Catnap is a 3rd-level spell in D&D 5e that allows up to three people to take a short rest in a fraction of the usual time. While the spell isn’t frequently used, it is occasionally useful for allowing parties to regain class abilities and spell slots much more quickly than would otherwise be possible.
The spell even has some potential uses as a way to betray others, depending on how certain clauses and terms are interpreted by your DM.
For the most part, though, the spell is pretty straightforward. Once you know the best times to use it and a few of the associated risks, the spell is not complex to use. The following guide will go over some of the nuances of using Catnap as well as a loophole in the rules that can make you vulnerable.
Catnap Spell Description
Let’s start, as always, with an overview of the spell’s description and details.
- Casting Time: 1 Action
- Range: 30 feet
- Duration: 10 minutes
- School: Enchantment
- Class: Artificer, Bard, Sorcerer, Wizard
- Level: 3rd
- Attack/Save: Willing Only
- Components: Somatic, Material (a pinch of sand)
- Ritual/Concentration: N/A
Spell Description: “You make a calming gesture, and up to three willing creatures of your choice that you can see within range fall unconscious for the spell’s duration. The spell ends on a target early if it takes damage or someone uses an action to shake or slap it awake. If a target remains unconscious for the full duration, that target gains the benefit of a short rest, and it can’t be affected by this spell again until it finishes a long rest.”
How To Use Catnap Effectively
Catnap is a pretty straightforward spell with a pretty specific use case. What makes it so straightforward are its limitations.
First of all, it only affects three people with no options for casting it with a higher spell slot. That means if your party has more than three people, you’ll have to cast this spell more than once, or simply grant the benefits of the spell to some party members and not others.
Hint: Warlocks are famous for relying on short rests to get their spell slots back, but ask your party members if they have any critical abilities that reset on a short rest! Many class features, like a fighter’s Action Surge, can also reset on a short rest and are invaluable.
Secondly, the spell is only useful once per long rest. That means you can’t use repeated castings of the spell to cram a large number of short rests into a single day. That means this spell is only helpful when you have a particular time you need a quick rest, and it can’t be scaled up to provide some advantage.
Finally, the spell requires a situation wherein the party badly needs a short rest but doesn’t have the time to take one. However, the party must also have 10 minutes to spare for the spell. That can be a pretty niche circumstance, making this spell very situational. Usually, a time crunch means the party only has a few rounds to take action. Needing an hour of free time but only having 10 minutes is a rare case.
These limitations make Catnap only useful in a very specific combination of circumstances. However, even if these circumstances do arise, there are dangers to using this spell.
Dangers of Using Catnap
While unconscious, you’re vulnerable. This is an obvious fact of life and why you probably don’t want to take a long rest in a dungeon. However, usually, a short rest doesn’t involve the whole party going to sleep, so it’s much less risky.
Unfortunately, not only does Catnap demand that you, well, take a nap, but it also enforces this magically.
The spell allows people under its effects only two ways of waking up: taking damage or another person using an action to awaken them. As far as the spell is concerned, taking a nap with Catnap means you’ll be unconscious for the entire duration unless one of these conditions is met. That means loud noises or being carried around won’t wake you!
This is obviously a security risk. It doesn’t take a master of stealth to sneak up on someone who can’t wake up. The party could be bound, kidnapped, or easily killed. While taking damage would wake everyone up, enemies could easily coordinate attacks, set traps, and restrain the party before deciding to attack.
But it gets worse. Catnap has a loophole. In D&D 5e, drowning has specific rules. When a character can no longer hold their breath, they start suffocating. Suffocation drops a character’s hit points to 0, and they immediately start dying as per the usual rules involving death saves.
The wording is very specific. Suffocation does 0 damage to a person; instead, your hit points simply drop to 0 from wherever they are at. Since you take 0 damage and another person has not taken an action to wake you up, the spell Catnap will keep your character unconscious as you drown.
It’s instant death.
For these reasons, it is vital that you only use Catnap when in a safe place. Even keeping someone on guard is too risky since it will take a few rounds of consuming other characters’ actions for everyone to be awake. Given that the average combat length in 5e is three rounds, this could very easily result in a party wipe before everyone is even awake.
Locked rooms in a safe environment are pretty much a requirement for this spell, especially with the risk of death that drowning creates.
Stretching the Rules
While it is clear what Catnap is supposed to be used for, there are technical ways to use it offensively. While it can never be a spell for actual combat, it might be useful as a means of betrayal.
The spell, like many other spells in 5e, specifies that the targets must be willing, but it never specifies the details of what it means to be willing. Must the targets know who is casting the spell for them to be considered willing? Must they know what the spell will do, in part or in whole?
In this (admittedly flaky) ambiguity lies room for creative uses of Catnap. A caster might lie about what the spell does, and if the targets of the spell don’t get any special indication that the spell is putting them to sleep, they might find what they thought to be a spell to strengthen their attacks is in fact a deadly betrayal.
A spellcaster who can effectively lie about what this spell does has the opportunity to betray anyone who might accept such a spell being cast on them.
Of course, DMs might decide to interpret the spell’s effect as allowing someone to fall asleep instantly if they try (and thereby receive the benefits of the spell). Thus, anyone who does not attempt to gain the spell’s benefits by lying down and going to sleep won’t be in any danger.
However, it’s probably more fun to treat the effects of a spell like Catnap that targets willing individuals as a little more magical. Perhaps those affected by such a spell feel an intense wave of magical energy, something that might be unfamiliar to those who have never felt it before.
In the case of spells with saving throws, a person might, instinctively or otherwise, resist this magic (represented by a Wisdom save for example). In the case of a spell like Catnap, the attempt to resist the magical energies is an automatic success.
However, the feeling of “magical energies” is not an indicator of which spell is being cast on oneself, nor what it will do. This is significantly more interesting. Not resisting the magical energies means accepting the magical effect, regardless of what it is. Perhaps that leads to the desired effect… or an unexpected one.
Moreover, handling saving throws and “willingness” in this way grants those who are proficient with Arcana interesting options. Perhaps the average layperson can’t tell what magical energies they are resisting/accepting, but with a d20 roll, someone proficient in Arcana might be able to tell that this is an Enchantment spell vs. a Transmutation spell or even identify the spell in question before choosing whether or not to resist.
That would both make betrayal much trickier while still leaving the possibility open for a sneaky casting of Catnap on your faux allies.
Common Questions About Catnap
Can You Catnap Yourself in D&D 5e?
You can target yourself with Catnap. The spell specifies willing creatures you can see, so as long as you can see yourself and you are willing, the spell will work on you. Even if you are invisible, if you have some magical way of seeing yourself, the spell will still work.
What Is the Point of Catnap 5e?
At its core, Catnap is about getting in a short rest faster. Quite a few powerful abilities rely on short rests to recharge, though admittedly not nearly as many as long rests. In D&D 5e, Catnap serves to provide an option for players who need to shorten that standard 1-hour duration. The only reason a similar spell for long rests doesn’t exist is that healing occurs on long rests, and such a spell would break the game balance.
When Do I Use Catnap?
Catnap is best used when only three or fewer members of the party desperately need a short rest, have at least 10 minutes to spend sleeping, do not have time for the full hour that a short rest usually requires, and have a safe place to be unconscious for the duration of Catnap. In other circumstances, the party is either better off finding a way to take a short rest the usual way or not resting at all.
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Growing up I spent most of my time reading, so when I first started playing RPGs in middle school and got a copy of DnD 3.5’s rules I loved their collaborative take on storytelling. These days I like to use RPGs to develop my creative problem-solving skills as well.