My first version of D&D was 4th Edition and one of the things that was new to me during the Next playtest period was the inclusion of Hit Dice (which I understand were present in earlier editions). On the surface, they seemed intuitive enough: Hit Dice are tied to how many hit points a character has overall.

However, I always seem to have trouble with Hit Dice in relation to healing. In 4e, healing means you expend a Healing Surge and regain a number of hit points equal to your Healing Surge Value. In Next/5e, the amount you heal is tied to your Hit Dice. While I guess it makes sense that you recover hit points based on your Hit Dice, it seems that I always have a mental disconnect when I want to heal (a positive thing) and I have to think about getting hit (a negative thing). I know it may sound trivial especially if you are one who intuitively gets it, but it has been a problem for me as I often waste 5 seconds or so searching my character sheet for "Heal Dice" or something similar before I remember that I'm looking for "Hit Dice".

To my disappointment, the name has remained Hit Dice through the playtest and into the final version. I've really tried to brute-force memorize this, but for whatever reason I have a hard time associating Hit Dice with Healing. Are there any tips, tricks, mnemonic devices, whatever that can help me and other 4e players remember this?


5 Answers 5


It's funny how things like this go crazy when you look at how different editions on different languages work.

Hit Dice, in Portuguese, was translated (incorrectly) as "Dado de Vida", or "Life Dice". In portuguese, you don't have "Hit Points", you have "Pontos de Vida", or "Life Points".

So, at least for portuguese-speaking people, associating "Life Points" with "Healing"(Gaining "more life") is trivial.

The same don't happen on english, however. I had a player who was on the same situation a few days ago, having this same issue (albeit on another system). He simply couldn't plug on his mind that the same value for "Hit Dice" would be used for Healing.

So, we went up to try to find a few mnemonic ways to remember that easily. We came up with something... fuzzy. We went to write some verses, to find something easy to remember. We came up with this (Keep in mind that I'm a GM, not a Poet, so yeah, that's a heck of a silly thing):

When Ones roll plenty, and the battle goes bad,
No fear I have, I have to say that,
One of them is a Cleric, and good one in fact,
Always prompt, ready to act

And because of him, I always remember
That to my well being, on that dreaded chamber
Dear to the Heart, My hit dice should I Keep
'Cause with them he will heal me, in time of need

(It's actually bigger than that, but I removed the non-relevant parts)

The last two verses did the trick, when you read them in a "Dr. Seuss"-like way.

Yeah, it's bad, but hey, it worked!

  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ +1 for creative poetry and educating me that weird translations are not limited to the German versions (For those wanting an example: Bull's Strength and Bear's Endurance got their animals swapped in the German versions of D&D) \$\endgroup\$
    – MrLemon
    Jul 17, 2014 at 9:05

A little D&D history will help with the terminology.

In the Chainmail miniature wargame circa the early 70s, 1 hit killed 1 veteran warrior in man to man combat. A hero took 4 hits to kill, and a superhero 8 hits to kill.

With the initial 1974 release of Dungeons & Dragons this concept was expanded. One hit to kill became roughly 1d6 hit points. So a veteran fighter had 1d6 hit points, a hero 4d6 hit points, and a superhero 8d6 hit points. Hits to kill was changed to hit dice which indicated the number of dice you needed to roll for your hit points.

In general characters got a hit dice per level and monsters were rated, among other things, by the number of hit dice they had. The monster's hit dice were rolled to see how many hit points they had. A monster's hit dice also functioned the same as a character's level for the purpose of the creature's to hit chance in combat.

The Greyhawk supplement to OD&D, released in 1975, changed the type of dice for each hit die that a character had. Fighters got a d8, clerics retained a d6, thieves and magic users rolled a d4.

Summary: hit dice is a shorthand number telling you how many dice you need to roll up a character's or monster's hit points.

Flash forward 40 years to D&D 5e. The hit dice is now also used as a healing mechanism. Not only is it the number of dice you roll for your hit points, but it also can be used as a pool of healing to recover from injury.

Likely this was added to retain the healing surge of 4e but in a form compatible with classic editions of D&D. Like 4e healing surges it scales with level: you get more hit dice as you level. Also it has the added virtue of varying between the classes. A fighter is supposed to be more resilient and tougher so it makes sense that he gets more out of his recovery (rolling d10s) than the mage (rolling d6s).

Hit points in D&D have always been described as a combination of factors: physical tolerance, endurance, luck, experience, etc. For the most part in previous editions, the physical tolerance aspect has been the part most emphasized. It's natural and reflects how most people think of hit points. In 5e, the other traditional aspects of hit points are seeing emphasis as well. Hence the Hit Dice healing mechanism and other healing mechanics.

  • \$\begingroup\$ 4e healing surge also varies with character class, since it is calculated directly from hp which varies between the classes. \$\endgroup\$
    – Sheepy
    Jul 17, 2014 at 6:06

Due to the history of D&D, hit dice were often associated with health. The basic rules when introducing hit dice make an aside to point out that they would more accurately be called "hit point" dice, but are called hit dice for short.

Perhaps you can start calling then hit point dice and as that phrase gets cumbersome you might naturally call then hit dice.

Alternatively you might want to try getting a 2nd edition module and convert it to 5e so you'll also have the association of hit dice and health as part of your experiences. There are home brew conversion guides for 5e which will be good enough for this purpose or you can wait for the official one.

  • \$\begingroup\$ That would probably help. Just think that to recover Hit Points you'll need your Hit Point Dice. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 30, 2014 at 16:40

I highly doubt there would be a precise answer to this, but here's what I'd do. Warning, this is not going to be rules-based or scientific or something. This is a memory hook I'd use. :)

Think of healing potions. Drinking them fixes you up, don't they? Well, what do you when you need fixing up and you have beneficial potions? Hit the healing potions. Hit the healing bottle. Hit the bottle. (Yeah, I know it means drinking alcohol, primarily. I don't think that should be a problem for creating a memory hook.) Sure, getting healed by healing potions is just one way, but when using your Hit Dice, you're trying to hit your maximum HP as well. Hit the maximum HP with a hit from the bottle... :)

I'm afraid that's the best I can offer. Let's see what other tips you get. :)


Organize your character sheet

What helps me is that my hit dice are physically next to my hit points, temporary hitpoints, and death saving throw box on my character sheet.

For this reason, I'd suggest using a character sheet that has your hit dice organized in such a way as to put your hit dice near or next to your hit points. In this way, you'll create an instinct to look towards your hit points when dealing with healing. When you change your hit points in any way, you'll likely skim the hit dice box, reinforcing in your mind that hit dice are good and they deal with hit points. The same goes for skill checks and the like being grouped near your ability scores and modifiers. You become accustomed to looking at certain areas of your character sheet for certain things. Using the character sheets provided by the WoTC, you'd be looking far left for ability scores, upper middle for hit points and hit dice, lower middle for equipment, and far right for notes and other things (for me, class abilities).

Part of this answer is the tried and true "practice makes perfect" method. You're going to have to become familiar with your hit dice and what they're for just by being in the system longer. There really is no way around this fact, you can't just brute force instinct and memory. No matter what helpful tricks you use, you're going to have to practice using them either way, so don't fret if you find yourself confused for awhile.


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