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Your Ruling: Magical Sleep

GMMichael

Guide of Modos
GM: You step through the ajar, oversized doors to find a gruesome sight. In the moonlight, the ceremonial balcony is an exhibit of desecrated bodies, some propped up, others arranged in bloody piles on the floor. At the far end by the railing your opponent, the werewolf blackguard, tears at another corpse, relishing his work. What do you do?

Rhonda (the knight): I move forward to get into my battle-stance. I...

Ray (the wizard): hold on - I put a hand out on the knight's arm. "I got this." I cast Sleep. (Rolls) 18 should do.

GM: Anyone else acting? (Heads shake) let's see how sleepy he gets (rolls 7). Um, the BBEG lays down for a nap.

Rhonda: (Whispering) perfect. I ready my crossbow and aim for his head...

Sleep spells, also known as "the monster stops defending itself" spells. Are they always 1st-level spells? Why? Should the level be higher?

The fifth edition of Sleep doesn't grant a saving throw, and the target "falls unconscious." That could end the spell pretty quickly, if the target was standing up when it fell asleep. Isn't falling on your face (or worse, your weapon) worth 1 point of damage? My version of Sleep is a little more gentle on the recipient: "the target lays down and goes to sleep." But both can leave a villain vulnerable to a coup de grace, no?

How do you treat Sleep magic? Does it mean the automatic end of a fight, or is its value more in-line with other 1st level spells?
 

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Especially in a fantasy setting, where sleep magic is likely to exist, few worthy opponents can be dispatched easily while sleeping. They simply aren't that feeble. The wizard puts them to sleep, the rogue fires a crossbow bolt at their head, and then they wake up and the battle actually starts.

Maybe, if the party is particularly inexperienced, that bolt to the head might finish off an equally-inexperienced foe; but if a bolt to the head is all it takes to kill them, then you could also do that without bothering to put them to sleep first, and the only thing you get by expending a spell slot is making the follow-up shot more accurate.
 

Li Shenron

Legend
I don't use any special house rule. The target is unconscious only until it gets damage. So the first attack against it has advantage and is automatically a crit if you hit from 5ft (but it's not an automatic hit). So basically one hit turning into critical is what makes Sleep better than simply shoving the target prone, which grants advantage to all until it's the target turn again. Also, you need to get to 5ft from it, then it immediately wakes up and can make OA if you move away.
 

Sleep spells, also known as "the monster stops defending itself" spells. Are they always 1st-level spells? Why? Should the level be higher?

[snip]

How do you treat Sleep magic? Does it mean the automatic end of a fight, or is its value more in-line with other 1st level spells?
I've always assumed the target crumples from the spell - otherwise, it's ultimately useless.
I also disagree about falling from standing being worth a full HP, but that's because I think of D&D PC classes more as medieval super heroes, and the 1-4 HP NPC being the typical baseline from which I extrapolate "Reasonable"...

It's not quite an automatic end to a fight, especially in 5E... why? Because all too often, it doesn't get them all.

One of the great fun things about the level 1 sleep spell: it's not selectable, per se... and so a high roll can result in taking down a PC or two.
 

Li Shenron

Legend
I've always assumed the target crumples from the spell - otherwise, it's ultimately useless.

Why would the spell be useless, even if it only lasts one attack before the target wakes up? You can choose not to attack the target you just made asleep, and it remains there not contributing to the fight until one of his comrades wastes his whole turn waking him up, while in the meantime your wizard can put another target to sleep. In addition, it is an excellent spell outside of combat, or when your purpose is to capture or bypass an enemy without necessarily killing it.
 


Why would the spell be useless, even if it only lasts one attack before the target wakes up?
If they fall, the impact should wake them, therefore, they clearly do not fall. Crumpling, rather than simple sudden fall, means they are not making a single impact, but multiple smaller ones.
 

Li Shenron

Legend
If they fall, the impact should wake them, therefore, they clearly do not fall. Crumpling, rather than simple sudden fall, means they are not making a single impact, but multiple smaller ones.

Oh ok... I thought "crumple" was a way to say that it enables you to kill the target easily while asleep. Me and my limited understanding of English...

I definitely agree that falling prone should not wake them up! It certainly doesn't cause damage. The only other way by the RAW to wake someone up from Sleep is to voluntarily spend an action to wake them up. I can imagine a DM ruling that an explosion might wake them up but it's not to be taken for granted either.
 

GMMichael

Guide of Modos
Sleep in a melee is pretty simple: the target gets drowsy, curls up for a quick nap, and then some jerk steps on him and wakes him up.

It's outside combat, against lone targets, where Sleep gets tricky. In a way, it can turn a combat encounter into a stealth encounter. Or it can be a Get Out of Combat Free card. My main concern, though, is Sleep's effect on a lone boss encounter. Do I nip that in the bud and give the boss Sleep protections? Or cop out and say, "you snapped a twig, the boss wakes up." Or go ardoughter's route and hand over the PC victory - because a boss who isn't prepared for Sleep isn't worthy of being a boss?

. . . few worthy opponents can be dispatched easily while sleeping. They simply aren't that feeble. The wizard puts them to sleep, the rogue fires a crossbow bolt at their head, and then they wake up and the battle actually starts.
So the first attack against it has advantage and is automatically a crit if you hit from 5ft (but it's not an automatic hit). So basically one hit turning into critical is what makes Sleep better than simply shoving the target prone, which grants advantage to all until it's the target turn again. Also, you need to get to 5ft from it . . .
Attacking a sleeping opponent isn't an automatic hit? A bolt to the head isn't an automatic kill? Ah, the joys of D&D. That sleeping target also drops its weapon - another Sleep benefit over shove-prone. Getting close to a sleeping opponent could be tricky and dangerous (which is why the knight in the example opted for the crossbow). Unless an opponent has a thick helmet or thick skull, a bolt to the head should significantly ruin her day.

I would let them finish off the Blackguard if he fell asleep in the first place. It is a fairly limited spell.
+1 for Merciless.

If they fall, the impact should wake them, therefore, they clearly do not fall. Crumpling, rather than simple sudden fall, means they are not making a single impact, but multiple smaller ones.
Not so clear. Maybe Sleep is significantly more effective on sitting and reclining targets, since they're less likely to fall, get hurt, and wake up from that?
 

Undrave

Hero
Sleep in a melee is pretty simple: the target gets drowsy, curls up for a quick nap, and then some jerk steps on him and wakes him up.

It's outside combat, against lone targets, where Sleep gets tricky. In a way, it can turn a combat encounter into a stealth encounter. Or it can be a Get Out of Combat Free card. My main concern, though, is Sleep's effect on a lone boss encounter. Do I nip that in the bud and give the boss Sleep protections? Or cop out and say, "you snapped a twig, the boss wakes up." Or go ardoughter's route and hand over the PC victory - because a boss who isn't prepared for Sleep isn't worthy of being a boss?

Never send a lone enemy against a PC with Sleep... the DM of my Feylock learned that lesson...

It also depends on how much HP they have, the bigger they are the more likely the sleep with fail.
 


Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Especially in a fantasy setting, where sleep magic is likely to exist, few worthy opponents can be dispatched easily while sleeping. They simply aren't that feeble.

And that is modeled by how the Sleep spell only handles so many hit points worth of creature - few worthy opponents can be dispatched his way, until you've already spent time beating them to a pulp.
 

the Jester

Legend
Sleep spells, also known as "the monster stops defending itself" spells. Are they always 1st-level spells? Why? Should the level be higher?

No. You can upcast it. Also, spells like hold person are other examples of "the monster stops defending itself" spells.

The fifth edition of Sleep doesn't grant a saving throw, and the target "falls unconscious." That could end the spell pretty quickly, if the target was standing up when it fell asleep. Isn't falling on your face (or worse, your weapon) worth 1 point of damage?

Do you rule that being shoved prone also inflicts damage?

My version of Sleep is a little more gentle on the recipient: "the target lays down and goes to sleep." But both can leave a villain vulnerable to a coup de grace, no?

There is no such mechanic in 5e; as others have stated, you have advantage on attacks on a sleeping creature, and you get an automatic critical hit while within 5' of it. And then it wakes up. All in all, I would say that's about right for a 1st level spell. I think the problems you are positing only arise if you don't actually follow the rules regarding falling prone and unconsciousness.

If they fall, the impact should wake them, therefore, they clearly do not fall.

Only if falling prone deals damage, which- in all cases other than falling 10' or more- the rules don't support. Remember, this is magical sleep; it takes actual damage or someone vigorously shaking you to wake you while under the influence of the spell.
 

ardoughter

Adventurer
Supporter
Ok, I think that this deserves a more elaborate reply from me. So, in the OP, the scenario is why even at low level boss fight should have legendary saves and actions. A lone boss is screwed by the action economy anyway.
Once asleep I would allow an autokill unless the party are engaged with allies of the sleeping. I believe this is justified in the narrative. Sleep is powerful enough to keep one sleeping even in the presence of the noise of a melee combat. I do not think I could sleep through a sword fight in my bedroom and I am a pretty sound sleeper. It is a first level spell, not usually upcast much and generally they are mooks anyway let the party have their moment of glory.
If a caster wants to burn a 9th level slot on sleep, all I can say, is that is a brave choice. :D

If you want an encounter where sleep, Tasha's, Edvard's or whatever to not count so much then legendary saves are your friend
 

And that is modeled by how the Sleep spell only handles so many hit points worth of creature - few worthy opponents can be dispatched his way, until you've already spent time beating them to a pulp.
Yes, that's another reason why magical sleep isn't problematic in this regard. If the victim is so pathetic that they're susceptible to the spell in the first place, then the fight you're bypassing would not have been an interesting one.
 

the_redbeard

Explorer
There's many reasons, especially the action economy, that lone boss encounters are are simply not going to be challenges for the PCs. Nerfing a player spell is a bad response.

The spell (especially looking at how it works in previous editions) clearly intends to put the targets to sleep regardless of their current position. The only way that I'd consider an exception that they might wake up from the fall would be if they had been flying and took falling damage.
As a player or DM, I'd say that any DM ruling that a target is awoken as a natural consequence of the spell is doing some egregious rules lawyering against RAI.
 

GMMichael

Guide of Modos
FYI - not a D&D thread, although D&D viewpoints are welcome.

Do you rule that being shoved prone also inflicts damage?
I wouldn't allow Shove Prone. Not in 5e anyway - it goes against the spirit of the game by reintroducing grappling-like rules.
Should it inflict damage? No - it's in line with the crumple that @aramis erak uses.
But if a D&D character is supposed to sustain 1d6 damage from a fall of 10 feet, it's fair to say that character's face sustains 1 point of damage from a fall of about 5-6 feet.

There is no such mechanic in 5e; as others have stated, you have advantage on attacks on a sleeping creature, and you get an automatic critical hit while within 5' of it. And then it wakes up. All in all, I would say that's about right for a 1st level spell. I think the problems you are positing only arise if you don't actually follow the rules regarding falling prone and unconsciousness.
5e: rulings, not rules. The problems also arise if you play a game other than D&D. Does anyone know how Cypher or Fantasy AGE handle it? I should know, I have both around here somewhere...

As a player or DM, I'd say that any DM ruling that a target is awoken as a natural consequence of the spell is doing some egregious rules lawyering against RAI.
Tell that to this guy.

 

ardoughter

Adventurer
Supporter
Well, for starters that Danish soldier is falling asleep naturally. If 2 people started a sword fight behind him I suspect he would wake up also.
 

Well, for starters that Danish soldier is falling asleep naturally. If 2 people started a sword fight behind him I suspect he would wake up also.
I know a guy who fell asleep right beside the eric at an SCA war... during the fighting. Many folks can sleep through din and noise; almost every Samoan student I had could fall asleep with AC/DC blaring. Several nodded off during a school dance! Eskimo kids often can sleep right through a drum circle...

Don't underestimate the power of sleep to overcome noise.

I had a roommate who was narcoleptic (and an E2 in the USAF, until they figured it out). On several occasions he nodded off mid-sentence.
 

Name a place where being knocked prone, in and of itself, does damage.
You're being a nitpicker

Falling and being knocked prone are different functionally, based upon the common meanings of the words. Common use, fall implies lack of control. Knocked prone indicates potential for control by either party - Grappling can reduce your fall
Falling as a game term is a damaging relocation to ground lower than your starting point.
Being knocked prone, mechanically in D&D 5, does no damage as part of the being knocked prone, but it's not the same thing as falling. Falling does usually add the prone condition, however.

If one applies the rounding rule (D&D 5E PHB p.7) correctly, a Fall of <10' does no damage. (ibid., p.183) Which means a fall from horseback can't hurt one...

Litigiousness with D&D rules leads to narrative surreality appropriate for medieval super-heroes...
 

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