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Is there a rule either in the DMG / PHB that states a party can take a long/short rest while actively in combat?

The scenario:

The Current campaign is being played on Roll20. When combat starts and initiative is rolled, there is a visible turn order that appears showing who (including mobs) goes next.

So we are clearing this village and combat starts, and we defeat all the enemies we can see, but as the DM did not remove the turn order and kept asking us what we were doing for our turns we assumed that there were still enemies to fight. One of the paladins uses Divine Sense and locates some enemies in a building next to us. We go in and are thrown into what I believe to be a deadly encounter for our level: 3 Banshees and a Wraith (our 5 member party is level 6).

We survive... just, and we question why we were given a deadly encounter in session 1 of the campaign. The DM calmly informed us that it was well within our rights to take a rest in the middle of combat and we could have left combat at any time.

TL;DR: While actively in combat, can you as per the rules take a long or short rest?

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    \$\begingroup\$ As an aside, if your DM is saying "hey, you could have left combat at any time", you may want to have a quick chat with them about your expectations and the style of the game. It's quite reasonable for you to assume that you can't simply stop fighting, because the monsters will keep trying to kill you; either the DM failed to make it clear to you that there was some reason it might work, or you have differing ideas of how to approach the game. Either way, something to set straight before getting too deep into the campaign. \$\endgroup\$ – anaximander Aug 4 '17 at 14:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ That's what we as the party were saying, we were unaware of any rules that said we could and because he was specifically asking us what we were doing on our turn we assumed we were still in comabt, oh and during that entire sesion we fought no less than 9 banshees \$\endgroup\$ – Matthew Perryman Aug 4 '17 at 14:53
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According to the PHB page 186:

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.

It doesn't say anything about combat, so that doesn't matter. You can just declare "My character sits down and takes a short rest". The short rest might get interrupted if the character gets hit by a monster or gets up and fights, but if that doesn't happen within 1 hour it counts as a short rest.

From the moved comments: This is not just silly, it can lead to interesting gameplay. For example a fighter might hold off the enemy long enough for the warlock to regain spell slots in order to fly them out of trouble.
Additionally attempting to rest means the DM has to either reveal the monster or let you rest which could be useful.

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    \$\begingroup\$ keep in mind a short rest is 600 rounds! :P \$\endgroup\$ – gaynorvader Aug 4 '17 at 10:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 Aug 6 '17 at 2:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ @nwp it might be worth sliding in gaynorvader's comment (in parentheses) to underscore the point you are making in your last sentence. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Aug 6 '17 at 12:52
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I highly doubt that it's explicitly addressed in the rules, but RAW does tell us that "A round represents about 6 seconds in the game world." (Basic Rules, p.69), while "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." (Basic Rules, p. 67) Thus, taking a short rest in combat would require a minimum of 600 combat rounds to complete.

Practical issues of running a 600-round combat aside, taking a short rest requires, in addition to the passage of time, that you do "nothing more strenuous than eating, drinking, reading, and tending to wounds" and being in combat, even if you are not yourself actively attacking foes, is clearly "more strenuous than eating, drinking, reading, and tending to wounds".

The real issue here is that you thought you were still in combat and the GM didn't. Establish clear signals for the end of combat (such as discarding the initiative tracker) to avoid similar issues in the future.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Yes, in we had no clear indication that combat had finished in anyway shape or form and as we were still under the impression that combat was continuing the idea of trying to take a short rest did not occur to us. \$\endgroup\$ – Matthew Perryman Aug 4 '17 at 10:25
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    \$\begingroup\$ and kept asking us what we were doing for our turns based on this, combat had NOT ended and you were very much still in initiative order. It's not a matter of not knowing it had finished in this case, since you were still in combat for all intents and purposes. If the DM intended you to be out of combat but kept you in initiative order, he handled it wrongly and that's a separate issue that needs to be addressed, but it doesn't sound like that was the case. \$\endgroup\$ – JBC Aug 4 '17 at 13:48
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    \$\begingroup\$ Combat is fighting things; if you're no longer fighting things, you're no longer in combat. Your character doesn't know about the existence of the GM so he has no idea that his turns are being tracked - if all enemies he's aware of are dispatched, as far as he's concerned he's not in combat any more. \$\endgroup\$ – Nelviticus Aug 4 '17 at 16:01
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    \$\begingroup\$ @JBC The DM can use rounds any time they need to keep track of action at a finer resolution than 1 minute (for example, you've triggered a trap that's flooding a room). While combat means taking turns, taking turns doesn't always mean combat. \$\endgroup\$ – Doval Aug 4 '17 at 16:27
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    \$\begingroup\$ @JBC I disagree strongly with that notion. PH p.181 clearly says: "In combat and other fast-paced situations, the game relies on rounds". Since the rules don't define when combat ends, the DM can handle this however they want; but artificially extending combat when there's nothing left to fight means players can't surprise or be surprised by new enemies or claim any benefits from class features that kick in at the start of a new combat. That's deeply unsatisfying from both a gamist and narrativist point of view. \$\endgroup\$ – Doval Aug 4 '17 at 22:11
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So long you don't exert yourself, you can stop and rest anytime. The initiative count is just to put order into things (who goes next). There is no "combat" mode the world goes into when someone rolls initiative (the simulated Pen & Paper RPG is not a CRPG).

I'll partially disagree with Dave's answer. You are only "in combat" if you

  1. Attempted to hit someone since last turn.

  2. Someone attempted to hit you since last turn.

(includes casting spells, maneuvering, etc).

There is no floating message "You cannot rest now, monsters are nearby" if your character tries to do so.

Of course if there are monsters just around the corner, you will be interrrupted. Or not.


I hereby present you a way to take a long rest even with monsters within 15 feet of you;

Requires a lv 5+ caster with Leomund's Tiny Hut prepared:

Begin casting Leomund Tiny Hut, casting time 1 minute (10 rounds). On the 10th round, make sure every party member (up to 8 allies of caster) is within 10 feet of the caster. Make sure that no large or larger creature is within 10 feet of the caster.

If the casting is successfull, start your long rest while the monsters bash away at the force field.

  • If the enemies have dispel magic available, this won't work, but every strategy has a counter.
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Combat only happens when there are two opposing sides that want to attack each other. If you are unaware of any enemies, and your enemies are unaware of you, then no combat can take place. There is no grand universal transformation where time is suddenly divided up into 6 second intervals when someone decides to throw a punch. In your specific situation, you killed all your enemies, meaning there was no one actively opposing you. You were out of combat. If your paladin hadn't used Divine Sense to locate more enemies, you would both have been unaware of each other and not initiated another combat.

Initiative does not define combat. It is only there to keep manage the actions characters take. One round is about 6 seconds and all turns happen nearly simultaneously, but to make it possible to play in a reasonable way, an artificial order to actions is used to fairly allow all characters to perform their actions. Initiative can be used in circumstances outside of combat. Initiative does not have to be used to track combat. Like I stated above, the universe doesn't divide itself into 6 second increments when someone starts fighting. It is just a way to simulate a lot of actions happening all at once.

That being said, when are you allowed to short rest? According to the rules, you can short rest any time you have at least an hour to rest and do minimal activity. If you can relax for 600 rounds during combat, you can short rest. More specific to your situation, once you defeated your original enemies, if your DM didn't attack you with the wraith and banshees, you could have rested right then.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ @PurpleMonkey I thought it was implied, but I'll edit to make it more explicit. \$\endgroup\$ – Johnathan Gross Aug 6 '17 at 3:48

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