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In our campaign we have several characters who never remove their armor. They wear it while adventuring, sleeping, swimming, bathing, etc.

Are there any penalties for:

  1. Wearing armor while sleeping?
  2. Wearing armor while swimming?

If there are penalties, do they change based on the category of armor (light, medium, heavy)?

I am primarily looking for RAW penalties specified for armor, but I'm also open to applications of other rules (eg - higher DC for swimming in heavy armor, disadvantage during some situations).

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14 Answers 14

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Short answer: No, there are currently no rules about what happens if you sleep in armour. The are rules about how fast you can don and doff armour [pg. 146 PHB] that's quite kind and fast (you do not don full plate in only ten minutes in real life) so characters shouldn't really have any issues with switching in and out of armour.

The are however rules for swimming in armour. Page 183 in PHB under the heading Suffocating. It's what you use to simulate drowning which is what happens if you try to swim in armour, especially the sort made primarily of metal.

Long answer: Sleeping in armour while not ideal or the perfect recipe for a great night's rest isn't as bad as you'd think. Anyone who ever played hockey or American football knows that laying down and rest in all that padding and equipment isn't bad. People all through history have actually slept and spend long times, sometimes months at the time, pretty much constantly wearing armour both day and night. The great siege at of Malta is one such example. Another example though a non-combat one, is how the moon astronauts slept in their space suits during breaks between the moon walks. Even now modern soldiers are sleeping while wearing body armour.

Now some might point out that modern battlefield body armour is designed to be comfortable. But that's just it. All armour through the ages has been designed to be comfortable to wear, to move in and to rest in because otherwise no one would be able to use it during long periods of combat. Full plate is both agile, flexible and feels light to wear. Second thing to think about is that humans are adaptable and can learn to endure the harshest conditions (can't speak for those poncey elves though). The human brain can actually tune out things it finds annoying or distracting over time. So even if it is uncomfortably to wear armour you forget it after awhile.

Which bring me to my point. (Finally right.)

If the reason you want rules for sleeping in armour is realism you don't really need rules as the effect of a night in armour would be negligible for a fit person trained in wearing armour. You might give the players a disadvantage for the first roll they make after waking up if they make sleeping in armour a habit. But the truth is that the cold, wet and fear of sleeping outside in a dangerous situation have much greater impact on how well rested you are than if you sleep in your armour or not.

However, while sleeping in your armour might not be that bad for your rest, prolonged armour use without breaks will eventually lead to all manners of unpleasant side effects. For example there is something called pressure ulcers also known as bedsores. They are incredible painful and nasty. Another nasty effect is spinal compression.

Now there might not be any rules for those effects either though if they were they would most like be in the form of sickness and injury than anything else. Still, Google some images of bed sores and show your players and they might start removing their armour a bit more often.

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    \$\begingroup\$ -1 because there are all sorts of nasty effects from prolonged use of heavy armor in current and past military history. Compression effects upon the spine and other load bearing parts of the body occur and serious joint wear is an issue. \$\endgroup\$ – Joshua Aslan Smith Sep 2 '14 at 12:07
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    \$\begingroup\$ +0 - some good ideas/effors, but, apart from what Joshua said above - "feels light to wear" - I wouldn't go that far... ~50kg is never light; it may be bearable for a long time if somebody's used to it - but it's never light. \$\endgroup\$ – vaxquis Sep 2 '14 at 15:47
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    \$\begingroup\$ -1 for quoting page 283 of the PHB for stipulating it contain rules on drowning when wearing heavy armour. As far as I am know, there is no RAW that states you drown when being submerged in water while wearing heavy (metal) armour. \$\endgroup\$ – Eric Jun 3 '15 at 10:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Jan 22 '16 at 15:23
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    \$\begingroup\$ Xanathar's Guide to Everything has been released as an official source with optional rules (i.e. detrimental effects) for sleeping with armor. \$\endgroup\$ – DrPhil Feb 13 '18 at 21:15
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Now with Xanathar's Guide to Everything (page 77 and 78) there is an official answer for the effects of sleeping with armor!

Sleeping with medium and heavy armor does not remove exhaustion levels and you only regain 1/4th of your spent hit dice (with a minimum of one die). Sleeping with light armor has no adverse effect.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ They should have included climate. I don't mind wearing my bicycle helmet when camping in the snow. \$\endgroup\$ – Vorac May 26 '18 at 13:28
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If you're looking for the RAW, there really isn't any on this.

D&D (at least 4 and now 5) don't get into that level of simulation. If a character wants to always sleep in their armor, it's not about to stop them, or penalize them for it. The most we have is the times for donning and doffing armor, that's not much (other than to say "hey, you can take it on and off, here's mechanics for it).

Others have gotten into what the real life consequences may be for sleeping in armor or wearing it all the time. But as far as RAW consequences. There aren't any.

The caveat here may be that the DMG offers a variant rule for penalizing sleeping in armor. If it's implemented fairly, it might be a good idea, but generally, you don't want your adventurers fighting without access to their gear (especially in 5e). They'd die, and quite quickly. More than that, they'd have to spend a good bit of game time figuring out what are my stats? and that's a waste of your time and theirs.

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Like so many things in D&D 5e, this is up to the DM. It fall under their (very important) job of managing the game's fantasy reality.

But it's not up to the DM in the "just make stuff up" sense, the RAW says it's up to the DM, and also says how to handle it. Whether it's trying to gain the trust of a child while wearing armour stained with blood and smoke, or it's trying to be functional after a night spent with a maille coif digging into your neck, the DM's best friend is here to help: advantage and disadvantage.

Any time the DM thinks that something should be easier or harder because of the circumstances, they can assign advantage or disadvantage. It's not just good sense — it's the RAW.

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You're asking the wrong question.

Your players are trying to communicate to you that "We don't find fighting without our equipment fun." and you're trying to communicate "I care about the gritty logistical details because it enhances my fun.

The solution to this is to understand what your players are telling you. Start by making your intentions clear, either: "I want to play in a game system where these logistics matter, let's go play something other than 5th ed," or "I want to have better nighttime verisimilitude. Let's play making camp up, and I'll always give people the option of if they're dressed in their armor or not."

Trying to beat them over the in-character head for out-of-character desires tends to simply breed legalism instead of trust. To deal with this problem in narrative, ask the party to define their route camp (I've discussed some nominal options here). That way, there's a narrative justification for your group all being on the same page. Remember, very few fantasy stories detail the protagonist brushing their teeth. Make sure the party agrees on where to dial-in the "Robert Jordan dial of hair-pulling, skirt smoothing, tooth brushing, and armour wearing."

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    \$\begingroup\$ Paragraph 3 implies that playing a game where logistics matters is incompatible with 5e, but doesn't cite that at all. To someone coming from much experience with editions where logistics matter, citing that claim is necessary for it to be persuasive, because 5e seems not only quite compatible with that style of play, but in many ways designed for it. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Sep 3 '14 at 18:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ +1 for Robert Jordan levels of braid-tugging, sniffing, and skirt smoothing. \$\endgroup\$ – smiley trashbag Jan 9 '18 at 22:52
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There are no RAW penalties for sleeping in armour in 5e for 2 reasons:

1. The game isn't quite that simulationist.

While D&D tends to be a simulationist game, it still has certain things that are below the granularity of the simulation. The food rules don't talk about nutrition and allow players to subsist forever on what is essentially a starvation diet, the rules for travel contain rounding errors that exist for ease of use, and there are no rules for losing fingers or limbs. Similarly, while it certainly wouldn't be comfortable to sleep in armour, the discomfort isn't a big enough deal to actually make rules for it.

2. It helps keep the game moving.

If your players need to care about a penalty for wearing armour while sleeping (or, conversely, a bonus to not wearing armour while sleeping), then that's one more important choice that they need to make every game day, whether that choice matters or not. In addition, having no armour on when you're attacked at night is such a huge penalty that very little that you could do to your players would make it worth it to remove armour at night.

Unless you're playing a super-realistic campaign game, causing penalties for stuff like wearing armour to bed, or not caring for your weapons properly, or leaving your bow strung at all times would be more realistic and flavourful, but ultimately would just slow down the game.

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I imagine the biggest problems with wearing armour all the time would be chafing closely followed by shocking BO. A good GM would work that into the storyline. Skilfully handled it could provide endless entertainment for other players.

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If you never take off the armor you would get so dirty that anything but the lowest of peasants would shun you! But no, as long as you pass the strength requirements there are no written penalties other than to stealth. If you want penalties consider the optional encumbrance rules, with them you get severe penalties from carrying too much and you go over the cap really easily compared to 3.5.

If you want mechanical penalties on resting there are a lot of ways to do that. For example, you could say that players can't heal during rests if they don't take off their armor. Another option could be that if you long rest with armor on you halve your maximum amount of healing dice for that day. Anyhow, the penalties shouldn't too severe since sleeping in armor isn't that much more uncomfortable than sleeping on a blanket on the ground.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ In the spirit of encouraging with a carrot rather than punishing with a stick, I would consider instead house-ruling some benefit to characters who rest without wearing armour. \$\endgroup\$ – Neil Slater Sep 2 '14 at 6:58
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    \$\begingroup\$ Resting in 5e is already such a huge carrot that I have a hard time seeing how you could enhance it in any meaningful way. \$\endgroup\$ – Johan Sep 2 '14 at 7:14
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If your players never remove their armor, they behave that way for a few possible reasons:

  1. They never feel secure. They always think they need that high AC.
  2. They are bored with that kind of 'silly little details', they need action and excitement.
  3. They simply forget to role play mundane tasks like taking off armor, cleaning etc.

Your approach to these issues may be:

  1. Create encounters that don't rely on AC much. Throw in encounters that armor becomes a hindrance rather than a protection.
  2. Don't bore them with little details that won't add to the story. Add those details when they will mean something. For instance, they may irritate people with their appearance, all that dirt, blood and bad smell on them. They may roll charisma checks with disadvantage until they clean themselves and get nice clothes. They may even get sick due to living virtually inside an armor for days.

Never try to increase immersion at the expense of fun your players are having around the table. Try to be reasonable and come up with very simple rules that add to the quality of gameplay.

Indoors resting

In an inn or a house, resting is much safer, so there is no need to sleep with armor. This is a role playing game, not a combat simulation. The players need moments of respite now and then. I don't like setting ambushes against the PCs while they are sleeping naked in an inn room. They have means to protect themselves, town watch patrolling the streets at night, the room and inn doors can be locked, there are npcs around that can alert the PCs, etc. In other words, ambushes in cilivized locations are really rare and even when it happens, it should happen for a reason. In such a case, try to balance the encounter according to lack of armor. Maybe attackers don't have armor too, or they accidentally alerted the PCs and have disadvantage. Encounters without armor are so much fun, too.

Outdoors resting

I might simply assume that the PCs sleep with armor only when they are taking a long rest outdoors. If they have slept with heavy armor, have them make a DC 10 Constitution check to avoid getting 1 exhaustion at the end of the long rest. With this approach, you are wearing them down in time, not punishing them on the spot.

Short rests

Short rests are ideal situations to clean and take care of your armor. You can assume they are having bath if they have access to water. Do they bath in a river during a short rest? If they are, they don't bath for a full hour, maybe only a few minutes. If a random encounter occurs during a short rest, then simply assume they have done bathing and doned their armor before the encounter. And you know, people take precautions before lowering their guard in wilderness. In this bathing case, clever PCs will scout the area and make sure noone is around and will take turns while bathing or doing similar things. Reward this attitude by lowering the encounter chance.

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Well, the simple answer seems to be that hit points are gained for "rest". As DM you can declare that sleeping in armour is not "rest", or is less effective. For example, you might move a "long rest" down to a "short rest", require periods of rest longer to qualify for either.

And this is absolutely by-the-book: it is the DM's job to make these sorts of rulings; otherwise the books would be even more massive and complicated.

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Mechanically, there's no reason not to allow sleeping in armor, and forcing rules on it has only lead to justified paranoia (which is worse than unjustified paranoia) in my players, since I'm obviously trying to catch them with a penalty. Often, issues with 'sleeping in armor' stems from the issue of excessive resting, so look to make sure you're not allowing long rests more than once a day, and providing more frequent/smaller encounters between short rests that make them feel OK to push forward. Let the dungeoneers dungeon their dungeon. Swimming in armor is handled in the rules, so I'll skip that discussion.

That said, there isn't a mechanical penalty. I didn't say there couldn't be a roleplaying penalty.

If you want players to take off their armor willingly, there needs to be a benefit tied to doing so, and the GM needs to adjust as well. Cities are a good place to do this, not dungeons. Fights in a city should almost never be to the death, and NPC's can be unnerved about heavily armed, armored, and gorestained murder-hobos roaming around like there's always a fight about to break out. Have a clearly bothered NPC explain that "Maybe you shouldn't dress like you're ready to kill everyone you meet", and the party should happily start to trade in for some more subtle or appropriate options when they're not in a dungeon up to their eyeballs in tesla-enhanced ghouls. Make them play the 'fashion game' when dealing with civilized society, and things should liven up a bit.

City adventures can readily hinge on subtlety, investigations, and opportunity. It shouldn't be too difficult to create an opportunity where the party can enter an area unarmored, but undetected, or they can go back for their gear and lose the element of surprise entirely. If they go for the stealth route, avoid harshly penalizing stealth failures. Traditionally, every GM knows the cleric or fighter is going to find a way to knock over a hanging chandelier and wake the dead in a half-mile radius when it comes to stealth, but it's also in the GM's power to play down those guaranteed failures into opportunities for the party to single out obstacles one at a time.

Getting players to take off their armor requires them to trust their GM, insofar that it doesn't just turn into a cheap gimmick to attack them when they try to rest. If you incorporate it as part of the adventure and tune it appropriately, there's a lot of fun to be had for everyone, with or without +3 plate.

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I would implement the following things:

  • you can say you WILL assume they undress during these activities, since everybody would, and they HAVE to say they want to wear their armour. So you can play out reality without meaningless speech over undressing and dressing all the time, if they forgot to mention they are sleeping in full armour, then they simply don't do it.

  • if the character will wear full armour for the night since the normal behaviour is to undress for sleeping. And maybe make a risk table for D100, to see if there will be a penalty in the morning or for the next day. Like: (75-90 some neck pain and deconcentration: slight penalty for the dice challanges for the next day) (00 serious storm goes on tonight and if the character sleeps in full metal armour roll D10, on 10 it gets hit by a lighting, if he spends the night in open air it can be 5-10 etc...), show them the risk chart. If they do enjoy the benefits of having full armour and can not be suprised, take the risks as well.

  • swimming in full armour: not. Ask them how do they transport their equipment. They will solve it most probably, but they might suffer time loss, which can be integrated to the adventure.

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Just hit them with exhaustion 1 for armor that gives the stealth disadvantage. Maybe exhaustion 2 for heavy armor, but don't go above exhaustion 2. Then hit them with environmental hazards more often.

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I believe that in the mechanics this comes down to advantage and disadvantage.

And it's also been pointed out there could be a widening rift in expectations between you and the players. No one would read much less write a book that describes the protagonist brushing their teeth dozens of times, without variation. However, I don't think you have any kind of hard choice to make.

Just like the standing order of marching order, let players describe their routine once (with question prompts perhaps). Make sure they know action can now catch them with their bow unstrung or armor in a heap. But be fair and use skill checks to avoid "of course I'm always sneaking!" or "I wouldn't unpack while sleeping at an inn in this town!"

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protected by Oblivious Sage Jul 27 '15 at 21:58

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