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Old Screeds

Sweet elusive sleep [21 August 05] Both balm and bane.

Ah, sleep, glorious sleep! I'd like to dedicate this screed to all my night owl readers, oh ye insomniacs, third-shift workers, and especially new parents.

For those who want to use sleep as a weapon, let's go over making your foes go to sleep. The advantage to that, of course, is that a sleeping foe is helpless and can be killed outright with a coup de grace attack. Let's start with spells.

  • Lullaby: This bard cantrip seems fairly useless at a first look. After all, it only works if your targets fail their Will save -- and if they're making Will saves, they might as well be saving versus a Sleep spell! But recall that a first level bard has only cantrips -- so a good low-level strategy is to work with the party wizard: the bard casts Lullaby before the wizard acts, then the wizard casts Sleep when it is her turn. An effective one-two punch.
  • Sleep and Deep Slumber: These are the mainstay sleeper attacks at low to mid levels. Just remember that they both target "One or more living creatures within a 10-ft.-radius burst" -- so be real careful not to sleep your pals by including them in the burst!
  • Symbol of Sleep is defensive rather than offensive, functioning, as it does, like a magic trap. And being expensive to cast, you probably can't afford to slap these symbols on your castle walls willy-nilly.
  • Nightmare: Lets you interrupt another's sleep. How rude! I think the material component is a crying baby, if I'm not mistaken.

The only magic item that uses sleep as a weapon is the Sleep Arrow. Don't let the low save DC fool you -- these cuties affect any creature, regardless of hit dice, and a decent archer can fire several of these a round. Sure, a save DC11 is not hard to beat, but how about 3 to 5 saves a round? Three archers, all equipped with Sleep Arrows, could force 20 saves in two or three rounds -- and even if your target only fails the save on a natural one, odds are that in 20 saves, one of those will be come up a one. Even if it takes a while to see a failed save, let the meat shields in the group hold off the foe while you fire those arrows! Plus you're doing subdual damage the whole time. If you really want to capture a foe, this is a great way to do it.

But keep in mind that sleep is easy to counter, if you have friends. The Aid Another action, as mentioned in the Sleep spell description, can be used to waken a sleeper. That's why it is hard to sleep a druid or mage -- familiars and animal companions tend to waken them as soon as you put them to sleep.

Natural sleep can be just as dangerous as the magical variety to the sleeper. If you are attacked while camped out, and your comrades on watch are negligent or overpowered, then you'll appreciate these rules for waking yourself up when you are asleep (Search for "Sleeping"). An Alarm Spell or Stone of Alarm can be handy in the same situation.

But sleep can be more than just another way to attack. Here are a number of Prestige Classes that focus on sleep and dreaming:

  • Dreamthief -- This PrC is too easy to achieve and too overpowered, but it has a couple neat ideas, like sneaking into a target's dreams in order to find answers to questions. The idea of stealing skill ranks is neat, but to steal them permanently is insane. Moreover, you can take the PrC by level 3, it is unbalanced, and it is flawed (no hit dice listed, nonstandard BAB and save progression, and no class skills), so use it for inspiration only, NOT for actual game use.
  • Dreamstalker -- a nifty NPC villain who loses the ability to dream and must feed on the dreams of others. Slightly overpowered, but creepy and interesting.
  • Dreamer -- A PrC inspired by the works of H.P. Lovecraft, this lets you go to sleep and enter the alternate realities of your dreams. It requires 10 ranks of Knowlege (Arcana), so only spell casters or monks (possibly multiclassed) will qualify by level 7. But the PrC does not advance one's spell casting or monk abilities, so it is not a power-gamer choice, which I like. On the other hand, it has lots of nifty sleep-related powers, including mastery over body and mind, and the ability to enter the Dreamland. The only flaw I saw was that there is no way to bring others with you -- so members of a party wanting to enter the demiplane must all take two levels in this PrC. That aside, this PrC is well-realized and balanced. Recommended!
  • Another Dreamer (scroll down) -- This Dreamer PrC also lets you enter another dimension, but so far as I can tell, unlike the better Dreamer above, has nothing to do with actually sleeping. Bleck.

And for those who want to maximize their sleep without devotion to a prestige class, here are a few feats that let you play with your eyes closed: Light Sleeper, Prophetic Dreamer, Sleep In The Saddle, Campaigner, Instant Awakening.

Update [21 Aug 05] Isn't that funny! My friend The Cranky Gamer also recently posted a few ideas on sleep! Great Minds and all that!

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