The 5 minute workday myth
Apologies in advance for the rant below. Call it catharsis, Mandy, Pugo the Wonderdog or whatever you will.
The 5 minute workday is a myth. It does not exist. Or at least, it does not exist to a significant enough degree to merit it being a design consideration, any more than there should be rules which prevent PCs from attacking other PCs. Some players will try to bend the rules in order to maximise their enjoyment of them (usually at the expense of others). Changing the rules to prevent that from happening just means they will bend or abuse some other rule. You’re trying to catch the wind.
The theory goes something like this: in the first encounter, the Wizard (or Cleric, etc) uses all of their spells then demands (loudly) that the party rests as they have run out of spells. The players set up camp, and face the next encounter fully refreshed and the Wizard is back to full spell allotment. Rinse, and repeat.
Now, in all of my 30-odd years of gaming I have never seen that happen. I am pretty sure that my other players would club a Wizard player who tried such a thing with the heaviest thing on hand, and as GM I would let the player try it just once. After that the monsters later in the dungeon are better prepared and more able to face this crazy adventuring party who think they can take a leisurely saunter through their underground home. No rest shall go unchallenged, and wandering monsters aren’t so much wandering as actively hunting for anything resembling a sleeping Wizard.
Ah, but the flaw is in the Wizard design, you argue.
No – the flaw is in the abusing Wizard players understanding of the Wizard design. The Wizard class is historically designed to have a lot of punch, but in limited amounts. Once you’ve cast your Fireball/Sleep/Power Word:Kill/whatever it’s gone. The Wizard is the sine-wave of the character classes, peaking with great power then troughing when that power is spent. That is the trade-off inherent in the “logic” behind the Wizard class.
In contrast the Fighter is a straight line; consistent and dependable. As the levels increase the Fighter remains a straight line, and the Wizard remains a sine-wave though the damage output of both increase. The Wizard’s sine-wave increases in magnitude – an 18th level Wizard with a dagger isn’t much different to a 1st level Wizard with a dagger when he’s out of spells, but his power potential has increased vastly too – while the Fighter treads the mid-line between the Wizard’s peaks and troughs.
What the 5 minute workday critics want is the Wizard’s peaks, but none of the troughs. They want the power output of the Wizard’s best spells all the time, and none of the tactical considerations of when to use them and when to reach for the crossbow.
Is that fair on the other players? Nope. Should they influence the rules of the game, or should they be educated about how the Wizard (and related) classes work? I say the latter.
Now, I haven’t seen the 5 minute workday in any of my game sessions, and suspect that it’s more talked about than actually taking place. Sure, some players will say “I’m out of spells/healing/whatever, let’s rest”, but they are in the minority. Isn’t it better to educate them not to burn though their precious spells so quickly and heroically press on rather than “fix” rules that, frankly, don’t need fixing? Equalizing the classes so they all operate on the same “wave” takes away much of the uniqueness of the classes and is to the detriment of the game.
One tactic GMs can take is to use time limited events. If the heroes don’t return the Orb of Darkness to the Lich Horde’s Shrine within three days, the world will explode. Perhaps the Gnoll Queen’s Army will arrive before nightfall and the heroes must convey a message requesting an alliance with the Sea Orc Kingdoms, or their very Souls are forfeit if they do not….. you get the idea.
Real heroes don’t rest. They don’t have time. So let’s slay this 5 minute workday myth once and for all. Please?
Thanks for listening.