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In the DMG there is the optional rule on pg.266-267 for healing surges. Part of the text says

As an action, a character can use a healing surge and spend up to half his or her Hit Dice.

So what would you do as a DM for level 1 characters - because they only have 1 hit dice?

Seems to me this would be more needed at level 1 than any other level - but with the round down rules 1/2 == 0.

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They can't, but it's probably a mistake

You're correct that a level 1 character has 1 hit die and since Healing Surge lets them use half, rounded down, it doesn't do anything for them.

That said, there was an identical issue with recovering hit dice that was corrected once it was pointed out. I expect that the intent is for there to be a minimum of 1 hit die for healing surge as well.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ In 3.5 many effects have a minimum of 1. Rolling d6-1 is always 1 or more, even if you roll the 1. I do not know if 5e uses the same rule. \$\endgroup\$
    – Me_Maikey
    Feb 21, 2016 at 12:41
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Me_Maikey For damage, at least, there is no minimum in 5e. So sayth Jeremy Crawford twitter.com/JeremyECrawford/status/609026410703822848 \$\endgroup\$
    – Ceribia
    Feb 21, 2016 at 16:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ I agree, I feel the intent was that every level can healing surge, so while the RAW is not to allow it I am going to accept that the intent was indeed for all to have the chance \$\endgroup\$
    – Adrian
    Feb 21, 2016 at 20:40
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    \$\begingroup\$ Oddly enough, this has not been addressed in the DMG errata media.wizards.com/2015/downloads/dnd/DMG_Errata.pdf \$\endgroup\$
    – Sent_
    Feb 22, 2016 at 9:29
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A first level character has 1/2=0 hit dice to spend and cannot benefit from Healing Surge.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I would add the quote from phb reference rounding down to further reinforce this dale. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 21, 2016 at 14:37

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