Does 'concentration' used during short rests for the learning a magical item's properties or attuning to an item deny the ability to spend hit dice during those rests?

Rephrased, does this concentration fall under the 'light activity' permissible during rests?

Also, would such concentration also mean the player might be unable to perceive a threat - for instance if a single player on watch decided to spend an hour of a 2 hour watch attuning or trying to identify the properties of a magic item via prayer or meditation? I'm guessing they're reasonably alert if engaging in weapon practice as a form of attunement, but would it be fair to disadvantage a player in some way whilst they are concentrating in this manner as they're not really focused on the task of watching out?


2 Answers 2


Attuning does not interrupt a short rest

Under the attunement rules, it says:

If the short rest is interrupted, the attunement attempt fails.

If the process of attuning to the item itself is enough to interrupt a short rest (ie, because attuning is not "light activity" as required by resting), then the item remains unattuned after the short rest as well, as stated in the quoted rule.

This means nobody can attune to anything because attuning interrupts itself: it is non-light activity you must take over a period of time that requires light activity (ie, it's a contradiction, this rule is nonsensical).

So we must conclude that attuning to an item does not interrupt the short rest, and therefore attuning to an item must fall under light activity, as otherwise the design of this mechanic prevents anybody from using it.

If the short rest is not interrupted, they gain the benefits of a short rest

If attuning to an item does not interrupt a short rest, and nothing else interrupts it as well, then a PC can gain the benefits of such a rest. This includes recharging abilities, using features that key off short rests (eg, Inspiring Leader feat, Bard's Song of Rest), and, yes, using Hit Die to heal HP.

There are no disadvantages listed while attuning to an item

Focusing on an item during attunement does not impose disadvantage to Perception checks while they are on the lookout during a long rest. There is no mention of this in the DMG. But, the DM is free to impose any disadvantages he feels necessary as part of the focus attuning requires.

Impact to the game

I feel that if my DM imposed this penalty on me, I would just ask the members of my party to attune to items over short rests only, and to never do it during long rests. And then this penalty would never come into play, which makes it, on the whole, an immaterial penalty (unless an adventure is specifically designed with this in mind).

  • \$\begingroup\$ I don't think you would be able to make active Perception checks while attuning to an item, you would have to rely on your passive. So that's a slight disadvantage. \$\endgroup\$
    – r256
    May 3, 2017 at 17:06
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    \$\begingroup\$ @r256 That's not true. What if the item was Eyes of the Eagle, and your attunement involves using it by actively checking the environment through its lenses? \$\endgroup\$
    – user27327
    May 3, 2017 at 17:11

To answer your question:

There is no disadvantage from attunement, but it takes the entirety of your short rest.

A short rest should not be considered exactly the same as Attunement. A short rest would be considered as nothing strenuous more than talking/eating/etc. However Attunement can be anything (up to physical training/sparing). Attunement also has its own set of rules which set to make it distinctly different.

That being said, I think the wording should be emphasized as such for Attunement.


... spend a short rest focused ...

It seems to me that Attunement should consume the entirety of your short rest causing you to only gain from the benefits of Attunement. As per your question, you would only be able to attune to the item and not heal. A good example of why this is the case is a situation similar to this: If you allowed attunement and a short rest benefits to occur at the same time you could have a warrior sparing with a new weapon while eating his breakfast. This does not seem like he would be focused on learning the weapon at that point.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ This is kind of what I was wondering when reading about this - like there should be a meaningful choice to make, should a player make use of the short rest to heal up and spend hit dice or try to attune to an item (or learn it's properties). A bit of risk/reward if you like, they can't do both. I was hoping to find some clarification on that or whether both were OK in a single short rest. \$\endgroup\$
    – Bertie
    May 3, 2017 at 17:33
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    \$\begingroup\$ This isn't necessarily a wrong way to adjudicate at your table, but it does seem not to be the spirit of the rules. You can definitely do this, but consider it a houserule and let your players know before utilizing it. \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    May 3, 2017 at 17:39
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    \$\begingroup\$ You can spend your short rest doing lots of various things and there is no limit to them as long as they are short-rest capabilities. Attunement is one of these (along with hit die, available resource replenishment, etc.) If they had wanted it to be one and not the other, they'd have said you don't get the benefits of the short rest while attuning. \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    May 3, 2017 at 17:49
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    \$\begingroup\$ Looking at the System Reference Document p206 or the DMG p138, I've noticed the phrasing is a little different to that in the Starter Set book that I've been reading through: "Attuning to an item requires a creature to spend a short rest focused on only that item while being in physical contact with it..." (SRD/DMG). To me, I think that rules out healing and perhaps lone lookout duties (may need another PC to keep watch with them) during the same rest but it might be flawed interpretation on my part. \$\endgroup\$
    – Bertie
    May 3, 2017 at 19:14
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    \$\begingroup\$ Why assume that you have to do anything special to heal during a short rest? There's no mention of having to bind wounds. You might just need to sit down. \$\endgroup\$
    – Eidolon108
    May 4, 2017 at 0:24

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