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5 points from a Lay on Hands pool can be used to cure disease (or neutralize poison). Some effects appear like diseases but are instead just spell effects or curses.

If I attempt to use Lay on Hands for this purpose and there is no disease or poison present, what happens?

Some potential outcomes my player (who is the one who asked me) considered:

  1. Since it is an invalid target, the attempt fails and no points are expended
  2. The points are expended but have no effect
  3. The points can be converted to standard healing for 5 points without costing a new action
  4. The points are automatically converted to healing
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Guidance can be taken from Xanathar's rules on Invalid Targets

While abilities aren't stated to be included in this, the Optional Rules covered by Xanathar's about Invalid Targets (pages 85-6) can help direct on how to deal with this:

If you cast a spell on someone or something that can’t be affected by the spell, nothing happens to that target, but if you used a spell slot to cast the spell, the slot is still expended.

In this case, the target is invalid. You have spent the 5hp from Lay On Hands (similar to having spent a spellcasting slot), but received a null result in return.

You have gained something from this, though. You have learned that whatever is happening to the target, it's not a disease or a poison.

Resources are not for "ifs"

I think what Xanathar's intent with this guidance is that when you try and do something, there is a cost. You've attempted a task and failed. Not failed because the task failed, but because you chose the wrong task.

But your table may do it differently

Because there are no specific rules about this, and Xanathar's is both optional and specific about spellcasting, your DM and table may choose to do it differently...and that's okay!

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I think I would run it similarly. I'd ask how one would go about identifying whether something is considered a disease, but that probably warrants its own question (that I'm too lazy to ask). Perhaps a Medicine check? \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Apr 27 '18 at 20:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ @V2Blast At that point, it's "something is wrong. I'll check for [disease] or [magical problem] or [whateverelseyoucanthinkofandmaketheDMfigureoutwhatabilitytocheck]. \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Apr 27 '18 at 20:36

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