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My party is currently on an outdoor mission, and after a fight they wanted to take a long rest. Before this they checked the time of the day with me, and I said about 4 PM.

I told them they would end the long rest at midnight, when the humans would have disadvantage on any encounters. I offered a short rest, but the bards want to regain spell slots, so they insisted on having a long rest. I'm planning an encounter that should be finished before midnight (a ritual).

Can a long rest be taken any time in a day? Taking a long rest at 4 PM and ending it at midnight, thus forcing the adventure to continue from midnight, seems a bit odd. Or should I make them start in the morning at 6 AM instead (thus not having a 14 hours rest)? Is there a rule that prevents them from taking a long rest that's more than 8 hours?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Can you explain what you mean by "I told them they will end the long rest at midnight, when the humans will have disadvantage in encounters."? \$\endgroup\$ – Rubiksmoose Apr 8 '18 at 16:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Rubiksmoose I'm trying to persuade them from taking long rest, because then the ritual would be completed. Taking a short rest will give them enough time to disturb the ritual, while long rest just won't. \$\endgroup\$ – Vylix Apr 8 '18 at 17:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Rubiksmoose humans don't have darkvision was my assumption \$\endgroup\$ – David Coffron Apr 8 '18 at 17:04
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    \$\begingroup\$ While not pertinent to the question, you could have a person interrupt their rest and tell them that the ritual has begun and hurry them to complete the mission (or perhaps they overhear shouting in the tavern about some ritual going on in the woods), depends on where they are testing. Maybe one of the unnecessary human sacrifices escapes and comes accross them begging them to free his family before the ritual completes \$\endgroup\$ – David Coffron Apr 8 '18 at 17:47
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    \$\begingroup\$ As a spaniard, I can confirm you can. It's called "siesta" :) \$\endgroup\$ – xDaizu Apr 9 '18 at 9:17
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Nothing restricts the timing of long rests

You can take a long rest an any point, but you don't benefit from more than one long rest in a 24-hour period. Furthermore, a long rest does not necessarily involve only sleeping (6 hours are required though) and the characters can choose to spend longer than 8 hours if they desire:

A long rest is a period of extended downtime, at least 8 hours long, during which a character sleeps or performs light activity: reading, talking, eating, or standing watch for no more than 2 hours.

(emphasis mine)

Time Passes

For your specific case, it may have been beneficial to hint (through an NPC or quest item) that the ritual will finish by midnight to impose a time constraint on the mission. This is a common tactic to avoid the "15-minute workday" as this answer addresses.

If it's too late to implement this, you could rescue the situation by interrupting the rest with an NPC informing them that the ritual has started and will be finished by midnight. Here are just a couple ways to accomplish this:

  • An escaped prisoner of the ritualists could happen across the party's camp and begs to stop the ritual and save the other villagers (human sacrifices).

  • If they are in a tavern, you could have a member of the rangers guild make some noise in the tavern asking for anyone to help stop the dark ritual they saw in the woods.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ might be good to emphasize that there is not max limit on a long rest \$\endgroup\$ – ravery Apr 8 '18 at 17:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ In addition to the suggestion of having someone interrupt the rest to try to spur the group to action, you could also suggest that they've rested long enough to gain the benefits of a short rest at least, thus at least providing some benefit... \$\endgroup\$ – Doc Apr 9 '18 at 4:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ @DavidCoffron: Not according to the rules, or the unofficial tweets of the designers. See the answers here: Can you short rest during a long rest? \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Aug 7 at 0:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ @V2Blast Gotcha; my bad. Deleting my comment \$\endgroup\$ – David Coffron Aug 7 at 1:24
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A long rest may be taken at any time, and for as long as you like. It must include 6 hours of sleep (or 4 hours of trance, as applicable). You can only gain the benefits once per day, though, no matter how long or how often you rest; the additional resting is just relaxing and waiting until it is time to go again.

My concern with your question is that it sounds like you are trying to manage when they take their rests, in order to serve the plot of your adventure, without their knowledge. This attitude will cause problems throughout a campaign, and verges on railroading. If it is important to the adventure that the party interrupt the midnight ritual, then the party should have some clue that this matters. Maybe the cleric remembers that this cult often performs rituals at midnight. Or maybe you have the encounter on another night. Or maybe the party rests and the ritual happens, and the results of that will need to be dealt with.

The party can only act based on the information they have. Trying to change their behavior, when they are being reasonable according to what they know, and are within the rules and their abilities, will very rarely end well. You have to give the characters an in-game reason to act differently.

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    \$\begingroup\$ So, if they choose to take a long rest, then so be it, and inform them that the ritual has been completed and they fail the mission? \$\endgroup\$ – Vylix Apr 8 '18 at 17:26
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    \$\begingroup\$ That's one option. If the party has no idea that's what they are trying to do, or when or why, then yes, that's a strong possibility. If you want the party to do a thing, you have to give them enough information and reason to do that thing. Not just try to manipulate them into it. \$\endgroup\$ – Phil Boncer Apr 8 '18 at 17:32

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