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A bearded devil's beard attack stipulates that a character poisoned by the attack can't regain hit points (there's a save and the duration is fixed at one minute). The same creature's glaive attack has a chance to inflict an infernal wound, that will deal damage at the start of each turn and closes "if the character receives magical healing" (or on a successful skill check, but that's beside the point).

Does the healing need to actually heal hit points to count as "received" and stop the infernal wound effect?

In other words, let's suppose a character subject to both effects is targeted by a healing word. The spell would heal no hit points and has no other effect. Does the infernal wound effect stop?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I've rolled back that last edit, mostly because it was framed as a response to an existing answer, which just makes things confusing. There are probably good things in that edit, so if those can be seamlessly edited into the question (ie. no "Edit:" etc., there's a revision history baked into the site), please do so. And since the question already has an answer, do take care not to change the question so as to invalidate the existing answer. That wouldn't be fair to them. \$\endgroup\$
    – Someone_Evil
    Aug 30 at 13:16
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RAW it's ambiguous.

The distinction between "healing" and "regaining hit points" is clearly related to getting hit for 0 damage and what that means.

On the one hand, this answer suggests that it is possible to hit for 0 damage, and therefore it should be possible to heal someone for 0 hit points. On the other hand, this answer suggests that on-damage effects tend not to trigger when taking 0 damage, and ditto for receiving 0 healing.

If we take Crawford's tweets and move them into the realm of healing, we get both:

There is not a healing minimum of 1, so it is possible to heal 0 damage with a spell.

and

Receiving 0 healing is the same as receiving no healing.

If you received no healing, you didn't get healed.

To add to the ambiguity, Crawford's tweets are not actually considered RAW anymore, and I believe this issue has not come up in a Sage Advice Compendium.

In my view, it's possible to distinguish between healing and regaining hit points, and it's possible to conflate the two. Neither is incorrect, and because 5e often uses natural language to describe effects ambiguity is possible.

RAI: yes.

Rules As Intended I believe is clear. Yes. The two attacks of the Bearded Devil interact with each other.

One of the attacks causes a significant debuff that can be dispelled through magical healing, and the other attack prevents magical healing. It's unthinkable that these two abilities just happen to be on the same monster and yet have nothing to do with each other, while being worded in such a way that it takes real effort to find the discrepancy between the wordings.

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Healing means the recovery of hit-points

While the above sentence is never spelled out verbatim, I want to make my case that when read with full context, the Player's Handbook is clear about it.

The first sentences in the section "Healing" in the PhB says:

Unless it results in death, damage isn't permanent. Even death is reversible through powerful magic.

And the section about Hit Points says:

Whenever a creature takes damage, that damage is subtracted from its hit points.

Damage is a game term that is linked to the subtraction of hit-points, and healing is linked to the reversal of damage.

The "Healing" section also says

When a creature receives healing of any kind, hit points regained are added to its current hit points.

I have seen arguments that this concedes that healing does not necessarily regain hit points, but I disagree. It neither implies that healing regains hit-points nor does it imply that healing doesn't imply regeneration of hit points. It merely says what to do with hit points regained when healing.

The section "Death Saving throws" in the Player's handbook says

The best way to save a creature with 0 hit points is to heal it. If healing is unavailable, the creature can at least be stabilized

This says that healing a dying creature is better than stabilizing, but it does not further specify why healing would be better than stabilizing. I believe the reason is obvious: it's because it is clear that "healing" refers to recovery of hit-points, which means that the dying creature would be brought back from 0 hp if it received healing.

So, I argue that "healing" seems to be a game term that refers to hit-point recovery. Spells like "Lesser Restoration" or "Greater Restoration", which recover statuses but not recover HP, may be perceived as "healing" when parsing it in the natural language sense, and they are tagged with "Healing" in databases like DnDBeyond, but I believe that in the game mechanics these are not actually "healing".

But RAW is ambiguous on whether receiving zero healing counts as receiving healing

While it seems clear to me that healing refers to the recovery of hit points, what's not clear in RAW is whether healing that has been reduced to 0, should still trigger effects that are triggered by healing. The same goes for receiving damage, btw.

This Sage advice (which is considered canonical), is often cited to show that damage reduced to 0 should still count as damage:

There is not a damage minimum of 1, so it is possible to deal 0 damage with an attack.

However, I would argue that this is a misreading. The above quote was an answer to the question whether it is possible to reduce damage to zero. The question was, whether effects that reduce damage are allowed to reduce it all the way, or whether they would only be able to reduce it to 1. The answer is, that these effects are allowed to reduce the damage to 0. It does not, however, say that receiving 0 damage would still count as receiving damage for the purpose of triggering effects that are triggered by damage.

Clues to RAI imply that healing 0 hit points does not count as healing

Jeremy Crawford's tweets may not be RAW, and his rulings are not rules, but I think his tweets still give insight into RAI.

He wrote:

Taking 0 damage is the same as taking no damage.

If you took no damage, you didn't take any damage.

This was in response to a question about whether 0 damage would trigger CON saving throws for concentration. I think it is clear that JC thinks 0 damage does not trigger effects that are triggered by damage. I would extrapolate from that, that in JC's view 0 healing should also not trigger effects that are triggered by healing.

Furthermore, as this answer points out, it would be intuitive to assume that the two abilities of the monster should be in synergy.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ The argument proper stands for itself and correctly displays the ambiguity. You make the case that we are talking about a game term, and I make the case that we are using natural language. The appeal to JC does not, so if you care what JC has to say, there is only one way to find out, and that is to ask him whether these two spells count as magical healing. \$\endgroup\$
    – Akixkisu
    Sep 1 at 11:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yes, my criticism is about your inference by extrapolation from a tweet down the chain. If you think that JC comment there is relevant to determine RAI, it would be better to consider what JC has to say about healing regarding those two spells that you declare as not meeting the criteria of what constitutes magical healing. The rest is just two different approaches to reading the material. \$\endgroup\$
    – Akixkisu
    Sep 1 at 11:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ You use these "clues" to support your argument, and I say that if you want to argue from that standpoint, you'd be much better off just asking the person instead of constructing these clues. \$\endgroup\$
    – Akixkisu
    Sep 1 at 12:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Akixkisu I did not make an argument in that paragraph. I presented the closest evidence I could find available and left it up to the reader to come to a conclusion. I don't think me presenting a tweet that was relevant to a topic I find ambiguous, makes it my duty to request another tweet from JC about a topic i find unambiguous. \$\endgroup\$
    – RHS
    Sep 1 at 13:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ Let us continue this discussion in chat. \$\endgroup\$
    – RHS
    Sep 1 at 13:07
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When a feature prevents its target from the regaining of hit points, it does not prevent receiving healing.

No rule explicitly talks about a healing minimum, so we should assume that healing that features reduce to 0 still counts as receiving healing, similar to how receiving damage that features reduce to 0 counts as taking damage.

See Healing:

When a creature receives healing of any kind, hit points regained are added to its current hit points.

Here we can explicitly see the logical distinction of receiving healing as a cause of regaining hit points. The order is explicitly not such that you need to regain hit points to receive healing.

Bearded Devil:

the target can't regain hit points

Here we see that the beard attack doesn't prevent healing. It only prevents the regaining of hit points.

The glaive attack also has a specific inbuilt mechanic that doesn't restore hit points and stanches the wound:

Any creature can take an action to stanch the wound with a successful DC 12 Wisdom (Medicine) check.

Take Greater Restoration for example, a healing spell that does not restore any hit points but also explicitly removes such a condition as the hit point reduction caused by the glaive attack.

  • One effect that charmed or petrified the target
  • One curse, including the target's attunement to a cursed magic item
  • Any reduction to one of the target's ability scores
  • One effect reducing the target's hit point maximum

It is up to the DM to decide if the specific healing spell has a valid target.

The beard attack feature arguably renders Healing Word, and many other healing spells, unable to target the creature due to the condition that they only deliver healing if the target is valid and that a target that is unable to regain hit points is invalid.

A creature of your choice that you can see within range regains hit points

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    \$\begingroup\$ It seems to me the contrapositive of your quote from "Healing" would be something like "if hit points are not added to your current hit points, a creature has not received healing", and the contrapositive is supposed to be logically equivalent. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 30 at 12:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ThomasMarkov 2+(1d4x0)=2. If the creature receives 0 hit points. It is merely that 0 hit points are added. \$\endgroup\$
    – Akixkisu
    Aug 30 at 12:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ThomasMarkov I can see an argument for the feature rendering Healing Word (and many other healing spells) to have no valid target, thus you would require a healing spell such as Greater Restoration which does not restore hp. \$\endgroup\$
    – Akixkisu
    Aug 30 at 12:23
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    \$\begingroup\$ Also related is the "does 0 damage count as damage" discussion. If you think 0 damage does not count as damage, it seems natural to say 0 hit points restored does not count as healing. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 30 at 12:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ThomasMarkov It seems intuitive to me, but I can't speak for that belief. I don't think it necessarily follows, though. I think there is a distinction here since we have spells such as Greater Restoration and several others that are explicitly healing without changing hp. \$\endgroup\$
    – Akixkisu
    Aug 30 at 12:25

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