D&D 5E Camping is dangerous (how can it be made safer?)

Mercule

Adventurer
I'm running LMoP, right now. The group is doing really well, over all -- they even killed the big thing that's not supposed to be beatable, at this level.

That said, they camped in the woods, last game. A random encounter of 6 wolves came up. That doesn't sound like it should be a big deal for a group of 5 3rd level PCs -- especially after seeing what they did to two of them, earlier.

It was nearly a TPK. The elven rogue was on watch and not surprised, though he did lose initiative. The first hit was a crit that send him to 0 hp. I let him get off a warning shout, otherwise it would have been worse. Even so, the cleric was dropped due to being squishy w/o armor. The elven fighter was only trancing, so I ruled she had her armor on and weapons at hand, but she was already slightly wounded and a pair of wolves took her down quickly. Thankfully, the tough, dragonblooded sorcerer had enough hit points to act as an improvised meat shield while the wizard drained his spell cache. It was really, really close, though. If I'd played the wolves to kill, rather than flee after losing a couple of their number, I'm pretty sure the PCs would have been toast. I definitely would have been able to kill two PCs by attacking downed characters, rather than the ones still yelling.

The whole group is okay with PC death being a reality, but a TPK to a pack of wolves seemed like a chump way to go. It raised several questions around setting up an effective camp in 5E:

1) Not really a question, but even having another character on watch doesn't seem like it would have helped too much. Being asleep (i.e. unconscious) is nasty bad.

2) What's a reasonable DC for waking up sleepers by yelling? My gut says its "hard", so DC 20. A couple players felt that was too high. Since everyone rolled under 15 or over 20, it wasn't an issue. Feedback welcome, though.

3) Can Alarm be used to effectively protect a camp? It says 20' cube, which isn't much more warning than the rogue had when he yelled. It would have made the "yelling" automatic, but a larger area still seems better. Can the 20' cube be reshaped, say, to a 5' think ring/square that's hollow in the middle. That seems against both RAW and intent, IMO.

4) Does wearing armor negate a long rest (i.e. sleep)? Could the tanks still wear light armor and sleep?

5) How deep is elven trance? I read it as still being effectively asleep. The advantages are that the elf only needs 4 hours and doesn't need to remove armor or lie down.

6) Do familiars need any down time? I ruled that they needed some recharge, so they disappeared for a few hours, but were around for their masters' watch.

7) Any other thoughts on avoiding a dirt nap when taking a long nap in 5E?
 

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GSHamster

Adventurer
My first reaction is that you were a little too harsh on the initial detection of the enemy. After all, the party did set up watches and everything.

The way I would have gone is, if the watcher makes the check, she notices the wolves 5 minutes before the actual attack happens. Maybe while they are circling the camp, preparing to launch the attack. Or maybe she picks up the absence of sound as all the other small animals go quiet. Or maybe she picks up the distress of the horses as they catch the scent of the wolves. That gives the watcher enough time to give a general alarm and shake one or two members awake.

It also makes the scene a little more dramatic, like the movies. The party realizes there are wolves before the actual attack.

Basically, you have to reward people for utilizing the proper tactics. The reward for putting people on watch is that the party gets notified of any attempt to attack, and they have enough time that they are not caught totally off-guard. Of course, this may not apply to super-stealthy stuff, but I think should apply to normal creatures like wolves.
 

pming

Legend
Hiya.

I'm running LMoP, right now. The group is doing really well, over all -- they even killed the big thing that's not supposed to be beatable, at this level.

That said, they camped in the woods, last game. A random encounter of 6 wolves came up. That doesn't sound like it should be a big deal for a group of 5 3rd level PCs -- especially after seeing what they did to two of them, earlier.

It was nearly a TPK. The elven rogue was on watch and not surprised, though he did lose initiative. The first hit was a crit that send him to 0 hp. I let him get off a warning shout, otherwise it would have been worse. Even so, the cleric was dropped due to being squishy w/o armor. The elven fighter was only trancing, so I ruled she had her armor on and weapons at hand, but she was already slightly wounded and a pair of wolves took her down quickly. Thankfully, the tough, dragonblooded sorcerer had enough hit points to act as an improvised meat shield while the wizard drained his spell cache. It was really, really close, though. If I'd played the wolves to kill, rather than flee after losing a couple of their number, I'm pretty sure the PCs would have been toast. I definitely would have been able to kill two PCs by attacking downed characters, rather than the ones still yelling.

The whole group is okay with PC death being a reality, but a TPK to a pack of wolves seemed like a chump way to go. It raised several questions around setting up an effective camp in 5E:

In 5e, multiple creatures are a LOT more difficult than a single "tough" creature. It's basically the exact opposite of 3e/4e. It became a running joke in our old 3.5e campaign (a friend was DM'ing it, I was playing). In that game, if our 14th level PC's came upon a dozen monsters, we attacked without mercy...if we came upon a single monster, we hushed up instantly and tried to get the fudge away as quickly and quietly as possible. Oh how times have changed... ;)


1) Not really a question, but even having another character on watch doesn't seem like it would have helped too much. Being asleep (i.e. unconscious) is nasty bad.

2) What's a reasonable DC for waking up sleepers by yelling? My gut says its "hard", so DC 20. A couple players felt that was too high. Since everyone rolled under 15 or over 20, it wasn't an issue. Feedback welcome, though.

DC20 is waaaaay over the top hard for this. Honestly, I'd say everyone wakes up, but I usually have them make a DC10 Perception check to see if they can even think to act on that waking up round. I let them 'get ready' for something but not attack/cast spells. In other words, if they make it, they can grab their shiled and sword that round, then get into it the next; if they fail, they are still trying to engage their brain matter and can't do anything that round. Next round they can get ready, round after that they are good to go. So, basically, someone waking up looses a round, more or less.

If you think it's hard to wake up...get your wife, girl/boy friend, or whatever to walk into your room sometime during the night when you're sleeping and yell at the top of their lungs "Get up! Get up! Wolves are attacking!". Tell me you don't wake up...I dare you... ;) No? Ok, now do it in a forest where you know a grizzly and her cubs live... ;)


3) Can Alarm be used to effectively protect a camp? It says 20' cube, which isn't much more warning than the rogue had when he yelled. It would have made the "yelling" automatic, but a larger area still seems better. Can the 20' cube be reshaped, say, to a 5' think ring/square that's hollow in the middle. That seems against both RAW and intent, IMO.

I think the best use of it would be to set up a funnel point where creatures would naturally try to enter camp; place logs/bushes all around except in one area. Or find a cave, or maybe a natural area to camp that has 3 'sides' protected. Where one would enter camp...place the Alarm spell.


4) Does wearing armor negate a long rest (i.e. sleep)? Could the tanks still wear light armor and sleep?

I'd say yes. No armor at all. Hell, I have trouble sleeping in clothes, let alone armor. Add in the constant threat of instant death from horrible monsters, wounds, strange noises, horribly uncomfortable bedroll on a stone floor, cold temperatures or biting insects...no...sleeping in armor would not help that at all. ;)


5) How deep is elven trance? I read it as still being effectively asleep. The advantages are that the elf only needs 4 hours and doesn't need to remove armor or lie down.

I rule it is equivalent to 'dozing'. I'd give Advantage on the 'wake up' roll I mentioned above.


6) Do familiars need any down time? I ruled that they needed some recharge, so they disappeared for a few hours, but were around for their masters' watch.

Yes. The don't "disappear", though. They are flesh and blood "NPC's" (like horses, pack mules, guard dogs, etc). They would need sleep like every other biological creature...if it bleeds, it needs sleep.


7) Any other thoughts on avoiding a dirt nap when taking a long nap in 5E?

Yup. Have a well thought out plan for when the poop hits the spinning blades. Have spellcasters prepare at least one spell that lets them 'help' in a night time (re: sleeping) attack. When out in the wilderness, use tents. Natural animals will typically go for what they see first, what they hear/smell second; use that to your advantage when setting up camp and the "on watch post". Have more than one camp fire. Oh, always, and I mean ALWAYS have at least one guard (two is better). With one guard, I make that guard roll to stay awake if they have had any damage or a 'long day'.

^_^

Paul L. Ming
 

MarkB

Legend
3) Can Alarm be used to effectively protect a camp? It says 20' cube, which isn't much more warning than the rogue had when he yelled. It would have made the "yelling" automatic, but a larger area still seems better. Can the 20' cube be reshaped, say, to a 5' think ring/square that's hollow in the middle. That seems against both RAW and intent, IMO.

Alarm can be cast as a ritual in 11 minutes, without expending a spell slot. If the party choose their camp site well, in a position that doesn't allow easy approach from all sides, then 2-3 castings of Alarm can easily be enough to ward all practical avenues of approach.

The tricky part, in a wilderness setting, would be avoiding false positives. Anything Tiny size or larger triggers the alarm, and that includes rodents, birds, snakes and other innocuous wildlife. When camping in woodland, it would be almost impossible for the spell not to be triggered within minutes.
 

Grainger

Explorer
Good suggestions so far.

With regard to sleeping in armour - in real life, people didn't sleep in metal armour (e.g. chain or plate).

As for lighter armour, it depends. "Leather" is not real historical armour, so it depends on how you envision it. If it's like a leather jacket or coat, then they probably can. Real leather armour, in so much as it existed at all, was boiled leather (or otherwise hardened) and would have been very inflexible - so similar to metal armour, really. I don't think D&D leather is intended to be like this, though.

Also, in real life, metal armour had to be cared for. Users would have to take it off to check the straps and clean it. You could rule that PCs need to do this when they camp (except in dire circumstances). If they take it off, how likely would they really be to put in on again to sleep? OK, they might, but it bears thinking about.

So, for leather armour, I'd probably rule that they can sleep in it, and metal definitely not, but of course it's up to you how it works in your game world's reality. Perhaps even metal armour is comfortable enough to sleep in (maybe Elven or Dwarven craftsmanship makes for super flexible but tough armour, for example).
 

Grainger

Explorer
The tricky part, in a wilderness setting, would be avoiding false positives. Anything Tiny size or larger triggers the alarm, and that includes rodents, birds, snakes and other innocuous wildlife. When camping in woodland, it would be almost impossible for the spell not to be triggered within minutes.

The caster can "designate creatures that won't set off the alarm". I took that to mean not just individuals, but types of creature, but now I think of it, I'm not sure. Paging Mearls! :).
 

MarkB

Legend
The caster can "designate creatures that won't set off the alarm". I took that to mean not just individuals, but types of creature, but now I think of it, I'm not sure. Paging Mearls! :).

I always took that to just mean being able to exclude party members and allies on an individual basis. Even if not, you might be looking at Nature checks for the wizard. "Alert me when anything passes this barrier, excluding squirrels, voles, rats, bats, cats (but not big cats), owls, crows, ravens, badgers, foxes, squirrels, chipmunks, skunks, rabbits - hey, Ranger, am I missing anything?"
 

Woas

First Post
In regards to the Sleeping in Armor question, I've ruled in past editions that characters who have sets of heavy armor (and some medium armors) could sleep in parts of their armor which gives them a 'free' set of lighter armor so that they are not completely caught with their pants down if ambushed at night.

For example, a full suit of plate armor would have a fair amount of interconnecting and layered metal, cloth and leather pieces armor to make it comfortable to the wearer during normal use. So that character could 'down grade' and wear some of the under layers to sleep comfortably and have armor around the equivalent in AC of a chain shirt or leather or whatever.. again just as examples.
 

ccooke

Adventurer
Sleeping in armour is possible, but risks a bad night.
I'd be fine allowing it, but give the characters a DC10 CON check to avoid taking a level of exhaustion. I'd also say that they can't recover from exhaustion when sleeping with armour.

Edited to add: That said, one of my players has purposely bought a suit of night armour - a specially ordered chain shirt designed to be comfortable sleeping in, with a pink and white bunny motif.
 

Sacrosanct

Legend
Publisher
There are a lot of spells (guardian of faith, glyphs of warding, etc) that help a lot, but a lot of people seem to neglect them because they always assume they can short or long rest whenever they want (and it seems there's lots of people who do play like this). However, in my games these spells are important, and not something to be glossed over.

Re: sleeping in armor, I would probably allow it in anything but plate mail. God knows I slept enough times wearing body armor myself. ;) Heck, I've even slept standing up wearing a full ruck while riding in a cattle car.

When you're tired enough...
 

KarinsDad

Adventurer
1) Not really a question, but even having another character on watch doesn't seem like it would have helped too much. Being asleep (i.e. unconscious) is nasty bad.

Yes, but these are adventurers. They should wake up easily because they often are in constant danger.

2) What's a reasonable DC for waking up sleepers by yelling? My gut says its "hard", so DC 20. A couple players felt that was too high. Since everyone rolled under 15 or over 20, it wasn't an issue. Feedback welcome, though.

10 if in a dangerous area, 15 if the PCs feel safe. In real life, a lot of people sleep more lightly in unfamiliar settings. Some don't. But since this is a game, that's how I would view it.

3) Can Alarm be used to effectively protect a camp? It says 20' cube, which isn't much more warning than the rogue had when he yelled. It would have made the "yelling" automatic, but a larger area still seems better. Can the 20' cube be reshaped, say, to a 5' think ring/square that's hollow in the middle. That seems against both RAW and intent, IMO.

An enterprising party can make any approach to the camp go either through the alarm area, or cover other areas like ones with bells on wires. But by RAW, the shape of the spell cannot be changed.

4) Does wearing armor negate a long rest (i.e. sleep)? Could the tanks still wear light armor and sleep?

The tanks can wear any armor and sleep. They can even sleep with a shield strapped to their arm (some DMs might not allow this, but RAW doesn't say anything about it). This can occur in real life too. This is a game. No need to add house rules for things like this.

5) How deep is elven trance? I read it as still being effectively asleep. The advantages are that the elf only needs 4 hours and doesn't need to remove armor or lie down.

It's effectively asleep.

6) Do familiars need any down time? I ruled that they needed some recharge, so they disappeared for a few hours, but were around for their masters' watch.

Up to you as DM.

7) Any other thoughts on avoiding a dirt nap when taking a long nap in 5E?

Well for one thing, wolves howl when they get close to prey. They also do not always attack immediately. They hang out in the dark and threaten and build up their courage. Technically speaking, the upright bearing of people is different than most wolf prey and is reminiscent of bears that stand upright. Wolves tend to try for weaker prey. Wolves also do hit and run tactics on prey to find out if the target is prey or predator. Wolves often scatter if some of them are killed or if the prey looks too deadly. And finally, wolves tend to avoid humans as prey. Instead, they prefer to follow humans and scavenge after them. Historically, wolves have evolved to mostly avoid humans.

So if you send in 6 wolves and have them fight to the death, that's ok, but it's very non-wolf-like. Not that this matters in a game.


As far as more intelligent predators, that should be handled by PC planning. Intelligent predators can do just about anything. But both intelligent and low intelligent predators should often cut their losses at some point. Sometimes, intelligent predators are under orders, or defending their homes, or some such and should fight to the death.
 

Mercule

Adventurer
Sleeping in armour is possible, but risks a bad night.
I'd be fine allowing it, but give the characters a DC10 CON check to avoid taking a level of exhaustion. I'd also say that they can't recover from exhaustion when sleeping with armour.
I like this. DC 10 (easy) for light armor, DC 15 (moderate) for medium, DC 20 (hard) for heavy. Maybe moderate/hard/very hard.
 

Mercule

Adventurer
DC20 is waaaaay over the top hard for this. Honestly, I'd say everyone wakes up, but I usually have them make a DC10 Perception check to see if they can even think to act on that waking up round. I let them 'get ready' for something but not attack/cast spells. In other words, if they make it, they can grab their shiled and sword that round, then get into it the next; if they fail, they are still trying to engage their brain matter and can't do anything that round. Next round they can get ready, round after that they are good to go. So, basically, someone waking up looses a round, more or less.
Probably worth noting that by "wake up", I meant "wake up and function". So, the roll you're talking about is actually the one I'm talking about.

Regardless, it's clear that I set the DC way to high. I guess dealing with teenagers* has made me a bit numb to normal people. It might be have been better to give the "guard" perception checks (which I did) and only use the unconscious status if he'd failed. Everyone else is potentially just stunned, as they wake up. Surprise is still probably a given for anyone not on guard. Advanced notice are last-second awareness could shift that from the norm, though.
 

Hussar

Legend
Heh, there's always a danger when going with "gut feelings" about DC's. A 3rd level party is probably around a +5 Perception check (give or take), which means that at DC 20, you're looking at a 75% failure rate (which looks like exactly what you got). That's a very high fail rate, even for a difficult task.
 

Hand of Evil

Adventurer
Epic
Your players need to learn to set a better camp.
  • Limit points of attack - don't sleep in the open, put your back to a wall of some sort and/or create simple barriers.
  • Traps - these alert party to danger.
  • High ground - elf rogue on watch and was not in a tree, shame.


You need to know animals and make house rules.
  • Not all random encounters have to end in combat, sometimes it just is a meeting/sighting and the creature moves off.
  • You can bluff animals and use other skills on them.
  • Fire - house rule but it offers protection, use with torch and bluff can cause fear.
  • The offer - run off a mule.
 

Jack7

First Post
Just Prepare Sharply and Effectively

There are some very simple and effective ways to better secure a camp that I have practiced in real life for a long time. (This assumes of course you’re either operating in dangerous area or an unfamiliar area, or both. Some of these are unnecessary in more secure areas.)

1. Watch relay. Depending on the size of the party you set your perimeter watches as far outside the camp as would assure both their effectiveness and their ability to properly communicate, with a single watch relay (inside the camp) to gather and process signals. The watch relay listens for signals from the perimeter watch and immediately alerts the others for possible incursion or ambush. He is already set for possible combat and he can far more easily assure that the entire camp is aroused if necessary.

2. Equip both your perimeter watch and your relay watch with simple, inexpensive devices that can immediately trigger reactions and predesignated signals, such as whistles and horns (in modern times it would be whistles, radios, birdcalls, etc.).

3. Have predesignated signals and calls. A horn can easily scare off a wolf. A combat whistle can be used not only to alert but to call formation signals.

4. Have combat set-points. Have areas that are well known where additional weapons or defensive devices are stored that can be reached easily and handily, such as (in this case), bows, projectiles, spears, knives, and shields

5. Have predesignated dig ins. Places that are defensible and secure that you prepare before first watch. Used in conjunction with your set-points. If necessary trap your dig-ins.

6. Have short watch and rotational periods so that your watch can be alert and refreshed constantly. Rest some during the day to make up for any sleep deficit incurred.

7. Develop pre-arranged combat formations specifically designed for night ambushes, as well as an ambush combat plan (who goes where, does what, and reacts in what way when).

8. Have prearranged codes for repositioning as needed, and have a retreat and escape and evasion route already planned and mapped prior to your first watch.

Most ambushes succeed to the extent they do because those being ambushed are not only taken off-guard but because those being ambushed have no specific reaction plan or set of contingency actions to take when they are ambushed.

Knocking off your march and preparing a mere hour earlier, digging in your positions, creating set-points, having pre-arranged combat plans in the case you are ambushed, having the proper set of signals and equipment, drilling and training for action, having a well practiced escape and evasion procedure, possessing a regrouping point, secured and secreted gear and weapon caches, all of those things are very simple and inexpensive methods of avoiding danger and of minimizing the risk of successful ambush while camped or while operating in unfamiliar terrain.

They don't require any magic at all, or reliance upon risky techniques.

They just require preparation, practice, and coordination.

Also sometimes I do other things, like pitch camp in one location and sleep in another location. Or pitch camp near noise sources, (rivers, etc.) or in areas where there is only one chokepoint (an abandoned cave or ditch, etc.) There are all kinds of things you can do if you just prepare ahead of time and devote a little more time to scouting the area and pitching camp than just, “this looks like a nice spot.”

Nice spots are usually easy targets. Unprepared people are usually easy prey.
 

Kobold Stew

Last Guy in the Airlock
2) What's a reasonable DC for waking up sleepers by yelling? My gut says its "hard", so DC 20. A couple players felt that was too high. Since everyone rolled under 15 or over 20, it wasn't an issue. Feedback welcome, though.

3) Can Alarm be used to effectively protect a camp? It says 20' cube, which isn't much more warning than the rogue had when he yelled. It would have made the "yelling" automatic, but a larger area still seems better. Can the 20' cube be reshaped, say, to a 5' think ring/square that's hollow in the middle. That seems against both RAW and intent, IMO.

4) Does wearing armor negate a long rest (i.e. sleep)? Could the tanks still wear light armor and sleep?

5) How deep is elven trance? I read it as still being effectively asleep. The advantages are that the elf only needs 4 hours and doesn't need to remove armor or lie down.

6) Do familiars need any down time? I ruled that they needed some recharge, so they disappeared for a few hours, but were around for their masters' watch.

2. I would not make a roll at all -- they have watches, there are no skills. If someone yells, the characters awaken. (I don't see the fun in not waking, but see below).

3. Yes. The spell is designed for this purpose, and it protects one normal campsite, essentially allowing surprise to be bypassed vs melee opponents.

4. I will differ from most people, but I would say any armour would deny getting a long rest. That is fun for me (as a player) -- I would have my characters undress for bed even if the ref doesn't require it.

5. Your take on trance is interesting. I like it -- though it's yet another perk for elves, and it's not like they are hurting any.

6. I see familiars as magical creatures, and always ready and alert as need be. They never sleep.
 

Savage Wombat

Adventurer
And finally, wolves tend to avoid humans as prey. Instead, they prefer to follow humans and scavenge after them. Historically, wolves have evolved to mostly avoid humans.

Not in any D&D game I've ever been in. Wolves always attacked humans fearlessly, just like everything else on the random encounter table.

This is why, in my current game, I've mentioned that these wolves are the descendants of those that figured out early that fire = humans = easy prey. They're smart (for animals) and mean. Fantasy wolves.

Of course, the PCs haven't met the warg-priests yet.
 

Henrix

Explorer
Making a camp safe would often include things like limiting the number of access ways. Perhaps even in a small cave?
Place the guard(s) in a hidden place to observe the proceedings.

When I did my military service we always had at least two guards, even with a small group when in a dangerous area.. That means stricter rotation and less sleep, which can be compensated by taking a longer break.

Playing monsters, in particular animals, intelligently gives a much more satisfying experience. That way the PCs can surmount them in other ways than pure hand-to-hand fighting, making the game more varied.
Wolves harass, trying to split and tire the party. They don't attack a collected herd ready to defend themselves. (Suicidal beings tend not to survive long enough to procreate.)

The long rest will certainly be broken if there are wolves just outside the perimeter, howling to scare and split them. Perhaps triggering the Alarm from time to time (the sound would probably make them shy away anyhow).
And perhaps that is trouble enough.


Even if not, you might be looking at Nature checks for the wizard. "Alert me when anything passes this barrier, excluding squirrels, voles, rats, bats, cats (but not big cats), owls, crows, ravens, badgers, foxes, squirrels, chipmunks, skunks, rabbits - hey, Ranger, am I missing anything?"

How about "excluding anything smaller than a dog*".



* Make that a cocker spaniel if your DM is being silly.
 
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MarkB

Legend
How about "excluding anything smaller than a dog*".



* Make that a cocker spaniel if your DM is being silly.

Reasonable, if your DM allows that broad an exclusion. Now you only have to worry about deer, badgers, monkeys, larger species of owl, and, of course, predators smaller than a spaniel.
 

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