Gradual Gritty Realism Variant Resting Rules

One of my pet peeves with 5e is that Long Rests feel unrealistic.

No matter what happened before, you are completely healed after a good night’s sleep, with no lingering effects. One exception to this rule is exhaustion.
For the Spelljammer campaign I am currently DMing, I have implemented the rest rules from HouseDM (

Players must rest in a safe place to get the benefits of a long rest, and you only regain HP equal to HD Max + Con Mod. Resting in better conditions allows you to recover more HP. All other long rest benefits remain the same.

This means that if you are inside a safe city and spending some money on the rest, you will get the normal long rest benefits, but if you are outside, you will only get the short rest benefits.
So far, the impact on the game has been minimal.

But I’m not entirely happy with this rule either. While it makes healing outside of town a little more “realistic”, it still doesn’t feel 100% right. It also benefits casters. They get all their spell slots back after a long rest, while martial artists have to heal longer. And it has the strange effect that the higher the level of the character, the longer it takes to heal.

A level 1 character will regain all his HP after a long rest because his HP is HD Max + Con modifier. A level 10 character might take 6 days to heal completely, depending on whether or not they rolled for hit points, and a level 20 character might take 12 days.

I also thought about using the Gritty Realism rules (long rest after 7 days), but those have the same problem for me as the normal rules:

You are back to 100% after reaching a certain threshold. The effect in the game is, that you’ve just made it harder to reach that threshold, and you don’t get any (big) benefits before you reach that threshold.

It is also no easier to get the recommended fights for a day of adventuring, because to get the benefits of a long rest, you are not allowed to adventure for 7 days. If you go on a quest, or are in town and do something strenuous like fighting, you have to restart your long rest. What Gritty Realism is actually doing is taking away the long rest while you are adventuring, and whenever you want a long rest you have to go back to town and do 7 days of light downtime activities. That feels a bit too punitive to me. It might also encourage players to have 5 minute work weeks instead of the 5 minute work days they have with the normal rest rules.

What do I want from a rest system?

I want my characters to take longer to heal and take longer to regain their abilities, but still have a good gameplay experience.

If we were to be 100% realistic here, we could use the example of a boxer being knocked out in a boxing match. This would be similar to a character being reduced to 0 HP and falling unconscious. It can take several months to fully recover from a knockout. For a level 13 or 14 character, this would mean that they would regenerate 1 HP per day. For lower level characters, this would mean regenerating a fraction of HP per day. This would be more realistic, but not really fun to play.

So we need a compromise between realism and playability.

So what I would like to see, for the sake of realism, but also for the sake of being able to have an ongoing adventure, is a rest system that gradually replenishes the resources of the player characters at a rate that allows for the widest range of gameplay options.

But how much should it replenish the resources?

A medium-to-hard encounter should deplete your party’s resources by 16-24% on average (6 encounters at 16% = 96% resource depletion, 4 encounters at 24% = 96%).

So if you want 1 or 2 encounters a day, a long rest should replenish between 10% and 30% of your resources.

That’s 3 to 10 rests to go from 0 to 100%. Now we have an approximation. Now I need to find a way, within the existing mechanics of D&D 5e, to create a new rest system that allows resource replenishment at a rate of 10% to 30%.

So I did some math.

My Gradual Gritty Realism Variant Rules

So there are two big pools of resources that have the biggest impact on gameplay: Hit Points and Spell Slots. So we need to change Long Rests in terms of those two pools.

And I did some calculations and tried different models. If you only recovered 1 HP + Con per long rest, only the first two levels would be in the right ballpark. So the HP regeneration has to scale with the level. I ended up with the following rule for HP regeneration per long rest:

You recover (1 + Constitution modifier) per level per long rest (minimum 1).

So a Level 1 Character with a 10 Constitution (+0 Con modifier) would regain 1 HP per long rest ((1 + 0 Con Mod) * Level = 1).

A Level 3 Character with 14 Constitution (+2 Con Modifier) would regain 9 HP per long rest ((1 + 2 Con Mod) * Level 3 = 3*3 = 9).

The following table are some example characters and how many long rests it would take them to regenerate their Hit Points:

Days to get from 0 to Full HP in Long Rests:

LevelBase Regeneration1d6 + 1 (wizard)1d8 + 1 (Cleric)1d10 + 1 (Fighter)1d12 + 2 (Barbarian)1d12 + 3 (Barbarian)1d6 (Wizard, 0 Con)

So with this typical adventuring party we have at first Level 4 to 6 days to regenerate the HP to 100%.

The extremes are a Barbarian with 0 Con Mod – that would take 12 days to get to 100% at level 1 (8 days at level 20). The other end is a wizard with +5 Con Mod – which would take 2 days to regenerate (all levels).

But everything else is well within our range. 3-6 days is a good range. It allows for 1-2 medium to hard encounters (or even 4 easy encounters) after each long rest to challenge the party.

The whole thing also feels more natural. Characters don’t heal equally fast and that is reflected here. It also strenghten constitution as an ability modifer.

Spellpoints and Casters

Now for the Spellcasters. We have Full-Casters, Half-Casters, Third-Casters and Warlocks to take care of.

And the simplest solution is actually an existing rule in the game: Arcane Recovery.

All we have to do is adjust it. For the sake of sanity, I will convert Arcane Recovery to Spellpoints, because that is what Arcane Recovery does. It gives us a way to calculate spell points.

A spell slot costs spell points equal to its level.

So a level 1 spellslot is worth 1 spellpoint. A level 2 spellslot is worth 2 spellpoints and so on.

So what are we going to do? We let fullcasters recover spellpoints equal to their level per long rest. Halfcasters half their level (rounded up), and third casts a third of their level (rounded up). Warlocks now regain their spell points per long rest. The following table shows what this would look like in terms of number of long rests.


For all casters at the lowest levels, we start with 2 days to recover all spell slots. Faster than characters can recover HP. Which is fine by me. It will strengthen lower level spellcasters a bit where they are at their weakest. It reverses this at higher levels. Spell slots will recover more slowly than HP, which will make non-caster characters a little stronger than casters compared to the normal long rest rules.

Warlocks will be comparable to having two short rests at lower levels, three short rests at mid levels, and 4 to 5 long rests at higher levels. So at low to mid levels the warlock will get back slots comparable to the normal long rest rules, at higher levels they will get a power boost.

Short Rests

Short rests also need to be adjusted, at least for HP regeneration. If you could use your hit dice as usual, you would heal very quickly. This does not feel right to me. It would also upset the balance. Our long rests are now mathematically more like short rests.

My solution is simple:

A character can spend a Hit Die at the end of a short rest to gain temporary hit points. The player rolls the die, adds the character’s Constitution modifier, and gains temporary hit points equal to the total.

Now the short rest is weaker, we don’t have to change the hit dice regeneration rules for long rests, and it feels more real in our gritty world where healing is slower. A short rest is for first aid. You put some bandages on your wounds – you are not healed, you are just temporarily repairing what you can so that you can get to magical healing or a long rest so that your body can heal itself.

Living Conditions

Using Resting Conditions is optional, but they add more realism to the game.

The conditions under which a long rest is taken can have an effect on the effectiveness of the long rest.

The resting conditions range on a scale from wretched to aristocratic. They can’t be worse than wretched.

  • Wretched (like camping unprotected in the wilderness with bad conditions, like bad weather/rain/cold…)
    • minus 2 HP per character level (minimum of 0)
    • minus 2 Spellpoints recovered
    • no removal of exhaustion levels
    • Roll on Complication Table
  • Squalid (1sp) (like camping unprotected in the wilderness, normal weather conditions)
    • minus 1 HP per character level (minimum of 1)
    • minus 1 Spellpoint recovered
    • no removal of exhaustion levels
  • Poor (2sp) (camping in a sleeping bag in normal weather conditions, having a tent or sleeping in a cave, while being protected against the elements)
    • minus 1 HP per character level (minimum of 1)
    • and minus 1 Spellpoint recovered
  • Modest (1gp) (camping in a weather appropriate tent with sleeping bags, having a fire against the cold)
    • no change
  • Comfortable (2gp) (usually an Inn, Boarding House, Temple – magically improved tent and sleeping bag, enough food and drink)
    • + 1 HP per character level
    • + 1 Spellpoint recovered
  • Wealthy (4gp) (like Comfortable, but servants take care of you, you get medical herbs to quicken healing …)
    • + 2 HP per character level
    • + 2 Spellpoints recovered
  • Aristocratic (10gp+) (imagine luxury health spa)
    • + 4 HP per character level
    • + 4 Spellpoints recovered

I think it is worth using the resting conditions. The advantages are that adventuring equipment now matters (the same reason I added eating and drinking as a prerequisite for a long rest). Weather and the environment finally matter mechanically, and it also gives the player tools in their hands to improve their long rests, which were not needed before. It adds another strategic element to the game, which I like.

The rest conditions are on a scale from wretched to aristocratic. The starting condition in the wilderness is Squalid. The resting conditions in the wilderness depend on precipitation, temperature and wind. Depending on these three things, resting conditions can get worse. For example, torrential rain can worsen rest conditions by up to levels (the worst condition is always wretched).

So mathematically they do some interesting things.

Because the baseline for resting conditions is squalid, which penalises resting, players are incentivised to improve their resting conditions from the start.

Each condition gives penalties or bonuses to long rest.

At squalid, a character regains 1 HP less per Level at the End of a Long rest and a spellcasters recovers one spellpoint less. So a Level 3 Character with +1 Con Mod. Does not get 6 HP back ((1 + 1 Con) * Level 3=  2 * 3 = 6), but only 3 (((1 + 1 Con -1 ) * Level 3 = 1*3= 3).

That lengthens the days Characters need to get to 100% to 6 to 11 days at Level 1:

LevelBase Regeneration1d6 + 1 (wizard)1d8 + 1 (Cleric)1d10 + 1 (Fighter)1d12 + 2 (Barbarian)1d12 + 3 (Barbarian)1d6 (Wizard, 0 Con)Days to recover spells (Fullcaster)

Characters with a 0 Con modifier are also heavily penalised for resting in such conditions.

And characters should not want to rest in miserable conditions, the -2 penalty for our examples would look like this:

LevelBase Regeneration1d6 + 1 (wizard)1d8 + 1 (Cleric)1d10 + 1 (Fighter)1d12 + 2 (Barbarian)1d12 + 3 (Barbarian)1d6 (Wizard, 0 Con)Days to recover spells (Fullcaster)

While comfortable resting conditions are achievable in the wilderness with the right adventuring gear, they only speed up recovery to 2-4 days. So they’re not too easy. Wealthy and aristocratic resting conditions should only be possible in a city, town or other safe haven, and should be paid for according to the PHB. I tried to balance the adventuring gear accordingly that no more than comfortable resting conditions in the wild should be achievable, but maybe I overlooked a combination.

Mana Potions and Healing Potions

For balance reasons the DM can adjust the amount of health potions he gives out to the characters and maybe implement Mana potions, too (like regaining 1d4 spellpoints). There are no mana potions in 5e. Magic items that return spell slots are very rare and only return about one spell slot. The reason for this is that spellcasters usually already have enough spell slots, and giving them more with the normal long rest rules would only make them stronger in comparision to other classes.

With the Gradual Gritty Realism Rest rules, mana potions can be a balancing tool for the DM, just as healing potions are a balancing tool. Now, if the DM is planning a harder day of adventuring where the normal resources will not be enough, he can compensate by giving out mana and healing potions. This also gives players another resource to use strategically.

For ease of use I put all these rules in a PDF, cleared them up and put them on the DMs Guild to download for free (pwyw): Gradual Gritty Realism Resting rules – Dungeon Masters Guild | Dungeon Masters Guild

The PDF includes:

  • Variant Rules for Short and Long Rest
  • Resting Conditions that have impact on the Long Rest
  • A simple system to determine the weather
  • A complication table for resting in wretched conditions
  • Mana potions and 2 additional magical items
  • Design Notes to help DMs understand the intentions of the rules

If you have any suggestions, ideas or questions, please feel free to leave a comment.

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Yours truly

A.B. Funing

2 Gedanken zu „Gradual Gritty Realism Variant Resting Rules“

  1. You should put your formulas in the correct brackets.

    Your example “A Level 3 Character with 14 Constitution (+2 Con Modifier) would regain 9 HP per long rest (1 + 2 Con Mod * Level 3 = 3*3 = 9).”
    should be “((1 + 2 Con Mod) * Level 3) = 3 * 3 = 9)”

    Personally I don’t want extra work for rests, and I dm a pre-written adventure. That is hopefully be balanced for the normal rests.

    • You are right. I added the brackets. Correct Math Formulas ate important.
      For the Pre Written Adventures, it depends … a lot don’t have enough encounters between long rests to fuillfill the requirements of the adventuring day in the DMG (6 to 8 Medium encounters between two long rests) making the battles a lot of times to easy, because the difficulty of D&D battles, if you build them according to the DMG comes from stretching your ressources thin (Spellslots and HO and other limited use abilities) over several encounters.
      Even deadly encounter according to the DMG are easy for a party who is fully rested and has all their spellslots, HP and other abilities.

      Some adventures compensate to make their encounters extra deadly, um that can easily TPK Inexperienced Player groups.

      Try running your adventure and see if you feel that the challenges of the battle feel right or feel to easy.
      If they feel to easy, you can give tje Gradual Gritty Realism rules a try :).

      But I also now a lot of people like the simplicity of the long rest rules. It makes them really easy to use at the table.


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