Can players do anything while waiting for a troll to regenerate its hp on its next turn? For example: Player A drops troll’s hp to 0. Player B and Player C go before troll goes. Do I just skip their turn and say that the troll starts to stand back up or do I ask them what they do and let them know that combat isn't over, effectively spoiling that the troll will come back?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Is the question really "what can they do", or is it "how do I handle this situation without spoiling the fact that the troll is going to regenerate in 12 seconds?" \$\endgroup\$
    – mattdm
    Commented Oct 16, 2019 at 15:55

6 Answers 6


Players would remain in the turn order after a Troll is taken down to 0 hit points, it would be unfair to just skip their turns as they may take that time to heal themselves, use consumables, or generally buff up before whatever is coming next. If they haven't encountered Trolls before, they may just suspect you have some more creatures to come.

When utilising a Troll in combat, keep in mind the following things:

  • Trolls can only be killed by Fire or Acid, in the Regeneration trait it states "If the troll takes acid or fire damage, this trait doesn't function at the start of the troll's next turn.", and "The troll dies only if it starts its turn with 0 hit points and doesn't regenerate.", which combined means that the only way for the troll to start it's turn with 0 hit points and no Regeneration buff is to get it to 0 hit points with acid or fire, or thirdly, deal acid or fire damage while they're at 0 hit points but before their next turn.
  • Jeremy Crawford in the Dragon+ episode that aired 29th January 2019 that the instant death rule does not effect Trolls, Regeneration trumps that rule, so even reducing it to 0 hit points, with leftover damage equal to its max hit points, the Troll will still gain Regeneration buffs. However, while Regeneration trumps Instant Death, Disintegrate's chance of instant death trumps Regeneration, so you can still instant kill a Troll with that spell, as discussed in this post.

In conclusion, Trolls in D&D5e are much like their internet counterpart, hard to kill and relentlessly annoying unless you're prepared for them.

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    \$\begingroup\$ There's nothing spookier than when you've killed all the enemies but combat's still going. What did we miss?! \$\endgroup\$
    – Exal
    Commented Oct 16, 2019 at 8:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Medix2 in my second bullet point I specifically mention Disintegrate as a method of killing a troll, hopefully to put forward the point that the specific text in spells trumps the feature that trumps the general rule. But I didn't know quite how to phrase that. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 16, 2019 at 9:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ You answer the question in one sentence with the justification that “it would be unfair otherwise”. Would it be a good idea to talk a little about the rules instead of including other troll facts? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 16, 2019 at 10:00
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    \$\begingroup\$ @jgn my main reasoning is because the question can be summarised as opinion based, as I expect "what can they do" is not literal otherwise we'd be listing almost every feature that can take place in a turn, or two with a staggered turn order. You make a good point in mentioning the other post about controlling and leaving initiative order, but it would feel irrelevant in my own answer. I proceeded to explain how the Troll works because I wanted the OP to understand completely how they run combat with a creature like this, because they're an especially tricky one. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 16, 2019 at 13:40
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    \$\begingroup\$ It's worth noting that Jeremy Crawford's ruling on the Instant Death rule was specifically relating to the Massive Damage rule that causes Instant Death. He's previously stated that spells such as Power Word: Kill, Divine Word, or Disintegrate, will ignore the troll's regeneration and render the troll dead. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 16, 2019 at 19:46

I've been in this situation with players who did not know that a creature could regenerate. It wasn't a troll, but the situation was the same.

Because we normally drop out of initiative when the last enemy is down, that's what we did. And then, as the players started the normal post-combat banter, I interrupted: "Suddenly, you see the creature you dropped twitch — it's still alive! Roll initiative again!"

No one objected or thought this was punitive. I considered having the party be surprised — I think this would have been fair — but I decided that since the time to regenerate is so short, they were probably realistically still on alert.

I've also, as a player, been in situations where we expect the DM to drop initiative, and they say: wait, we're still in rounds. In these cases, our assumption was that there was a hidden enemy somewhere, and we spent our actions looking for what we missed — making Perception checks — or saying "I ready an attack against whatever enemy shows up".

Sure, we knew something was going on, which was a bit of a spoiler, but it didn't feel bad. In fact, it felt kind of cinematic.

With one of these DMs, I can also remember several situations where this happened, and then nothing occurred after a round or two. I still don't know if this was just to set expectations, or if a monster or NPC was doing things in those rounds and something we could have done might have made things go differently.

So, really, I think either of these approaches is just fine.

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    \$\begingroup\$ In my campaign I keep everyone in initiative order until the end of the next round of every combat. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 16, 2019 at 16:11
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Eternallord66 What do your players typically do on that last round? Kick the downed enemies to be sure? Ready actions? Look for danger? Pass? \$\endgroup\$
    – mattdm
    Commented Oct 16, 2019 at 16:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ They usually heal or investigate. They are used to this practice so they don't expect any new monsters or a monster to regenerate. They act as they would out of combat but taking turns in initiative. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 16, 2019 at 16:17
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    \$\begingroup\$ This is exactly what I do with my players, they are usually on guard so dropping surprise on them isn't on my mind, but sometimes a player is busy searching or trying to remove a tooth and then it can be amusing :) \$\endgroup\$
    – SeriousBri
    Commented Oct 17, 2019 at 20:42

I am assuming that the question is how to allow the players agency without tipping them to the fact that the troll will be back up in a round (thus ruining the surprise). In short, how do you maintain the illusion that combat has ended even though it has not? In this case, I think it is fairly simple.

  1. Ask the players what they intend to do now - as if combat were over. In your head, you will still be keeping in mind that the turn order is still relevant, but externally you ask all players what they intend to do next now that combat is over.
  2. Hear all of their actions, even though only the actions of players B and C matter. If either player B or C interact with the troll, adjudicate that interaction. If they are hip to trolls and attempt to kill it with fire or acid, then they may do so. If they search the troll, allow them a perception check to see if they notice the troll's wounds closing. If they do, allow them to respond within reason.
  3. If neither of the two players (B and C) choose to interact with the troll, you can be generous and allow them a perception check anyway if their action reasonably brings them adjacent to the troll, otherwise, you narrate that the troll rises up as they begin to perform their chosen actions. "As you begin to make preparations to rest, the troll stirs, then rises and attacks anew!" You would then resume the combat at the trolls turn, keeping the same turn order since the combat had not actually ended.

From When do player characters leave turn-based action (i.e. initiative order) if they are in a hostile area?

You enter turn-based action when you need to track time* that closely. You leave it as soon as you don't need that close tracking.

Turn-based time tracking dominates combat, but it can also be used for chases (DMG 252), complex traps (DMG 121), even tense social scenes.

However this is not a hard and fast rule and as you note it would be unusual to stay in turn based after the monster is downed. This would clue the characters in a little.

You may want to end turn based play with an outro to the affect of "The troll crumples to a heap spouting blood" and then allow the party to begin to discuss their next actions--leaving the area, looking for loot, etc. Then after a short interval (~6 seconds), interrupt them; "You hear a moan and the troll twitches, then starts to stand up!"

At this point you could either roll initiative again to see who reacts to the reanimating troll, or you could continue with players B and C going next. The first choice is closest to the rules, but the second may be fairer.

Next time the troll is downed continue combat or pull the same trick.


They can take an action, and interact with an object to ...

... light a torch.

Other Activity on Your Turn

Your turn can include a variety of flourishes that require neither your action nor your move. You can communicate however you are able, through brief utterances and gestures, as you take your turn. You can also interact with one object or feature of the environment for free, during either your move or your action. (Basic Rules, p. 73, emphasis mine)
{Excerpted from table on the same page}

  • Here are a few examples of the sorts of thing you can do in tandem with your movement and action:
    • draw or sheathe a sword
    • open or close a door
    • withdraw a potion from your backpack
    • pick up a dropped axe
    • take a bauble from a table
    • remove a ring from your finger

One player gets out a torch, the other gets out lighting material (flint and steel, tinder, a match, etc) (interactions) and they light it (action+action).

A torch burns for 1 hour, providing bright light in a 20-foot radius and dim light for an additional 20 feet. If you make a melee attack with a burning torch and hit, it deals 1 fire damage. (Basic Rules, p. 52)

On the next round, all three need to attack again as the troll will have likely regenerated to above 1 HP.

On player wields the torch and attacks the troll with it, the other two attack the troll as usual. To finesse this a little bit, that player could Ready an action to attack "if the troll falls prone1" and get advantage on the attack ... but that might be overcomplicating things. As long as at least one point of fire damage is done, this can be enough to finish off the troll providing at least 10 HP total is done to the monster.

1If the Troll goes to 0 HP as a result of attacks, it will be prone/unconscious until it gets it regen HP back, that's how the torch wielding attacker will have advantage.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I think the question assumes that the players are not aware that the troll will regenerate.... \$\endgroup\$
    – mattdm
    Commented Oct 16, 2019 at 16:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ Agreed, the question specifically mentions not spoiling the fact that the troll is going to regenerate, meaning the characters don't know this fact. \$\endgroup\$
    – lee A.
    Commented Oct 16, 2019 at 16:54
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    \$\begingroup\$ @leeA OK, I see that perspective. Not every table assumes zero in-world knowledge. When I as 13, I'd never seen a blue whale but I knew they breathed out of the tops of their heads. The idea that the characters know nothing about creatures in their world until being in combat with them is a table by table thing. Seen it both ways. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 16, 2019 at 17:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast I agree, it's a table-to-table decision, and it's not one my tables subscribe to. However, that doesn't change that this question is specifically asking what to do in a situation where they do not know it will regenerate. \$\endgroup\$
    – lee A.
    Commented Oct 16, 2019 at 17:31
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    \$\begingroup\$ @leeA. It was unclear as written, so "specifically asking" is a reach until I had this conversation with you and matt. This answer will be helpful to any table that does not bind itself to that convention; (though Sam's is a better answer) \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 16, 2019 at 17:59

There are a lot of good answers here; I just want to address the case of "The players know the troll will regenerate, and still consider themselves to be in combat."

  • They can take various actions, effective or ineffective, to try to kill the troll.
  • They can ready an action for when the troll has regenerated or starts moving again.
  • Additionally, I would let them voluntarily and permanently move themselves later in the initiative queue, so they could figure out how they wanted to use their turn after the troll had acted.
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yeah, 3.5 had a "delay" action, and it's a generally-reasonable 5E house rule. The thing to watch out for is stuff timed to "until the beginning (or end) of your next turn". Changing initiative order can do weird things with that, for good and for bad. \$\endgroup\$
    – mattdm
    Commented Oct 16, 2019 at 23:52

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