In Pathfinder, I know there are things like Cold Weather Outfits and Heatstones to minimize the effects of cold weather exposure.

If a party is forced to sleep outside in below-freezing temperatures, are there any rules for how things like blankets, tents, and campfires can help?

It seems like they would help, but I've not found anything conclusive on how helpful they would actually be. Considering as temperatures are generally the lowest at night, and how dangerous cold weather exposure can be, it's pretty important to have the means available to survive in such conditions.


1 Answer 1


Most of this is handled (Though admittedly not in detail) in the environmental rules for cold:

Cold and exposure deal nonlethal damage to the victim. A character cannot recover from the damage dealt by a cold environment until she gets out of the cold and warms up again. Once a character has taken an amount of nonlethal damage equal to her total hit points, any further damage from a cold environment is lethal damage.

An unprotected character in cold weather (below 40° F) must make a Fortitude save each hour (DC 15, +1 per previous check) or take 1d6 points of nonlethal damage. A character who has the Survival skill may receive a bonus on this saving throw and might be able to apply this bonus to other characters as well (see the skill description).

In conditions of severe cold or exposure (below 0° F), an unprotected character must make a Fortitude save once every 10 minutes (DC 15, +1 per previous check), taking 1d6 points of nonlethal damage on each failed save. A character who has the Survival skill may receive a bonus on this saving throw and might be able to apply this bonus to other characters as well. Characters wearing a cold weather outfit only need check once per hour for cold and exposure damage.

A character who takes any nonlethal damage from cold or exposure is beset by frostbite or hypothermia (treat her as fatigued). These penalties end when the character recovers the nonlethal damage she took from the cold and exposure.

Extreme cold (below –20° F) deals 1d6 points of lethal damage per minute (no save). In addition, a character must make a Fortitude save (DC 15, +1 per previous check) or take 1d4 points of nonlethal damage.

A lot of this is vague and open to interpretation. Partly, that's because it's not a focus for most campaigns. There's a lot of GM's who'll just let you travel through cold areas with either Endure Elements or a Cold Weather Outfit.

Note that all saves happen because of a lack of protection. If the party uses Endure Elements, that stops them from having to make Fortitude checks unless circumstances go really extreme. But if they don't, then the GM will have to make a ruling on how much blankets and such help against exposure. For example, you could make a save every two hours instead of one, or give a minor bonus on those saves. Or when using sufficient blankets and sharing body heat, saves might not be required at all.

Somewhat less objective, I'd personally rule that having two out of three (tent, blanket, campfire) would stop you from having to make saves during the night. Campfire can help you warm up, and therefore heal from the exposure non-lethal damage while traveling.

It's important to keep in mind what is fun for your gaming table. Does your party like having to micromanage a lot? Then make a detailed ruling so they know how to prepare, and how to act it all out.

Are they just there to slay dragons and get loot? You might want to just handwave it away.

  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ Note from the real world - I've slept outside under 0F. Tent and blankets are all good but you also need good insulation from the ground. Like, even better than on you. A couple of furs layered on each other or modern equivalent ( we've used 3 thick sleeping mats each) is what you need. So, if you play for realism, remember that wind is the worst, but ground is close second heat sucker. \$\endgroup\$
    – Mołot
    Commented Oct 10, 2021 at 21:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ Good one. in-game, a cot is from basically the first rulebook ever and should do that. \$\endgroup\$
    – Gloweye
    Commented Oct 11, 2021 at 6:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ It's worth noting that a lot of the critters in the bestiaries that are listed as being from "cold" environments have no cold resistance, which leads to the need to make some rulings when characters have these critters as animal companions or mounts. Does a wolverine's fur protect it from normal cold and severe cold? It matters because the same ruling needs to apply to the animal companions and the random encounters. It all tends to become irrelevant at fairly low levels once characters can afford the 2500gp for Boots of the Winterlands in order to avoid wasting 1st level spell slots. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 11, 2021 at 13:09

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