D&D resting in dungeons is a complicated issue. At it’s core, D&D is a game about mechanics and resources. The players need to replenish their resources with a rest, but when/how should it be allowed?
D&D resting in dungeons should be allowed under certain circumstances. Players can also alter those circumstances and make resting possible.
I know this is broad, but the short answer is that it depends. We will go over why players will want to rest in dungeons first and then go into more detail.
Why resting is needed
There are dungeons called mega-dungeons. These dungeons are monstrous behemoths that will take multiple sessions, or could even take an entire campaign to finish. Mega-dungeons are not the only reason why there might be D&D resting in dungeons.
Normal dungeons can be difficult and due to poor rolls or poor planning, the party might not be able to complete a 4 encounter dungeon without a rest. D&D is after all, at its core a resource management game when it comes to combat. If you go into a fight with 3 health and are the tank, it is likely that things will not go well for the group.
Resting is a natural way to get back these resources. Bad rolls, poor planning, and any number of reasons can give need to rest. This is why resting is needed, but should it be allowed?
In theory, players should always be able to rest. This doesn’t mean that they can rest wherever they want. The players should be able to go outside the dungeon and find a nice place to rest, but if they cannot do that due to the nature of the dungeon things get tricky.
This is why you should always consider how your players can rest in a dungeon. If it is a small 4 encounter dungeon then great. The players (if they need to) should be able to rest outside if worst comes to worst with some caveats.
D&D resting in dungeons doesn’t always have to happen, but just in case we will go over every type of dungeon (applicable to resting) and how your players can or cannot rest.
Now, let’s get into how players can rest easily in dungeons.
In our article about dungeon design, we talked about how you should never let your players get more than a short rest! This is true if the dungeon is normal and a hostile environment with sentient creatures.
If your dungeon is just a bunch of puzzles and traps, then your players can rest whenever and wherever they want. These dungeons are called ‘static dungeons’ because nothing will change. If your party is there or not it doesn’t really matter. The dungeon will exist and react the same as if no one is there. These dungeons exist, and the old school Tomb of Horrors acted exactly like this.
The only problem was that it was in 2E, so I was able to rest and use about 50 spells before moving a single step once I figured out that I could rest whenever in the dungeon.
If you are making these kinds of dungeons then make sure that the puzzles/traps are not easily bypassed by spells. Resting shouldn’t really matter too much and since we have the concentration mechanic we do not have to worry about our players casting 20 spells each before they take a step. They can only concentrate on 1 spell, and the encounter shouldn’t rely upon player health/spell slots.
In these puzzle/trap dungeons with no monsters other than triggered ones (such as gargoyles or constructs), the players can rest however much they want.
If your dungeon is like this, don’t bother thinking of if your players can rest. They can, and probably will for however long it takes.
This is a rare case though, and most dungeons will contain more combat than this. For those dungeons, there are two different types.
D&D resting in dungeons depends on the residents more than anything else. If your players are invading a dungeon that doesn’t have any residents, that is a completely static dungeon. It will work as intended and nothing new will spring up. But what if your players are invading a mausoleum that contains a bunch of undead?
This type of dungeon is a semi-static dungeon. There are residents and monsters that can adjust, but they will most likely not go out of their way to bother the party.
In these cases, just backtracking might be safe enough to find a resting place. Up until a certain point that is.
At first, there might just be a few undead to guard the way. As the players progress there are more rooms, more guards, and more undead. As the player progress further they find out that there is a sentient source at the end of the dungeon. If the players figure this out, the sentient source might be aware of the players and try to stop them.
In these dungeons, players might be able to find a safe place to hide and get a short rest or possibly long rest depending on how much the sentient beings care to search for the party. They might find a secret room or barricade the entrance. There are many factors involve,d and we will talk about them as the article goes on.
This is a weird kind of dungeon. The first half is completely static and other parts are as well. Eventually, it will become a sentient dungeon.
Sentient dungeons are when in D&D resting in dungeons becomes problematic.
Sentient dungeons are where the dungeon is inhabited with sentient beings. These beings do more than just sit there and wait for things to happen. They are going to move about, check things, or just goof off trying to not work.
The problem is that sentient creatures can adapt to different situations, and even a tribe of goblins can be more troublesome to a group of adventurers than a few gargoyles.
The problem that adventurers encounter with sentient dungeons is that the dungeon will react and possibly stop your party from resting. Even if the party finds a good hiding spot. there isn’t is a guarantee that they will be able to rest.
In these dungeons, the article on dungeon design is very accurate. Your group will be lucky to get a short rest. The intelligent creatures will be hunting them if the party has left any signs, and if the party leaves to hide in a room or take a short rest, it is EXTREMELY likely that the other sentient creatures will figure out what happened.
This is because most party members don’t care to do anything with the bodies. They just leave them out to rot and it is a very obvious sign of intrusion.
Aside from your party not being likely to take a long rest, here are some ways that you can add chance into your game and allow your party to have a chance at a short or long rest in your games.
Long ago there were things called ‘random encounters.’ The DM would roll and there was a certain chance that the party would encounter something whenever they traveled or just existed in an area. 5E has a version of random encounters, but they only apply to D&D resting in dungeons.
On page 85 of the DMG, there is a bit more information on this. Random encounters still exist, but they are applied once every hour or once every 4 to 8 hours. Depending on the number of sentient creatures that would bypass an area, you can increase this number.
For example, let’s say that your bright party members wanted to take a rest in the kitchen. What? There is food there!
The kitchen is a hub for most of the sentient creatures out there, so you could just make the players encounter something after a while or roll once every half hour. Possibly even less depending on the number of creatures that live in the dungeon.
In 5th edition, you would roll a d20 and if you roll an 18+ then the players would encounter something. This is a generous way to let your players have a chance at a long rest and have some risk/reward option, but it can be augmented.
If your players take precautions to be less seen, they might make that roll go from an 18 to a 19+. Possibly even a 20+.
How your players would do this is up to them, but they are trying to make it less likely to be seen. For example, the players go to a remote area where they remembered had little to no traffic. They bar the door and set an illusion at the front entrance to make it look like a wall. That should be a 20+ on a d20 for them being found out. A sentient creature could know that something was wrong, but that is rare.
This way you can reward the players, but they are still taking a chance.
If on the other hand your players camp in a kitchen and don’t do anything to hide, being in the open while around clattering material can make the roll a 16 or even 15+ for them being found out.
Adding chance is a great way to make your players think about resting in the first place, and they might make it possible to rest in a way that you didn’t consider before. Reward your players’ actions, but always allow that little bit of risk since they are in an enemy’s territory.
That being said, your players could also just be stupid.
“Oh, I forgot to buy potions.”
“Let’s just rest in a dome. It doesn’t matter where we rest because we are invulnerable!”
These are just stupid ideas. D&D resting in dungeons should not be taken lightly. If your players didn’t buy the necessary tools then they will end up suffering. That is why players buy potions. To make sure that they don’t need to rest in an unfavorable area. Take the opportunity when it arises, but don’t be completely unprepared.
If your players are unprepared, they might lose a party member. The idea of resting when you are low on hit points is very different than the reality, and your players will have to think about that before venturing into the dungeon. This depends on the type of game that you are playing, but some stupid decisions should not just be fixed by the DM letting the players rest whenever they want.
Another stupid idea is to rest in a tiny hut in the open. I have seen some parties try this, and they have been buried alive or had a whole slew of traps ready for them when they got out of the dome.
If your players are stupid, they should suffer the consequences is all I am saying. This sounds harsh, but the consequences article describes why you should use consequences in D&D.
Do not let your players make up for their bad decisions with rests that would normally never happen!
Even if your players are not stupid, they have most likely forced the hand of some sentient creatures. Again, players don’t really try to cover up their murders so even if they are found out, that doesn’t mean that they will be attacked in their short rest.
Enemies using rests
5 goblins will not be able to kill an entire party. They knew that intruders existed because of the destruction that was left in their wake, and 5 goblins will not cut it.
In these instances, you can use D&D resting in dungeons to help the enemies. If the next room would have been 5 goblins, now there might be 10. Or worse, there might be an abnormally high amount of traps.
If the enemies give the players time to rest, they are not going to sit by idly in that time. D&D monsters are not like video game enemies that activate when you enter the room. If you stare at D&D enemies outside of a room they will react. Not just wait for you to trigger the event.
When your players are resting, the enemies are preparing. Plans can be drawn up, and you can come up with something in the short time that they are resting.
If your players are trying to take a long rest, then they will have to deal with one of the worst fights of their lives when they get back! For this reason, short rests in a sentient dungeon are uncommon and shouldn’t work well most of the time.
The players’ enemies will use this rest to help enhance their defenses, and the players will have to be ready to deal with a newly bolstered enemy that they left to fortify.
Speaking of fortify, there is a difference between a dungeon and a fortress.
Dungeons vs fortresses
Dungeons are everything that we have talked about up until this point. Fortresses can appear like dungeons, but they act very differently.
If your players are trying to have D&D resting in dungeons while in a fortress, they are very likely to die.
Dungeons are far more relaxed, but a fortress is on edge with patrols, organization, and other sentient beings. When you have players inside a fortress, make sure that they know what they are getting themselves into. Resting is a death sentence here (most likely) and combat is not a smart decision unless you are going to kill everyone.
Luckily, not many players try to take rests in fortresses, but if a DM has made a fortress appear to be just a normal dungeon, it can have lethal effects on your party.
Be upfront with your group, and make sure that they understand to not rest in a fortress, and that they are in or going into a fortress.
D&D resting in dungeons can be a good or bad idea. It depends primarily on the dungeon that is created.
Is your dungeon a static or sentient dungeon? If it involves sentient beings, it is going to be much harder to rest. The alertness, organization, and numbers of the sentient beings also dictate how hard it is to rest in a dungeon.
If you are concerned about fairness, use random rolls to figure out if the players will encounter anything. You can adjust the rolls based on the player’s actions and circumstances.
Lastly, make sure your players know where they are going. Many different groups have died because they rested in an area that they didn’t know was a fortress or worse. So be upfront with them and make sure that your players fully understand the risks before taking them to have a short or heaven forbid long rest attempt.
This has been Wizo and keep rolling!