Serious Skills: Endurance

If you're enjoying the content here, check out our new site, Thoughtcrime Games. Thanks for visiting!

If you're new here, you may want to subscribe to my RSS feed. Thanks for visiting!

Continuing on with our Serious Skills series, we turn our attention to the Endurance skill.

Endurance as Mechanics.

You can make an Endurance check to stave off ill effects and to push yourself beyond normal physical limits. Holding your breath for long periods of time, ignoring the adverse effects of hunger and thirst, and protracted physical exertion (running, swimming, etc) fall under the domain of Endurance. In addition, extreme temperatures, violent weather, and diseases can require you to make an Endurance check to resist and delay debilitating effects. (See DMG Ch. 9)

An Endurance check does not require an action and the DC value depends on what hazardous situation you are attempting to resist:

Extreme Weather Base 15
Disease Variable, see disease writeup
Ignore Hunger (after 3 weeks) 20 + 5 per day
Ignore Thirst (after 3 days) 20 +5 per day
Hold Breath (after 3 min) 20 + 5 per round and make an additional DC 20 check if you take damage
Swim/Tread Water (after 1 hr) 15 + 2 per hour

Other than diseases which have their own mechanics, failing an Endurance check costs you a healing surge which can not be regained until the situation is somehow remedied. If you can’t spend a healing surge, you take damage equal to your surge value. Therefore your Paladin with 12 healing surges is still going to take more than another 2 weeks to die after starvation kicks in, barring combat encounters, during which he suffers no other ill effects mechanically. At some point, he’ll just fall over.

For all you simulationists, this is going to be ludicrously lenient so remember two things. First, this is not Earth and these are not human(oid)s as we know them. Standard physics do not need to apply. Second, it’s not very heroic to die by drowning or of starvation and D&D is heroic fantasy. The very fact that these rules are in here at all is a little off-genre.

While it’s good to have some kind of formula to go by on these things, I personally have never seen long-term starvation, hunger, thirst or drowning come into play in a 4E game and only once in any D&D game I’ve been involved in. Yes, even Dark Sun. It’s just not interesting to roleplay and few people actually want to track bags of jerky and distance in between fresh streams of water. At best, there’s a skill challenge with Endurance as a primary skill, maybe you lose a couple surges but it’s over in 10 minutes or less and we’re on to the next encounter or location. In fact, WotC even acknowledged this tendency with the “Survivor’s Assurance” Martial Practice which I think is best described by the crew of Radio Free Hommlet in Episode 59:

There’s some text way down at the bottom that says “Screw you Mr. DM and your mandatory Endurance check skill challenges for my party full of people who don’t have very high CONs… ..I’m spending a surge – ONCE – and we’re done here. This was not fun the first time.”

The simple fact is that Endurance generally deals with the character’s ability to deal with long-term circumstances that the game usually glosses over anyway, somewhat limiting its usefulness. Where Endurance really shines is in the disease mechanic where your Endurance skill has some real effect on your character’s efficiency under more intense, short-term adverse circumstances. Every DM, myself included, should be using diseases more often. If your PCs tend not to get sick, consider getting them absolutely bat-guano plastered instead.

Endurance as Platform

Who are the folks trained in Endurance and why?

Most of the folks we saw earlier who were trained in Athletics will probably also be trained in Endurance. Athletes need it to continue training and performing for long periods of time. A few sports rely on short bursts of intense effort, like sprinting, and so these folks may not have quite the Endurance of a marathon runner but will still find it useful. People who make their living by Enforcement or Rescue also need good Endurance scores to continue their work despite injury, torture or any other number of nasty circumstances. Also add Laborers to this list – anyone who has to toil for hours on end at moderate to severe intensity in uncomfortable or dangerous environments. Farmers must fight the heat of the midday sun, miners contend with the dirty air of the mineshaft and construction workers must lift and move heavy materials around on a near-constant basis. These folks need some Endurance.

That is just the physical aspect of Endurance, though. Lacking the Concentration skill of 3rd edition, we must at least consider rolling mental fortitude into Endurance as well. I come from a family where all the women are Teachers of some sort and so can tell you firsthand how important an Endurance score is to avoid smacking the rude ones from time to time and simply keeping up with the natural energy levels of the young. (see also Parents, especially of very small children) In the same vein, consider also the aged master who sits and meditates for hours on end without losing focus or trains students in the Old Ways. Yoda was a guy with a heck of an Endurance, and used it often. Medical personnel should strongly consider training in Endurance, both to work long hours treating patients without making mistakes and to keep lunch down after seeing a particularly grisly case. In a strongly magical society, you might also come across Summoners, Channelers or just Really Sloppy Spellcasters whose spells require them to funnel a lot of magical power, taxing their body and mind, without necessarily being very precise about it.

Finally if you are any sort of Explorer or Adventurer, wandering around in dank dungeons, searing deserts or brutal wilderness fending off vile beasts and monsters, you might want to think long and hard about training in Endurance. Just sayin.’

Endurance as Sense

How can Endurance be used as a sense, to gain and process information?

Of all the available skills, Endurance is seemingly one of the least suitable to sensory application. Knowing when someone is about to reach their mental breaking point is more Insight, seeing the onset of shock or exhaustion is Heal and the knowledge of weather and survival is Nature. In fact, many applications of Endurance rely on blockingsensory input, particularly pain. Therein lies the key to using Endurance as a sense, though – avoidance. Are you trying to avoid a basilisk’s gaze? Don’t fail a Perception check, make an Endurance check. Is a snake-oil salesman trying to get you to waste your hard-earned gold on some useless junk? Insight might get you there, but Endurance is probably better at filtering out the garbage over the long haul of the rascal’s sales pitch. Distracted by the constant klaxon-like screams of the dying? Experiencing horrible Far Realm hallucinations? Trying very hard to keep your pants on as the vampiress takes off her blouse and licks you with her narcotic venom-saliva? Endurance, Endurance, Endurance! (Then after that if you still want to send me hate mail for furthering erotic, misogynistic imagery in RPGs, you can do so at

Endurance as Social Skill

Once again, we run into the problem of Endurance being primarily a blockade in a situation where we want and expect interaction. There are still a few circumstances wherein having a good Endurance can be an advantage in a social situation. The most obvious, of course, is being on either the receiving or giving end of a really long lecture, monologue or filibuster. Talking doesn’t seem like it’s very exhausting, but ask anyone who’s given lectures or even played a musical instrument for an extended period of time and you’ll hear differently. On the other hand, we all know listening can be VERY tiring, but if your NPC just needs someone to vent to or has nuggets of truth buried in insane ramblings, Endurance can be the ticket to ride. Endurance is also the go-to drinking skill and the tavern is the quintessential information center. If you can drink someone silly, you’re more likely to get the information you need from them.

There are additionally places where Endurance and Bluff intersect – not looking bored during a long speech and maintaining gastrointestinal composure while eating some really exotic or just badly cooked meal immediately come to mind. You might even be able to substitute Endurance for Diplomacy for some long, drawn-out negotiations where the first one to tip their hand or leave the table (literally or figuratively) suffers a serious disadvantage. Point is, having a good Endurance makes you a sort of non-combat Defender, able to take the hits on the party’s behalf. Any social situation that involves pushing through time, cultural differences or biology is prime territory to pull out your awesome Endurance check.

Hope you enjoyed that breakdown of Endurance! Next week: Dungeoneering. (Yeah, we’re a little out of order. We started that way if you noticed. No biggie.)

Similar Posts:

About the Author

Ryven Cedrylle was introduced to 2nd edition D&D by his father at age 8 and has been hooked ever since. When not out somewhere with his nerd-loving wife, he spends an inordinate amount of time staring at small objects - primarily beakers, stars, books about religion and virtual gaming miniatures. Follow him on Twitter for previews of upcoming material and random nuggets of wit! There's also a guy Ryven knows who's trying to adopt a baby. Take a look at the site, see if you can help him out.

Comments Closed

Comments are closed. You will not be able to post a comment in this post.