The Five-Minute Workday

Posted on October 18, 2012 by


The Five-Minute Workday, where the party rests between each encounter to regain spells and HPs, has been a big focus of attention on the Wizards website recently. The supposed problem is that a party will rest when its wizard needs to recharge her spells, while the fighter will be able to continue on further, limited only by the amount of hitpoints he still has. The term “Vancian Magic” keeps getting tossed around (I had to look it up: It means memorized spells vs the Fourth Ed style), usually with a certain amount of bile behind it. The comments on the Wizards forum demand a solution to the Five-Minute workday! Luckily, I’ve got your answer right here:

Play with a group that doesn’t suck.

Seriously, I have never had this supposedly massive problem before, neither while playing 3.5, nor while playing 4ed. Why? Because my players and I know that that is stupid. When they enter a dungeon, they push themselves through it. They don’t walk in the door, kill the first group of monsters, then sit outside and camp for the night, because that is bad gameplay and terrible story telling, and it would never occur to them to do something that stupid.

If your group does suck, for whatever reason, here are some suggestions that you can implement in your game to solve the “five-minute workday problem”:

1. Get a new group that realizes that it’s not about “winning” the next fight.

2. Give the group a sense of urgency and stakes. You might call it “railroading”, but I call it good story telling. Why do they need to get through that dungeon as quickly as possible and not just camp out every night? Because if they don’t get the magic scrolls in time, an evil god with conquer the world. If they don’t get the magic sword quickly enough, the undead will get there first and corrupt it. If they don’t kill the cultists in the center of the temple immediately, their diabolical spell will finish, summoning the Foulspawn to slaughter everyone in the neighboring villages. If they just are traveling through the dungeon to get the nougety-treasure-center, then have another group racing them to it. Stakes.

3. Remind them that if they sleep in a dangerous, deadly area, they will be stabbed to death while they do so.

4. Remind them that if they go back to town, the monsters they just cleared out of the first room might be resurrected, reinforced, or whatever.

5.Remind them that it’s a game, the point is to play and not purposefully derail it just to protect their imaginary people.

Like I’ve said, I’ve never had a problem with it.

Now, I get what some of the complaints are: People don’t want to see a distinction between the classes as far as the adventure day is concerned. WotC has straight up said, “Wizards will be stronger earlier in the day, Fighters and Rogues will stay strong longer”. I get why that bothers you, I do. You don’t want wizards to be outshining fighters for the first half of the day, then the reverse. But all you need to solve this is (again) players that don’t suck.

You know what kind of wizard blows all of her spells in the first fight? Someone who doesn’t know how to play. You know when spells should be cast? When they are needed. When they make a dramatic scene. When you are overwhelmed and the one thing that saves the group is the well-timed fireball. Not when you first see a couple of goblin guards sleeping on duty. And when you are out of spells: At-Wills are still going to be a thing, no more crossbows and slings.

Developers have said the fighter and rogue will still have plenty of time to shine. I guess I trust them, because my players are good enough that we’ve never had a character outshine the others by the sheer fact that they can cast spells, Vancian style or otherwise.

The only time I’ve known a character to get bored while playing a “fighter” was my friend Adam playing a Slayer in an otherwise non-essentials game. The Slayer is pretty boring, but luckily,  Adam good enough player that he made his character interesting. Surprisingly, he still had one of the group’s highest body counts (besides the fucking ranger, but that’s because fuck rangers), for everyone who still says “complexity=power”.

Why are you even trying, Gimli?

My point is: I don’t see a problem with the five minute workday because my players and I are awesome.

Posted in: Metagame