Sleeping in Dungeons: Solved

Looks like we’ve got a solution to those players who won’t sleeping in dungeons to get back spells on-demand. I’ve done some research and it seems there’s a solution in sight!

While the rules don’t say you can’t sleep to regain spells more than once daily, the wizard’s casting capacity is called “spells per day” for a reason. This should be enough for you to make a solid ruling. Roughly track the passage of time in-game and ensure that around sixteen hours must pass before you can regain spells by resting - resting before then can restore hit points, but not spells.

We still have the issue of the party barricading itself into a room after only one or two fights to wait until it can sleep. Nothing says they can’t do this, but when the players can take on every fight at full strength, the game becomes unchallenging and boring. Allowing a game to become boring violates a basic tenet of dungeon mastering! Here are a few challenges the over-cautious party might face:

  • Wandering monsters, a well established D&D hazard. Resting characters who used their resources up too quickly will have trouble, and sleeping characters won’t have their armour on.
  • Opponents have time to prepare for your attack. You’ll have no chance to catch them asleep or unprepared.
  • Monsters can team up to ambush the common threat. If this happens, the enemy fights you en masse and on their own terms.
  • Opponents can send a messenger for reinforcements.
  • Strong or magically-inclined enemies might barricade you into the room with a heavy boulder or magical lock.
  • Even if you’re stealthy, there’s always a chance that guards will find you or notice the signs of fights you’ve undertaken, such as blood on the floor or bodies of guards lying around. (For good examples of this, try the PC game Thief.)
  • Time limits, while not always applicable, can force players to keep going without rest in spite of low resources.

Feel free to suggest your own; you know where the comment link is.

Comments (7)

JS (May 23rd, 2007)

Dungeons are not randomly thrown together collections of inexplicably placed monsters and huge piles of treasure. If players feel like resting in a kobold lair, they should expect the kobold patrols to find them. Furthermore, even kobolds eventually wise up to the fact that something is wrong if their patrols are consistently disappeared when they approach a certain section of the dungeon.

If you make your dungeons weak enough that the players can handle having the entire dungeon descend on them en bloc, then they deserve the epic battle. And if you make your dungeons strong enough that the PCs can’t take it, the PCs deserve any beating they take for the sheer gut-wrenching stupidity of sleeping in non-secured hostile territory.

I suppose that if you’re dealing with mindless undead or constructs, then it’d a little harder to justify - but then again, you can simply rule that a wandering band of looters (eer, I mean adventurers) decided to look into the cave - after all, the PCs just made it nice and convenient by killing off the guards at the front door. Sure, that may not mean combat, but having to split the loot with another group just might be a lesson that’ll smart for some time.

And if you, as my group is wont to do, use some ‘Tulle-inspired magic fluff, then Magic Is Not Your Friend, and over-memorising spells beyond spells-pr-day limit could do Bad Things to the caster. Possibly in the middle of combat when he tries to cast the spells.

- JS

longcoat000 (May 25th, 2007)

You know, there’s something that no one’s talked about with this whole “barricade yourselves in a room to sleep” argument. There’s not rules for it (and I really don’t think that there should be), but it ought to be enough to make even the most hardened gamers squirm a bit if you describe it well enough, and you may even get one or two needing to take a break themselves.

If you’ve trapped yourself in a small 20’ x 20’ room to sleep for eight or ten hours, where’s the latrine?

I’ll let you marinate on that for a sec while I pour myself a glass of water (with requisite sound effects).

It’s not something that usually has to be taken into consideration during “normal” adventuring (unless you run games like that, in which case stay the hell away from me, you freak), but it’s more ammunition for the DM that has a party constantly trying to rest after every encounter or two. Sure, they may try holding it all night, but imagine the fun you’ll have when they finally open the door and are ambushed by a small army of kobolds and have to fight for their lives with bad cases of “brick bladder”.

Alex Schröder (May 29th, 2007)

In my current game, where the party is descending into an adaptation of the Barrow of the Forgotten King, I decided I’ve had enough and will let the bad guys escape. Perhaps the bitter taste of no climatic end fight will support my point that meta-gaming should go both ways: Playing by the rules, and having fun. I’m not having fun as a DM if they lock themselves in a room after two fights. Oh well. Perhaps I’ll let them catch up with the bad guys and some treasure out in the wilderness amidst a well-protected camp of hobgoblins.

Tom Lee (August 20th, 2007)

I think this whole discussion misses the point, which is that having to carefully husband your fighting, spellcasting and healing resources isn’t fun. Don’t people play roleplaying games to have fun? In an epic fantasy game, the players want to kick butt. They want to wade into battle swinging their flashing blade, or cast lots of spells that raise the FX budget of the imaginary movie, or whatever. But having a big battle where you can use all your character’s awesome powers, followed by the realization that this battle just took 1 minute and that now you have 23 hours 59 minutes of limping along, is spending most of your time not having fun. People are injured and need healing, once-per-day class abilities have been used, there aren’t many healing or damaging spells left, etc.

It’s been over 20 years since I first played D&D, and weirdly artificial limits like having a certain number of spells per day per level, or having a class ability that you can only use once per day, still feel contrived and restrictive. These things are an obstacle to fun.

Can’t anybody come up with anything better? Clerics with a point-based healing system independent of their other spells, where their points regularly regenerate? Healing potions or poultices that are easily craftable by alchemists with the right ingredients, without requiring them to be spellcasters? The end of the concept of spell levels, with casters applying points to increase their range, damage, or area of effect on the spot? This is just off the top of my head; certainly professional game designers could come up with better and more refined ideas than I can just while typing this.

And for those who say that rewriting the rules to get rid of these contrived restrictions would make the game too easy and the player characters too powerful, keep in mind that the restrictions would be lifted for their enemies as well …

KasraKhan (July 19th, 2008)

Ew Tom Lee, you sound like 4E. Remember too the DM needs to have fun as well, its not just the players.

You could, blasphemy though it may be, use the one good concept from an evil game (DDO): Shrines. Players may only rest in specificed rooms. This takes alot of freedom away, but perhaps its necessary in extreme circumstances.

Of course, you could do as I am sometimes wont to do, 2 words which can spell death, doom, and despair for PCs, and even launch them on a planar-spanning journey…: Rob them.

Patrick M (August 27th, 2010)

Here’s an idea I haven’t heard yet. If your players won’t stop sleeping and you can’t stop them, make them play out their dreams.

Make them have a tedious nightmare battle that would fatigue the player if they lost. It’s a childish way to fight back, but it’s my ace in the hole.

Joey (August 12th, 2011)

If you’re running a humorous campaign, maybe implement some sort of abstract “ennui points”—accumulating too many has some ramifications involving the insanity rules?

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