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Now that there has been strict errata saying an Elf DOES indeed finish a Long Rest after 4 hours if they decide to meditate through Trance, I assume this also means they are forced to gain the benefits of that long Rest after only 4 hours?

If this is indeed the case, if a party with one Elf and 3 humans are interrupted by a combat after 6 hours and the Elf has already benefitted from their 4 hour Long Rest, what happens if each member of the party used 1 spell slot each?

The 3 humans go back to sleep to finish their Long Rest and recover their slots and HP, while the Elf who Tranced hours ago.... doesn't?

This seems like a step down suddenly.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Well, the situation came up where the Elf Tranced during the first four. So now I need clarification as to WHEN a Trancing Elf gains the benefit of their 4 hour Long Rest. \$\endgroup\$
    – Airatome
    Jul 30, 2021 at 16:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Thomas Markov : What happens if each member of the party used 1 spell slot each? The 3 humans go back to sleep to finish their Long Rest and recover their slots and HP, while the Elf who Tranced hours ago.... doesn't? I should have parsed my question out better perhaps. \$\endgroup\$
    – Airatome
    Jul 30, 2021 at 16:15
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    \$\begingroup\$ Right, my confusion is that you have explained the rules already in the question, so I'm asking if you mean to ask if that understanding of the rules is correct, or something else. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 30, 2021 at 16:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ I have explain it is my understanding an Elf finishes a Long Rest in 4 hours, but are still required to do light activity for the remaining 4. It is not yet my understanding an Elf also regains everything until that period of light activity is finished along with everyone else. After 8 hours. Which means after a combat, the Elf isn't lagging behind suddenly. It's not my understanding the rules text I cited answers my question. When do slots/HP/Hit dice recover for an Elf? \$\endgroup\$
    – Airatome
    Jul 30, 2021 at 16:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ "Now that there has been strict errata" - can it be linked or smth? \$\endgroup\$ Jul 31, 2021 at 17:09

6 Answers 6

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The elf gains the benefits of a long rest immediately after being in a trance for four hours.

Trance states:

Elves don’t need to sleep. Instead, they meditate deeply, remaining semiconscious, for 4 hours a day. (The Common word for such meditation is “trance.”) While meditating, you can dream after a fashion; such dreams are actually mental exercises that have become reflexive through years of practice. After resting in this way, you gain the same benefit that a human does from 8 hours of sleep.

So if the elf spends 4 hours in the trance, then they gain the benefits of a long rest. They benefit from the rest immediately at the end of the 4 hours. Remaining hours of light activity are not necessary, as explained in my answer here:

A human benefits from a long rest after 8 hours of sleep, and an elf gets the same benefits as an 8-hours-sleeping human with 4 hours of Trance.

Let's focus on this portion of Trance:

After resting in this way, you gain the same benefit that a human does from 8 hours of sleep.

The rules for long rests state:

A long rest is a period of extended downtime, at least 8 hours long, during which a character sleeps for at least 6 hours and performs no more than 2 hours of light activity, such as reading, talking, eating, or standing watch.

Thus, if a human sleeps for 8 hours, then they benefit from a long rest (8 is at least 6, and 0 hours of activity is less than 2). 8 hours of sleep is in no uncertain terms a sufficient condition for benefiting from a long rest. Here is an incomplete list of benefits a human gets from sleeping 8 hours:

  • a long rest

Now, Trance states that an elf gets the same benefits from meditating for only 4 hours. So the list of benefits is the same for a human sleeping 8 hours and an elf meditating for 4 hours. So here is an incomplete list of benefits an elf gets from meditating for 4 hours:

  • a long rest

This conclusion is easily accessible from a plain reading of Trance and the rules for a long rest. There is no need to get Jeremy Crawford involved.

4 hours of trance is a sufficient condition for an elf to complete a long rest. At the end of 4 hours of trancing, their long rest is complete, and all the associated benefits, such as spell slot and hit dice restoration, are realized.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This seems the most straightforward and the conclusion I came to when reading through everything. I just wanted to make sure my understanding didn't have any flaws in it. I will give ample time for other answers, but this is what I needed to see. \$\endgroup\$
    – Airatome
    Jul 30, 2021 at 16:53
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Airatome Unrelated, but I noticed that most of your questions do not have accepted answers; it would be great if you could take a moment and go back through those and let users know which answers provided the best solutions to those questions. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 30, 2021 at 17:48
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    \$\begingroup\$ I have not been on in a very long time, and never realized this. I thought for certain I had accepted answers for each... odd. Thank you for pointing that out! \$\endgroup\$
    – Airatome
    Jul 30, 2021 at 18:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ @WakiNadiVellir I don’t see anywhere that says humans need 8 hours of sleep for a long rest. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 31, 2021 at 8:39
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From the Sage Advice compendium:

Does the Trance trait allow an elf to finish a long rest in 4 hours?

If an elf meditates during a long rest (as described in the Trance trait), the elf finishes the rest after only 4 hours. A meditating elf otherwise follows all the rules for a long rest; only the duration is changed.

An elf doesn't take eight hours to rest, of which four are trance; rather their rest consists entirely of the four hours' trance, at which point they immediately gain the benefits of a long rest such as recovering HP, hit dice, and spell slots.

You can position this however you like with regard to the 8 hours of rest the other party members need for a long rest. If you ended your adventuring day tapped out, you might want to go ahead and trance immediately so anything that happens in the second half of the night will find you strong and ready.

If you finished your day with a few spells left, you might prefer to stay up past midnight and trance in the hours just before dawn, so that you can deal with any difficulties in the night using your remaining resources.

What you do with all your free time is up to you to decide. Crafting seems to be a popular option.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Exactly. The choice of four-hour period is a tactical decision, and the disadvantage in the case OP mentioned is counterbalanced by the advantage of being the only one with any spell slots when you're ambushed five hours into rest after a tough day. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 31, 2021 at 17:50
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From previous answers, elves can sleep for a normal period if they want to.

Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes (p. 38)

Elves can sleep and dream just like any human, but almost all surface elves avoid doing so. Dreams, as humans know them, are strange and confusing to elves. Unlike the actual memories of one's primal soul, present life, or past lives, dreams are uncontrolled products of the subconscious, and perhaps the subconscious minds of those past lives or primal souls as well. An elf who dreams must always wonder whose mind these thoughts first arose from, and why. Priests of Sehanine Moon bow are an exception: they sleep and dream to receive signs from their god, and elves consult such priests to interpret their own dreams.

So you can sleep if you want to, if you feel the trance feature is a downgrade.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ While an interesting fact, this doesn't seem to answer the question. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 30, 2021 at 16:50
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    \$\begingroup\$ Op presented a rather obscure situation where trancing would be worse than sleeping. If they are worried about that particular scenario, they can sleep. \$\endgroup\$
    – Nepene Nep
    Jul 30, 2021 at 16:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ This answer does indirectly apply to the situation and I think it adds to the discusion. An important thing to know when you are normally used to being able to use your full force during a long rest interruption and then still recover afterwards. \$\endgroup\$
    – Airatome
    Jul 30, 2021 at 17:02
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    \$\begingroup\$ It's worth noting that a character can still only benefit from one long rest in a 24-hour period - so if they're deemed to have finished a long rest already after the 4-hour trance, they can't try to immediately take a long rest again. \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Jul 30, 2021 at 18:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ Alternately, they could wait 4 hours, then trance. \$\endgroup\$
    – Ben Barden
    Jul 30, 2021 at 21:03
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A (regular) long rest is 8 hours or longer

The general rules for resting specify that 8 hours is the minimum time required for a long rest (emphasis added):

A long rest is a period of extended downtime, at least 8 hours long, [...]

At the end of a long rest, a character regains all lost hit points. The character also regains [...]

So, if for some reason the party wanted to take a long rest that lasted 10 hours, technically the rules allow for this, and things that happen at the end of a long rest would happen at the 10 hour mark, when the party ends their rest. Of course, there is generally no mechanical benefit to extending a rest in this way, although I'm sure there are contrived situations where it could be useful.

A long rest via trance is exactly 4 hours long

The elf race's Trance feature does not appear to allow for the same flexibility (emphasis added):

Elves don’t need to sleep. Instead, they meditate deeply, remaining semiconscious, for 4 hours a day. [...] After resting in this way, you gain the same benefit that a human does from 8 hours of sleep.

There is no provision here for extending your rest. After 4 hours of trancing, you gain the equivalent benefit of 8 hours of sleeping, which is sufficient to complete a long rest. Nothing stops you from continuing your meditation, but you don't gain any mechanical benefit after the 4-hour mark.

As others have pointed out, if your main concern is having your daily abilities recharge at the same time as the rest of the party, all you need to do is begin your trance 4 hours before the end of everyone else's long rest.

Recovery of limited-use abilities is an edge case

Every limited recoverable resource in the game (including spell slots) generally has a specific trigger for when it recharges, and when that trigger occurs, the recharging occurs instantaneously. Of course this is not a good approximation for real life, but it is a necessary sacrifice of realism in favor of mechanical simplicity in order to make the game playable using pen and paper. This results in weird edge cases: if the party is attacked 5 seconds before their long rest is complete, they are still tapped out from the previous adventuring day. If they are attacked 5 seconds after their long rest is complete, they are fully healed and recharged. There's no logical reason why that 10 seconds should make such a large difference, but mechanically it does. This is an edge case inherent in the discrete nature of these resources: they are either recharged and ready to use or they are not. In a video game, you could imagine replacing spell slots with a mana bar that gradually and continuously recharges while you are resting. This would eliminate the edge case, but it's just not practical to implement this with pen and paper.

Given that such edge cases are inherent to the design of 5e and most other TTRPGs, the best advice I can give is that the DM should simply avoid pushing on these sharp edges. If you're going to have bandits ambush the party while they're camping, just make sure it never happens near the 8-hour mark. Have it either happen well before or well after the completion of the long rest, and you'll never need to deal with the issue (as long as the elf in the party times the start of their trance properly, that is).

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Is "long rest" really bemefit of 8 hours of sleep? Or is long rest a period of downtime 8 hours long, which must include 6 hours of sleep (which elves can satisfy via 4 hours of trance, and some warlocks can skip entirely)? \$\endgroup\$ Jul 31, 2021 at 4:59
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    \$\begingroup\$ Being asleep for 8 hours is sufficient to complete a long rest, so completing a long rest is among the benefits of 8 hours of sleep. (Unless you're at 0 hit points, but an elf can't begin a trance while at 0 HP anyway,) \$\endgroup\$ Aug 1, 2021 at 3:46
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This isn't a downgrade, it is an option, and options are always good

This answer assumes that you know the trance provides the benefit after 4 hours, and that your real question is "is that a good thing or a bad thing?".

Players Hand Book

Trance. Elves don't need to sleep.

Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes

Elves can sleep and dream just like any human

Both these options suggest that an Elf can sleep, but they can also optionally trance. This presents 2 options:

  1. They have plenty of spell slots left, and don't want to risk wasting them in the night, so they sleep
  2. They have no spell slots left and want to recover them quickly in case they get attacked during the night, so they trance

There are other reasons why an Elf might choose one over the other, not limited to; time; RP; other activities they might want to do with their 4 free hours; guard rotations; etc, but other races don't get the option at all. Choosing the wrong option is just the same as failure is anywhere else in the game, but having the option is a buff, no doubt.

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They are forced to gain the benefits after four hours

But I think it's an unhelpful rule and might be due to poor wording in the Sage Advice Compendium.

A Long Rest is:

a period of extended downtime, at least 8 hours long, during which a character sleeps or performs light activity: reading, talking, eating, or standing watch for no more than 2 hours. (emphasis added)

Two things to note in the above quotation:

  • A long rest is at least 8 hours long; it can be longer
  • A long rest can feature 2 hours of light activity; it is not synonymous with 8 hours of sleep

If a long rest can be longer than 8 hours, how do we know when the rest has ended? If a wizard with a single spell slot remaining decided to sleep for eleven hours and was woken after the 9th, could she:

  • Claim her longer-than-eight-hour rest was unfinished?
  • Use the remaining spell slot?
  • Recover all her slots after another few minutes of light activity, when she deems that the rest has ended?

If the elf's trance can be at least four hours, then we're dealing with a larger ambiguity in the core rules.

When an elf trances, they gain the benefits that other races gain from 8 hours of sleep. The benefit here is not specifically 'the benefit of a long rest'. Rather, it is the benefit of being able to qualify for a long rest, by being considered to have met the requirements of sleeping for six hours or more as part of that rest.

This distinction is why we have questions like Is 4 hours long enough for a long rest for Elves?, and the Sage Advice required to answer that question. Unfortunately that sage advice rather complicates things by stating that:

If an elf meditates during a long rest (as described in the Trance trait), the elf finishes the rest after only 4 hours. A meditating elf otherwise follows all the rules for a long rest; only the duration is changed.

The sage advice tells us that 'the duration is changed' from at least 8 hours to 'only 4 hours'. The duration cannot be longer than four hours.

It's not a ruling I'm happy with, and I'm not sure it's intended. The question posed in the SAC was "Does the Trance trait allow an elf to finish a long rest in 4 hours?" It might be argued, then, that the quote above is intended to give permission for four hour long rests, rather than removing the possibility of longer ones. Under this reading, 'finishes the long rest after only four hours' ought to be written 'may finish the rest after only four hours'. However that's not what's written, so you'd have to house-rule it.

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