I'm in a peculiar 3.5e group where some spells and psionic powers create temporary hit points (Vigor and dragon form spells for example)

So if i activate a power or cast a spell that grants a static block of temporary hit points, is it traditional for the attackers to withhold how much damage they have done until they injure me? Would I be blind to how many temporary hit points I have left?

Some of the players seem to think so.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Could you clarify, is this about knowing your character's own temporary HP? You've got at least one answer that appears to consider the question to be about knowing and enemy's temporary HP. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 12, 2017 at 14:22

3 Answers 3


Ideally, yes. You shouldn't know your amount of remaining temporary hitpoints.

Generally when dealing with things like temporary hit points, regular hit points, and damage in general in a perfect world where game constructs like hit points aren't being brought into the light by the GM, the players should know how damaged something is only by the description the GM gives.

"Lightly scarred and bleeding from several light cuts." is much different than "Heavily wounded, bruised, and standing in a pool of his own deepening blood."

Another way that you could think of temporary hit points is thinking of them as ablative armor. Gamewise, this could be described as a sword being slammed down into an enemy and finding that the sword is blocked by a shield which ablates as it takes further damage. Granted, you could describe that sort of thing in a multitude of ways, the "weakening shield" is probably the easiest.

"Your blows are blocked by a transparent shield of force, that when struck momentarily reveals itself before shattering(or weakening), stopping your weapon for a moments notice before the greatsword falls, slicing open your targets shoulder." would be a good way to describe temporary hit points.

Another way to describe them might be:

"You're temporarily endowed with great strength of life, and the blood rolls through your veins as your heartbeat grows stronger."

Your Dungeon Master's GMing style may be different than one consistently rooted in roleplay, but for the most part, yes. You as a player shouldn't know the actual amount of temporary hit points remaining. Your DM should be the one tracking that total so that he can verify when that block of temporary HP is gone, and then when you actually feel the effect of Vigor dissipate you know what kind of trouble you're in.


It's traditional to treat temporary hit points like hit points, but there's a great big caveat: there isn't a set tradition for how you treat hit points.

First, temporary hit points. This comes from the SRD:

Certain effects give a character temporary hit points. When a character gains temporary hit points, note his current hit point total. When the temporary hit points go away the character’s hit points drop to his current hit point total. If the character’s hit points are below his current hit point total at that time, all the temporary hit points have already been lost and the character’s hit point total does not drop further.

When temporary hit points are lost, they cannot be restored as real hit points can be, even by magic.

You'll note that nowhere in there does it state that you are not permitted to know how many temporary hit points you have left. The temporary hit points are simply added to your current hit points, and when you lose hit points temporary hit points are lost first.

You should also note that it says nowhere that you are entitled to know what your current hit point total is.

There's no hard and fast rule for who holds character sheets, makes notes, tracks hit points, or rolls the dice. Maybe the DM only runs the monsters, and you run your character's sheet. Maybe the DM has your full character sheet and you have an index card with your abilities on one side and equipment on the other. Maybe there are two DM's, one who runs monsters, and another who controls character sheets and makes rolls for the party.

I've been in games where all of the above occurred (not at the same time, thankfully), and I've DM'd using even more unusual methods of tracking stats (the award for most difficult to track was "feed everything into a computer so not even I know what will happen next"). All are equally valid, if more or less difficult and/or fun. Ultimately, then, the tradition that's going to be most important in your case is the one your gaming group follows.

That said, if you're trying to avoid meta gaming, your character wouldn't know the numeric value of an attack that damaged their temporary hit points any more than they would know how many hit points a dagger would deal... but, just like anyone can tell an orc with a great axe deals more pain than a peasant with a dagger, your character can tell when they've been hit harder or softer, even if the hit only impacted their temporary hit points. It'll be up to your DM (probably- see caveat above) to describe the damage in a way that's meaningful for you, whether that happens to be telling you that you lose 9 temporary hit points or that your psychic ward pulses from the force of the mace smashing against it, but holds firm.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I dunno, man. While AD&D, for instance, I think had a section advocating mystery hp (as in a player never knowing how many hp his PC has), most of the time—in 1e, 2e, and 3e, at least—info about determining and keeping track of hp is in the Player's Handbook, and that makes it traditionally player-held info. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 10, 2017 at 16:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ Players knowing how the mechanics work is not the same as players being in charge of those mechanics. "Tradition" is a big word, and more importantly a different word than "rule." I have a fella in my group, for example, who still grumbles over the fact that all the newer books reference dice, even though the first games had you draw numbers out of a hat. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 10, 2017 at 16:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ He's old, is what I'm saying. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 10, 2017 at 16:54
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    \$\begingroup\$ May be worth noting that knowing your hp is the standard way of playing (at least, according to the publisher). Page 59 of the LGCS indicates that players must advise the GM of any hit point damage carried over from previous modules and their hit point total before play, and page 60 indicates they should publicly display that sort of information so that the DM and other players can see it easily without having to ask. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 11, 2017 at 5:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ Try using a status or detect life effect. Even if it won't give you a number read-out on your hit points, it will give you overall condition. Besides, even if the players know the hp total, the characters still don't. \$\endgroup\$
    – nijineko
    Oct 12, 2017 at 14:20

Your character should not know how many hit points he has left. Unless something deliberately meta is going on, he should be entirely unaware of hit points as a concept.

However, you as a player should know all aspects of your character's status (with rare exceptions). In 3.5, the DM already has too much to keep track of; anything he can offload will be an improvement to the game.

It's also a bad plan generally to hide character info from players. It makes it more likely that DM actions will seem arbitrary and capricious, increases the likelihood of errors that you will have to walk back later, and (perhaps counter-intuitively) seems to make players less attached to their characters.

I gave a very similar answer at https://rpg.stackexchange.com/a/94053, and the other answers there are worth reviewing as well.


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