[RPG] An insomniac character, how could that work


I searched the player's handbook a while ago for the sleep deprivation rules but I don't remember finding anything, even though I recall having been told about such rules.
Apart from asking if any one can cite them, is there anything official on insomniac characters, so it will not be just roleplaying, but actually having an effect on the game?

Best Answer

The thing to remember about sleep deprivation is that it doesn't take long before it really starts messing you up. It shortens your attention span, makes you extremely irritable, makes it difficult to switch focus, and draws out both physical and mental reaction times.

There is a huge body of research on the subject of sleep deprivation because the military has an intense interest in it. This 1994 study states: "The ability to do useful mental work declines by 25 percent for every successive 24 h that an individual is awake." One way to simulate this might be to simply reduce the odds of success by 25% for every 24 hours without rest for any task that involves mental acuity.

It also states: " In contrast, simple psychomotor performance and physical strength and enduendurance are unaffected. For example, a soldier can shoot as tight a cluster of rounds at a fixed target after 90 h without sleep as he or she can when well rested, but if he or she has to shoot at targets that pop up at random at random locations on a firing range, then his or her performance drops to below 10 percent of baseline (Haslam and Abraham, 1987)."

From personal experience I can say that it's not the physical act that is difficult, it's responding to the change in circumstance that becomes radically impaired after long periods of sleeplessness. So you might have only a gradual decline in the odds of success for tasks that are mostly or purely physical.

Another factor you may want to consider (depending on how severe the insomnia is and whether it is connected to some specific illness) is that even the most insomniac characters will probably eventually need to sleep. The sleep will come, whether the character wants it to or not. After being up for 72 hours straight, an officer fell asleep and didn't wake up when a company-sized live fire exercise started. His body told him to sleep, and he could do nothing about it. Giant savage aliens could have attacked and he would have slept while they munched on him.

Perhaps after a certain period of time (36 hours, perhaps), you could start requiring saves to avoid falling asleep at inopportune moments, with a sliding scale of difficulty as the hours march on.

Related Topic