This question was inspired by a scenario, where a character could use Elven trance and any number of short rests but no long rests. Based on this answer, I have a follow up question.

By the rules-as-written, is a player character required to engage in downtime activity?

Another way to ask the question is (per @SorcererQzot's comment) "Do characters actually have to stop adventuring between adventures?" since this question is based the discussions at the link.

Downtime Activities (p. 70, Basic Rules)

Between adventures, the DM might ask you what your character is doing during his or her downtime. Periods of downtime can vary in duration, but each downtime activity requires a certain number of days to complete before you gain any benefit, and at least 8 hours of each day must be spent on the downtime activity for the day to count. The days do not need to be consecutive. If you have more than the minimum amount of days to spend, you can keep doing the same thing for a longer period of time, or switch to a new downtime activity. (The listed pursuits are crafting, recuperating, practicing a profession, researching, training).

There are a variety of things that a character can do during downtime, but is the actual taking of downtime required?

Taking a Short Rest is a period of downtime that seems to be an exception to the general case made above: if you want a Short Rest you have to be in a special "downtime" (at least 1 hour long per Basic Rules, p. 70) but it can occur in the middle of an adventure, and in the middle of the adventuring day.

Beyond that "in the field" downtime (which looks like an outlier) what is the hard requirement for downtime?

Answers must cite the rules as written, since the original question was raised in a pure RAW context.

Why is the Short Rest an outlier? Because "Adventurers can take short rests in the midst of an adventuring day" while the bulk of Downtime Activity happens between adventuring days. (p. 70 - 71, Basic Rules).


4 Answers 4


First off RAW gives the referee the authority to decide whether downtime activities are required.

Between adventures, the DM might ask you what your character is doing during his or her downtime

In the PHB on page 187, we have a rule requiring the player to choose a lifestyle for their character and pay the appropriate expenses.

Between adventures, you choose a particular quality of life and pay the cost of maintaining that lifestyle, as described in chapter 5.

Living a particular lifestyle doesn't have a huge effect on your character, but your lifestyle can affect the way other individuals and groups react to you. For example, when you lead an aristocratic lifestyle, it might be easier for you to influence the nobles of the city than if you live in poverty.

If your referee keeps strict track of time between adventure this expense can add up. If the income from adventuring doesn't cover it then the player may have to have their character do something in between adventures i.e. downtime activities to cover their expenses.

Now the lowest lifestyle is Wretched which cost nothing per day. However the description of Wretched is.

You live in inhumane conditions. With no place to call home, you shelter wherever you can, sneaking into barns, huddling in old crates, and relying on the goad graces of people better off than you. A wretched lifestyle presents abundant dangers. Violence, disease, and hunger follow you wherever you go. Other wretched people covet your armor, weapons, and adventuring gear, which represent a fortune by their standards. You are beneath the notice of most people.

While there no direct mechanical consequence of living a Wretched lifestyle, the part highlighted in bold give the referee ample authority per RAW to make the character's life a hell between adventures. The character would win at first but likely be worn down by the incessant attacks and interruptions.

So while engaging in downtime activities is not specifically required, it would not be smart not to at least do something to insure a decent lifestyle..

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Yeah, in my experience, players never want to take downtime. They want to spend every second adventuring BUT they also want all the benefits of downtime at the same time. Also if you're actually running a campaign then there will be overarching villains, who are always busy with villainy. So any time spent "down" is time the arch villain is getting ahead of the party (in their perception). And some adventures don't provide a gap e.g. ToD. So in my experience Downtime is just a myth. \$\endgroup\$
    – geoidesic
    Jan 24, 2022 at 8:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ @geoidesic That has been my experience with published adventures as well--they drive characters from one plot point to the next with no opportunity for breaks, with one particular exception: Dungeon of the Mad Mage. There's no actual pressing crisis that the characters are aware of, and no Big Bad who is up to Nefarious Deeds that will Imperil the World. Just a big dungeon ripe for exploring. It's the only official adventure that really leaves space for players to take some downtime and not feel like it doesn't make sense. But I've played/run non-official adventures that did include downtime. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 25, 2022 at 15:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ @geoidesic That's a matter of GMing style. I usually run campaigns in which the world isn't constantly in jeopardy and PCs have plenty of time between adventures to work on downtime activities - and if they don't have anything they want to work on, I can easily timeskip to the day when the next adventure hook does turn up. \$\endgroup\$
    – GMJoe
    Jan 26, 2022 at 9:00

The closest RAW on requiring downtime I can find is from PHB p.187:

When starting a new adventure, the DM might simply declare that a certain amount of time has passed and allow you to describe in general terms what your character has been doing. At other times, the DM might want to keep track of just how much time is passing as events beyond your perception stay in motion. [PHB p.187]

So downtime only "might" be "required." The PHB lists several "Downtime Activities" on page 187 and the DMG on pages 128-131 lists even more. They are all activities that take hours or even days to complete and therefore are only necessary when players engage in protracted activities outside the parameters of planned encounters.

BUT NOTE that PHB p.186 states that a short rest is defined as "a period of downtime" and a long rest as "a period of extended downtime." Therefore, one could argue that RAW indeed requires downtime whenever the party spends or restores hit dice.

ALSO NOTE that Training (a reward detailed on DMG p.231) does in fact require the use of downtime, but the occurrence of Training in a campaign is optional unless you're using the variant rule found on DMG p.131, Training To Gain Levels.

Oh, and I think that D&D Adventurers' League might force registered Dungeon Masters to track each players' downtime days and activities performed during those days, but even then I believe that the spending of those accumulated downtime days is at the players' option.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I already addressed the Short Rest bit; Basic Rules and PHB agree completely on how Short Rests fit into the game. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 19, 2016 at 22:53

Yes and No. No they do not have to engage in downtime activity, but yes a long rest does occur automatically. Unless downtime activity can be defined as anything not strenuous or combat related.

Sage Advice exchange with Mike Mearls

Initial tweet

@mikemearls Does this mean that every 8 hrs you automatically complete a long rest if you have spent less than 1hr of that time fighting?

his response

Mike Mearls ‎@mikemearls @RodneyWade2 combat or other strenuous activity - travel, any work, etc. IIRC, you can get the benefits of a long rest only once per day.

Mike Mearls only says you get the benefits of a long rest once per day and does not refute the automatic triggering of a long rest if there have been 8 consecutive hours uninterrupted by fighting.

He then says it must be include 6 hours of sleeping (or I guess 4 trance hours for elves.)

  • \$\begingroup\$ I see your target, in terms of does a long rest trigger automatically (a point I raised in one of the comments in that other question) but I don't see strong justification for that being a rule. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 20, 2016 at 2:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ It's the closest I have in that mearls ruled that 8 hours triggers a long rest. For a raw justification, it's the same as on the other thread with regard to using sage advice as raw. \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Apr 20, 2016 at 10:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ I read the tweets and didn't see it saying quite what you saw in terms of the triggering. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 20, 2016 at 13:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast, how do you read it? It seems that Wade asks about 8 hours automatically completing a long rest if not fighting for more than an hour and Mearls seems to confirm the question and adds strenuous activity to the list of activities that can't take more than an hour. He does not deny that 8 hours of no combat or strenuous activity automatically completes the long rest. - also happy to take this to chat if not appropriate in comments. \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Apr 20, 2016 at 13:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch You're confusing a lack of denial with a confirmation. He did not confirm anything, and his denial seems to me to be due to missing the key point of the question ("automatically") vs. what Mearls seems to have interpreted it as ("what things interrupt the long rest?"). Based on his answer it seems more likely that Mearls assumed the question was asking about what actions interrupt a long rest. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 20, 2016 at 13:55

In the section, Between Adventures, pg 88 of Basic Rules,

Between trips to dungeons and battles against ancient evils, adventurers need time to rest, recuperate, and prepare for their next adventure. Many adventurers also use this time to perform other tasks, such as crafting arms and armor, performing research, or spending their hard-earned gold.

Adventurers are not required to perform tasks beyond resting, recuperating, and preparing for their next adventure.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Did you click on the link in my question about the scenario? Oh, wait, you asked that question about dairy products. :-) This question has to do with the validity of the never ending adventure day in KRyan's response to your question. That means that the rule might be that you don't need to prepare for your next adventure if you are in the neverending adventure day. A different flavor of cheese, but it's in the shop right next to the Cheddar and the Cambembert. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 20, 2016 at 1:46
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    \$\begingroup\$ Oh! I clicked on your first link, because that one sounded interesting. :D I misread your question as "Are characters required to carry out a downtime activity during their downtime" whereas you are actually asking "Do characters actually have to stop adventuring between adventures". Do I understand that correctly now? \$\endgroup\$ Apr 20, 2016 at 2:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ That is a decent paraphrase. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 20, 2016 at 2:45

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