Nightmare Cycle

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The Nightmare Cycle is a state of magical flux associated with the Ruins and a few parts of the Caves. This cycle has slightly random durations for each phase and is entirely independent from the surface day/night cycle, lunar cycle, and seasons.

There are four phases of the Nightmare Cycle:

  • Calm: 6 to 7.5 minutes (Don't Starve icon.png: 4.75 to 5.75 min.)
  • Warning: 1.5 to 3 minutes (Don't Starve icon.png: 1 to 1.5 min.)
  • Nightmare: 2.5 to 4 minutes (Don't Starve icon.png: 2.5 to 3.5 min.)
  • Dawn: 1 to 2.5 minutes (Don't Starve icon.png: 15 to 45 seconds)

The entire cycle lasts 11-17 minutes (Don't Starve icon.png: 7.5-11.5 min).

Upon activating the Ancient Gateway by inserting the Ancient Key, the Cycle will be locked at its peak nightmare phase until the Gateway is deactivated when the key is removed or the Ancient Fuelweaver defeated.

The Thulecite Medallion changes color to indicate the current phase of the Nightmare Cycle. The character quotes change when it is examined in each phase (within the phase for the Nightmare phase). It is particularly helpful for timing a foray past the Splumonkeys into the ruins, or out again. Also for exploring Stalagmite Terrain or the Lichen fields where Nightmare Fissures may be found.

Calm Phase

Appearance of Runic Turf during the Calm Phase.
Wilson Portrait.png
All is well.

Wilson, inspecting a Thulecite Medallion during calm phase.

  • Nightmare Lights and Fissures are closed/inactive
  • Runic Turf is blue
  • No ambient sound can be heard in the background

Warning Phase

Appearance of Runic Turf during the Warning Phase.
Wigfrid Portrait.png
It's starting...

Wigfrid, inspecting a Thulecite Medallion during warning phase.

  • Nightmare Lights and Fissures open up slightly (Shadow Creatures do not spawn)
  • Runic Turf is gray
  • A quiet ambient sound can be heard in the background
  • Ancient Statues begin to glow

Nightmare Phase

Appearance of Runic Turf during the Nightmare Phase
Willow Portrait.png
The fuel is coming to life!

Willow, inspecting a Thulecite Medallion during waxing nightmare phase.

Waxwell Portrait.png
The pulse is holding steady.

Maxwell, inspecting a Thulecite Medallion during steady nightmare phase.

Wickerbottom Portrait.png
Levels of ectoplasmic residue are high but seem to be decreasing.

Wickerbottom, inspecting a Thulecite Medallion during waning nightmare phase.

  • Nightmare Lights and Fissures open up completely and spawn Nightmare Creatures.
  • Runic Turf cracks glow red.
  • A loud ambient sound can be heard in the background.
  • Earthquakes occur most frequently during this state. [Verification Needed]
  • Ancient Statues are distorted, glowing brightly, with Nightmare Fuel seeping from their eyes and mouths. Mining them yields a chance of spawning a Shadow Creature (instead of nightmare fuel) from them.
  • Splumonkeys transform into hostile Shadow Splumonkeys.

During this phase, Nightmare Lights in the Ruins and Nightmare Fissures on Stalagmite Terrain open completely, spawning hostile Shadow Creatures regardless of the player's Sanity. At this time, Splumonkeys also turn into their Shadow counterparts. Shadow Creatures spawned from lights/fissures randomly despawn during the Dawn Phase and the Splumonkeys turn back into their regular selves when Dawn turns to Calm.

Shadow Creatures from Nightmare Lights and Fissures, plus the Shadow Splumonkeys, make the ruins and parts of the caves extremely dangerous during the Nightmare Phase. None of these mobs can de-aggro. Instead, they chase the survivor ceaselessly until they despawn at a random point toward the end of the dawn phase, making this the one of the most dangerous non-boss mob threats in the game. They can be outrun if the player does not starve, freeze, or get killed by darkness before they despawn/transform.

Dawn Phase

Appearance of Runic Turf during the Dawn Phase.
Warly Portrait.png
This nightmare is almost over!

Warly, inspecting a Thulecite Medallion during dawn phase.

  • Nightmare Lights and Fissures remain part-way open (Nightmare Creatures will not spawn, but already spawned ones will remain for some of this phase)
  • Runic Turf is gray
  • A quiet ambient sound can be heard in the background
  • Ancient Statues continue to glow
  • Splumonkeys remain hostile Shadow Splumonkeys

Don't Starve icon.png

A Fissure in a Cave floor as the Nightmare Cycle leaks through.

Fissures in the Caves will open and close independent of each other and independent of the Nightmare Cycle in the ruins, Fissures in the ruins will all be synchronized with the Nightmare Cycle.[Verification Needed]

Prototype.png Tips

Using a Bush Hat to avoid Shadow Creatures.
  • Time cave exploration and travel carefully to avoid aggroing a host of nightmare creatures and shadow splumonkeys. Running for several minutes may be impractical if the weather is too wet or cold, or if you are starving, or run out of light. Running while insane generally picks up additional shadow creatures that will not despawn when the cycle ends (because they were produced from character insanity, not a Light/Fissure).
  • Summer is the traditional time to explore the ruins: it doesn't generally rain and there's no chance of freezing. Also the surface-world is hot at this time.
  • The Shadow Creatures that spawn from Nightmare Lights/Fissures stay within a screen of their spawn point until they detect a nearby survivor.
  • Runic Turf is safe (not a nightmare light).
  • Nightmare Lights appear on the map (making them easier to avoid in future), but Nightmare Fissures do not show on the map.
  • Burning or hammering Splumonkey Pods will allow for larger areas of safety, though resetting the ruins respawns the pods. Some players put walls around the pods (the walls remain when the ruins reset). Many players simply run past the Splumonkeys during the calm phase and wait for another calm phase to cross their territory again.