Stop Sleeping In Dungeons

Let me share one of my Dungeon Master peeves with you.

When players are new to the game they take it at face value that you can only rest and regain spells once per day. Unfortunately for us DMs, experienced players know that this isn’t entirely true. Arcane casters can recover spells at any time just by sleeping for eight hours, and there’s no rule saying you can only sleep once per day. A well-guarded midday power-nap lets any wizard cast twice his usual amount.

Even more daring players will try to barricade themselves into a room (or camp outside the dungeon) and wait until nightfall in order to regain their spells and hit points after only one or two minor battles, taking the dungeon so slowly and carefully as to be utterly boring. Wandering monsters only add an hour to the wizard’s sleep time, and you can’t give every dungeon a time limit.

Players who manage to rest at will are my Dungeon Mastering peeve of the week. What are you supposed to do when there’s no real rule against it, and any house rule would be arbitrary DM fiat?

Comments (18)

Michael Dingler (May 21st, 2007)

Well, there’s one rule limiting this. Any spells cast in the 8 hours before resting counts against the spell slots revived. Apart from spoiling day-time casting by pray-at-dusk clerics, this also puts a damper on the activities you’ve mentioned.

The midday nap won’t help anymore, and if you get surprised at night-time and have to cast, those spell slots won’t be regained either.

longcoat000 (May 22nd, 2007)

There’s also the question of quality of sleep. It can be ruled (and I think it was back in the 1E Dungeoneer’s or Wilderness Survivial guide or 2E) that people sleeping in armor or other uncomfortable positions/situations incur a penalty to the number of hours slept, so that fighter who slept in his plate would only get an equivalent of four hours of sleep, even though he “slept” for eight hours (you’d have to sleep for twelve hours to get an equivalent eight hours of rest in plate, I think).

While there is no rule saying you can’t sleep more than once per day, this is where DM logic comes in. Most people find it very difficult to sleep longer than an hour or two (or even that much) if they haven’t been up and about for at least twelve or sixteen hours, and if they do nap, they don’t need as much sleep that night. You could thus rule that a person needs to be awake for twice the amount of time that they’ve spent sleeping before their body naturally wakes them up, unless circumstances dictate otherwise (character sick, enchanted, lots of strenuous activity, etc.), so those power nappers really need to put in a full day’s worth of work before they can get their eight hours of rest.

I don’t have the PH/DMG on hand. Does the rest need to be uninterrupted, or just a flat total amount of sleep? In other words, could a wizard sleep for four hours, go on watch for two, then go back to sleep for another four, and be considered as having had eight hours of sleep?

Jonathan Drain (May 23rd, 2007)

A wizard’s sleep doesn’t need to be uninterrupted, but every interruption adds one extra hour. When you go to prepare spells, any you cast in the past eight hours aren’t available, so any magic you use during the interruption is used up for the rest of the day.

longcoat000 (May 23rd, 2007)

Well, then a DM could rule that wizards who abused this sort of thing (sleeping in dungeons after each encounter) end up having “troubled sleep” because of the constant keening, scratching, and howling of the dungeon’s inhabitants. ]:-D Maybe not exactly fair, but it could encourage parties to at least clear out the immediate area of critters before trying to bed down in a secured room…

StormD (June 19th, 2007)

When I ran The World’s Largest Dungeon, I knew I’d have to let players rest inside the dungeon, but I went through each region and only specified a few rooms as quiet, safe places to rest. I told the players that resting was only possible in the designated places, and that I’d let them know whenever they found one, otherwise, it was just too loud, smelly, wet, cold, hot, dangerous, or otherwise impossible to rest.

Eamon Nerbonne (July 5th, 2007)

A wizards doesn’t actually need to sleep; merely to rest (in otherwords, no stressful activity of loud distractions). A dungeon in which there aren’t very many distractions should simply let a wizard “rest”. You probably can’t fall asleep arbitrarily (natural sleep rhythm makes that very hard), but if players are so cautious as to simply rest very frequently; let them! Just make sure to make the tradeoffs real in-game too: if they’re under any sort of time-pressure, then this is an odd idea. An average human needs 3 litres (6lb) of drinking water a day, and those trail rations are 1lb. So somehow medium characters need to drag along 7lb. of consumables per day, or try the water in the dungeon *shudder*, or invest in rings of sustenance and the like. Finally, even if they’re not in timepressure, the entry of adventures may have disturbed the dungeon inhabitants - they might notice that one of the nasty other inhabitants isn’t doing his daily trip for example. This could lead to better prepared critters. Those few dungeons in which no time pressure is a role and in which the characters have no issues with maintaining food and water supplies, well… let em “rest”. Just skip the unrealistic sleeping.

Eamon Nerbonne (July 5th, 2007)

And if you really want to, you could force other non-sleeping party members to make concentration checks to keep quiet. It’s not that easy to shut up for 8 hours. You could further raise the DC by two for each abnormal consecutive day.

TruePath (August 19th, 2007)

I agree that sleeping in dungeons is silly, ruins the atmosphere and saps excitement from the game. However, it isn’t the players fault and it certainly isn’t bad roleplaying. In fact, unless they are playing a suicidal/insanely reckless character roleplaying requires that they stop and rest if it is likely to help them survive the dungeon. Surely we should expect a smart wizard in the party to be intimately familiar with what it takes to regenerate his spells and know how to take full advantage of this.

Also I don’t like most of the heavy handed solutions here. Saying the party can’t rest because of noises or can’t get to sleep again are unfair and ineffective. They are unfair because surely any adventuring wizard should already know whether insomnia is going to cause him problems. They are ineffective because a reasonably smart wizard will just learn a sleep/quite cantrip or buy some light sleep aids.

The real problem here is the stupidity of the sleep to relearn spells system. Still if you don’t want to tear that out having dungeon creatures come to bother the party seems like a fair solution. In fact anytime the party is resting and healing up the monsters should be doing so as well. Any other solution will just run into huge trouble with the various spells letting players rest in pocket dimensions

In short I don’t like it when the party is punished for taking the game seriously and being clever. It’s the DM’s responsibility to make sure sleeping in dungeons isn’t a good strategy in his world not the player’s responsibility not to use it.

storm (August 19th, 2007)

Repopulate the dungeon.. Monsters wander for a reason. They’re homeless, looking for a reasonable spot to hang their horns. A dungeon with some sorta controlling beasty will quickly recruit more grunts, roll per day 5+CR monster to see if a replacement has been found. you may want a 2 day rule here for the beasty to notice the loss.
If the dungeon has well known resources it may be a 10+CR per 2 day to replace a monster.
If the dungeon is just a goblin flop house you could get away with a 15+CR per week roll to replace monsters.
Rarity of the monsters should come into serious consideration. So a pack of trolls might be replaced by a bunch of goblins.. or if the rarity roll points to rare an owlbear(insert dungeon appropriate party thrasher of your choice) might replace the pack of trolls.
Perhaps townsfolk have notice that the dungeon is quiet.. being the gentrifying humanoids that they are, have decided to board up the dungeon.. maybe just boards, or stones, or boulders, or a tree shoved down the shaft of the opening.

Remember, only a cruel DM would let townspeople flood the dungeon. ;)


Thorin (August 20th, 2007)

From the D20 SRD (

"Like other spellcasters, a wizard can cast only a certain number of spells of each spell level per day. Her base daily spell allotment is given on Table: The Wizard. In addition, she receives bonus spells per day if she has a high Intelligence score."

It very clearly states that the spell slots listed on the table are how many are available per day. Doesn’t matter if you get a power nap in the middle of the day, if you’ve used up your slots they’re gone.

Jonathan Drain (August 20th, 2007)

@Thorin: Even if we take that, we still have the second case of players barricading themselves in until the “day” is up.

Stripes (August 31st, 2007)

So if we take the answer of just letting the dungeon repopulate encounters after a while an adventure geared to take a party from 1st to 3rd level may take them a lot farther (as they have a ton of extra monsters to fight). That’ll make the mid to end game more boring as the challenges crafted to push a 2nd level party won’t push a 3rd level party, so you have to beef them up too.

Alternately, if there isn’t a lot of backtracking then there won’t be many extra encounters…until they complete the adventure and have to fight their way out. Which is anticlimactic, and leaves 3rd level characters facing L2 and then L1 threats, even more anticlimactic. Or worse yet, there isn’t really any backtracking and the last encounter has an alternate exit, so there is zero backtracking. The repopulated dungeon has no effect.

None of that means I have an answer. So far the best I have done is wondering monster once got a party to move on, and once the party abandoned a strategically valuable space after killing the guards, so extra guards were posted, they were extra alert, and there was a trap of sorts. Nothing that has really made a strong impact.

Truepath (October 5th, 2007)


Huh, I’m missing the issue. Supposing the players are in an area of the dungeon that is suited for their current level. Then the badies that get ‘regenerated’ or healed will also be appropriate for their level.

Actually I think this ‘problem’ only results from skimping on the part of the DM and short cutting all the rules about sleeping and armor. Unless your players just wander around in dungeons AT RANDOM and kill shit (which is a bad game anyway) they usually descend into dungeons to accomplish specific goals and often there is some intelligence or group opposing them. If the players are smart enough to barricade themselves in a room the baddies should be smart enough to attack them in the middle of the night or lay an ambush for them outside the door.

If the baddies come busting through the door and you make all the fighters in the party take the full time to done their plate mail (complete with attacks of opportunity) and the like your players will learn fast that sleeping in dungeons is a bad idea (if they make it out alive). At the very least this will force the players to use some pretty hardcore magic to keep themselves safe mitigating the value of resting and relearning spells.

But even if they make it through the night the players should run into an ambush in the next room. Given the harms of being flat footed and suffering through a surprise rain of poisoned arrows before being rushed by a *larger* body of baddies should make the dangers of sleeping in dungeons clear.

Moreover, if you are careful about keeping track of provisions the players will have to lug carts around to carry drinking water around with them. Of course they could just try and find water in the dungeon but that carries with it more risks (clever baddie might poision them).


What does that even mean? Taken literally it actually seems to suggest that if you cast a spell before going to bed you can’t relearn that until the next evening but this seems to be contradicted by the examples in the PHB.


To clarify my earlier point I meant that unopposed barricading themselves in the dungeon makes for a bad game. I don’t think players ought to be punished for it, the situation should just be roleplayed and the players should suffer from all the risks that would reasonably occur. There is a host of spells in the PHB designed just to protect players while holing up and players should be allowed to make full use of them. However, the reason the spells are there is because of the risk that this tactic carries.

Andy (May 20th, 2008)

really this is something that should be decided between players and DM, as a group
how do you want your game to feel?
do you want to skip all the boring parts, and keep the laughter in slaughter?
or maybe you want something dark and gritty, with the party continually hanging onto survival.
you also need to clearly define “day” in “spells per day” - is it 24 hours? a cycle of the sun? the time between sleep cycles? make sure your universe is well defined for your players, since their characters live in it and should be familiar with it.
no “wait what do you mean the days are 36 hours long?” - there’s no way the characters wouldn’t know that, so the players have to know it too.

ScooterJohn (July 28th, 2008)

I came upon this site because this is exactly what my players are doing. They are experienced (on average). They are in a dungeon that is serving as a full-blown place of operations of the bad guys, so the fact that they “cut the power” in one section, got in a fight with a group of enemies heading to figure out why the magical lights won’t work anymore, and one of them got away, makes me think it’s pretty silly that they march back to the “power room”, and try to sleep/rest for 8 hours unbothered. They didn’t even try to barricade themselves in. The most experienced player even had the audacity to try to do some post-rest number crunching, saying “assuming there’s no random encounters, I’m going to…”
Hahahaa! You tricky devil. I knew he was really really hoping for such. But I thought I made it clear that this is a organized place, with smart bad people! You can’t just set up camp!

To be nice, I’m not going to do a TPK (I considered it briefly), and I don’t think I’m going to do something that guarantees the death of one or two of them either (which I really considered). I think I’ll give them a chance to relocate. An invisible spy will probably be caught by their rouge (who never requires sleep because of his race), and perhaps killed. I’ll have something about it tip them off that much much worse is coming and they are not safe.

Unless I can just come up with a reason why they didn’t get ambushed and slaughtered… (My DM’ing style is that there must be a reason behind everything.)

Lastly, I would like to say that it would be nice if magic worked in a way where it was “by encounter”. Or just required a “decent bit of time to rejuvenate”. The trade off would probably be less spell slots. 4th edition may have fixed it, but I’m not a big fan of 4e so far.

Bradley (February 26th, 2010)

Whenever I would need to regain my spells I would cast Rope Trick and the party would climb up there and pull the rope up with them. Whenever I ever run out of spells the only use I am is a low hit point poorly aiming guy with a bow; this is because I really like the Batman wizard build, which is quite literally useless without spells.

Nostri (June 7th, 2011)

I know this is a bit late but what I do to prevent the 4 hour adventuring day is introduce a mechanic from the LARP I go to. In the LARP I attend spell points and other once per day abilities are regained “at convergence when the planes align” twice per day. Once at 6am and once at 6pm. For a tabletop game I say that the mystical forces that a wizard (or sorcerer, or cleric or whatever) uses to memorize spells won’t be back into the proper alignment again for 12 hours or so so they may as well keep walking and fighting.

scarvexx (June 13th, 2012)

my advice: make it uncomfortable, an inch if water on the floor won’t slow them down but I wouldn’t lie in it, noisy insects like crickets can add an atmosphere of wonder to a dungeon and keep your wizard up till dawn, and best of all is foul smells.

there is a reason only monsters live in these places you know.

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