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I have read questions that allude to spending hit dice on healing in 5th edition, and seen twitch streams of games where this mechanic is employed, but have not been able to find it in the Dungeon Master's Guide or Player's Handbook. I am probably overlooking something obvious in the indices (I have looked, though :).

Where are the rules for spending hit dice on healing in 5th edition?

NB: neither the Player's Handbook nor the Dungeon Master's Guide indexes pages on hit points, or hit dice, and the Player's Handbook-indexed note on healing on page 197 mentions nothing about the hit dice mechanic.

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    \$\begingroup\$ +1, the indices are awful, and D&D corebooks only make sense as reference works, not as "guide"s in any plain reading of the word. I'd suggest you print off a player's index to the PHB and stick it in the back--that's what I've done. \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 Nov 21 '16 at 18:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thank you for the reference, @nitsua60 . Unfortunately, the player's index, while a marked improvement :), does not include a reference to long and short rests under hit dice, and does not include a reference to hit dice under healing. :/ \$\endgroup\$ – Lexible Nov 22 '16 at 16:16
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    \$\begingroup\$ NP. Yeah, it's not perfect, but I'm glad you do find it an improvement. IMO nothing beats a half-dozen slips of paper bookmarking the things you tend to have to look up most. (For me it's the XP table on p.15, one that tends to float and mark whichever class I'm playing and least familiar with, the weapon table on p.149, the resting rules on 186, one to mark the first page of spells, and one marking Appendix A.) Those usually get me to within a few pages of whatever I'm looking for pretty quickly =) \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 Nov 22 '16 at 17:27
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Hit Dice acts as a way of recovering your lost health over a short rest. This is a self-heal that scales as your character levels up (PHB pg. 186, or here in the basic rules):

Short Rest

A character can spend one or more Hit Dice at the end of a short rest, up to the character’s maximum number of Hit Dice, which is equal to the character's level. For each Hit Die spent in this way, the player rolls the die and adds the character’s Constitution modifier to it. The character regains hit points equal to the total. The player can decide to spend an additional Hit Die after each roll.


There are also a few variant healing rule options in the DMG that the DM can choose to use instead of the normal resting rules.

One is that you must first use a healer's kit to bandage up the wounds before you can spend any hit dice (DMG pg. 266):

Healer's Kit Dependency

A character can't spend any Hit Dice after finishing a short rest until someone expends one use of a healer's kit to bandage and treat the character's wounds.

The other optional rule affects long rests. Normally, you regain all your hitpoints after a long rest, as if by magic. A variant rule makes you spend your hit dice to heal up instead, making being fully healed more difficult (DMG pg. 267):

Slow Natural Healing

Characters don't regain hit points at the end of a long rest. Instead, a character can spend Hit Dice to heal at the end of a long rest, just as with a short rest.

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    \$\begingroup\$ The DMG variant rules somewhat detract from this answer, which is asking for the simple mechanic of using Hit Dice to restore HP during the adventure day. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Nov 17 '17 at 3:44
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Finding the Rules

You might think this would be under Healing in the Combat section of the freely-available Basic Rules, but actually it's under Resting in the Adventuring section.

Specifically, under Short Rest, there is:

A character can spend one or more Hit Dice at the end of a short rest, up to the character's maximum number of Hit Dice, which is equal to the character's level. For each Hit Die spent in this way, the player rolls the die and adds the character's Constitution modifier to it. The character regains hit points equal to the total. The player can decide to spend an additional Hit Die after each roll. A character regains some spent Hit Dice upon finishing a long rest, as explained below.

and under Long Rest:

At the end of a long rest, a character regains all lost hit points. The character also regains spent Hit Dice, up to a number of dice equal to half of the character's total number of them (minimum of one die).

What Does It All Mean?

Every time you gain a level, you get an additional "Hit Die", so if you are 1st level, you have one Hit Die, and if you are 3rd level, you have three Hit Dice, and if you are 20th level, you have twenty. The "size" of each die varies by class — "tough" classes like Barbarian get d12s, while Wizards and Sorcerers get d6s.

These hit dice are both rolled once as you level up to determine your increase in maximum hit points¹, and become a pool you can use for healing throughout the adventuring day.

To use a Hit Die, you "spend" it — you roll it and add the result plus your Con modifier to your current HP². Once you've spent a die from your pool, you can't use it again until you've "regained" it — which happens when you take a long rest.

If you've multiclassed, you may have a mix of different die sizes: a fighter/wizard will have both d10s and d6s. You can choose to spend in any order, and you also to regain in any order.

A Little Extemporizing On Design

Why all this complication? Why not just a bunch of hit points? It helps make each individual battle interesting and challenging. The characters' maximum hit points can be at a level where a single difficult fight can knock them down to zero if things go badly, but yet the party can confidently deal with multiple encounters per day.

In editions with just one big pool, DMs can feel that in order to provide a challenge, they need to do a grueling series of battles without rest to wear down party resources — and players have the opposite impulse, to push for a ten-minute adventuring day. This mechanic reduces both of those pressures.


1. Or you can take a fixed value when you level up, to reduce the risk of rolling a 1.

2. You can't take a fixed value when "spending" die from the pool to regain lost hit points. At least, not without a house rule.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Like...awesome! \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Nov 17 '17 at 23:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ I like this answer. Not only does it provide short and long rest rules but also rules on hit dice multiclassing. \$\endgroup\$ – Twiggy Jan 8 at 2:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ #2 - But you can get a feat that sets a minimum value to recover (e.g. I have 1d12+3, minimum of 6) \$\endgroup\$ – Roger Willcocks Oct 2 at 20:47

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