I've noticed that some DMs allow healing potions to be drawn and drank as bonus actions believing that this speeds up combat.

Does allowing healing potions to be drawn/drank as bonus actions actually result in quicker combat?

Or, does this prolong combat encounters since PCs and their enemies are more resilient due to more efficient access to healing magic?


2 Answers 2


This question is difficult because it greatly depends on an understanding of a specific party's composition, prior healing habits, and available resources. However, some general points can still be made.

Efficient healing does not significantly speed up or slow down combat

  • Faster healing does not mean more healing

    Just because characters would be able to use healing and still have their action available does not mean that they will heal more. Generally, characters will heal only if they need to be (eg at risk of going unconscious). This change from standard action potion-drinking to bonus action potion drinking will probably not change this. If a character needs healing, they will drink a potion or get help from another character regardless of action economy.

  • Cleric, Bard, and Druid already have access to bonus action healing

    If the party already has access to healing word, then they can already do bonus action healing, and having potions as a bonus action would only offer slightly more access to the ability.

  • Healing is limited more by resource than by action economy

    Even if you make potion drinking a bonus action, the party/enemy is still going to be limited by the amount of potions they have. Unless they have an enormous amount, an efficiency gains that might be present from bonus action potions will not have a chance to have a significant effect.

    And even if more efficient potion-drinking did cause a party to heal more often, they would just run out of healing resources much more quickly.

  • Access to healing is a much bigger factor than the improved healing efficiency in combat length

    A party or BBEG with access to healing is going to be able to stay on their feet longer than a party without in general. Take away healing, and the battles probably get much shorter. Give your BBEG 20 potions of greater healing? The battle is going to take much longer regardless of the action economy of using them.

In the end, potion drinking efficiency has very little effect on combat times.

Of course, that does not mean that it is a good idea to adopt this houserule, but that is another discussion entirely.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I'd like to see some support for the idea that increased healing efficiency does not significantly alter combat flow. \$\endgroup\$
    – Ruthaford
    Jan 9, 2018 at 19:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Ruthaford I can't think of any way to answer more specifically without having to account for every variation in party/enemy composition. It is going to be highly dependent on specific circumstances beyond what I've said here I think. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 9, 2018 at 19:52

Drawing a potion isn't an action.

Just to be clear, drawing a potion doesn't normally require an action; it's listed explicitly on the sidebar list of examples of "Interacting With Objects Around You" (PHB p190), which can be done "in tandem with your movement and action". So long as you aren't interacting with another object at the same time, you don't have to do anything special to pull out a potion. A bonus action to draw a potion is actually longer than the core rules require.

Drinking a potion as a bonus action shouldn't seriously change the length of a combat.

Drinking a potion explicitly IS an action, so that part of the question is valid, and on that point, no, this change likely wouldn't change the duration of combat in a significant way. The party might drop an enemy a couple of actions faster because they were able to attack once or twice during the encounter when they otherwise might have had to take an action to heal up; the enemy might deal a little more damage for the same reason; but overall it shouldn't be an enormous difference. There's still an opportunity cost to making this a bonus action, since by 5th level most characters have something better to do with their bonus action than drink a potion.

You probably still shouldn't do it.

This change would make a potion strictly superior to the baseline healing word spell (though admittedly not much). If you're doing this for a specific reason, like the party doesn't have a healer in the party, this house-rule might be a way to relieve that pressure a bit; but generally speaking it seems like an unnecessary change.


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .