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Scenario: a character is alone in the forest, and needs to sleep. Of course, they don't want to get killed in their sleep, so they try to sleep in a hidden spot, like inside the treetops, heavily obscured by branches and leaves from all sides.

Question is, what do they roll for, if at all, since monsters are all but guaranteed to pass by during the night? Do they roll Stealth (assume the most obscured position), or Survival (find the best sleeping spot & camouflage it)?

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    \$\begingroup\$ I smashed "leave open" on review. This question seems consistent with StackExchanges Good Subjective criteria. \$\endgroup\$ – Thomas Markov Mar 11 at 19:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ Is this question, can stealth be used while sleeping? or what skill is associated with a character trying to find a safe sleeping spot/method while in nature? \$\endgroup\$ – GcL Mar 11 at 19:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ @GcL It looks like more of a "which is a more appropriate skill to use in this situation", which is a reasonable question. Sometimes, skills overlap, and which is better is hard to know. \$\endgroup\$ – RevanantBacon Mar 11 at 19:42
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Roll a Wisdom (Stealth) check.

I have used this many times before (see below to several answers where I talk about my experience in greater detail). We can use the Variant: Skills with Different Abilities rule to get a better representation of this situation:

Normally, your proficiency in a skill applies only to a specific kind of ability check. Proficiency in Athletics, for example, usually applies to Strength checks. In some situations, though, your proficiency might reasonably apply to a different kind of check. In such cases, the DM might ask for a check using an unusual combination of ability and skill, or you might ask your DM if you can apply a proficiency to a different check. For example, if you have to swim from an offshore island to the mainland, your DM might call for a Constitution check to see if you have the stamina to make it that far. In this case, your DM might allow you to apply your proficiency in Athletics and ask for a Constitution (Athletics) check. So if you're proficient in Athletics, you apply your proficiency bonus to the Constitution check just as you would normally do for a Strength (Athletics) check. Similarly, when your half-orc barbarian uses a display of raw strength to intimidate an enemy, your DM might ask for a Strength (Intimidation) check, even though Intimidation is normally associated with Charisma.

So in this situation, obviously we have elements of stealth. The stealth skill is decribed:

Make a Dexterity (Stealth) check when you attempt to conceal yourself from enemies, slink past guards, slip away without being noticed, or sneak up on someone without being seen or heard.

Stealth is typically a dexterity check because that is usually the attribute that makes the most sense - can you step lightly and move quickly at the same time. But your situation is a little different. We aren't trying to be as quiet as possible, or move quickly and stealthily. We are trying to find the best hiding spot in the environment. Wisdom checks are described so:

A Wisdom check might reflect an effort to read body language, understand someone’s feelings, notice things about the environment, or care for an injured person.

So in this situation, we are combining our knowledge and skills of hiding with noticing things about the environment so these two things can work together: Wisdom (Stealth).

I explain the calculation for this in my answer here: Variant: Skills with Different Abilities confuses me, and I give some general advice about the rule here: How does the Variant: Skills with Different Abilities rule affect the game? , and give more context about how I use this rule here: What are the mechanics for hiding something that is not yourself?

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    \$\begingroup\$ This is a fantastic answer. For the record, as far as how this would run at the table, the character would roll their Stealth check as they settle in, and then that result is opposed by the passive perception of any creatures that pass by, adding advantage (which counts as +5, per the Passive Checks rules) if the creature has a relevant ability such as Keen Smell. \$\endgroup\$ – Darth Pseudonym Mar 11 at 19:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ This is exactly the kind of thing variant skills was made for. \$\endgroup\$ – RevanantBacon Mar 11 at 20:38
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    \$\begingroup\$ I would just use survival \$\endgroup\$ – Tiger Guy Mar 12 at 17:05
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    \$\begingroup\$ @TigerGuy That sounds like a separate answer. Could you write it up? \$\endgroup\$ – wizzwizz4 Mar 12 at 18:44
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    \$\begingroup\$ That would mean that the slick, city dwelling pick pocket is better at surviving the wilderness, than the outdoorsy Ranger. I like the use of the alternative attributes for skills rule, but wouldn't make a Survival(Dex) check more sense to get the Rogue and Ranger into balance? \$\endgroup\$ – nvoigt Mar 13 at 9:19
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A little frame challenge here: why trying to find only one skill at all?

Survival can be used to find the best spot.

Stealth can be used to actually hide there.

How you handle failing one check or the other is up to you as a DM, but we always used the survival check to determine whether you get a bonus or malus to your stealth check. You may want to make that "advantage" to the stealth check when you succeed in survival or something else that is more in line with 5e.

Please note that we never played that this scenario has checks everybody has to make. That is very counter-intuitive, because it does not work that way in reality. People don't just disperse in the wilderness into what they individually think are good hiding places. One person (let's say the ranger) will make a survival check to determine where the group stays overnight, probably with the help of others. Then the party members will camouflage there. The people better at this should help the people not that good. So for example the rogue could help the wizard to hide and then hide themselves (without help, because the wizard would give up their good cover if they helped another).

We always played this as a group effort of combined survival and stealth checks. There is no need to artificially constrain it to only one roll or skill.


Sorry, I just read the character is alone. So you can disregard the part about group effort, but still, there is no need to find the one roll. Let them roll both, each for the thing it's used for. Find a spot (survival) and hide there (stealth). That also makes for a better narrative why they succeeded or failed. Maybe the spot was bad, or maybe the spot was great but the camouflage was bad.

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I would say Survival:

The DM might ask you to make a Wisdom (Survival) check to follow tracks, hunt wild game, guide your group through frozen wastelands, identify signs that owlbears live nearby, predict the weather, or avoid quicksand and other natural hazards.

In Out of the Abyss, Survival is the skill used if the players are trying to hide their tracks (under Pursuit Level):

Decrease the pursuit level by 1 if a character spends time covering up the party's trail that day, requiring a successful DC 16 Wisdom (Survival) check.

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