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This question comes from a discussion with a DM friend of mine, whose players asked him if they could take a short rest while traveling in a moving cart. His initial reaction was to think that wouldn't work, but upon considering the rules for short rests:

A short rest is a period of downtime, at least 1 hour long, during which a character does nothing more strenuous than eating, drinking, reading, and tending to wounds.

There doesn't seem to be anything explicitly prohibiting it there. One could argue that driving the cart could be considered a strenuous activity, but doing nothing more than sitting in the back seems to be a harder to justify as such.

Taking it a step further, we also considered the possibility of a long rest. Looking at the rules for long rests:

A long rest is a period of extended downtime, at least 8 hours long, during which a character sleeps for at least 6 hours and performs no more than 2 hours of light activity, such as reading, talking, eating, or standing watch. If the rest is interrupted by a period of strenuous activity - at least 1 hour of walking, fighting, casting spells, or similar adventuring activity - the characters must begin the rest again to gain any benefit from it.

We again considered that sitting in moving vehicle isn't explicitly called out, and intuitively doesn't seem to qualify as a "period of strenuous activity". Assuming one could rest on a sailing adventure (with the ship being a vehicle), and suddenly this seems less absurd.

And yet it's a concept that appears to go against the norm, with stopping and finding a place to specifically rest or set up camp, and I haven't seen the questions asked here or elsewhere. Is there something else written anywhere that prohibits this, or is our interpretation here wrong?

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    \$\begingroup\$ A sailing ship on a smooth sea is very different experience from a jolting cart with no suspension and solid wheels (no pneumatic tires) traveling over rutted dirt or hard cobblestone. A ship in a rough sea is a different experience than a horse-drawn sled going over even snow. What is the short rest for? Cleaning and dressing wounds? Recovering a second wind? Focusing one's mind (arcane recovery) or spirit (ki)? There are a lot of variables here. \$\endgroup\$ – Kirt May 30 at 7:27
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    \$\begingroup\$ They fall asleep in the cart, but when they wake up: Hey, you. You're finally awake. You were trying to cross the border, right? Walked right into that Imperial ambush, same as us, and that thief over there. \$\endgroup\$ – IronEagle May 30 at 16:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ You've mentioned several reasons why it would be allowed, but not why it would not be allowed. What's the reason for this question? I'm genuinely curious why someone would argue that it would not be allowed. It's something that is/was done in real life as well... \$\endgroup\$ – Opifex Jun 1 at 11:07
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    \$\begingroup\$ @IronEagle I’d say this was an r/unexpectedskyrim, but, no, from the moment I saw the title of this question I was expecting it :D \$\endgroup\$ – Fivesideddice Jun 1 at 11:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Opifex Tradition I suppose? To be clear, I was the first to argue that it should be allowed per the rules assuming the conditions favored it (rocky mountain roads and ambushes aren't great for resting). But thinking back to all my experiences as a player and dm, I've never had someone suggest the idea. Perhaps there was little need of a short rest during travel, or long rests that wouldn't also run into the problem of "well now the animal is tired and we're not". But considering the question had been asked of my friend, who's inclination was "no", felt it was worth seeking consensus. \$\endgroup\$ – Mwr247 Jun 1 at 15:30
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Short answer: rules seem to be fine with it for both short and long rests.

As a rule-based answer, I'd say there's nothing against it, as you noted. I've personally allowed characters to take short rests in a cart because it seems within rules. The only thing that would prevent the long rest is the bumpiness of the cart preventing the minimum 6 hours of sleep the long rest demands. But even then, the basic rules don't strictly go against it.

I'd simply suggest being consistent. If cart-rests would go against a grittier campaign or such, or you have encounters planned where you want them stopped and perhaps unable to run, then you could effectively houserule with your group that there's no cart-resting. But if it wouldn't break things for the campaign, be it mechanically or flavorfully, then the rules seem to support it, and it can also help speed things along for the plot.

Instead of saying they have to stop, then travel for hours with a generally monotonous journey that they may not get much description from anyway, they just rest through that while traveling (assuming someone is steering). And if they would encounter something along the way, it might be even more interesting now that they decided not to rest prior to traveling, instead getting interrupted during the travel and having to deal with the encounter not yet rested.

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    \$\begingroup\$ IMHO driving the cart is strenuous enough to not allow for a rest. It's not like a car where you can just sit, you have to control animals all the time. However: a) that could be solved with hiring a driver, or having that one party member rest later instead \$\endgroup\$ – Hobbamok May 31 at 8:41
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    \$\begingroup\$ Agree with that answer. If exceptionally in some scenarios you don't want the group to be able to rest on a cart you could evoke a very bumpy road, strong winds, thunderstorms or other disturbing conditions, that make it difficult to rest \$\endgroup\$ – gelonida May 31 at 10:37
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    \$\begingroup\$ Also, unless you regularly change horses, at some point they need to sleep too. \$\endgroup\$ – T.E.D. Jun 1 at 1:04
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Hobbamok Or use Speak with Animals (and possibly Animal Friendship) and ask the horse to follow the road for 8 hours. \$\endgroup\$ – Engineer Toast Jun 1 at 13:59
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The rules support resting in a cart fine, as you point out. I think the intent is to be able to rest on a vehicle; otherwise, sailors would die from exhaustion at an alarming rate. The only thing I'd say for long rests is if it's a particularly bumpy ride, I'd call for con check checks to see if they manage to get enough sleep. Short rests should not be an issue. Even if it's bumpy, sitting in a cart is still enough of a reprieve from fighting, marching, etc.

Keep in mind this would have to be a rented cart with an NPC driver, as if you are driving it, you cannot be resting (strenuous activity). I suppose you could take turns resting if you wanted your short rest to take 2 hours—one short rest for everyone but the driver, one for the driver while someone else drives.

Keep in mind if you do this, any bonus the driver might be able to provide on a short rest, like song of rest, would only apply to their own short rest, not the rest of the party. Also if you are attacked during the 2nd hour, the driver will not have the benefits of the short rest at all. Also if something happens that requires a driving check and the person covering for the driver while they rest doesn't have land vehicle proficiency, it might end badly.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Note that Song of Rest doesn't actually require the Bard to be part of the rest \$\endgroup\$ – Medix2 May 30 at 11:47
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    \$\begingroup\$ Also keep in mind the ANIMALS will need rest which is more often the reason carts need to stop. "your oxen have been traveling for 10 hours straight, without rest, food, or water, and are showing signs of exhaustion, if you keep pushing them they will be worthless tomorrow." as a completely reasonable thing to say. \$\endgroup\$ – John May 30 at 14:30
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    \$\begingroup\$ Adding to potential issues: mud. It depends on the setting, however outside of paved roads it may not be too unusual for a cart to require "passengers" to get out and shove the cart to get over mud patches, etc... Shoving a cart is definitely a strenuous activity, and takes non-negligible time, interrupting a Short Rest. \$\endgroup\$ – Matthieu M. May 30 at 15:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ both good points. I suppose there is nothing stopping the bard from singing while driving. The animals issue is a big deal though, they cannot pull a cart for 16 hours straight generally \$\endgroup\$ – Andrew A DeMarco May 30 at 15:46
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    \$\begingroup\$ “I suppose there is nothing stopping the bard from singing while driving.” are the targets required to hear him clearly? Horses on cobble stone and wheels without rubber surface are surprisingly loud. \$\endgroup\$ – Michael May 30 at 17:04
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I would allow this, if the cart was on a decent road in a relatively civilized area. If the party is out in the wilderness, or in the ruins of an abandoned area, then I'd say the cart ride would be too rough, unless there's special circumstances. Maybe in a few cases, the road is still in decent enough shape even though abandoned. Or maybe they are in the wilderness, but happen to be on a great big salt flat.

I'd probably allow the drover to also get a short rest, if the animals are trained well. Maybe make an Animal Handling check to keep everything calm enough. But the drover will not be able to sleep and get a long rest. If they have enough people to take turns driving the cart, like keeping a watch, they might be able to get in a long rest for everyone.

But then don't forget that the animals need to rest, too. Unless your cart is being pulled by Skeleton horses that are immune to fatigue.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ If the party has been adventuring all day while the animals rested, then you could have a situation where the animals could pull the cart while the party slept in shifts, depending on terrain. (e.g. nowhere that everyone needs to get out an push, or even a bumpy ride might take a Con check to be able to sleep through. Unless you have a ring of levitation as a shock absorber, like Larry Niven's anti-grav "sleep field" / "sleeping plates".) Err, 5e has boots, not rings, and just lets you cast the spell, concentration / 10min. \$\endgroup\$ – Peter Cordes May 31 at 21:32
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When it comes to rules, you're right, there isn't anything to suggest that a ride in the back of a cart is "doing" something strenuous.

But for practical consideration--have you ever ridden in the back of a moving cart? It's anything but restful. There's no air-filled tires, rubber, quality shocks, or smooth roads. Even "paved" roads before modern times were often cobblestones, which are used for durability, not comfort.

Getting rest in a moving cart would require either extreme fatigue or significant investment in shocks for the cart and large amounts of padding or straw in the back

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    \$\begingroup\$ Perhaps something that some frequent travellers could get used to, or at least sleep some if they're tired enough. Something like Tenser's Floating Disc (if you can keep it up for more than 1 hour) or a ring of levitation might help, though :P Hmm, or not, boots of levitation let you cast at will, but it's still concentration / 10 min duration. \$\endgroup\$ – Peter Cordes May 31 at 21:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ Many fantasy novels talk about this. But how tired the protagonists get doesn't seem to be at the level of what I'd considering taking actual fatigue penalties until days of sleeping in a cart. A short rest should work just fine \$\endgroup\$ – Andrew A DeMarco Jun 1 at 14:28

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