How many times have you heard that? The PCs are going to stay up for a portion of the night to keep watch. If you’ve been GMing for a while, I’d say any time the player characters are not sleeping in a fortress (and even then. . .).
It’s a good strategy but let me ask you, when was the last time you tried it in real life? If you stayed up for a quarter of the night, just 2 hours, how would it effect you the next day at work? Sure you could do it, but you’d probably feel lousy. If you’re a teen then you’d at least feel sub-par (whether you want to admit it or not). For some reason there might be a day or two that you could actually pull it off but I’m looking at the majority of the time.
I’m always looking at the effects of inadequate sleep in psychology studies. They seem like they’re minor, that the person can handle it but sleep debit has real and lasting effects on people. Anything from decreased alertness to weight gain. Put it simply, when you don’t sleep your brain and body suffers.
What about it?
Should a game really pay attention to that? Yes, but not a lot. I wouldn’t start an epidemic of obesity because you’re characters are staying up through the night but it should have some effect. Think about it. Why is night time dangerous? Okay there is the lack of light but it’s also because we’re afraid of something happening while we’re not fully aware of our surroundings (aka sleeping). Remove that danger and you’ve removed a powerful pressure on the characters.
Think about it. Isn’t the whole “We’ll sleep in shifts and keep watch” idea to disarm the GM? Why would a PC ever sleep a normal night in their lives? If the players want to take away a valuable tool from me, they need to pay something for it, even if it’s just a little bit. The first time they miss that INT roll by one because they stayed up on watches, they’ll be thinking of how to get a full night’s sleep.
A Minor Inconvenience
Skipping a small amount of sleep or even disrupting sleep should only be a minor problem at first. If it’s continued, it gets worse. For every night a character doesn’t sleep 8 hours uninterrupted they get a -1 CDF to REF, INT and IQ for every two hours missed or interrupted. It can only be payed back by sleeping the missed hours. The first time they fail a roll because of that CDF they’ll be hitting the sack early.