One of my player is a clever guy. At night when the others are putting the camp together he digs a hole big enough for himself (between 3-4 feet deep) and asks someone to cover his body with dirt; he then uses a straw to breathe. His idea is to avoid ambush at night.

The first time I was baffled by this idea and had no response. After a couple of nights I started challenging his strategy. I identified a couple of potential complications but he was able to answer everything I offered.

  • Sleeping under 3 feet of dirt at night would be terribly cold. (But I have a bedroll which is warm enough)
  • You wouldn't sleep comfortably and be sore in the morning. (No specific rules for sleeping in armor I can use as a reference)
  • Breathing through a straw requires keeping your mouth closed and doing so while you're sleeping is impossible. (I'm an elf and when I'm in trance I'm not asleep so I can keep my mouth shut)

He has no intention of quickly being able to help the rest of the party if they get attacked, so escaping his hole is not something I can use against him (I tried).

So far the problem has not transpired out-of-game. I'm annoyed because he's obviously trolling but the other members of the group don't mind his selfishness (he doesn't get XP or loot from attacks at night).

Am I wrong to think that this is not such a great plan? I can't think of any reason or mechanics to point out the flaws of his plan.

I don't mind him doing it. I just think I'm not emulating the consequences properly because it's an obviously stupid decision.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Answer in answers, not comments. \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Commented Aug 10, 2014 at 3:49
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    \$\begingroup\$ this reminds me of a long running joke in my rpg group about camping in the wilderness. the end point was something like this: Pitch the tent, dig a ditch next to it, light a fire in the ditch, put the sleeping bags in a nearby tree, then go to the nearest inn and get a room, put wizard lock on the door of the room, climb out the window and go back home and forget about the whole thing \$\endgroup\$
    – SteveED
    Commented Aug 10, 2014 at 17:16
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    \$\begingroup\$ No, seriously, answer in answers, not in comments. \$\endgroup\$
    – Oblivious Sage
    Commented May 9, 2023 at 19:35

26 Answers 26


I wasn't comfortable with some assumptions people are readily making in their comments, so I did some research and a few calculations. I also incorporated some suggestions made in the comments.

The crushing weight of the earth

He digs a hole big enough for himself (between 3-4 feet deep)

Lots of people claim he'd have trouble breathing, which is likely to be true, but let's get some numbers. Earth has a density as high as 2tons/cubic meter, so the following represents worst-case scenario.

If his hole is about 4ft deep, and assuming a character 6ft tall and 3ft wide occupying 1ft from the bottom (that is, there are 3ft of earth above him) he is under roughly 54 cubic feet of dirt, which is about 1.5cu.m, or 3 tons (metric). At 3ft, that's 2 tons—in fact, for the proportions I chose, for each foot of dirt above his body, there'd be a total increase of 1 ton in weight. But that's distributed over a rectangle covering his whole body, how would each body part suffer?

About 30% of that weight would be directly on his chest (assuming his torso is about 30% of his height). This means it'd be supporting and breathing against something between half a ton and one ton—or one or two horses. His neck would be under about at least 40kg, which is like a rottweiler standing on it—he might get a sore throat. His legs would be supporting about a horse each—unless he wants a gangrene that's a no-no.

Armour and other forms of protection

I assume your player wouldn't be sleeping naked. If he's wearing some form of rigid armour (so the weight is on the chestplate, not on his chest), could he bear the weight? Well, let's see.

According to this short article, a baseball bat swing can deliver a peak force of over 36 thousand Newtons. That's equivalent to 3.6 tons, so if you think the character's armour should be able to handle that without breaking, it should be a breeze. Considering that plate armour only dents against a war hammer swing, even though all that weight is being applied on a much smaller area, I think it's enough. He wouldn't, however, be able to move—that'd be a really uncomfortable night though, sleeping in full plate mail and unable to move. And I don't want to think what happens if he needs to go to the toilet.

There's a better way around it: if he was able to create a structure over his body able to support that kind of weight, that should protect him. I don't mean something as sophisticated as the shelter Brian suggested (though that's even better an idea), he can use stones or wood to build something more rudimental, like a wooden platform. That would force him to gather supplies to build it each night or dig shallower if that's unavailable.

If he can't build a structure like that, even with very resilient plate armour he'd be unable to move. Without a helm, he'd have his face caked with damp earth for the whole night—that's not reasonable, if the player disagrees ask if he can fall asleep with a wet towel on his face. You can ask him to devise a way to create such a structure and the means to transport it (going around dragging a coffin or something similar would completely make up for it, in my opinion), or bury himself less deep (0.5-1ft layer of dirt over his body would still be efficient at hiding him, easier to support and generally more believable).

Temperature and humidity

Some people mentioned the cold and dampness. Those are valid points. I'll start with the cold.

If it's decided he must have something that would protect him from the weight of the earth, I don't think cold would be a problem. Actually, being in a cramped space would also warm up the air around him. Snow caves are an example, suggesting that if he had some empty space, being underground would probably make him warmer than lying above the ground, where there might be wind or dew. As cited in another answer, while earth is only a quarter as efficient as snow, it's still a half-decent insulator. Considering this is in addition to whatever he's wearing and/or the structure he's using to protect himself, cold is unlikely to be the biggest issue.

I couldn't find anything convincing about moisture below 3ft deep, but down to that point, it's fairly regular. I understand the logic, dampness is a problem in underground buildings—but generally, these lay a lot deeper than 4ft underground. I don't find anything to support the idea that it'd be a lot damper under 3 or 4 feet than it would on the surface—unless, of course, there has been a lot of rain, the party is near a body of water or above a shallow water table. If you have a map of the region, you could judge that from the position of water bodies. You could roll to see if he hits water—or rocks, for that matter.

Bottom line: Penalties to sleeping on damp surfaces may apply if he can't protect himself from dampness, I don't see the cold being a big factor. Frequent or intense rain could frustrate his plan.

Animals, insects and other creepy-crawlies

A number of animals live underground, a few of which could be dangerous to find. Several are carnivores that might attack to defend themselves if one runs into their lairs–badgers, for instance, are known for being fierce. I'm not sure if any would burrow so deep, but if they find something underground that looks defenceless, tentative bites might be possible.

Several others might be inconvenient in different degrees: ant colonies, especially fire or bullet ants, would suck to run into, and colonies can go quite deep. Tarantulas and spiders in general, centipedes and other carnivorous and/or poisonous insects might be even worse, but they tend to burrow in shallow trenches, so I'm not sure how much of a problem that would be during the night.

There are myriads of microorganisms that live in earth, especially when it's warm and damp. Several bacteria and fungi can cause dangerous diseases, and sleeping underground frequently would expose the character to them a lot more frequently.

Breathing through a straw

Breathing through a straw requires keeping your mouth close and doing so while you're sleeping is impossible.

If he actually manages to create a chamber around his head, that'd be fine. He doesn't have to have the straw in his mouth to breathe through it. Actually, that'd be a terrible idea, as any weight falling on the straw from above could cause it to stab the character in the mouth, which may also give him a sore throat.

Another soil weight related complication: the straw itself should be able to support the same kind of weight as the player, or it'd collapse at the bottom. It's not impossible, just inconvenient: what is it made of? How was it made? How did the character come by it? How does he carry it around?

There are other important things to take into account: straw must have enough airflow to allow him to breath normally (which constrains the diameter) and the volume needs to be smaller than his lungs' (which constrains the total volume), if the end is exposed, particles or liquids might enter, and bugs might crawl in looking for somewhere warm.

Contrary to what has been said in other answers, the dimension constraints aren't too hard to meet. If we have a straw 0.5in internal diameter (which seems plenty, compared to tracheal tubes and nasopharyngeal airways) and 4ft long, the volume is about 6e-3 cubic feet, or about 0.17l. This is not much of a problem: human adult respiratory tidal volume (the amount of air pulled in or pushed out in calm respiration, which is more relevant than the lung capacity per se) is normally around 0.5l. That means that for each breath, 66% of the air pulled in is fresh, which is enough: oxygen concentration in atmosphere is about 21%, but exhaled air has about 15% oxygen. Therefore, 66% fresh air means he'd be breathing around (21 * 66%) + (15 * 34%) =19% oxygen, which is enough to survive. For the level of oxygen drop below 16% (the threshold where trouble starts), his expiration would need to have less than 7% oxygen‚ which seems unlikely.

It could also happen that the straw gets pulled out from outside, causing his airway to collapse under it's weight. Would he suffocate? Adult humans breath at least 12 times per minute, and each exhalation has at least 4% carbon dioxide, which means about 20ml (assuming a 500ml Tidal volume as before). That adds at least 240ml, or 0.008cu.ft of carbon dioxide each minute. Oxygen is inspired at 21% and expired at 16% of less—therefore, depleted at 25ml/breath, translating to 300ml or 0.01cu.ft per minute. Low oxygen or high carbon dioxide cause accelerated breathing, but I'll ignore that for simplicity.

We had assumed an 18cu.ft hole. Let's say his equipment and his body occupy 1/3 of that. At the moment of the collapse, there are 12cu.ft of air, nearly no CO2 and 2.52cu.ft of oxygen. Carbon dioxide is not toxic, but starts causing mental confusion at a concentration of 6%. 6% of 12cu.ft is 0.72cu.ft, it'd take 90 minutes to reach that level at the rates calculated. After another hour, it reaches 10%, and after another hour in 10% or under, the character would asphyxiate. Oxygen, on the other hand, would be dangerous below 10% (or 1.2l). It'd be at that level after 132 minutes, and after 180 minutes it'd be below 6%(or 0.72l), causing the heart to stop. Whoops.

As suggested in the comments: if the DM woke up feeling funny, it might just happen that some animal spots the straw and, upon smelling strangers, decides to mark their territory. Then again, the character might just like it.

Interactions with the party

He has no intention of quickly being able to help the rest of the party if they get attacked so escaping his hole is not something I can use against him (I tried).

That's the biggest problem I see in his method. If you think any of the characters wouldn't be okay with it based on their traits, make that character justify why they're not doing anything about it. Otherwise, that's not your problem, but the party's. Perhaps everyone else is equally selfish in allowing this to get extra XP and loot, which might end up creating a big gap between him and other players, but I assume he realizes this.

The party would also need to be willing to dig him out every morning, and if he's using some form of platform, they'd have to help him build the thing every night, rebuild it if it's not good enough—that's a lot of work, why are they willing to help him do it? Will they have the energy or will to dig him out in the morning after a vicious fight? What if they were at risk of getting hurt in the process?

As someone else pointed out in the comments, there's another problem: digging a hole that big takes at least few hours. And that's assuming that they have a shovel or two lying around, which then brings the problem of carrying it. With no shovel, it's even worse, and getting hurt is unavoidable. Why is everybody willing to waste something like 10% of their day and a lot of energy to do this? ESPECIALLY before breakfast?

Personally, I wouldn't mind having a player like that in a party, as long as I didn't have to help him get in or out, nor carry shovels around. His survival entirely depends on each party member. If he ever crosses someone or if they get fed up, they can get back easily: by pouring something/farting down his straw, abandoning him buried, selling him out to the enemies. There are so many creative ways to get rid of or back at him that it's almost wasteful to admit I'd most likely just forget to dig him out.

How to deal with this as a DM?

Am I wrong to think that this is not such a great plan? I can't think of any reason or mechanics to point out the flaws of his plan.

If you ask me, it's a not good plan because I wouldn't want to be in his position, but if he's not bothered and neither is the party, I don't get the problem. Again: if you think the party shouldn't be comfortable with this, force everyone to justify why they're going through pains just so the freak can have his way.

Otherwise, whether or not you, as a DM, should discourage this is a matter of opinion. Personally, I don't think it's the kind of thing the DM should have to intervene in—it's a problem for the character and the party alone. But ultimately, it's your table—you can kill him pretty easily if you want him to stop and he doesn't want to.

Regardless, one thing I think you could and even should do is roll every night for unpleasant effects. Some ideas:

  • 10% chance of a perfectly restful night
  • 30% for a small unpleasant effect: feeling uncomfortable all night, not getting enough sleep, having an itch, pissing himself, eating bugs, bugs crawling all over his body etc. He'd sleep, just not as much as everyone else.
  • 30% for something more inconvenient: fire ants attacking his crotch for small damage, a mole stealing something shiny, water dripping on him all night, something keeping him from sleeping etc. No sleep tonight.
  • 25% of something really bad: partial blockage of the straw so he can't breathe properly, an animal chewing or otherwise damaging the straw, liquids, dirt or mud seeping in the straw to slowly fill his "cave", an animal decides to see what he tastes like, some nasty disease etc. Perhaps some direct damage.
  • 5% chance of something fatal or incapacitating: a disastrous collapse of his platform, somebody falling on top of the straw causing it to stab him, partial collapse causing a limb to be deprived of blood, potentially leading to gangrene/amputation etc.

I just made up these probabilities and scenarios, but I'm not familiar with dnd-5e. You can play with them based on the character, the party, their abilities and traits etc. Be creative with the unpleasant effects, think of cumulative ones (sleep deprivation, diseases) and so on and so forth.

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    \$\begingroup\$ The weight on him is only that of the dirt straight directly above him, not all the dirt on the sides of him. A human body is not "3 feet wide"! More like, on averaqe, 1/2 feet (if sleeping on his side, instead of flat on his back). So, he's got 6 ft (his length) x 1/2 feet (his avg width sleeping on side) x 3 feet (depth over him) x 76 lb/ft^3 = 684 lb over him, and relatively well distributed. That's like trying to sleep with 3 or 4 persons atop you. Still a lot of weight! Instead of a % unique house rule, RAW it is perfectly ok for DM to adjudicate "auto failure". Don't roll for everything! \$\endgroup\$
    – Pat
    Commented Jul 24, 2020 at 4:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Pat you're right on pointing out I exaggerated certain dimensions - my purpose was to make calculations land on prettier figures. Your approximation is also completely fine, though where I overestimated I'd wager you're underestimating. Either way, it remains equally unfeasible to sleep with 3 people atop you. As for the %s rule, though I must admit I'm a sucker for random overnight effects, I suggested it because it seemed as if OP was reticent to use his DM powers and say that his player just cannot do that. An 'adverse effects' table would allow him to let the player decide by himself. \$\endgroup\$
    – kadu
    Commented Jul 31, 2020 at 20:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ He could simply dig a pit just big enough for himself to (stand/sit/lean?) fit in, and obscure the top with something like a bucket made to appear inconspicuous (such as in the image of a rock or a dense shrub) \$\endgroup\$
    – Aaron
    Commented Sep 17, 2020 at 4:17

He won't get any sleep, and then he'll die.

I get the impression this player hasn't ever tried to sit on the ground for a while in an undeveloped area. There's all manner of creepy crawlies out there. His bedroll will get damp and then it'll get full of bugs--whether they're upset or happy or indifferent about his presence, they'll be omnipresent. Good luck sleeping, and you'll probably get some itchy bites to deal with the next day.

And then --more importantly-- he'll suffocate, because a three-foot-long straw is too long for him to get fresh air to breathe. Even unburied (and don't underestimate the weight of dirt on his lungs!), his lungs can't hold a sufficient volume of air (500mL is a good estimate) to draw in all the stale air in the straw and get enough fresh air from the surface to give him the oxygen he needs (by rough math, a thumb-width three-foot tube has something like 300mL volume, meaning only 2/5 of each breath will be fresh air), even assuming he's doing full exhalations and inhalations every time. Widening the tube would increase the tube's volume and make the problem worse. (Snorkels work because they're short: their volume is sufficiently less than the lung's capacity, so you get a lot more fresh air per breath through them.)

And if for some reason he does manage to get some sleep and not suffocate on his own exhalations, eventually a recurring villain who becomes familiar with the party's habits will just send someone to put a cork in the straw, or a passing bulette will be hungry, if one of his own party members doesn't accidentally sit on his straw first.

For a less lethal time underground, he might have to deal with consequences such as: Itchy bites; penalty to health-based checks from sleeping in the damp; bad cough from inhaling dirt; a mole carried off something valuable; you smell like you sleep in the dirt; party thinks you're kinda nutty and stops taking you seriously; party forgot you and had to come back, now you have trust issues...


Because it's so much easier to bury yourself and your party properly.

This does require some resources, but they can basically be gathered from the surrounding forest.

Kearny's Nuclear War Survival Skills is an astonishingly good reference. For this purpose, your player will be interested in the pole covered trench shelter (Chapter 5). It provides plans diagrams for the shelter that the whole party can fit in. Besides covering the party against stray fireballs, the very narrow entrances (you always want two in any kind of threatened area) will make it very easy to defend (assuming the enemy didn't bring shovels).

However, I suspect that this "bury yourself alive" stems from a naive view of defensive priorities. It's fairly straightforward to make a trench and palisade wall around the fire. While any proper route-camp fortification (in the roman style) will require proper watch-standers, the trench and wall will make a significant defensive difference.

However, assuming sufficient digging capabilities, and people willing to defend the exterior, a WWII trench shelter is not a bad plan. The trick is that it's fundamentally immobilising and rather depends on others to keep the character safe. FM7-10 does have tediously exhaustive instructions for building one:

WWII Trench Shelter

A much better bet is to hire "night guards" as hirelings, whose job it is to set up the palisade and trench and stand guard overnight. This provides a much higher level of safety (no restricted mobility, no threat of drowning by rain or enemy action) with only a trivial outlay.


"We're here to play a game of heroic fantasy. Tell me what part of this is heroic, or fantasy? It's really kind of weird."

There's a subset of players who do weird things out of a sense of paranoia, they never want their characters to be in danger. The problem is, if you're playing a game called "Dungeons & Dragons" it's basically a game called "Dangerous Places and Uber Monsters" and you know what you're signing up for in that regard when you play the game.

If your player isn't interested in that, he's not going to be a good fit for your game REGARDLESS of the in-game problems or consequences you throw at him.

I could think of a lot of in-game reasons that burying yourself would be a bad idea, or game mechanic based consequences you could do... but all of it is really dancing around the fact that this is a choice that basically needs a conversation about what kind of game they're looking to have and whether that at all fits with anything the group is trying to play.

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    \$\begingroup\$ +1: Any team member not pulling his own weight should be cast out by the characters. \$\endgroup\$
    – András
    Commented Aug 10, 2014 at 9:20
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    \$\begingroup\$ @kadu "I'm going to play a character who is extremely paranoid and weird but not tell you or the rest of the group of players ahead of time and just make you deal with it in play" is not someone who is really trying to play their character for the fun of everyone playing the game. \$\endgroup\$
    – user9935
    Commented Aug 10, 2014 at 14:29
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    \$\begingroup\$ @kadu Related: What is a social contract? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 11, 2014 at 4:17
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    \$\begingroup\$ Oh, so spot on. I was thinking about all the ways the choice was bad, instead of addressing the elephant in the room: the general "hyper-allergy to any danger" attitude of some players. You gave me an epiphany, thanks! \$\endgroup\$
    – Pat
    Commented Jul 24, 2020 at 5:11

A lot of the other answers to this question deal with the actual mechanics of sleeping while buried. While they all bring up good points, don't forget that there are plenty of narrative-based consequences the player's actions can have.

The PC is obviously an undead

Suppose the party runs into a traveling paladin or cleric. What is the first thing they are going to see? One of the members is filthy with grave dirt in their hair and clothes, clearly a freshly risen corpse. Traveling paladins are known for their zealousness, not their keen intellect. So come up with a counter for every argument the player makes against being undead. They don't have to be perfect or even good, as long as they make sense to the paladin (and are funny to the players).

"I'm not a zombie, I can talk and jump around and stuff"

"Plenty of other undead. Probably a vampire"

"Vampire? We're talking in the middle of a sunny field"

"Stronger vampires have spells that let them go out in the sun"

"But you tried Detect Undead and Turn Undead on me and neither worked"

"Super strong vampire, with an artifact that hide Undeadness... I need to warn the rest of my Order!"

Sleeping in the wrong neighborhood

So, your player thinks that burying himself alive at night will keep him safe? That poor, deluded fool! Does he not know how many dangerous creatures lurk in the dirt? Not to mention the fact that he most likely has no way of signalling the rest of the party when things inevitably don't go his way. Here are a few ideas of what he could run up against.

  • Earth Elementals take offense to an outsider invading their territory. They kidnap the PC and the rest of the party has to rescue him.
  • Any number of burrowing creatures. The party goes to unbury the PC in the morning, only to find that his 'bed' was over a tunnel. Now they have to save him from a pack of angry Dire Moles.
  • Actual Zombies. The field that the party is camping in was actually the site of a battle in the past. By burying himself the PC angers the spirits(notice a pattern?) and a group of zombies rises up looking for a fight. For added shenanigans, have this occur right as the Paladin from above makes his second appearance, confirming that the PC is a zombie-raising super vampire.

There are two basic ways to handle a player acting like a troll during a game. You can throw "Rule Zero" in their face and just shut them down. Or you can get... creative.

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    \$\begingroup\$ +1 for attacking burrowing creatures. "You dig a hole to sleep in to protect yourself from attack? Sure, but you were right on top of a nest of Purple Worms. A half-dozen of them attack: roll for initiative." \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 11, 2014 at 15:18
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    \$\begingroup\$ Because nothing says "I've had it with your shenanigans" than six 16HD monsters trying to eat you. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 12, 2014 at 7:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ Attacking burrowing or "specifically regularly there now just because a PC tried to dig a couple feet in the dirt" creatures, are a cheap jerkass DM move. It is way easier for a burrowing bullette to just burrow 3 feet upwards to attack nearest PC, than to keep on digging straight to reach the buried PC who, 5 times out of 6, will be like 10 feet or more further away than that nearest PC. The tactic itself is full of problems, don't artificially add unrelated problems, that's just punishing a player for punishment's sake. What are odds of PCs randomly camping on a battle spot? Arbitrary! \$\endgroup\$
    – Pat
    Commented Sep 23, 2020 at 17:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ Maybe try this: Change XP system. Instead of per-fight (which encourages solve-everything-by-killing-it murder-hobo party) use system that rewards what you want. Say, categories like "Challenges" (fights, puzzles, though ropleplay, obstacles), "Heroism", and "Table Behavior". Player arguing with DM over rulings to weasel out of his share of "party danger"? Bad score on last two on "per game session" XP total, not merely the 1 night fight he wanted to avoid. Also, emphasis on real problems with plan itself (breathing, bad sleep, wasted time and energy), not on "custom-punitive" encounters. \$\endgroup\$
    – Pat
    Commented Sep 23, 2020 at 18:52

Don't feed the trolls

If you don't want trolling in your game, don't feed it - don't argue the trolling and rules details. It won't get you anywhere, it will get you frustrated, it will waste time and encourage such trolling in the future. Those details don't matter, and they're not the reason why you're at the gaming table.

Show, not tell

You don't need to identify and discuss the possible complications, as you describe in your question. Actions have consequences - show them. If he is cold and doesn't sleep comfortably (according to you), don't give him the benefits that a full rest would give. If the rules don't go into some details, make a ruling and have it stick - just be proportional and consistent.

If there are risks, don't tell them but have them happen after a few times; start with relatively milder occurrences before escalating. For example, have him waken up by a mole digging at his feet. Don't tell him that he's vulnerable, but show it by having the above-ground party be driven away by an encounter - and then have him find out that he actually cannot get out by himself.

Make a story out of player actions

The point of roleplaying is engaging stories. A shallow story that emerges from player actions will feel more engaging than a deep story written by someone else that you 'railroad' through.

Instead of saying "you shouldn't do that", have interesting, memorable adventure for getting out of the mess that the reckless actions caused.

For example, make an encounter where the enemy weak spot is matched with his strongest abilities - one that's stronger than the "n-1" party but where everyone would feel that with the other character it would be winnable; so the party gets driven away/imprisoned/whatever; then have him be buried alive for a day or two until someone digs him up; then have a repeat encounter with the same enemy with a full party as a comeback/revenge - that would be a classic story structure.


note: I'm using a 1 Bar atmosphere rather than the "standard sea level" 1013 or the average on surface of 985 mBar, for simplicity.

The Dirt

A "standard man" is roughly 45x175cm of frontal area, which is about 0.7875m^2. (The gap between the legs and the gap by the head is eaten by the arms). At 1m depth, that's about 0.7875m^3 of dirt, at 1220kg/m^3, for roughly 968 kgf of weight. The torso is half that. So, some 480 kgf on about 0.4m^2.

Noting that the mass of a meter of soil is generating 480kg/4000cm^2 which is an increase of about 120 mBar.

As an aside... An 80kg man, kneeling on the chest an abdomen, and thus generating 80kgf on about 0.4m^2, for about 200kgf/m^2, can suffocate an average person without ever touching their head or neck.

Breathing Volume & Inhalation Negative Pressure

Typical human respiration is about 500 mL. Peak is about 3.5 L

But note: we're not designed to generate high inhalation pressure differentials. The study by Lausted et al shows a peak of 95 cm/H20, or 93 mBar... this also means the maximum breath pressure with 1 bar outside air is 1093 mBar... and that's really high (most generated about half that much...

The Tube

A 1.1m long, 2cm tube (which is pretty comfortable for flow - it's a typical CPAP mask connection hose diameter; the extra decimeter is to prevent dirt inflow) is about 345mL. Which means a typical resting breath only gets 155ml of fresh air per inhalation. So, to overcome this, the body wants to take in the extra volume to maintain airflow. Breath volume raises to 845mL, doing 1.69 times the volume.

So, to recap so far...

Maximum inhaled negative pressure: 93 mBar
Maximum torso chamber pressure or maximum compression: 93 mBar.
Added pressure from soil direct on chest: 120 mBar
Result: unable to inhale against outside pressure

Breathing in a cavity

Ok, so, he has rigid chest armor - that limits breath to about 500ml, so he's oxygen starving. And unless it's a pin-locked, interlocked, or hinged breast and back, it's not going to matter, because it's just going to compress on him anyway. (Those configurations are rare outside jousting plate... because they require specific tailoring, and normal muscle and fat changes can render them a poor fit.) And he's then got about 1 L of volume inside the armor, and it's at 1000 mBar before he inhales... and he's compressing it by 0.835 L, so it's now at 6000 mBar... So, knowing that he can only get to 1093mBar... he's only able to get about 85 mL of breath. Vol= 1L-(1L * 1093/1000).

To Recap: if he's relying upon his armor, he's moving only 85 mL of air due to pressure limits on volume expansion. He needs 500 mL for air, and 345 mL to clear the tube. He's rebreathing the same air until he hits CO2 suffocation. Dead in a few minutes, just like breathing into a plastic baggie.

Ok, a box...

So, he has a wooden slat leaving about 10L of extra space. He can now get about 850 mL... but that's 1.69 times the volume effort of surface. And so his rest isn't so good. And, because of having to fight the pressure, 1.093 times the pressure effort per unit volume... about 1.85 times the effort...

He's down, he's safe, and he's got some spare air... but he's got to move air in and out. He needs that tube to NOT connect to the airspace of his torso... otherwise, he's just moving air inside the chamber. So, he either needs a mask, or a mouthpiece.

And once he's got the mouthpiece, he's STILL working almost twice as hard.

So, to cure that, he adds a second chamber with a leather separator, and a second hose. He breaths in the 1L spare space around his head, with a single hose. his chest box gets a separate hose.... he now is able to move air in and out, without fighting the extra pressure, so it's now just the volume increase.

And that can be fought, too. Since we need a head box anyway, a second tube, both tubes having one way leather flapper valves. We can get the work effort down to about 1.02x the work...

But what about the cold?

The ground at 1m can vary widely in temperature by region, but in temperate climates, it's about 65°. In skin contact, that's a pretty good chiller. Dirt is a decent insulator - R 0.25 per inch... it'll take a while, but he's warm up the dirt and be cozy pretty quick.

If, however, the ground has permafrost... it might start below that. At which point, things start to go downhill. First off, if the permafrost is 1m below grade, as in much of Alaska, that means it's about -10°C (10°F)... you're not heating it up fast enough, you get hypothermia.

Still, overall, it's NOT a major thermal issue until it gets wet.


The psychology of the guy is that he's dark, cool, unable to move, and working a little harder. This sounds like time for a fright check of some kind.

Note that small, dark, cool, enclosed spaces are not something mankind is well suited for. It causes fear. The rules don't say that, but the real world does. If he wants to have a flaw of agoraphobia, sure, let him... and then, when he's above ground and not in narrow places, he rolls at disadvantage.

If not, it's reasonable to require a Wis 15 save to get a restful sleep... but since being buried alive is a fearful thing, it's at disadvantage,and quite likely to fail often. And no rest creates...

And if he's fighting increased pressure, he's also likely to need a Con save to not count it as strenuous activity...

The math and physics imply he shouldn't normally get to count buried rest for long rests due to the increased work of breathing.

Other Bad Things

Bugs crawl down the pipe... and into his lungs.
Burrowers burrow into him.
Rain or poured water drowns him. The party doesn't dig him up in the morning - he dehydrates and dies. A bug or mouse crawls in and gets stuck. Suffocation. He dies. An elephant, rhino, troll, etc lies upon him with large ground pressure. He loses circulation to his feet, and gangrene may set in.

Bottom Line

So, as described, he suffocates from compression asphyxiation - he can't move enough dirt to get any air. Even with armor, he suffocates, because the air he's breathing out doesn't leave the tube, and gets right back in.

If he builds a shelter with a board, it's heavy, has to be braced up, and still increases the work, and preventing rest.

Even if he goes to the extreme of the two chamber box and 3 hoses, he's still got to fight the claustrophobia.


  • \$\begingroup\$ Good analysis. WIS DC 15 is already though (except maybe for a WIS-based PC) so adding disadvantage to that may be like adding insult to injury. I wouldn't push too much the mental-state-stuff, nor multiply the number of saves needed. Merely doing the following will be enough to cut down on these shenanigans: a) lots of strenuous digging = party wastes time and energy for basically digging nearly 2 graves a day = half overland travel speed; b) PC gets zero Restful Sleep + rolls a CON Save DC 12 Half vs: 2d6 Bludgeoning (slow crushing) damage + 2 Ranks Exhaustion. Simpler = better! :-) \$\endgroup\$
    – Pat
    Commented Sep 23, 2020 at 19:10

Oho, there are plenty of reasons this isn't a good idea. First and foremost... RAIN! For whatever reason, what if the straw gets blocked? Not to mention that the ground can freeze at night even in warmer temperatures, make sure to have him take penalties from that. No, a bedroll doesn't keep you warm enough in freezing temperatures.

Plus, three feet of dirt isn't exactly crushing, but it would present breathing difficulties unless the dirt was supported from beneath. When he exhales the dirt would shift and press against him, preventing him from inhaling again unless he has incredibly powerful lungs (rather unlikely as that would require some SERIOUS strength.

Many things are not included in the rules, which is why there are DM's in this world. He wants to sleep buried alive? Go right ahead and let him, but make him suffer penalties for it. There are penalties for suffocation and for cold, use them. A standard bedroll wouldn't even protect you from normal cold nights when used on the surface (ever try to go camping in late fall or early spring?).

Being underground can also present other problems, such as moisture gathering on their gear and weapons. Assuming much of their stuff is nonmagical, it can probably rust. Mold could also become an issue with clothes and with the bedroll, which could cause sickness issues. Think this through logically. If he somehow gets around the freezing and suffocation from 3 feet of dirt pressing against his chest and the straw getting blocked from various means (bugs, rain, dirt, sand, heck even a leaf falling on it can get sucked in and block it, have his stuff slowly rusting and creating penalties, and molding and getting him sick.

Oh, and for giggles... there's bugs, snakes, and other critters in the dirt that might just dislike a sleeping elf next door to them. Feel free to have them stop by and express their displeasure if need be. Won't it be nice to wake up freezing, with rusty weapons, moldy clothes, poisoned from getting bit by spiders and snakes, and choking from the ants that crawled into the straw?

NOTE: Due to lack of experience with 5e, I cannot fully detail the possible penalties for everything. If you can't find them, wing it. If he's deliberately doing this to troll make him suffer for it. The above advice can be considered for any version of any game for that matter. Sans magic coming into play, and perhaps a coffin, everything above would apply.


Honestly I wouldn't make a big deal of it, if he has fun doing it then let him do it. Encourage people to try novel ideas, not punish them for it.

However having said that, this idea has serious drawbacks and he should meet the consequences at some point. I wouldn't recommend using physics or modern science though, it's D&D so people should die to monsters, traps or similar.

Let it go for a session or two, then drop a mention of burrowing monsters that are attacking people in the area as a rumour at a local pub.

Let it go another couple of sessions, then have the party attacked by the burrowing monsters.

Having the immobilised and trapped elf screaming for his friends to get him out while burrowing creatures attack him and the rest of the camp from below and at the same time...

...that's an experience he'll remember ;)

Don't do it all the time, don't make it a big deal, but so long as he keeps doing this then every now and then have them attacked in a way that will get him.

Oh and if there is a fight in the night keep track of where everyone goes, if in any round someone is on or passes through the square where his straw is then roll a D20 in plain view. On a 1 they crush his straw and block it totally, he's now holding his breathe. On a 2 or 3 they block it partially, he's struggling to breath and another roll of 3 or under will block it totally. Don't forget that you control the starting position of monster attacks, so you can position them that they will run through the area at least once ;)


The other answers mainly focused on ways to break this defense. While that can be fun in moderation, you might want to think about the reasons he is going to this kind of extreme. Maybe he's challenging you to find a chink in the armor, but usually players develop defense mechanisms like this because they're tired of the consequences.

He's telling you he doesn't like night ambushes, and you should at least consider honoring that. Maybe the consequences of a night attack are larger for him than for other characters. Maybe it makes it too difficult to plan his daily resources. Maybe it's just a matter of pride to not like being caught unawares.

Your comment about him not getting XP or loot from night attacks makes them sound relatively frequent. In most of my groups, they might happen once or twice per campaign, and most people design their characters and plan their encounters accordingly. After all, the bad guys have to sleep sometime too. If you want night attacks to be more frequent, I would consider compensating the party somehow: removing armor and sleep penalties, letting them have daily resources back, provide NPC guards that hold them off long enough to give the PCs time to get ready, etc.

If it's truly only that one player that dislikes night attacks, you might want to help him get a better way to protect himself. An extra-dimensional tent or something like that. Sitting out of an encounter ought to be "punishment" enough.


Other people have brought up using burrowing animals and creepy crawlies and the like against your sleeping character, there are come specific critters that come to mind.

ROT GRUBS!!! I'm regretting my decision to wear a mail t-shirt Figure 1. "Why didn't I pay extra for sleeves?!".

Don't kill the character outright, but waking up with an infestation of flesh maggots burrowing their way toward their heart might convince them it's not such a great idea. And maybe do it when the healer happens to not have a Cure Disease ready.

This player might persist and come up with a clever way to deal with Rot Grubs. Fine. Change critters. How about waking up to find yourself (and worse, your equipment) slowing being dissolved by Green Slime? Next night is fire ants. The next you find you swallowed a poisonous slug. Ensure the consequences go beyond simple healing spells, or that the rest of the party has to use up precious healing spells each morning. Make it horrible for the character and a problem for the party.

If your player fails to get the hint, and the other players continue to allow this behavior and haven't ditched him, make them ditch him. Engineer a night ambush where the party has to run away, perhaps they're attacked by something overwhelming, and do not have time to dig him up. Keep the party away from the site. Maybe a large army of Orcs decides to make camp right on top of him. Maybe somebody steps on the straw. Eventually, the baddies will notice the obviously freshly buried spot and think "treasure!" They won't be pleased when they dig up a filthy elf instead. Your problem character, only partially uncovered and possibly unconscious at this point from lack of air, will be easily subdued and captured.

Maybe the Orcs decide to have some fun with their burrowing Elf. Maybe they bury him up to his neck. Maybe they bury him upside down.

Either way, the party now has to rescue him (or finally decide to ditch him). Make this rescue a royal pain for the other players. Perhaps they have to use a lot of precious magic items.


There are many reasons why it would be a bad idea to bury yourself, especially in a game rife with creatures that live under the ground, and the possibility of attack. Others have gone over the pros and cons of taking a dirt nap - I would like to point out ways to discourage this from happening.

Straws are weak

A breathing straw is not going to be able to handle a lot of trauma. If the party is attacked, chances are there will be a lot of feet trampling over that section of earth. Chances of his straw getting stomped on and rendered useless (or mostly useless) are very high. Roll a die in every battle, and check if someone stomped his breathing straw.

Bugs live there

Even outside the D&D universe, all manner of creepy-crawlies live underground. Getting buried next to an ant pile, in a snake nest, or near rodent tunnels would be an unpleasant experience at best, and a fatal one at worst.

Dirt is... dirty

A grass-covered field is one thing, but if he's buried three feet underground, he'll be under the topsoil layer, and thus in clay, silt, sand, or coarse rocks. Regardless of soil type, his armor and clothes will be completely full of it by the time he's dug up, which should be a major hit against charisma. It's hard to take someone seriously when they keep shaking mud out of their pants. Much worse would be the bacteria that live in dirt; any open wounds would be at enormous risk for infection.

Poor for storage

Even if a player can shrug off being dirty, his armor could not. When kept in close contact with damp soil, armor, weapons, tools, clothing, and anything else capable of degrading will undoubtedly rust, rot, or otherwise decay. Usually when things are stored underground, they are wrapped in material to limit the amount of moisture and air that can get to them - not an option he would have.

Flesh is soft

Finally, when it's time to dig him out, remember that "skin and bone" doesn't feel a lot different from "clay and rocks." Make a roll (or two) to see if someone accidentally chops off a few fingers trying to dig him up for the day.

Digging takes time

Digging a hole three feet deep and wide enough to "comfortably" fit a human is going to take some time - I can't find a good number, but the estimate seems to be for a hole that size, it would take one man at least two hours to dig. For harder soils or in heavily wooded areas, it could easily take double that time. Which means there may not be anyone left awake to fill it in for him, and he's stayed up half the night for nothing.

My strategy would be to add something every night that makes him rethink his decision: bugs in his sleeping pit, rain that keeps him awake (because he's cold and soaked), rusted weapons and armor, and so on. He will, undoubtedly, try to work around these problems, and in doing so will take increasingly more time to prepare. Eventually, he will either give up, or will only spend an hour or two asleep each night. Then again, he may come up with a surprisingly good solution and convince everyone else to bury themselves each night, too.

  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ +1 for being the only answer in my quick skim that mentions how long doing this would take. Plus also what would happen when the other people don't feel like covering him up every day. \$\endgroup\$
    – durron597
    Commented Aug 15, 2014 at 14:40
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Well, the PC is an elf, so he's got an extra 4 hours, that would help. \$\endgroup\$
    – Pat
    Commented Jul 24, 2020 at 5:50

I can think of one good reason that this is a bad idea, and it's the only reason you need.

It wouldn't work.

Sure his body is protected from direct damage from everyone aboveground, but if someone or something is going to ambush the party at night, it takes only one clever sod kicking the straw over or stuffing it shut (And why would they do that? Because they see the straw and assume it's important to the party they're attacking, so they stuff it shut) or just one unlucky bash or trod from ANY monster could break the straw and now he's suffocating for at least an hour while they dig him out.

To say nothing of the added weight of any creature that walks over him at night. Really, he's only made himself more vulnerable by doing this.



No specific rules for sleeping in armor I can use as a reference


Sleeping in Armor

A character who sleeps in medium or heavy armor is automatically fatigued the next day. He or she takes a –2 penalty on Strength and Dexterity and can’t charge or run. Sleeping in light armor does not cause fatigue.

These may not be from your version of DnD, but you can certainly reference them. It sounds like DnD 5e has streamlined some of the rules, but that just makes the DM's judgement more pertinent in strange situations like this.

Aside from the fact that he will suffocate because he can't breathe out the CO2 all the way from the long straw. And everything else mentioned above by others.

But it doesn't really matter in my opinion, it's just one of his character quirks and if it's not bothering the other players, let him have his fun, sounds like the John Malkovich character from the "Red" movies. You should be happy he is putting that much thought into just his character going to bed. Perhaps reward him with a magic item that does this, or have him seek one out, or develop a spell called "Earth Meld" or something. Maybe he learns it from a vampire/mage/werewolf... ;)

Having a few giants walk over his resting place could be fun though...

And having fun is the main thing.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Thank you! I immediately thought that when I saw this post! \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 8, 2023 at 22:09

Perhaps the simplest of all answers is to... ignore it. Are night raids critical to the story? If not, and the other players have no problem with this digging arrangement, let them continue to do it and simply don't throw any more troll food at him. Nothing of consequence happens overnight, or if it does, it's in a place where he can't bury himself (they're staying at an inn for example).

Sure the idea sounds ludicrous, and I don't see a better word for it than "trolling," but the best way to get rid of a troll is to simply ignore them. Throwing in midnight encounters that he gets to ignore seems like it hurts him but he's made it obvious it doesn't. He's a classic troll. If you feel you really must do something about it (trust me, I'd have a hard time not messing with him too), impose some sort of modifier based on the other arguments presented here. Like penalties for exhaustion due to not sleeping comfortably/at all/in a dangerous environment. Leave it at that, so he's constantly handicapped by it. Then when he realizes he's being handicapped and gaining absolutely no benefit from it, you get to give him the troll face!

Please keep in mind I only suggest this because you say he's a good friend. I probably wouldn't do any sort of sadistic counter-trolling operation in a more formal group!


I'll try to play devil's advocate and argue in favor of this, and give some possible ideas for improvement. By extension, lack of these improvements can be interpreted as weaknesses for you to attack.

The hole itself

There's already several posts calculating the weight of dirt pushing on you.

Suffice to say, dirt is heavy. I used to have a cat that weighed not more than 10 lbs. Sometimes, when I'm asleep, he'd come and decide to take a nap on my chest. The weight was enough to make breathing very noticeably difficult - and a column of earth 3 feet high is certainly much heavier than a cat.

So he cannot merely bury himself: He would be unable to breathe, and his body would be crushed. I don't believe calculation is even necessary at this point: A simple experiment of sitting on your arm for several hours nicely demonstrates the point (don't actually do this!).

There are, however, two simple solutions.

As described elsewhere, wear strong, rigid armor. Note, however, that sleeping in armor is supposed to be uncomfortable - for instance 3.5e DnD has specific discomfort rules for it, and there's nothing stopping you from house ruling your own. Besides, the armor has to be very rigid - most armor (and all armor described in the DnD books) has back and front sections connected by flexible straps, and does not have them supporting each other. Moreover, armor is not supposed to be an isolated suit - bits of earth would seep in, transmit pressure, and defeat the protection.

I think the more reasonable idea is to create an actual walled tomb of some sort. A coffin would be a start, but that's a lot to carry around. The sides and bottom are not really doing anything, so you might as well just carry the lid: A big flat board, that can be laid on two banks of dirt on the sides that you left out while digging, then the soil goes on top. This gives you a nice roomy space to sleep in, and has the added benefits of not restricting your movements and letting you twist, turn, and call for help. Here's a side view (section from side):


The board is a bit clumsy to carry, so you can just carry the individual planks in a nice portable bundle that isn't all that heavy (more than just a simple sleeping bag, but probably not too bad with high Str). The supports of the roof could also be rocks that you dug out, or found nearby for even more stability.

For extra safety, the boards could be arched upward. A few steel reinforcing beams could add yet more sturdiness. To avoid earth seeping through the cracks, you could throw a thick tarp over the roof before filling in the hole.

While you're at it, get a second, thin but waterproof tarp that you use to line the bottom and walls. If you interlock this correctly with the top (also waterproof) tarp, you will be reasonably safe from water as well: Most of the water will presumably seep downwards and little of it will flood into your little cocoon (to be sure, it could get very humid, but I doubt you would actually drown). Insects and burrowers are also deterred.

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This does require you to carry some planks and/or metal beams, a small amount of tarp, and spend some extra time finding the boulders. In all, I think that a player who goes as far as to bury themselves to ensure safety would not mind the extra weight (it can be split between party members) and fetching some boulders would probably not take too long (and it's good exercise!).

You can conceal most aspects of the hole, but the strength of the structure is limited. I imagine the maximum weight it can bear is not much higher than typical weight (to keep portable materials right). What happens if an enemy bear, or cavalryman steps on the hole? Will it collapse, creating a crisis of players needing to quickly rescue their friend?

The digging

It's important to remember that digging takes time. As has been noted above, even with several people, this thing will take time to set up, probably 2+ hours. In reality, depending on physical condition of the diggers, energy (they have just finished traveling all day), skill and many other factors, the process could easily take up to 6 hours, but I think it's fair to call it 2-3 hours in usual conditions (similar to how everything else in the game is slightly unrealistic for dramatic effect).

Let's pretend the party travels for 8 hours and then digs the hole in 2 hours. Presumably, they could travel for 10 hours instead and move 25% faster, reaching the destination in 4 days instead of 5. Committing an imaginary character to dig ditches for hours just to please a whim is easy of course, but will the party feel so cavalier when they are in a hurry to get somewhere? Maybe, "Screw your hole, Feloras, we don't have the time. If we don't reach the Hobbleton before the Orcish army does, our entire quest is a failure!"

The digging itself is also some solid labor, and by the end the diggers will be exhausted. Though to be fair, if they do this regularly their bodies should adapt after a week or two, and I would even consider slightly increasing their relevant attributed given the strenuous exercise. For comparison, a typical weight lifting regimen will last 1.5 hours every other day and involves lifting heavier weights and doing comparable work. You do need to dig every day, but you could have two alternating teams of diggers: On the workout day you dig, on the off-day you forage for firewood and water. Quite healthy lifestyle, actually.

Now again, digging is not as good as say squatting or bench pressing, splitting into teams will make it take even longer, there is constant risk of back injury, and they will likely be overtrained since they are physically active already. But it's a game, and it doesn't seem like more of a stretch than what is already allowed, like getting stabbed in the face and shrugging it off because you still have 2/3ds of your HP left. Might as well allow it.

The bigger issue is the necessity of doing so much work. At slightly higher levels, there are many spells that could alert you when danger is nearby. For example, the Level 1 Alarm spell: In 3.5e, it is enough to cover an elf's rest at Level 2. In 5e it's 8 hours from the get go. At higher levels there are even better spells (there are also insta-dig spells and spells to summon diggers), and spells aside, even climbing up a tree with a hammock seems less work than constant digging.

Note that the above assumes nice soft earth as one might find in a temperate forest. The trick fails completely if:

  • Most of the soil is sand.
  • There are many large boulders embedded in the soil that are too heavy to lift.
  • The area is arid, so the ground is packed, dry and very hard to dig (but perhaps you could create water to help).
  • The water level is too close and your tomb ends up being a well.

On the other hand, if you are lucky enough to find pits, dried stream beds (actually very dangerous because it could flood - but why tell the players that?) or overhangs your job for that day could end up being a lot easier.


The various dynamics of air flux have been discussed in detail, so I'll conclude: In reality, I wouldn't do this (too dangerous/uncomfortable) but it is not that much disbelief to suspend. Might as well not split hairs and let him breathe through the straw.

The bigger concern is the straw itself. I imagine a character who does this would have a specially constructed "straw" with several useful features:

  • Made of metal or other sturdy, easy to clean (these breathing tube contraptions start stinking something awful very quick) material to minimize risk of being crushed.
  • Possibly telescopic or collapsible for portability, although a 3-foot tube is already quite portable.
  • Has a little cap on top in case it rains, and a net or grill to deter insects.
  • A wire running inside the pipe, attached to a bell on top, and going to the player's hand below, to allow easily alerting the party (they can agree on a code of various signals, perhaps even a morse code).
  • Maybe a second tube, one with a funnel at the bottom. Air warmed by the player rises through the pipe, driving ventilation.
  • The input tube has an elbow on the bottom, so that even if it rests on the bottom air flow is not blocked. Optionally a flexible hose extends to the player's mouth.
  • A small wind, water, heat, spring or magically powered fan on top to further increase ventilation and air quality.
  • A hand operated air pump at the bottom, in case the player feels too stuffy.
  • A net with fake leaves, moss and grasses to throw around the pipes and camouflage them. For even more stealth, arrange the tube so that it exits inside a bush.


As mentioned before, I imagine the biggest danger would be cave in. Hopefully the error margin can tolerate party members stumbling above in the morning, but what if a heavy animal happens to walk over? Not so good.

You could create some kind of light obstruction, like a stick tipi. This will make you conspicuous, so you're counting on your friends to defend you.

Burrowing insects and small animals have been brought up, but I don't think these should be a serious issue. For one, as any camper knows, scorpions, spiders, bugs, centipedes, mice, foxes and myriad critters are just as common on the surface, probably more because it is more accessible and the smell of food is stronger. Meanwhile, underground there are not only few animals that can reach you but they might be disturbed by the unfamiliar smell (for even better effect, bring a strong-smelling herb with you as a repellant and air freshener).

Because of the tarps, most insects are already blocked. If you wanted to get really elaborate, you could have a third, circular netting that gets attached from the inside to cover the junction between the two tarps - together with grills on the ventilation system you are now completely isolated. Lucky that you have darkvision so setting up the net from inside won't be too hard.

The larger burrowing animals would probably be frightened by the excessive digging, and keep away out of fear of being hunted. If you happen to stumble on a burrow, the inhabitant shouldn't be hard to dispatch even at Level 1, and you will certainly know it from the very obvious holes in, well, your hole.

For emergencies, it's helpful to have a way of getting out. The simplest would be some kind of teleportation device (spell, scroll or magic item) but if you have access to that you can probably just use the instant shelter spells like Leomund's Tiny Hut.

Alternatively, you can have means of summoning help. Some 3.5e and 5e examples:

  • Unseen servants last for an hour, and are capable of lifting 20 lb. It isn't clear if they can do hard labor, but why not? If it takes 10 seconds to shovel 20 lb dirt, that's 7200 lbs dirt in the 1 hour it's around. That oughta be enough to at least uncover your face and arms. You can summon multiple times as well, and have them dig you out. A magic item that can cast Unseen Servant 3 times a day ought to be quite cheap.
  • Dire badgers are CR 2 in 3.5e and have 10 ft. burrow speed, leaving behind a 5 ft. tunnel. It can be summoned by a Level 3 Druid for 3 turns. The dire badger could dig a tunnel to you with half of its move action, so it would easily get you out even if you were suffocating. The question is how to cast the spell: What if you can't move, what if DM says you don't have line of sight, etc. Worst case scenario, you just dig the tomb a bit larger and summon the badger inside, then have it dig it out. A one use emergency magic item could easily be made pretty cheap.


In terms of being realistic, it isn't, really. If someone in real life claimed they will do this, I would laugh in their face. I'm sure it is possible for the purposes of a stunt, but as a routine thing, out in the woods away from help? It would be a stupidly risky thing to do no matter what horrors roam at night.

That said, DnD as a whole isn't realistic to begin with. In that sense, I think burying yourself isn't really outside the boundaries of the typical suspension of disbelief. Especially with some flavor explaining why the character acts in such an outlandish manner (maybe they have very low Wis and serious mental disorders) and it seems like as good as any plan your average party of "adventurers" would come up with.

If you are worried that the player has found an overly-clever way to avoid trouble when resting, don't forget that it's only clever until level 5, when Wizards can cast Leomund's Tiny Hut, and all of this is irrelevant.

Up until that point, it is indeed a strangely effective method of protecting yourself, but then so is climbing up a tree with a hammock (and it's a lot less hassle).

In fact, it can possibly be done in a very fool proof way, but I'm willing to bet your player hasn't covered these. A naive version is so ridiculously error prone, even compared to hammock-in-a-tree, that you could easily exploit these weaknesses to teach him a lesson. For example, a light rain fills the hole with water half-way up - doesn't actually harm the player, but it ruins the rest and scares him silly. Or, part of it collapses on his legs halfway through the night - how lucky it didn't collapse on his face! Or many other possibilities that have been proposed: I was particularly amused by someone farting in the straw.

These are inherent flaws in the strategy, and so would work better than telling the player that the earth will be too heavy, or the air circulation won't be enough, which just leads to pointless hairsplitting over exactly how many liters of oxygen per minute elvish physiology can tolerate. If you implemented every suggestion I make above, these difficulties can be solved (emergency digger to fix caveins, hand-pump to get rid of farts, tarp prevents flooding, etc) but if your player went to all that trouble then might as well let him have fun with it. It's only for 4 levels anyway.

Meanwhile, if he left out just one of the numerous safety precautions, you can really frighten him within an inch of his life to the point of abandoning this silliness entirely, and best of all they are abandoning it out of their own volition, not your say so (or they could continue trying to improve it and develop a comprehensive version).

  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ While quite an elaborate suggestion, this doesn't really offer the judgement the question is seeking. This isn't a "brainstorm ways to safely bury yourself" question, it's a "my friend is burying themselves in the dirt with a straw and this seems dumb, is it?" question. \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 2, 2015 at 5:19

There is a simple reason why this tactic won't work for long:

The other players

As already stated, this player assumes that the other characters are going to help him to:

  1. Dig the hole
  2. Bury him in it, and
  3. Dig him up again

I don't know about your players, but my character won't put up with that, except perhaps to protect and/or hide a defenceless VIP (which a party member is not)

Coupled with the fact that

He has no intention of quickly being able to help the rest of the party if they get attacked so escaping his hole is not something I can use against him (I tried).

None of my characters, not even paladins (or equivalent) would put up with that. Most of them would eagerly help this person with steps 1) and 2), but would be likely to "forget" about step 3) the next morning

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Even if he digs the hole all by himself (because elf), all the shoveling noise would prevent the others from sleeping well unless he goes far enough from camp. I think the simplest way is simply to tell him that 2 men digging a hole like that require more than a couple hours of work. Most real-life grave digging info I found seems to be 4-5 hours for two normal "STR 10" men. \$\endgroup\$
    – Pat
    Commented Jul 24, 2020 at 5:55

You do not have a problem.

From your question:

the other members of the group don't mind his selfishness

Also from your question:

I don't mind him doing it.

Since we can assume that the player himself doesn't mind, then what's the problem? Is it silly? Yes. Is it unrealistic? As many answers point out, of course it is. But you're playing a fantasy game--emphasis on "fantasy" and emphasis also on "game." If it's stupid but it's fun and doesn't bother anyone, then why try to stop it?

Keep in mind that as GM, you have a whole world as your creative outlet. Your players each have one character. I would advise giving them a little leeway in how quirky, odd, and eccentric they want those characters to be, especially when nobody seems to mind and it has no significant effect on the campaign.


This may be trolling in the culture of your circle, but this could just as easily be a totally legitimate, savvy move, with grave consequences that will begin now or later. Your job as GM is to make sure things that are too clever do have consequences, and there's no particular reason those consequences need to happen now. So, let him.

What I'm thinking: Will his party members still trust him? Perhaps when it comes time to carry some important artifact, even though the buried member is ideal for some reason (e.g. he's a Hobbit and more immune to The Ring), he simply can't be trusted not to bail. Perhaps the group must split up and one person gets a clearly less desirable task - of course the group will force the a**hole down that road (not to spite the meta-game troll, but because their characters have become suspicious of him).

For every short term, clever, snarky gain; there is a long term character loss. You can try playing this dynamic for a very rich game. But if that's not your thing and you just want out of this trap so the troupe can function normally again, there's plenty of good suggestions in these answers.

  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ "Grave consequences...."? Alright, +1 for you. \$\endgroup\$
    – nitsua60
    Commented Aug 6, 2016 at 3:04

Since you know that he's trying to be silly, it's best to fight this with silliness. The reason that buying himself is a bad idea is because it renders him helpless when the dire naked mole rats come through, looking for a place to dig their tunnels. They can't get through his armor, perhaps, but the poking, chittering, and screech of claws on metal mean that he's not going to actually get any sleep.

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ The dire mole rats are definitely not merely looking for a place to dig their tunnel, because plenty of empty dirt in the multi-square-kilometers of land all around the exact specific spot that the party chose for the night. Nope, here they are clearly mind-controlled by the DM to purposefully specifically punish the PC. Personally I'd tend to quickly nope out of a campaign with such an arbitrary "against players" DM. You show that the idea itself is bad aka "weight of dirt = harder to breathe = no rest for you!". But suddenly adding custom monster that never existed before? Jerk DM move. \$\endgroup\$
    – Pat
    Commented Sep 23, 2020 at 19:27

Why bother getting him out of his hole, just keep him there.

Have the camp ambushed by something big, too big for the party to handle, but relatively slow (slower than their horses).

Just make sure the party doesn't have enough time to dig up their fellow member and have to leave him there.

Then it's up to the party to dig him up when the big something is not there, or distract him at the right time.

Don't make it too easy though, and preferably costly.

When the party rescue their fellow member, they won't be too keen on doing the same thing again, and the elf should be somewhat traumatized (buried without knowing when they will get out, claustrophobia seem a good penalty) Make it curable, don't punish him too much for creative play. Punish him for foolishness; sometime fleeing is THE solution.

If the party choose to fight the big guy and die, the elf is lucky, he is already in his tomb ;)

If the party doesn't return, well the elf is punished by his own egoism.



I'll stick only to the main major consequences. Rare or minor consequences should be ignored.

Say, what are the odds that the tube gets blocked by whatever a leaf a twig an insect or enemy boots? Superbly, incredibly low. Not "roll a d20, but don't roll a 1 or you die by suffocation" levels of stupid. Even then that probably wouldn't fully block the tube.

Burrowing animals? A burrow is many tunnels and rooms. With all the racket of the shoveling, normal animals would just flee and not come back for days, not angrily wait for the PC to go to sleep in order to vengefully gnaw at his toes. Even if an animal is burrowing and nocturnal, the density of such animals per square kilometres is very low (like, avg real data: 2 foxes per square km of forest). Like, we're talking one in a million odds here. If a mole finds the PC while doing it's nightly digging, it will just fearfully back up it's own tunnel, not go "Hey I'm the one digging here you motherfrakker, so I'm gonna go straight through you!". These are small animals, not monsters.

Creepy crawlies? A bit more than at surface ground but then most would be simple worms not dangerous insects. Again, DM never made insects a problem before: a medieval tent is not very airtight or insect free at all, it is basically a rectangular sheet draped over a rectangular tarp. But SUDDENLY all the surface ground insects are super rare and still devoid of minor annoyance potential, but a mere 3 feet underground, they are found in droves and they BITE? Nope!

Burrowing monsters? Come on, that is so arbitrary and "DM targets a specific player directly" cheap shot style. There never was any such monster type before, and suddenly, wham, bam, kaboom, there are regular instances of such monsters? And their lair is somehow always DIRECTLY under the "bad" PC, too. Because, if they were from outside camp, then of course burrowing to the OTHER much closer PCs would make wayyyy too much sense, right? Nah somehow burrowing an extra 10 feet straight to save burrowing 2 feet upwards, is so much easier. And of course there are burrowing nests seemingly every 60 feet of forest, too, so that such "disturbing an underground burrowing monster lair" event occurs at least once a week now.

These all shout "moronic unfair DM". My brain melts from the arbitrary unfairness of it all.

So, the real consequences:

#1 So tired now, plus we wasted so much time and energy!

Digging is lengthy back-breaking hard work. Time and also energy for other stuff is severely cut down. Namely, traveling distance.

I did a bit of research on grave digging. Being very generous here, and using a very simple rulings: Digging a hole is about half a day or strenuous backbreaking work. This means the entire party must work at it else they lose too much day time.

This is only possible in ok soil. In soft soil, the hole walls constantly collapse, you end up having to do tons more digging work. In hard soil, graves were VERY shallow and topped with rocks because digging was too hard. Clay, rocks, roots = too hard soil. Big forest clearing, might be ok. Thus not in a normal forest: because roots.

If not refilling and camouflaging the hole in the morning, any pursuers will quickly figure out that the party is taking care to dig a hole at every camp site. They might not guess it is to hide someone, they might wonder, hey maybe it is to hide some treasure? In any case, they will become curious and extra careful if they find another PC encampment without an open hole visible (giving them Advantage to Perception by searching more carefully and for longer).

#2 All that weight!

Making it super hard to breathe.

  • No Resting benefits.
  • CON Save vs Fatigue.

#3 Yuck stale air!

The dirt pressure means very reduced lung air volume per each breath, but also, sucking up and down the air in the tube means that the beginning of each gulp of air is going to be of "stale" air.

I did a few calculations:

  • Too small a tube diameter = Even harder to breathe, meaning not enough air moved around thus breathing only quite stale air. Bad.
  • Too big a tube diameter = Not enough air to fully clear the tube so again you get only quite stale air. Bad.
  • Around a 1.5 cm diameter "middle tube size" = It works, but basically the PC barely get enough fresh air, and more than half of it is still somewhat stale air. This can lead to problems, especially when sleeping because when we sleep our breathing is even more shallow, so yeah the amount of stale air would be relatively big here too anyway.

I did some research for breathing too much stale air: Headaches, fatigue, dry skin, irritation of the respiratory and nasal tracts, resulting in coughing and nasal and sinus congestion.

So I go for:

  • CON Save vs Suffocation Damage and Fatigue.
  • Poisoned Condition for 1/4 hour for every full hour spent in there.

#4 Yay hypothermia!

That bedroll won't do zilch against cold because the bedroll and clothing will become quite damp if not utterly wet during the night. Sleeping in a wet & cold environment is not a very bright idea!

  • CON Save vs Cold Damage.
  • Catch a Cold (minor disease) or a Pneumonia (major disease).

#5 Not as hidden as one might think

The PC breathing means there is a human smell coming out. Less detectable than PCs on the ground on the surface, sure, but if rest of the party leaves, then PC's breath becomes the main source of human smell around.

An angry predator can still pick up the scent. Turns out wolves have no problem digging down up to 6 feet deep to get food. Intelligent foes that find the hide away can dig up the PC in such a way that they can easily kill or capture him without any risk of retaliation or defense or evasion.

I'd go at it like this: Creatures get a Perception check vs the camouflager's Survival check in order to detect the freshly dug dirt area. A creature merely passing through the encampment instead of taking a bit of time to explore it, makes its check at Disadvantage.

Once detected, unless in a hurry, then the creature, upon closer inspection, will also detect the little poking tube automatically after at most a minute.

Animals will realize somebody is there because of the human smell from the breathing tube. Stupid humanoids will see the tube and eventually figure it out, or might just think that the freshly dug soil means someone hid some treasure there or whatever.

In any case, given time they WILL dig the PC out, but not in a "Hey you're fully dug out now, so... let's fight!" way. More like in a "Hey your CHEST is exposed now, so we can poke a dagger in your belly or take a bite, and you can do absolutely nothing!" kind of way. For all intents and purposes, the PC is effectively pinned down by all the dirt. Intelligent creatures can progressively dig the PC out and put rope on him, a bag over his head, basically automatic capture, and the PC can't do much abut it. First they unbury one member, rope it. PC resists? SLASH! Then another member and so on. At no point the PC can simply go "hey I have only a tiny bit of dirt above me now, I'll just jump up and freely attack!" He's unburied progressively and unless the enemies are SUPERBLY stupid (like, they all have 3 INT or something) they can figure out "hey he is breathing from HERE, let's just dig out his face first, not all the body!" INT 8 is none too bright sure, but NOT a complete moron.

Instead of just killing the PC:

  • Wild animal: The beast eats one PC arm, then leaves, sated for now. Beast will come back the next night for another arm or leg, but party will probably rescue PC before that can happen. PC uses pressure on dirt wall to stop the bleeding, then passes out. Later on (if saved in time) party meets a druid with Regenerate magic, that will make PC give up his most treasured magical item to pay for the regen. And that is only after hard negotiating, as the druid believes that the PC's losing his arm was his own damn fault.

  • Intelligent creatures: They rope PC and put a bag on over PC's head so he doesn't see who they are. The steal ALL his stuff and completely disappear from the area. PC now has only: 1 underwear, 1 rope (because tied to a tree), 1 small bag (covering head). PC eventually retrace some of his most unique and valuable possessions in the hands of various people that bought the items, are not criminals themselves, and have no real wish to part with their new possessions, not without due compensation.

#6 Emphasise the lack of heroism

Remind the players they are in NO way obligated to enable toxic or non heroic behavior. If they would not tolerate shenanigans from an NPC, they should not tolerate it from another player's PC. If nobody helps hide him, then his hiding plan fails.

Probably the party is letting him have his way because they are too tired of wasting time with arguing with him and he insist to the point of never letting it go. Cut short any in-party argument by taking the side of the group over an manipulative/authoritative PC. After a minute or two of conflict, no more, intervene. "Ok, your group talks on and on like this for HOURS guys. Everybody rolls a CHA Persuasion or Intimidation or Deception check and highest roll wins the argument. If a player still not agree: OKAY, being hard-headed has consequences: the in-party arguing went on for THE WHOLE NIGHT instead. Nobody got any rest! The result is the same except that everybody now thinks you're a douche. Your character lost the CHA roll, he finally caved in, end of story. (if one side is making ridiculous demands, give Disadvantage or even auto fail).

You can have a secondary NPC-in-party. Not the typical mercenary meat bag destined to just die. Say party gets an easy "escort quest" for an influent NPC to a town that the party is going to go to anyway, saying he'll pay each of them say 100 gold. Have the NPC comment on how cowardly and stupidly wasteful that "dig one PC underground tactic" really is. When it comes time to pay the party, he gives each of them a purse filled with coins as promissed except the faulty PC who gets 99 copper and 1 gold instead. When angry PC throws a tantrum, influent NPC, now with strong bodyguards, answers: "I guess the rest of the gold got itself hidenn somewhere deep in a hole in the forest, along with your cowardliness. I hired you to protect me, not to hide your useless ass every night. No work, no pay. Now get out before I send you to jail."

If PC bows murder and tries to get revenge, just focus on the other players and let him sulk big time, do NOT let him play out all a sideline adventure just for himself that is just enabling bad behavior by glorifying his PC with solo-me-time. Then eventually you say "I focus on the group not on solo adventures. So your entire little self-entitled bloody vengeance thing will be solved by a single die roll. Nobleman was strongly protected. Roll 1d20. 10 or more, you won, even got back your 100 gp out of it, but have to flee town ASAP now. 1 to 9, though, you're simply dead instead. Dead as a door nail, just another would be murderer that tried to kill off a well guarded noble. Now roll."


Keep things on the simpler side of rulings and being on the generous side of things:

Diggging: Digging every evening and every morning, including refilling hole time and camouflaging hole time included: Entire party works for 3 hours, 3 shovels needed, CON Save DC 8 vs 1 Rank of Exhaustion. In the morning, 1 hour faster if not refilling hole afterwards.

PC in hole:

  • Zero actual Rest.
  • CON Save DC 15 Partial vs all of the following: -- 2 Ranks of Exhaustion (1 on Save Success). -- 4d6 Damage from suffocation, cold, and bludgeoning (Half DG on Save Success). -- Poisoned for 1/2 hour per hour spent in hole (Half as long on Save Success). -- On Failure: Catch a Disease: --- Failure but not a Natural 1: Minor Disease: Common Cold. Regain only half HP per spent HD. Each day, CON Save DC 10 to cure. On a natural 1, turns into full fledged Pneumonia. Three non-consecutive successes to cure. --- Natural 1 on the DC 15 CON Save: Severe Pneumonia Disease. Can't regain HP. +1 Exhaustion Rank. Each day, CON Save DC 15 vs +1 Exhaustion Rank. Can't regain Exhaustion Ranks normally until cured. Need to reach three successes before 3 failures else death.

Party: Only 1/2 normal traveling speed.

There are many ways the player can improve on his idea:

  • Dig much shallower. Only deep enough for what the PC needs to sleep in, with some wiggle room (otherwise he might get cramps!). PC can get out in only a few rounds of strong effort (say, 1d4 rounds, no roll needed). Uses camouflage and being under a very thin layer of dirt and leaves only, not "being 3 feet deep".
  • Water-and-insect resistant special-grease thick soft leather tarp at bottom and sides.
  • Special-grease needed would be 1 pound and 1 gp per use.
  • Slightly elevated plank at bottom (not sleeping on humid flooring).
  • Attachable blanket atop it (because sleeping on a hard plank is hard).
  • Custom-made bedroll that is more like a full size slipping bag, extra dry and warm.
  • Custom made (costly) mask with some kind of 2 "breathe in" tubings and 2 "breathe out" tubings and some kind of valve system. Big medieval-tech mask, heavy stuff, definitely not a compact modern "comfortable" thing. It also gets a bit hot in there. 2 tubes for each direction for redundancy (in case a tube gets blocked).
  • Big top plank with the various tubings slightly poking out of it, spaced apart. Note that the top plank is not a super thick thing, otherwise it would weight hundreds of pounds. 40 lb, AC 15, 10 hp.
  • Each tube is capped of with a metal grid mesh and a little "hat" to block rain, twigs, leaves, insects, etc.

All items are custom made so they cost more, but 500 gp for the valve mask and 50 gp for the rest feels about right.

All of those together would solve most of the health problems.

Party would also only need 1 hour to dig the hole, half as much if wanting to refill it. Definitely doable in a normal day of travelling without a too severe impact of tiredness and traveling distance, especially if not refilling the hole.

Getting out in 1d4 rounds only. No check needed unless a creature stands atop the top plank. Only last round actually involves pushing the top plank "most of the way out". PC cannot attack during the full 1d4 rounds. During last round of that time, PC can be attacked with Advantage.

Enemies: Perception vs camouflager's Survival check.


The other answers have done a fine job at explaining why this is a bad idea on the back end. But I would like to explain why it's also a problem on the front end.

A hole which is 6' long, 3' wide, and 4' deep would require the character to move approximately 7,500 pounds of material (assuming a density of of 105 lbs/cf). As someone who has manually dug a hole in the ground deeper than top soil, I can tell you that this kind of work is hard; and it gets harder the deeper you go because the ground tends to be more naturally compacted.

Apparently it would take gravediggers between 6 hours and 2 days to dig a grave sufficient for burying a body. Granted this character's not digging quite that deep, but he's still going down a ways. Regardless, he is going to be working extremely hard to get this task done in the time of pitching camp. So it's likely appropriate to make endurance checks of some kind.

Secondly, once that hole is actually dug, it's not a small ask to move all that dirt back on top of him. Were I the party, I would refuse to move 7,500 lbs of material for an idea I think is stupid if only to preserve my strength for better things. If he's going to be doing it himself then he might manage to bury himself about as deep as one could at the beach (so maybe a foot).

All in all, dirt sucks to move by hand and this is a terrible idea.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Good to note that while the asker did not mention anything of the sort for their specific situation, there are magical solutions to this issue, most obvious being Mold Earth. \$\endgroup\$
    – Matthieu
    Commented May 9, 2023 at 14:26
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ @Matthieu the querent tagged system agnostic, so I wanted to avoid assuming system specific solutions. What I do know is this is a bad idea in the real world, DnD, and Shadowrun. Honestly, might be a great idea in Gamma World, but that game is pretty wacky by default. \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 10, 2023 at 15:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ Modern equipment turns the 6 hours down to about 30 minutes with a digger. \$\endgroup\$
    – Trish
    Commented May 10, 2023 at 15:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Pyrotechnical ah good catch \$\endgroup\$
    – Matthieu
    Commented May 11, 2023 at 5:43

It is a REALLY bad idea due to: Weight. One cubic feet of dirt (dry) is roughly 76 lbs. One cubic feet of mud however is 115 lbs. Ok, he buries himself 3 feet deep. He is like 6 feet tall, and needs an average 1 feet wide hole. That is 18 cubic feet of dirt on top of him. That is roughly equivalent of 1368 lbs of crushing force if the dirt is dry, and 2070 after it is all the way soaked through.

Start rolling for crushing damage next time he does this thing. If you have no such thing then use falling damage chart for 18 feet, and it is applied every round...

  • \$\begingroup\$ What about rigid armour? Wouldn't prevent it most damage? \$\endgroup\$
    – Flamma
    Commented Aug 10, 2014 at 13:46
  • 7
    \$\begingroup\$ Physics bugfix: pressure isn't equal to weight. To get pressure from weight, divide by surface area (18 feet square); now you have the crushing force (115 pounds per square foot for mud) and can continue napkin-calculating from there. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 10, 2014 at 17:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ So-called rigid armor isn't rigid all around (except a few special custom jousting armor) , Plate mail isn't a tin can, if it was the PC would not be able to move at all. It is actually lots of separate metal pieces with straps etc. It would not help much vs the weight of all that dirt. \$\endgroup\$
    – Pat
    Commented Sep 23, 2020 at 19:31

Very simple and easy solution to this. He wants to avoid ambushes? Fine. Ambush the party with anything with a burrow speed. Umber Hulk comes to mind but I'm sure there's plenty others. Let him be the first one hit as the attack comes up from below. It should make him think twice about this idea ever again.

  • \$\begingroup\$ As a player I hate with a vengeance such artificial anti-player solutions. If you were going to add burrowing monsters before he even started using this tactic, all is fine. But if not, then this is arbitrary tailor made punishment. Make the idea itself work good or bad. Don't Deux Ex Machina summon up custom monsters expressly to target a player. \$\endgroup\$
    – Pat
    Commented Jul 24, 2020 at 15:17

Perhaps a simple approach...

Tell him he can't find a straw that would work in that circumstance.

It's your world, are they abundant or not?

  • \$\begingroup\$ The question asked about the foreseeable consequences of burying oneself, not "how do I get my player not to bury themself?" (Although that's, admittedly, the stated goal.) As such, this doesn't actually answer the question. If you think the question is "wrong" I'll recommend to your consideration to this meta which deals with "challenging the frame of a question." \$\endgroup\$
    – nitsua60
    Commented Aug 6, 2016 at 2:57
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ There's a couple of sentences in the OP, and I focused on this one: "I can't think of any reason or mechanics to point out the flaws of his plan." Not being able to find a straw seems like a reason his plan won't work, doesn't it? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 6, 2016 at 3:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ I guess I didn't think of the GM saying "oh, I never told you, there aren't any reeds or lily-stalks or large-bird bones or any means to preserve an animal's intestine you can possibly find in this setting to use as a breathing tube?" as really being a flaw in the player's plan. \$\endgroup\$
    – nitsua60
    Commented Aug 6, 2016 at 3:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'll admit I hadn't thought of an animal's intestine -- points for creativity there. I've amended the answer to require finding a straw that would work. Reeds are subjective (brittle, only in certain areas, etc) and bird bones don't seem long enough for 3' of depth. Seems like anything else would be too brittle or have the air cut off by any pressure on the outside at all. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 6, 2016 at 3:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ To be honest, an animal intestine used as a "straw" would itself collapse under the pressure of the dirt on the sides of such a flexible tube. I'd expect one need something sturdy enough to retain it's overall "tube" shape despite a couple feet of dirt all around it. Even reeds or lily stalks wouldn't cut it. But in any village very easy to just ask a woodworker to nail four "thin and long-not-wide" planks together in order to form a relatively sturdy and lightweight "wooden tube". \$\endgroup\$
    – Pat
    Commented Sep 23, 2020 at 19:39

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