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If PCs are drugged and fall unconscious, does the period they are out count as a short rest? Would a warlock regain their spell slots?

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Yes, assuming they're just unconscious

Nothing in the text of a short rest or long rest requires consciousness. Jeremy Crawford has confirmed this explicitly:

A long rest requires you to have 1 hit point at the start. A short rest has no such requirement. Neither rest requires consciousness. #DnD

However a short rest is a period of downtime and you can't do any strenuous activity during it. Are they really just unconscious? If the drug has other effects, like making them feel sick or causing them to thrash about in their sleep, it's within the DM's right to say they're not resting. The DM could also give them the short rest but also give them one level of exhaustion or the poisoned condition depending on what exactly the drug does, his interpretation of strenuous activity and how generous he's feeling.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Wow... having been knocked unconscious before, I really disagree with that ruling there was nothing restful about those hours. \$\endgroup\$ – Slagmoth Jul 31 '18 at 17:56
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    \$\begingroup\$ This also makes the rules on dropping to zero hp seem ludicrous to say that you regain consciousness after 1d4 hours and gain 1 hp... seems it would just say that you can spend HD during that time if you can count it as a short rest. :( \$\endgroup\$ – Slagmoth Jul 31 '18 at 18:08
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Depends what the DM is going for

There are no rules in 5e on being drugged. The rules for resting are very general and talk about light activity or sleeping. A RAW argument could be made that since being unconscious is clearly not very strenuous it counts as resting, however it's pretty ridiculous.

D&D 5e provides very generic rules for non-combat situations with the expectation that the DM is going to adjudicate whatever unusual cases come up in a way that best suits the type of game they are trying to run. Attempting to nail down such situations by the book is just stretching the rules further than they were designed for.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ "however it's pretty ridiculous" - not with sleep drugs, for example. It might be ridiculous... or not. \$\endgroup\$ – Mołot Jan 21 '17 at 13:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Mołot There has been research between the difference between drug induced unconsciousness versus actual sleep. There is a difference and having been out for surgery there is nothing really restful about being induced in my personal experience. \$\endgroup\$ – Slagmoth Jul 31 '18 at 18:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Slagmont there are drugs that induce sleep and there are ones that induce unconsciousness. Different things, I know because I was using both of them. The problem is that D&D does not differentiate between them in the rules — but DM can and probably should when it makes sense. \$\endgroup\$ – Mołot Aug 1 '18 at 11:52
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Yes. (This now confirmed by Jeremy Crawford; as always, take twitter with a grain of salt.)

"A short rest is a period of downtime, at least 1 hour long, during which a character does nothing more strenuous than eating, drinking, reading, and tending to wounds." (PHB p.186, "Short Rest.")

So here's the decision-tree:

  • Was it at least an hour? Yes.
  • Did you do anything more strenuous than eating, drinking, reading, and tending to wounds? Nope. I slept. It was a strangely-deep and -quick sleep, but it was sleep.

Then you've completed a short rest, my friend. Warlock? Sure, have a couple of spell slots.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Your twitter link states that being conscious isn't a requirement for a rest. It does not say that being unconscious from being drugged is valid for a rest. \$\endgroup\$ – Ceribia Jan 22 '17 at 3:16
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Ceribia The quote is saying you can rest while unconscious. The question states they took a drug that made them fall unconscious. Barring any text on the drug/poison/etc. stating it's doing something other than/more than inducing the Unconscious condition, I don't see the difference in this case. \$\endgroup\$ – CTWind Jan 22 '17 at 10:14
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RAW, doesn't seem so

PHB p. 186:

Short Rest
A short rest is a period of downtime, at least I hour long, during which a character does nothing more strenuous than eating, drinking, reading, and tending to wounds.

Neither is long rest (if you fall unconscious for 8 hours or more):

Long Rest
A long rest is a period of extended downtime, at least 8 hours long, during which a character sleeps or performs light activity: reading, talking, eating, or standing watch for no more than 2 hours.

Being unconscious due to drug intoxication is hardly that kind of activity.

To get short rest benefits you are supposed to be conscious

To get many of short rest benefits you are supposed to be conscious. Here are examples when PHB describes a resource being restored during a short rest:

Attuning to an item requires a creature to spend a short rest focused on only that item while being in physical contact with it

You perform the ritual over the course of 1 hour, which can be done during a short rest

You have learned to regain some of your magical energy by studying your spellbook. Once per day when you finish a short rest, you can choose expended spell slots to recover.

Starling at 2nd level, you can regain some of your magical energy by sitting in meditation and communing with nature, During a short rest, you choose expended spell slots to recover.

The caster is supposed to actively do something, therefore, can not be unconscious.

But it's up to DM to decide

Jeremy Crawford confirmed in his twitter:

Neither rest requires consciousness.

So technically you can treat being unconscious as a short rest. As a DM, you sure can allow it for the benefit of the storytelling.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ “RAI, short rest assumes being conscious” I have to disagree. The quoted passage only shows that a short rest doesn't assume unconsciousness (but doesn't preclude it). It should be obvious to anyone that a 1 hour nap is at least as restful as reading for 1 hour. The crux of the matter is whether they're really just unconscious or if they're also having nightmares, breaking out in a cold sweat and thrashing about in their sleep. \$\endgroup\$ – Doval Jan 21 '17 at 17:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Doval having woken up from a 1 hour nap to feeling like I need another 7 to round it out I disagree about it being as consistently restful. \$\endgroup\$ – Ceribia Jan 21 '17 at 17:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Ceribia For the purposes of recovering from lack of sleep, fatigue and injury it is. It's generally assumed that D&D characters don't have to worry about such minor inconveniences as waking up groggy or having morning breath. \$\endgroup\$ – Doval Jan 21 '17 at 17:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ It looks like this answer maintains that certain benefits of a short rest require specific activities. RAW, this would appear to be the case. However, there is nothing RAW that says that every benefit of a short rest requires consciousness. I'd suggest changing the emboldened part of the second half to add "in many cases" or similar wording. \$\endgroup\$ – keithcurtis Jan 22 '17 at 7:35

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