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?
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.
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.
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.
RAW, doesn't seem so
PHB p. 186:
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):
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.