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A rather basic question, I guess, yet it came up and we've found we're not sure anymore:

What do you roll to see if a PC can stay awake on guard duty? (...after a day's march through winter terrain, but that's just circumstance.)

A Will save, perhaps?

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up vote 22 down vote accepted

There is a suggestion in DMG on how to handle this situation (DMG, p33):


The game has no rules for trying to stay awake through the night, writing down every word someone says without a mistake, or opening the stuck lid of a container without spilling a single drop of its contents. However, in the course of an adventure any of these situations could potentially make or break an encounter. You have to be ready to make up checks for such non-standard activities.

Using the example situations above, staying awake might be a Constitution check (DC 12, +4 for every previous night without sleep), with an elf character gaining a +2 bonus on her check because an elf is only giving up 4 hours of trance instead of 8 hours of sleep.

While I would not use Forced March rules for this in the nonlethal damage sense, I would certainly request Constitution checks or Fortitude saving throws vs fatigue as well.

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An answer might be found in the description of a Forced March.

A character can walk for more than 8 hours in a day by making a forced march. For each hour of marching beyond 8 hours, a Constitution check (DC 10, +2 per extra hour) is required. If the check fails, the character takes 1d6 points of nonlethal damage. A character who takes any nonlethal damage from a forced march becomes fatigued. Eliminating the nonlethal damage also eliminates the fatigue. It’s possible for a character to march into unconsciousness by pushing himself too hard.

From this description, we may extrapolate that trying to keep one's self awake after a hard day's journey would also be a Constitution check. (This has the benefit of being enhanced by the Endurance feat, which makes rangers particularly good at keeping watch.)

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If I might be permitted to toot my own horn a little, a few years ago I wrote a generic bolt-on ruleset on the effects of sleep deprivation. It was mostly for the amusement of my fellow players in the campaign I used to be in, so it's a little jokey and has never actually been playtested, but you might still find it helpful. The basic idea is to keep a running tally of "sleep debt" relative to each character's norm of X hours sleep per Y-hour day (8/24, for humans) and apply fatigue penalties as it builds up. Conversely, other sources of fatigue (such as that day's march through winter terrain) can be converted to additional effective sleep debt. If the debt gets high enough then you have to roll against effect tables which range from further penalties all the way up to hallucinations. Falling asleep against one's will is on the list of effects.

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Welcome to the site! Would you mind summarizing, or perhaps highlighting a few key points from your link? – LitheOhm Jan 21 '13 at 0:08
Nice supplement! But yes, an overview would make this answer stand out more. – SevenSidedDie Jan 21 '13 at 2:17
There you go... – zwol Jan 21 '13 at 2:21
+1 for the Watership Down reference. – user2102 Jan 21 '13 at 15:11
@JoshuaDrake Your no-prize is in the mail :) But seriously, part of the inspiration for this was the hallucinations table at the back of some Car Wars supplement or other, which had this weird fixation on rabbits, and I wanted a shamanic experience at the very high end of my table, so you put those two things together and it kinda had to be El-ahrairah. – zwol Jan 21 '13 at 16:15

I don't think there is a set rule for this as it's generally accepted (atleast in my games) that if the player wants to stay awake on duty they can.

However, if they're tired and you want them to have the chance to fall asleep then there is nothing wrong with forcing a roll..Will is a good one, but so is Fort. I would probably be fair and let them choose their strongest save. But also what they are doing could modify the save aswell.

For instance, a player sitting by the fire waiting for the time will fall asleep easier than say someone pacing/patrolling back and forth, or even someone sharpening/cleaning their weapons.

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+1 for the conditional modifiers – Gamer_Chick Feb 16 '13 at 19:33

Even though it's not the same, in order to keep it simple I would use the "Sleep" spell as a baseline. Consider being tired as a weak "Sleep" spell - lets say the DC for the will save is 10 + 1 per 4 hours of overdue nap time rolled each hour. So for example staying up all night would incur 4 will saves with DC 10 and 4 rolls of DC 11. Staying up after that would incur 4 will saves with DC 12, 4 of DC 13 and so on... Note that in this model characters with high will save will have no problem staying up while characters with low saves have small chances of staying up. You can reduce the difficulty by making the saves further apart (say each 4 hours). Circumstance bonus (walking, taking showers, chatting) should have significant impact: +5 at the least and probably more. And I would also keep nonlethal damage out of it.

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