DnD 5e: How to Better Use Survival Controls

In Dungeons & Dragons Fifth Edition, survival tests are not used enough. These rolls should replace many Perception checks.

Trying to survive the night is common during a Dungeons & Dragons Fifth edition Game. For many, it may come down to a simple test of survival. A roll determines if the cold night went well, then it’s over. However, there are many cool ways to use the Survival skill that makes players whose characters specialize in this area feel useful. Players can use Survival for more than a night throw, such as determining the time, predicting upcoming weather, and even locating foods to forage.

In the rules, J&D suggests that a Dungeon Master request a Survival Test when players want to follow leads, hunt game, traverse wastelands, and more. These suggestions allude to the many times survival could be vital to overcoming a challenge. In many cases where a DM may require a Perception check, a Survival check may make more sense. Survival is the right choice when players want to interact with the wild and outdoors safely or learn more about their natural surroundings, while Perception is reasonable for looking around a clearing for signs of a path. When you have a Ranger or other survival proficient character, using them more often can make them feel like a useful member of the party.

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Using Survival to Forage for Food in D&D

A drow ranger standing in a moonlit forest while holding a bow and arrow.

Many DMs don’t follow food or water on long journeys, but now is a great time to take a natural survival test. Foraging for food can be a crucial skill for an Outlander or Ranger, and allowing them to roll for survival to see what they find will give them the opportunity to shine. A foraging roll doesn’t have to be extravagant either. DMs can detail the environment and allow anyone who wants to check in to see what types of food and water they find. Then they can use the result to provide a scenic description of how the player is helping the group with what they are looking for.

DMs could also ask the player to find the herbal ingredients for a health potion on a critical hit. It provides another opportunity for a healer or someone proficient in cooking tools to prepare the brew or a delicious meal, giving a bonus to their short rest. This option provides a mechanical advantage to the successful Survival roll that might actually make an upcoming encounter more manageable.

DMs can even go up a notch if the cook’s check also gives a critical hit. In this scenario, a short rest resets hit points like a long rest. Not only will the player with survival skills keep trying to fetch to help the party, but the cook will also keep trying to do something amazing to see if they can replicate that success.

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Using Survival to Improve Movement in D&D

Traveling and tracking can get boring when it becomes a series of monotonous scrolls, but the survival controls are a great way to spice things up. Whether players are traversing a swamp, walking through the snow, or navigating the streets of an unfamiliar town, getting lost is a real problem that could affect their day. Survival provides a watchful eye to help a player avoid getting lost.

the Dungeon Master’s Guide provides a method to factor movement speed into a survival test to see if players get lost. Yet there is so much more to this type of dating. the DMG suggests that if they fail verification, the game is up. This should be more than just a statement that the PCs take an extra 20 minutes in-game to find their way. Consider where the unexpected detour takes players and what (or who) they may encounter on their return to civilization.

Also, if successful, it is not necessary to just find the fastest route to their destination. Ask the players to find something special that they can use later. Explain that, for example, the Ranger’s deep understanding of the forest and its terrain led them to a special oasis hidden under a waterfall. There could be a treasure chest underneath with gold or a handy item. Failures and successes should have real results that will affect the game in the future. This will make the survival tests – and the person performing them – feel like part of the collaborative storytelling that is Dungeons & Dragons.

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