Order of effects for Slow Natural Healing variant

The following is what happens to hit points and hit dice at the end of a long rest (PHB p. 186):

At the end of a long rest, a character regains all lost hit points. The character also regains spent Hit Dice, up to a number of dice equal to half of the character's total number of them.

Under this normal rule, the following two effects occur at the end of a long rest: the character regains all their hit points, and the character regains half their hit dice. These effects are independent (they manipulate different resources), so the order they occur does not matter.

The Slow Natural Healing variant (DMG p. 267) changes that rule in the following way:

Characters don't regain hit points at the end of a long rest. Instead, a character can spend Hit Dice to heal at the end of a long rest, just as with a short rest.

Under the variant, the following two effects occur at the end of a long rest: the character regains half their hit dice, and the character can spend their hit dice to recover hit points. These effects are dependent (they manipulate the same resource), so the order they occur does matter. Here's the problem: the order is not stated in the text. It's an emergent property of how those two rules interact with each other, and that interaction is ambiguous.

Disregarding the possibility that they happen simultaneously (which I believe is still ambiguous), there are two well-defined orders:

1. The character regains half their hit dice, then they can spend their hit dice to recover hit points.

2. The character can spend their hit dice to recover hit points, then they regain half their hit dice.

To show the practical difference, suppose I have 2 of 5 hit dice (each is a d8 with a +0 CON modifier) and I spend as many as I can. Here's the result under each case above.

1. I regain 2 hit dice, leaving me with 4 of 5. Then I spend all 4 of them, leaving me with 0 of 5. I regained 4d8 hit points.

2. I spend all 2 of my hit dice, leaving me with 0 of 5. Then I regain 2 of them, leaving me with 2 of 5. I regained 2d8 hit points.

Since the results are different, the order must matter.

Which is the correct order: regain hit dice first or spend hit dice first?

I do not think there is a RAW answer, so a correct answer will likely be RAI.

There's no difference.

But wait! In one case you regained 4d8, in another 2d8. Surely there's a difference!

But you're not really coming into the end-of-rest time in the same situation, despite the fact that in each case you've got 2 of 5 HD. You're comparing a character who exhausted all of their physical resources yesterday with one who didn't, and are finding that they today have different healing capacities. To see how this is the case, we need to backtrack a little bit, assuming that in either case the character had full HD a day ago1...

Case 1: regain, then spend--rewinding it.

In order to come to the end of the rest with 2 of 5 HD the character must have spent 3 HD at the end of their last long rest.

Case 2: spend, then regain--rewinding it.

In order to come to the end of the rest with 2 of 5 HD the character must have spent 5 HD at the end of their last long rest.

A day ago the character spent two fewer HD a day ago in case 1 than they did in case 2.

Case 1: regain, then spend--playing it forward.

You're correct that this character gets to now spend up to 4 HD.

Case 2: spend, then regain--playing it forward.

Your're correct that this character gets to now spend up to 2 HD.

Now the character can spend two more HD in case 1 than in case 2.

It may seem counterintuitive, especially given your correct analysis in the question-post. But there's functionally no difference in the two schemes2, it's just a bookkeeping thing3. That said, pick one as a table and go with it.

1 - if this seems disingenuous, know that all the following analysis relies on is the notion that there exists some time when the character had the same hit dice, and let's consider the day that follows that time.

2 - There might be an edge-effect at level-up, all depending on how you handle that as a table. But that also works out on the other end, so unless you're gaming your character down to the level of whether you expect the campaign to end on an odd or even level, it all comes to nothing.

3 - Only word in English with three doubled-letter pairs consecutive. Enjoy your daily dose of vitamin T.

• Actually it does make a difference, in the case that you have lost hit points but have all of your hit dice at the end of the day. If you spend half your hit dice, under case 1, you would be missing half your hit dice, but under case 2, you would have regained hit points but still have all of your hit dice for the next day. You could avoid getting into that situation to begin with, sure, but it's a situation that can happen, and did happen once or twice when I used this variant in a campaign. Jul 21, 2019 at 10:37
• ...but couldn't you just short rest first? It seems like the ability to choose to short rest (and thus spend HD) prior to long resting would be pertinent here. Nov 15, 2019 at 22:25

You get HD before getting HP.

I believe that you use HD at the end of the rest, but you regain HD over the rest. I don't think the "at the end" part of the phrase applied to the second sentence. Reading them separately,

The character also regains spent Hit Dice, up to a number of dice equal to half of the character's total number of them.

And you can use them at the end to regain HP.

a character can spend Hit Dice to heal at the end of a long rest

The wording my be interpreted differently by others, but it does this seem intuitive to me. Either way, I'll try to explain my reasoning of why this makes sense.

If you regain HP before regaining HD

• a character that used all its HD does not regain any health after a long rest. You'd need to rest the additional hour. In 8 hours, you only gained the ability to rest, but you rest for 8 hours and then bandage yourself up.

• you can have a long rest, get all your HP back (by using less than half your HD), and still end with all your HD as well. It looks to me that this variant rule wants to avoid such cases, as it is slow healing.

By gaining your HD before your HP, you solve these problems. If you used all your HD, then you can regain some health after an 8-hour rest. And if you do replenish your HP in a long rest, then you won't have all your HD available to you during the rest of the day.

Consider a traveller that everyday gets somewhat hurt. While he can recover during the night, he is expected to be worse at recovering in short breaks than someone who was completely fine the previous day. In other words, this character, hurt before his long rest, is supposed to have less HD available to him in short rests during the day than another character who was fine before his last long rest.

• ...but couldn't you just short rest before the long rest? Nov 15, 2019 at 22:25

As others said, mechanically it is just the same. Thematically, recovering HD then healing HP fits better, because it means in any circumstance you still gain HP from a long rest.

What about those "extra" hit dice you didn't spend and might lose on a Long Rest? Well, nothing stops you from taking a Short Rest before your Long Rest to spend those, unless it's imperative you spend 8h resting, not 9h. This is better thematically too: When characters are too beaten up, they spend some time tending to their wounds before going to bed instead of going straight to sleep.

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You're right, the rules are ambiguous and both orders are arguable. However, the order of the rules strongly suggests that they should be applied in to order they are written - first restore hp, then regain HD. When an algorithm/procedure/recipe is written down, the order the steps are written is almost always the order they are performed.

• I think your answer would be improved by stating why you think they are written in that order. I'm guessing you mean basically "HP then HD" whether the "HP" is regaining all your hit points or spending dice to regain hit points. Is that accurate? Because that would be reasonable, but I don't think your answer clarifies that. Jul 19, 2017 at 1:37

The accepted answer here is right in an important respect, and wrong in an important respect. It has been pointed out in comments but it is worth writing it out as a full answer.

The difference is insubstantial as far as long rests are concerned.

This is true. How that technically works is, given your first long rest after having full hit dice, the HD-then-HP order takes you over your hit dice maximum, and those extra 2 dice then vanish into the aether. So if you then use up 3 hit dice, your running total is 2 HD and at your next long rest you have two more to spare, so you can heal a maximum of four hit dice. If you follow the HP-then-HD order, no dice vanish into the aether and your running total is 4 HD and at your next long rest you can heal a maximum of four hit dice. These two situations are basically then perfectly symmetric as far as long rests are concerned.

But short rests and homebrew also exist.

But you can also spend hit dice in short rests, even with this variant, and that puts the lie to the claim of “no difference.”

Also, even if you played with a variant of Slow Natural Healing that blocks using hit dice in short rests (!), some homebrew rules are affected by the fact that in 4E, there was a similar notion to hit dice called a healing surge, but those could be spent both inside of combat via your second wind and in/out of combat via healing magic. So you would have to also make sure that you are not using any of those rules, and that the only way to spend hit dice is long rests, to make it truly irrelevant. In every other case, there potentially is a real difference here.

So if you consider a short rest after this first long rest, in the HD-then-HP order you only have 2 hit dice to spend during the short rest, while in the HP-then-HD order you have 4 hit dice to spend. Consider a session with the following structure:

1. Party enters The Forest, has some fights along the way, camps out outside of The Dungeon. Long rest.
2. Party enters The Dungeon, has some fights along the way, camps out inside of the Dungeon. Short rest.
3. Party faces off against the Big Bad, wins, gets The Thing, and escapes, camping out outside of the dungeon. Long rest.
4. On their way back through The Forest, some Minor Goons try to waylay the party and steal The Thing. They are easily defeated and the party makes it back safely.

The key is that those extra 2 hit dice could make a life-or-death difference in facing the Big Bad, even if it's all the same when they get around to the Minor Goons. There are real circumstances in which those two hit dice can mean the difference between life and death for your character, because you might not get a long rest right before a boss fight.

The three tiers of being nice to your players

So there are three tiers of how nice you can be to your players. Here they are, in order from nicer-to-them to meaner-to-them:

1. Players get hit dice first, and then hit points, but they do not have hit dice limits until the long rest is over. So, after The Forest those extra hit dice do not evaporate into the aether.
2. Players get hit points first, and then hit dice. This gives them maximum healing ability during short rests.
3. Players get hit dice first, and then hit points, having to respect the hit dice limits throughout.

I will say that for story reasons I prefer (1) and (3) over (2), because HP-then-HD has this really weird pathology where, in all of the cases where this matters, you can end up taking a long rest that is much less healing than a short rest which happened prior.

In fact if you think about what smart players would do in the case of (2) above, they should really just take a short rest immediately after their long rest to recover a few more HP before they head home. Strange, right?

Connection to bigger issues in the world

I have to mention that this is a special case of what in accounting is called a “cash flow” problem. The idea is that even if long-term your financial status is solid (i.e. you don't have a revenue problem), you could still run into short-term problems if you overextend yourself. So if we stipulate that on average you as a person will make a fixed amount of \$1k/week, you still have a strong reason to prefer “I get paid for the next four weeks up-front” to “I get paid each week at the start of the week” to “I get paid each week at the end of the week” to “I get paid for all of it at the end of 4 weeks.” Yes, after 4 weeks the amount made in each of these 4 cases is exactly the same—but in each pair, there are some situations where your accounts run dry in the latter where you would not have gone broke in the former. It’s the same thing if you’re planning a big party (say, a wedding) that comes near what you can financially bear: you want to pay your vendors as late as they will let you, and you want to dig into emergency funds etc. as early as you can, so that you do not ever have trouble putting food on the table in your day-to-day life.

And managing a company’s financials is the same thing; you might have a bunch of invoices out that on paper mean that you have an extra million dollars in the bank and are very successful revenue-wise and profit-wise... but if your actual bank balance is hovering near zero because your clients are taking a while to pay those invoices to you, you nevertheless have a cash-flow problem on your hands. Because your employees do not want to hear “hey, uh, I can’t actually pay you the full amount this pay period, but we’re gonna work real hard to make sure that we can make it up to you by the next one”—like, that can be a fatal mistake to your company.

PHB 186: LONG REST A long rest is a period of extended downtime, at least 8 hours long, during which a character sleeps or performs light activity: reading, talking, eating, or standing watch for no more than 2 hours. If the rest is interrupted by a period of strenuous activity -- at least 1 hour of walking, fighting, casting spells, or similar adventuring activity -- the characters must begin the rest again to gain any benefit from it.

At the end of a long rest, a character regains all lost hit points. The character also regains spent Hit Dice, up to a number of dice equal to half of the character's total number of them. For example, if a character has eight Hit Dice, he or she can regain four spent Hit Dice upon finishing a long rest.

A character can't benefit from more than one long rest in a 24-hour period, and a character must have at least 1 hit point at the start of the rest to gain its benefits.

From this, it follows that the order is: a) Long rest; b) At end of long rest, regain all HP; c) Also (at end of long rest), regain 1/2 HD.

However, "also" implies "same condition", not "specific ordering".

Like in this example:

RETIREMENT RULE At the end of my career, I'll sell my house. Also, I'll gift a nice car to my son.

As long as both occur at the end of his career, even if he gifts the car before selling the house, both parts remain true to the fact of being "at the end of his career".

And the exact same syntaxic structure is used here in the PHB rules.

So, for the exact order, it's player choice.

DMG 267: SLOW NATURAL HEALING Characters don't regain hit points at the end of a long rest. Instead, a character can spend Hit Dice to heal at the end of a long rest, just as with a short rest. This optional rule prolongs the amount of time that characters need to recover from their wounds without the benefits of magical healing and works well for grittier, more realistic campaigns.

Emphasis mine.

From this, the order becomes: a) Long rest. b) At end of long rest, spend HD to regain HP. c) Also (at end of long rest) regain 1/2 HD.

But again with order of b and c being player's choice.

The answer to how this works all depends on how you interpret these sections of the PHB to use as precedence:

The PHB on rests:

A Short Rest is a period of downtime, at least 1 hour long, during which a character does nothing more strenuous than eating, drinking, reading, and tending to wounds.

A Long Rest is a period of extended downtime, at least 8 hours long, during which a character sleeps or performs light activity: reading, talking, eating, or standing watch for no more than 2 hours."

You can take a short rest as part of a long rest, heck you can even take two. This implies that for the text that says "...Instead, a character can spend Hit Dice to heal at the end of a long rest, just as with a short rest", to add anything whatsoever, it must happen after the other benefits of a long rest, otherwise the book is just trolling by saying you can add a 3rd short rest to your long rest. In conclusion: you gain hit dice, then you expend them. This also makes sense since otherwise you might actually only gain hit dice from a long rest if you start with 0, which is possible, but thematically weak design in that case (since design should evoke what it's representing in RPGs)

However, if you want to be a contrarian, you can argue that the text is meant to be redundant; as in it exists because they wanted to remind us, or clarify that you can in fact take short rests as part of your long rest, in which case the opposite would be true: you spend dice, then you get new ones.

All of this assumes that long rests literally have no effect until the very last moment though, which while mechanically true (since the rules clearly imply you don't get the benefits if you are interrupted after 7 hours), it's probably not how most people imagine it (a DM actually granting no benefits for a 7 hour long rest would be called a bitch), and if you are going to think of it as the characters gradually regaining hit dice over the course of a long rest, ans gradually expending them. In mechanical terms, this would probably be better represented by you gaining a number of hit dice equal to half your level added to what you have, then expending the surplus if there is any, plus any additional dice you want to spend from you now replenished pool. Alternatively, "gain half your level, expend any number, discard down to your level."

So there is a probable interpretation (regain then spend), a plausible one (spend then regain), and a "WotC says I get to do what I want, and this is better" alternative (gain, spend, discard down).

When two effects happen simultaneously, you can choose the order in which they happen.

• Welcome to the stack, Saeed. Take the tour when you have a moment. We like to have answers that are supported, and it looks like you are making a claim about the rules here. Can cite the rule or rules that support your conclusion here? Nov 3, 2021 at 15:14
• This is a good start to the answer, but you should state where that rule originates and also that it is an optional rule and not 'always-on'. Tying it back to the question itself for how to apply it would also improve your answer. Thank you and welcome to our stack! Nov 3, 2021 at 15:15
• If possible, show where the rule that supports your assertion is found. And does that rule apply when you are not the originator of the effect but the beneficiary? Nov 3, 2021 at 20:44