are playing, so pick one that suits you:

  • Don't let people play D&D at first level, or only to explain the rules with no real danger (The stereotypical "there is a rat in my basement" first level encounter)
  • Pick feats that reduce damage swings (There is one that reduces damage for heavy armor wearers, I'm sure it's crap min-maxin for higher levels, but for a campaign levels 1-4 it's pure gold)
  • Make sure the party has healing resources
  • If they don't have any, give them some

Generally speaking, never exclude a player from the game. Maybe their character. But never the player.

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    \$\begingroup\$ -1, your answer is essentially saying "this is all your fault". The only thing that imo he did wrong was to allow one PC to stay behind and rest while everyone else goes forward, he didn't exclude anyone, the player excluded themselves and then complained about it. He's running an official module balanced for 1 level. Btw I highly doubt a believable character seriously wounded would want to stay behind by themselves separated from everyone else and risk someone slashing his throat in his sleep. \$\endgroup\$
    – AnnaAG
    May 4, 2023 at 8:34
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    \$\begingroup\$ @AnnaAG I don't care for "fault". I care for who can change it. And the player cannot conjure up healing potions or give other options inside the adventure. The DM can. He has the option to change an official module to their hearts content, to make a better game for everybody around the table. Their job is to ensure everyone enjoys it, not to make sure the book is followed to the letter. \$\endgroup\$
    – nvoigt
    May 4, 2023 at 10:20
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    \$\begingroup\$ ok but what about the rest of the party? perhaps they don't want to play with kiddie gloves, i've ran that module and it's balanced very well for lvl 1 party, some people don't like to be handed the win, they want to earn it. The group didn't need potions, they did have a healer, the party decided to split and that's the logical consequence of that. And being on 2hp is not even anywhere near to being dying, they didn't need to rest, they wanted to. DM is not responsible for everything. \$\endgroup\$
    – AnnaAG
    May 4, 2023 at 11:42
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    \$\begingroup\$ I think we just need to agree to disagree on fundamentals of D&D. I think there is no way to "balance" something for 1st level D&D. And I think being on 2hp with your healer not avalable is close to dying in a system that swingy. If you disagree, then lets just disagree. You have fun your way, I have fun my way. \$\endgroup\$
    – nvoigt
    May 4, 2023 at 11:58
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    \$\begingroup\$ @nvoigt My big thing is that being at 2hp is being near to falling but not dying. At least, not really. Any hit that lands can knock you out of the fight, but unless it's a massive blow (which in this case would be a total of 10 damage; very unlikely at level 1), the character would have at minimum two rounds of death saving throws (assuming a crit failure) and most likely more. Can be stabilized with a DC10 Medicine check, and can be brought back to 1+ hp w/ any healing, or a healer's kit & feat. Even if no healing is available, they're still not dead dead. \$\endgroup\$
    – Doc
    May 5, 2023 at 21:29
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Level 1 is randomly deadly

The core of the problem here is the random chance of severe death at level 1. This isn't going to be a persistent issue, but it unfortunately set the wrong tone for your player (as it does for many.)

But knowing that doesn't fix the problem at the table for the player who feels that they're going to die at any moment (at any level 1, could!)

While I haven't played this module, the risk of splitting a party AND doing at level 1 without the DM balancing for those decisions also led to this.

It is up to the players to figure out their plan, but it's also up to the DM to make it reasonable for the party. If it isn't a reasonable plan, it's also up to the DM to give a heads-up about the difficulty so that they are going in with that knowledge.

In your case, you let the players split because you felt it was necessary and a good storyline. But you may not have sufficiently adjusted for that decision to create a fun experience for everyone at the table. On the other hand, the player also knowingly put themselves in danger, so there wasn't much you could have really done there. But they also may not have realized the real danger they were in at level 1 :)

It's all a learning process and if you talk to the player about the the dangers of level 1, that it's not going to keep like that, and that you'll work with them to create the story for your table, then it should settle back in.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I don't fully agree with the part about about me not "replan"-ing. My party is not a fresh group of new players. With the healer separated, I provided the rest much more warning leading up to finding the mimic in addition to weakening. The player in question even said "this box is probably a mimic, but [character] would still try to open it, so she does" (paraphrased). \$\endgroup\$
    – Shadomew
    May 3, 2023 at 15:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ I take that back. Now that I think about it, the player in question is the one person in our group who is playing a level 1 character for the first time. I had forgotten that until typing this previous comment out. We as a group did not give them warning outside of a passing comment about how dangerous lvl 1 can be. \$\endgroup\$
    – Shadomew
    May 3, 2023 at 15:36
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Shadomew That's more than fair, I changed that paragraph a bit. I think my changes keep the original thought but also consider what you just said:) \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    May 3, 2023 at 15:36
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In my games I wouldn't let one character rest and have the others continue adventuring without them. Either the whole party rests together, or no-one is resting. The party sticks together, so no-one is left sitting around doing nothing.

To this end I prefer the rest variant "Epic Heroism" from the DMG. This shortens a short rest to 5 minutes, which means the default behaviour after combat is a short rest, which barely impacts any time pressure.

Increasing the number of short rests in a day does make features that recover on a short rest better, but I haven't had a problem with class balance playing like this.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Please go into more detail as to why you don't do something and how and why Epic Heroism works and what risks that may also entail. Tying this into OP's specific problems and what they've done could turn this into a good answer. \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    May 3, 2023 at 13:07
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    \$\begingroup\$ 5 min short rest/short rest after every combat significantly buffs classes that have resources regained after short rest. That variant rule completely wrecks class balance. \$\endgroup\$
    – Negdo
    May 3, 2023 at 14:04
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Shadomew Epic Heroism does wreck class balance and then you need to do extra work to buff up encounters to make them challenging again, if someone is introducing it then it needs to be well thought through, not as a quick solution to a problem \$\endgroup\$
    – AnnaAG
    May 3, 2023 at 14:35
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Negdo Waves in warlock but only very carefully, lest one of my two spell slots are accidentally expended \$\endgroup\$
    – biziclop
    May 3, 2023 at 14:54
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    \$\begingroup\$ @biziclop 1 slot at 1st. The warlock overtakes the wizard in casts after the 3rd rest, but can't ever cast two spells in one fight \$\endgroup\$
    – Caleth
    May 3, 2023 at 16:10
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Make the party roleplay this decision

  1. You say that you agreed to let them take a short rest in the room alone. But that decision isn't really one that requires DM permission, it's a party decision. Roleplay it.

  2. During this discussion, you can ask for checks and saves to realize the complications that might arise from the decision, such as:

    • Just because you cleared a room doesn't necessarily mean that the room will be safe for an hour.
    • It would be really boring for the character to just sit and rest.
    • The character might get permanently separated from the companions making it more dangerous.
    • Just going to 0 hp doesn't mean death. How and what can the allies do to save them if that happens? What about prevention.
  3. The player can roleplay it like "I'm really scared to die!" and it's the allies responsibility to talk them down/heal/reassure them (or agree to a group short rest) so the adventure can continue.

  4. If the party does split up, ask the player what they (not their character) intend to do while the rest of the party does their thing. Are they going to go get some food? Plan for their next level up? Roll some dice for the DM's monsters? Roleplay an NPC for the DM?

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This player may not have taken it as a choice

True, you told them they would miss some gameplay and they decided to rest while knowing that, but what was the alternative? From their point of view it seems like the alternative was a huge risk to die for their character, which is understandably no something they wanted either.

Making the short rest more fun?

From my experience, this is a bad idea. True, you could come up with something so that every so often you come back to the resting character, ask them about what they are doing while they rest, etc, but it usually feels artificial and costs time for the whole group.

Making the alternative less scary?

You could reassure your player: tell them 2 hp is enough, that even if they drop to 0 they won't die instantly, etc. But is it really a good idea? Being scared to lose your character is a powerful drive for some players. The fantasy of living in a dangerous world where you could die, but at the same time not die for real... It is part of the appeal of many RPGs. If you get rid of it you lose something.

Refuse that they split the party?

As a DM you can make it so that they don't split. Either simply state it as a hard rule (it hits on suspension of disbelief but so are a ton of other rules), or as a soft one (lonely PCs have to roll an encounter die every so often and may very well be ambushed by something scaled for the whole party, and the numbers are so that resting alone for a whole hour is worse than following the group through your typical adventuring shenanigans).

Give them another task!

Find them something to do. It can be playing an NPC, or the wizard's familiar... Once your players are getting more experienced you can even let them play the monsters during combats.

It can also be a task that does not directly involve playing the game: choosing ambient musics, drawing a map for their PC's lair, finding pictures for NPCs... As long as it doesn't feel like a chore, anything goes.

For me, this works wonders as long as one PC's isolation stays relatively rare (as it usually does). I also use it when a PC dies or is incapacitated bad enough that "playing" them isn't really playing.

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