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Question is in the title. Some examples of use cases:

  • Are PCs supposed to know how many HP an enemy has left? If not, do they know anything about the enemy HP total, or do they just observe whether the enemy is conscious or not?

  • Is a PC aware of his own or his allies' hit point total, e.g. when deciding which healing abilities to use?

  • What can NPCs observe about PC hit point totals? An example of this coming into play would be a fighter PC trying to trick an NPC into buying fake healing potions, by "proving" that the potions work by allowing the NPC to hit him with a weapon, and then activating his Second Wind while drinking the fake potion. (That would lead to a follow up question - can the NPC observe the use of second wind?)

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At this time there is little guidance for what PCs know and do not know about an opponent's HP.

Coming from 4e, I generally give my PCs an indication when the creature is at half HP (bloodied in 4e parlance). But this is not required and is not mechanically explicit.

It's worth noting that we can infer that characters are at least somewhat aware of something that informs meta constructs like HP, since the Battlemaster Fighter has an ability that allows them to see an opposing creature's current HP (among other meta elements).

Overall I find it inadvisable to make explicit statements about HP totals for enemies and PCs alike in the game. This is a level of granularity that outside of very special abilities, PCs and NPCs alike are not likely to know at any kind of specific level. That said, general awareness of HP totals (At the very least as a quarter, half, three quarters or full construct), is probably something creatures can and should be aware of on careful observation (perhaps a knowledge check of the variety appropriate for the monster/PC).

However, I would also rule that a character is fully aware of their own and their allies exact HP totals. Again the awareness of the meta constructs in play, and also the fact that generally once past the very lowest of levels, PCs are quite experienced combatants, indicates to me that it's very likely they are quite in tune with their bodies. But this is definitely a table level decision.

It is likely that the DMG will carry advice on when and how to give this information.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ This makes sense. Especially because players are making tactical decisions based on current HP totals all the time, so it would be unclear how you are supposed to play if you don't have access to that information. \$\endgroup\$ – Alex319 Sep 22 '14 at 2:43
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    \$\begingroup\$ I like the 4e bloodied state that reflect some battered state, and I use it as some reference for players when they ask me about "how injured is that orc?" the answer is based on: - More than half total HP: He is Ok - Less than half total HP: He is injuried. (Bloodied in 4e) Ok ok, if he is only 1 HP over half you could say is bloodied too, just use your common sense! \$\endgroup\$ – Corven Dallas Sep 22 '14 at 13:05
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    \$\begingroup\$ -1 for factual error in the opening premise, as there is guidance in both the Player's Basic Rules and in the Player's Handbook. \$\endgroup\$ – aramis Oct 2 '14 at 1:23
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The PHB for 5th actually briefly mentions this, but in typical 5th edition-style it isn't clear that this is an actual rule and seems as more of a flavor thing.

Roughly paraphrasing from memory: "Above half hit points, a fighter typically doesn't show signs of damage. Below half hit points, the character contracts bruises and scrapes and shallow cuts - and the attack that brings him or her to 0 hit points fully connects as a lethal strike."

So it seems the "bloodied" thing is still in effect.

I would probably just wing it at the table, personally, with flavor like "you can see he is exhausted and hurt - one good blow could take him down" or "he is winded, but otherwise unaffected by the fighting so far".

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There are, per the rules, 5 states, not counting dead.

  • Uninjured
  • Damaged but not showing it
  • Damaged and showing it (In 4e, this was called "Bloodied")
  • Down and dying
  • Down and stable

Describing the Effects of Damage
Dungeon Masters describe hit point loss in different ways. When your current hit point total is half or more of your hit point maximum, you typically show no signs of injury. When you drop below half your hit point maximum, you show signs of wear, such as cuts and bruises. An attack that reduces you to 0 hit points strikes you directly, leaving a bleeding injury or other trauma, or it simply knocks you unconscious.
(Player's Basic Rules, page 75, or Player's Handbook, page 197)

The only way to tell the differences between uninjured and damaged but not showing it is to know you've hit it.

The GM should be telling you when you've gotten it below half remaining, because it's showing.

Down and Dying can apparently be told from down and stable, but no specific guidance is present.

Note also: damage rolled is known to the players, so even if they don't know the creature's total HP, they can have a clue once the DM notes it's in an injured appearance.

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